For the first time in three visits to Boise, Idaho, this hockey season, the Alaska Aces didn't have to leave CenturyLink Arena with shoulders slumped.
After losing three straight games there, the ECHL-leading Aces finally improved their lot Saturday night, when Nick Mazzolini's third-period, power-play goal and 30 saves from Mark Guggenberger sparked a 4-3 victory over the Idaho Steelheads.
The victory before a standing-room-only crowd of 5,192 saved the Aces (31-10-1) from the possibility of their first three-game losing streak of the season and gave them at least one victory this season over each of the eight other teams in the Western Conference.
Before Mazzolini struck for his team-leading 23rd goal, the Aces received goals from players who do not usually populate the score sheet.
In defenseman Mike Baran's case, that's because Saturday's match was just his second for the Aces -- the short-handed club picked him up out of the Southern Professional Hockey League, and to great effect. Baran furnished a goal and two assists Saturday to give him 1-3--4 totals in his two games with Alaska.
Also scoring for the Aces was winger Alex Hudson, who bagged his first goal in six games since being signed earlier this month. And third-line winger Jarrod Smith racked up his fourth goal of the season, with the assist going to Samsom Mahbod, one of three players skating in just their second game for Alaska.
Alaska entered the night 0-3-0 against Idaho (24-10-5) this season, with all the games in Boise. That included Friday's 6-2 loss and previous 4-0 and 2-1 setbacks.
The Aces surrendered an early goal to Idaho's Matt Case, but Baran's power-play goal and Hudson's goal at even strength afforded them a 2-1 lead late in the first period. That marked the first time the Aces have led in Boise this season.
Still, Brett Robinson's goal for Idaho with 90 seconds left in the opening period forged a 2-2 tie.
Smith's goal midway through the second period regained the lead for Alaska at 3-2, but Tristan King answered just 1:34 later for a 3-3 deadlock that stood until Mazzolini scored with about five minutes to go. Mazzolini, with 23-19--42 totals in 42 games, leads the Aces in scoring.
The Aces, who went 2 for 2 on the power play, outshot the Steelheads, 15-8, in the third period.
Alaska killed an Idaho power play in the last two minutes after Mazzolini was penalized for hooking. The Steelheads pulled goaltender Josh Robinson (30 saves) for an extra attacker, but to no avail.
The Aces close their three-game road trip with a Monday matinee against the Las Vegas Wranglers, then return home to entertain the San Francisco Bulls in a three-game series that opens Friday night at Sullivan Arena.
Aces 2 1 1 -- 4
Idaho 2 1 0 -- 3
First Period -- 1, Idaho, Case 4 (Fyten, de Kastrozza), 2:48; 2, Aces, Baran 1 (Mazzolini, Haltigin), 7:00 (pp); 3, Aces, Hudson 6 (Baran, Kremyr), 16:09; 4, Idaho, B. Robinson 2 (Carrick), 18:30 (pp). Penalties -- Hudson, Aces (holding), :33; Reddick, Idaho (hooking), 6:23; Kremyr, Aces (elbowing), 16:34.
Second Period -- 5, Aces, Smith 4 (Mahbod), 9:47; 6, Idaho, King 14 (Fyten), 11:21. Penalties -- Mazzolini, Aces (slashing), 6:00.
Third Period -- 7, Aces, Mazzolini 23 (Baran, Mele), 15:08 (pp). Penalties -- Carroll, Idaho (elbowing), 14:48; Mazzolini, Aces (hooking), 17:51.
Shots on goal -- Aces 11-8-15--34. Idaho 11-14-8--33.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 2 of 2. Idaho 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 16-5-1 (33 shots-30 saves). Idaho, J. Robinson, 14-3-2 (34-33).
A -- 5,192 (5,006). T -- 2:24.
Referee -- J.M. McNulty. Linesmen -- Todd Owen, Andrew Wetzel.