The Alaska Aces, fresh off taking care of the San Francisco Bulls in five first-round games of the Kelly Cup playoffs, will meet the Stockton Thunder in the ECHL's Western Conference semifinals beginning Friday at Sullivan Arena.
Stockton advanced this afternoon with a 6-4 win over visiting Las Vegas in Game 7 at Stockton Arena, where Ryan Hayes furnished the Thunder a hat trick and one assist.
Stockton roared back from a 3-2 series deficit after five games. Not only that, but the Thunder, facing elimination, trailed the Wranglers 3-0 five minutes into the third period of Game 6 on Friday before storming back for a 5-3 win aided by an empty-net goal.
In any event, Games 1 and 2 of Alaska's best-of-7 series with Stockton are set for Friday and Saturday at Sullivan. Alaska owns home-ice advantage throughout the playoffs.
The Aces knocked off the Thunder in five games in the first round last year, splitting the first two games at Sullivan, then sweeping three straight at Stockton Arena.
For what it's worth, the Aces this regular season went 8-2-0 against the Thunder, with two of those wins in shootouts, which, of course, are not used in the regular season. Stockton went 2-6-2 against the Aces.
Stockton possibly could get reinforcements from the AHL, where some of their deadliest players from the regular season are playing for Oklahoma City, which currently is in a playoff position with one week left in the AHL season. Forwards Toni Rajala (18-20--38 in 29 games for Stockton) and Philippe Cornet (9-14--23 in 18 for Stockton) are just two of several playoff-eligible players for the Thunder who are currently with Oklahoma City.
Here are two Aces who flourished against the Thunder this season: Goaltender Gerald Coleman went 7-0-0 with a 1.54 goals-against average and .939 save percentage, and right wing Alexandre Imbeault went 8-4--12 in 10 games.