Anchorage — Throughout much of the Alaska Aces' run to their first ECHL Kelly Cup championship in 2006, the club enjoyed the rare luxury of a goaltending tandem straight from hockey heaven.
Chris Beckford-Tseu that postseason went 8-4 with a 2.04 goals-against average and .930 save percentage. Matt Underhill, the league's Goaltender of the Year in the regular season, in the playoffs went 8-2 with a 2.80 and .907.
In the regular season, when Underhill did more of the heavy lifting because Beckford-Tseu spent extended time in the American Hockey League, those two backstopped the Aces to the Brabham Cup as regular-season champs.
Six years later, as the Aces prepare to open the Kelly Cup playoffs with Friday's game against the San Francisco Bulls at Sullivan Arena, the franchise again is blessed with a superior goalie tandem that helped them seize their third straight Brabham Cup.
Gerald Coleman, who backstopped the Aces to a second Kelly Cup title in 2011, when he was Goaltender of the Year, this regular season went 23-6-3 with a 2.17 and .918. Mark Guggenberger went 25-8-5 with a 2.23 and .918.
Little wonder goaltending is not a concern for the Aces.
"Usually, you're trying to lean on one goalie,'' said Aces center Nick Mazzolini. "With us, either way, we're looking pretty in net. We know both guys will be solid and make the big saves at the big times.''
Coleman has been the Aces' No. 1 goalie for three seasons, and he started five of the team's last six regular-season games. Guggenberger buoyed the Aces by shouldering a heavy load until Coleman, who had offseason hip surgery, returned to the lineup around Thanksgiving. After that, Guggenberger still remained sharp.
The tandem allows Aces coach Rob Murray unusual flexibility.
"If, somewhere along the line, one guy is just not on his game, we won't hesitate to give the other guy a shot, because they've both earned it,'' Murray said. "There is no reason for (the team) not to have confidence in both guys equally.''
Most hockey teams usually have a clearly defined No. 1 goalie, and a No. 2 who is clearly the back-up. Yet the Aces actually have a No. 1 and a No. 1A, and they have the comfort of knowing those designations could be reversed without any real drop-off.
"We don't talk about it because we probably take it for granted,'' said Aces defenseman Sean Curry. "We know we have a good goalie problem. We're not complaining about it.''
Besides, the way the Aces look at it, if one goalie struggles, or if the team struggles, the other goalie can halt a slide.
"Either guy can steer a rickety ship,'' Mazzolini said.
Shuffling the deck
Gwinnett Gladiators blueliner Sacha Guimond was voted the ECHL's Defenseman of the Year in balloting by league coaches, media, broadcasters and media relations directors.
Guimond, who made the All-ECHL first team and All-Rookie team, led defensemen in points with 12-37--49 totals in 58 games. Guimond, 22, began the season with San Francisco (7-18--25 in 33 games) before a January trade to Gwinnett (5-19--24 in 35 games).
Reading's Adam Comrie (17-16--33 in 45 games) finished runner-up in balloting and Utah's Nick Tuzzolino (5-31--36 in 44 games), the former Ace, finished third.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.