After scoring 14 goals in 52 games as a rookie with the Alaska Aces two hockey seasons ago, Jordan Kremyr endured a dramatic drop-off in production last season, when injuries cramped his campaign.
"I was really unhappy,'' he said, "especially with four goals in 54 games or whatever it was.''
Actually, Kremyr's four goals came in just 45 games -- he really is hard on himself -- and last offseason he resolved to redeem his offensive side.
So far, so good. Kremyr bagged his fifth goal in 13 games this season in Sunday afternoon's 2-1 ECHL victory over the Last Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena.
And for a guy who centers Alaska's third-line, his goal included a touch of finesse not usually associated with a player on the checking line.
Taking a pass at the front of the net from linemate David Eddy midway through the game, Kremyr deftly moved the puck from his forehand to his backhand and tucked it past Mitch O'Keefe (37 saves) and inside the right post to open the scoring.
Aces coach Rob Murray, a defensive center in his playing days, which included 107 NHL games, said Kremyr's goal showed poise and patience. Kremyr easily could have just thrown the puck on net the second he got it.
"That would have been a third-line center's play,'' Murray said. "You've got to broaden your horizons.''
Kremyr, 27, did so in the offseason. Determined to have a bounce-back season after missing significant time last regular season with a concussion and missing all of the postseason with a broken wrist, he decided to sharpen his mental game.
"I've been doing a lot of visualization and it's helped my game, and I give myself a lot of positive talks,'' Kremyr said. "You always hear the saying the game's 80 percent mental, but you never hear how or why, so I started doing a lot of reading about it.''
Murray throughout Sunday's game matched Kremyr's line, which included winger Eddy and Ross Ring-Jarvi, against the line centered by Las Vegas' Chris Francis.
"Being a defensive center myself, one of the things you always thought was, the best defense is a good offense,'' Murray said.
And the Kremyr line often hemmed the Wranglers in their own zone, which helped account for the Aces' 38-18 advantage in shots on goal.
Kremyr's renewed offense has come while playing a new position. In his first two seasons, he played the wing but likes being in the pivot, which demands covering more ice and allows him to use his speed. And Kremyr has remained diligent defensively -- his plus-minus rating is plus-8.
"His face-offs are coming along,'' Murray said. "Could be better, but being a winger (before this season) you build into that.
"He's so good defensively. He's where he needs to be at all times.''
Las Vegas' Matt Tassone forged a 1-1 tie with his power-play goal about six minutes after Kremyr's strike, but the Aces answered just 74 seconds later when defenseman Kane Lafranchise scored on the power play for what became the game-winning goal.
After Tassone was whistled for tripping Ring-Jarvi, Aces captain Nick Mazzolini won the ensuing face-off back to Lafranchise. Lafranchise relayed the puck to defenseman James Martin, took the return feed and blistered a shot from the center point with teammate Evan Trupp and Wranglers defenseman Eddie DelGrosso screening O'Keefe.
Goaltender Olivier Roy (17 saves) made that 2-1 lead stand for the remaining 24 minutes of the game. He was sharp and economical with his movement, much better than in Friday's 4-3 loss to the Wranglers, which marked his first game in two weeks and first since the Edmonton Oilers traded him to the Calgary Flames, who are affiliated with the Aces.
In taking two of three games from Las Vegas-- the Aces won 5-2 Saturday -- Alaska (11-3-0) remained tied with Ontario (9-1-4) atop the Western Conference with 22 points.
Shuffling the deck
The Aces, Wranglers (4-9-0) and Elmira Jackals (3-8-0) are the only teams on the 22-team circuit yet to have a game go to a shootout.
The Aces and Jackals are the only two teams yet to play an overtime game.
Through 14 games, eight players have missed a combined 58 games because of injuries. That includes goaltender Gerald Coleman, who has yet to play this season after hip surgery for the second straight offseason and whose rehab is going slower than he initially expected.
Murray said the Aces will take the next three days off practice to fulfill a mandatory 72-hour break each team must take during the season under the collective bargaining agreement. The timing works well because the Aces do not play again until Nov. 27, when they play at Colorado in the first of an eight-game road stretch.
That's one of two eight-game stretches on the road this season for the Aces.
Sunday marked the eighth time in their 14 games the Aces have held their opponent to 19 shots or less.
Lafranchise's power-play strike marked the Aces' seventh straight game with a man-advantage goal. They are 7 for 33 on the power play (24.2 percent) in that span.
Las Vegas 0 1 0 -- 1
Aces 0 2 0 -- 2
First Period -- None. Penalties -- Sisca, Aces (slashing), 5:38; Mele, Aces, major (fighting), 10:38; Tassone, Las Vegas, major (fighting), 10:38.
Second Period -- 1, Aces, Kremyr 5 (Eddy, Ring-Jarvi), 8:27; 2, Las Vegas, Tassone 4 (Finucci, DelGrosso), 14:43 (pp); 3, Aces, Lafranchise 3 (Martin, Mazzolini), 15:57 (pp). Penalties -- Mazzolini, Aces (interference), 1:54; Huxley, Las Vegas (tripping), 5:13; Hughesman, Las Vegas (unsportsmanlike conduct), 5:54; Crum, Aces (cross-checking), 12:44; Tassone, Las Vegas (tripping), 15:50.
Third Period -- None. Penalties -- DelGrosso, Las Vegas (holding), 4:36; Francis, Las Vegas (boarding), 8:22; May, Las Vegas (holding), 8:59; Mazzolini, Aces (holding), 16:00.
Shots on goal -- Las Vegas 7-5-6--18. Aces 15-16-8--39.
Power-play Opportunities -- Las Vegas 1 of 4. Aces 1 of 6.
Goalies -- Las Vegas, O'Keefe, 1-5-0 (39 shots-37 saves). Aces, Roy, 1-0-0 (18-17).
A -- 3,553 (6,399). T -- 2:23.
Referee -- Brett Sheva. Linesmen -- Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.