Anchorage — Like any ECHL player promoted to the American Hockey League, defenseman Corey Syvret went to the Toronto Marlies in January with no idea if his third gig in the 'A' would be another short visit or something more significant.
"You have to see how long you can last,'' he said.
Turned out the answer was the better part of three months.
And the third-year pro's reward was his first AHL contract.
After spending that stretch with the Marlies, a team located 40 minutes from his hometown of Millgrove, Ontario, which allowed family and friends to watch him play, Syvret is back with the Alaska Aces as they launch what they hope will be a long run in the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs.
The Aces, regular-season champions of the 23-team league, open the postseason Friday night at Sullivan Arena, where they entertain the San Francisco Bulls in Game 1 of a best-of-7 series.
Syvret, 24, played in 11 of the Marlies' 33 games while on promotion -- he previously played seven combined AHL games in his first two stints in the league -- and got to wear the maple leaf crest he grew up adoring. Granted, it wasn't the crest of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but for Syvret, his time in the 'A' was a fulfilling promotion. Plus, the Marlies thought enough of him to sign him to an AHL deal, which prevents any other AHL club from getting him.
"I was close to family, and they got to see me play at that level, so that was nice,'' Syvret said. "It's a nice city and we were right downtown.''
Syvret said he also enjoyed playing for Marlies head coach Dallas Eakins, who as both an amateur and pro was teammates with Alaska Aces bench boss Rob Murray.
"I got super-positive feedback from him,'' Syvret said of Eakins. "He was always honest, always straight-up with me.''
In Toronto, Syvret said he was used primarily in even-strength situations. Back with the Aces -- he earned 1-17--18 totals and a plus-10 rating in 32 regular-season games for Alaska -- the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder will warrant a more expanded role that includes power-play time. Syvret's lone goal for Alaska, and six of his assists, came on the power play.
"Up here, they look at me for a little bit of everything, and to add some offense,'' Syvret said. "Up there, you don't want to make mistakes, just be solid and be hard on (opponents).''
Aces coach Rob Murray said Syvret's return should bolster his lineup.
"He brings a little of that veteran leadership,'' Murray said. "I know he's hungry to do well, and for the team to do well.''
Syvret hasn't played in a game since March 9 and, as he pointed out, he'll have to readjust to the big Olympic ice surface at Sullivan.
"That'll be the only real battle,'' Syvret said. "They kept me in good shape, so I don't think that'll be a problem.''
This season's playoffs will be just Syvret's second postseason experience as a pro. He played four playoff games for ECHL Kalamazoo in 2011. Those games came in the first round, long before the Aces beat the K-Wings in five games to seize the second Kelly Cup in franchise history.
"I figured I'd be back for playoffs,'' Syvret said. "I'm excited for it, for sure.''
Shuffling the deck
Murray, who last season shared the ECHL Coach of the Year honor with Gwinnett's John Wroblewski, finished third this season in balloting by league coaches, media, media relations directors and broadcasters.
Cincinnati's Jarrod Skalde won the award and Ontario's Jason Christie was runner-up.
San Francisco has three guys with Alaska connections on its postseason roster -- former Aces winger Kory Falite and former Aces defenseman Mark Isherwood, both of whom were on the 2011 Kelly Cup champions, and former UAA winger Tommy Grant. Grant played in the minimum of five ECHL games a pro is required to have this season to be eligible for the playoffs.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.