The Alaska Aces never trailed Friday night until the moment that mattered most --- when they trudged off the ice at the Maverik Center in West Valley City, Utah.
The undermanned Utah Grizzlies, who never led until they captured the shootout 2-0 in four rounds, earned a 3-2 victory in the opener of a four-game ECHL series.
Bryan Cameron and Mitch Wahl notched goals in the skills contest against Alaska goaltender Mark Guggenberger, and Aces shooters Alexandre Imbeault, Bobby Hughes, Nick Mazzolini and Tommy Mele all came up empty against Utah's Adam Morrison.
Morrison stopped 33 shots in regulation and overtime in his Utah debut. Guggenberger made 37 saves and is likely to get all four starts in the series because Alaska's No. 1 goalie, Gerald Coleman, is home with a lower-body injury.
Both Alaska and Utah are 4-4 in shootouts this season.
Friday's match marked the sixth time in the last 10 hockey games the Aces have gone past regulation for a result. In that span, they have won one shootout, lost three shootouts and lost twice in overtime.
Even so, the Aces (35-11-6) own an eight-game point streak (4-0-4). And they have not lost in regulation in Utah this season in five games there (4-0-1).
The Aces seized a 1-0 lead midway through the first period when leading scorer Nick Mazzolini racked his 27th goal, which ties the center's career high and stopped a four-game goal drought that matched his longest dry spell this season.
The Grizzlies (20-22-7), who played with 13 skaters, three below the maximum, answered late in the first period on Colin Vock's 19th goal of the season.
Alaska regained the lead at 2-1 late in the second period, when winger Chris Clackson popped his 13th goal. But Mele took a tripping penalty 21 seconds later, and Utah's Mitch Wahl cashed in on the power play 17 seconds after that for his 19th goal and a 2-2 deadlock.
Shuffling the deck
Garry Nunn assisted on Mazzolini's goal, but the first-line winger has gone seven games without a goal.
The Aces are 24-0-5 when they score first.
Alaska is 7-3-1 against Utah this season.
Former Aces blueliner Nick Tuzzolino had an assist for the Grizzlies.
Both teams enjoyed a power play in overtime.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Utah wins shootout 2-0
Aces 1 1 0 0 -- 2
Utah 1 1 0 1 -- 3
First Period -- 1, Aces, Mazzolini 27 (Nunn), 9:23; 2, Utah, Vock 19 (Martin, Cameron), 18:32. Penalties -- None.
Second Period -- 3, Aces, Clackson 13 (Molle, Harrison), 18:07; 4, Utah, Wahl 19 (Vock, Tuzzolino), 18:45 (pp). Penalties -- Wrenn, Aces (roughing), 7:30; Tuzzolino, Utah (hooking), 12:46; Mele, Aces (tripping), 18:28.
Third Period -- None. Penalties -- Martin, Utah (kneeing), 4:25; Curry, Aces (slashing), 10:20; Hughes, Aces (slashing), 19:42.
Overtime -- None. Penalties -- Tuzzolino, Utah (slashing), 1:43.
Shootout -- Utah 2 (Cameron G, Estoclet NG, Wahl G, Tuzzolino NG), Aces 0 (Imbeault NG, Hughes, NG, Mazzolini NG, Mele NG).
Shots on goal -- Aces 13-10-8-4--35. Utah 11-17-7-4--39.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 3. Utah 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 17-6-5 (39 shots-27 saves). Utah, Morrison, 2-6-2 (35-33).
A - 4,770 (10,200). T - 2:43.
Referee -- Brett Sheva. Linesmen -- Patrick Richardson, James McKenna.