Aces rally late to continue their dominance of Utah

dwoody@adn.comFebruary 20, 2013 

— Playing the Utah Grizzlies has been very, very good for the Alaska Aces this hockey season.

The ECHL leaders rallied for four third-period goals on the road Wednesday night at the Maverik Center to pocket a 5-2 victory that capped their domination of the Grizzlies this regular season and extended their point streak to 11 games, tying the sixth-longest in their ECHL history.

Alaska (38-11-6) went 7-0-1 at the Maverik Center this season, including 3-0-1 on this trip. The Aces own the 14-game season series with the Grizzlies, going 10-3-1.

The Aces have also been seizing rink rewards on the road -- they have earned points in their last eight road games (4-0-4), which extends the franchise's fourth-longest road point streak in 10 ECHL seasons.

And speaking of streaks -- goaltender Mark Guggenberger, center Nick Mazzolini and winger Spencer Bennett kept sizzling.

Guggenberger, who snuffed a career-high 50 shots in Monday's 6-1 win in Utah, stopped 26 shots. All he has done in five consecutive starts is go 4-0-1 with a 1.57 goals-against average and .955 save percentage.

Mazzolini, the club's leading scorer, delivered his 30th goal of the season and added two assists to give him a goal in four straight games and seven points in that span. Bennett, acquired from Orlando in a trade less than one month ago, furnished the game-tying goal early in the third period. He's scored four goals in the last three games and generated six points in the last four games.

Alaska trailed Utah (20-25-7) 2-0 more than halfway through the second period after Berkley Scott, who entered with two goals in 18 games, scored consecutive goals six minutes apart. Both strikes came off assists from Ian Schultz.

But Mazzolini, just 31 seconds after Scott's second goal, uncoiled a slapper from just inside the blue line that leaked through Adam Morrison (36 saves) for a soft goal that cut Utah's advantage to 2-1. Bennett's rebound goal three minutes into the third period pulled the Aces even at 2-2.

The Aces came up empty on a power-play opportunity more than midway through the third period. Yet defenseman Mike Baran's even-strength goal off a face-off with less than three minutes left in regulation kick-started a three-goal barrage Alaska unleashed in a span of just 1:48.

Mazzolini and Garry Nunn set sail 2-on-1 shortly after the face-off following Baran's goal, and Nunn put away Mazzolini's helper for his 15th goal, which ties his career high, and a 4-2 cushion. Bobby Hughes added an empty-net goal.

After being outshot 14-8 in the opening 20 minutes, the Aces outshot the Grizzlies 33-14 the rest of the way for a 41-28 advantage.

Both clubs were without principal players.

Aces winger Alexandre Imbeault sat out with a wonky back and Aces veteran defenseman Sean Curry was scratched after absorbing a hit Monday that left him feeling less than capable. Also, standout rookie defenseman William Wrenn was playing in the American Hockey League for the Texas Stars in his second promotion to the AHL this season.

Utah's leading scorer, Mitch Wahl, was summoned to AHL Abbotsford, and its second-leading scorer, Bryan Cameron, was recalled to Abbotsford by NHL Calgary.

All that left the Aces with 10 forwards and five defenseman, one blueliner short of a full lineup. The Grizzlies dressed nine and five, which was actually one more defenseman than they dressed in the first three games of the series in West Valley City. A full ECHL lineup is 16 skaters, usually 10 forwards and six defensemen.

The Aces, who have not lost in regulation since falling 5-2 to visiting San Francisco on Jan. 25, this season have fashioned point streaks of 13 games, tying the second-longest in their ECHL history, and now 11 games.

They are scheduled to fly home Thursday and on Friday will open a three-game set against the Las Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena. The completion of that series will close a span of five games in seven days, with a travel day included, for the Aces.

 

Shuffling the deck

Wrenn played his first game for AHL Texas on Wednesday, earning a plus-1 rating in the Stars' 5-1 win at Rochester. Wrenn, who earlier this season played three games for AHL Worcester, earned his plus Wednesday when he was on a penalty-killing crew that scored short-handed.

The Aces' 14-game season series with the Grizzlies was completed in Alaska's 55th game, which means the Aces have played 25.5 percent of all their games against Utah.

Mazzolini killed the Grizzlies in the season series, racking 12-8--20 totals in 14 games. He leads the Aces in scoring with 30-23--53 totals in 53 games.

Nunn put up 7-8--15 totals in those 14 games against Utah. He has scored his 15 goals in 50 games to tie his career best -- last season, he scored 15 goals in 67 games.

Mazzolini owns 4-3--7 totals in his four-game point streak. Bennett owns 4-2--6 totals in his four-game point streak and 5-4--9 totals in nine games with the Aces.

Alaska improved to 17-6-5 (.696 winning percentage) on the road. The only team with a higher road winning percentage is Ontario, which is 16-6-3 (.700).

Guggenberger's victory raised his record to 20-6-2, which ranks him second on the circuit in wins, trailing only Kalamazoo workhorse Joel Martin (24-19-5), who has played a league-leading 2,897 minutes. Martin has played the equivalent of more than five games more than any other masked man in the league.

 

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

 

Aces 0 1 4 -- 5

Utah 0 2 0 -- 2

First Period -- None. Penalties -- Ward, Aces (tripping), 4:11; Maxwell, Utah (tripping), 5:30; Battani, Utah, major (fighting), 7:43; Molle, Aces, major (fighting), 7:43; Mele, Aces (hooking), 16:43.

Second Period -- 1, Utah, Scott 3 (Schultz), 7:11; 2, Utah, Scott 4 (Schultz), 13:29; 3, Aces, Mazzolini 30 (Ward, Molle), 14:00. Penalties -- Scott, Utah (interference), 3:35; Crum, Aces (hooking), 3:35; Utah bench minor, served by Scott (too many men), 11:06.

Third Period -- 4, Aces, Bennett 5 (Crum, Harrison), 3:14; 5, Aces, Baran 2 (Mazzolini), 17:42; 6, Aces, Nunn 15 (Mazzolini, Skelly), 18:01; 7, Aces, Hughes 11 (Molle), 19:30 (en). Penalties -- Ji. Martin, Utah (high-sticking), 12:20.

Shots on goal -- Aces 8-15-18--41. Utah 14-8-6--28.

Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 3. Utah 0 of 2.

Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 20-6-2 (28 shots-26 saves). Utah, Morrison, 2-8-2 (40-36).

A -- 2,920 (10,200). T -- 2:22.

Referee -- Joe Sullivan. Linesmen -- Patrick Richardson, James McKenna.

 

 

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