Anchorage — For what it's worth, the Alaska Aces franchise sports a decent record when facing playoff elimination, which is the quandary this season's edition of the hockey club confronts Sunday night in Stockton, Calif.
In nine previous seasons in the ECHL, the Aces have gone 6-7 when facing elimination, the situation that unfolds Sunday against the Stockton Thunder, who own a 3-1 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference semifinals series.
The high point among those 13 elimination matches came in Game 7 of the 2006 conference finals, when Chris Minard's strike from the left wing 67 seconds into double overtime at Sullivan Arena delivered the Aces into the Kelly Cup Finals. They beat Gwinnett in five games to seize the first of the franchise's two Kelly Cups.
That 2006 Fresno team was coached by Matt Thomas, the current Stockton coach. Thomas avenged that loss in 2010, when Stockton eliminated the Aces in four games of a best-of-5, first-round series, which remains the lone time in Alaska's 10 ECHL seasons it has been dispatched in the opening round.
The Aces in 2009 twice avoided elimination in the Kelly Cup Finals, winning Game 5 at South Carolina, 3-2, on Colin Hemingway's goal deep into overtime, and winning Game 6, 3-2, in Anchorage on Matt Stefanishion's goal with less than four minutes left in regulation after trailing 2-0 less than eight minutes into the game.
South Carolina didn't crack, though -- the Stingrays won Game 7 at Sullivan, 4-2.
The Aces on Sunday must win at Stockton to push the series back to Anchorage, where Game 6 would be Tuesday night at Sullivan.
ECHL Western Conference Semifinals
Stockton leads 3-1
Game 5, Alaska Aces at Stockton Thunder, Sunday, 5 p.m. ADT
Radio: Live, AM-750 and FM-103.7 KFQD
TV: Live, GCI (cable Channel 1)