Anchorage — The Alaska Aces have suspended goaltender Mark Guggenberger after he left the ECHL team and signed with the Allen Americans of the Central Hockey League in a move that reduced the Aces to a single active goalie as they begin an eight-game, 20-day road trip.
"He just jumped ship, abandoned the team,'' Aces coach Rob Murray said by cellphone from Colorado. "He felt he wasn't going to get enough of a shot here, so he went back to the Central League.''
Guggenberger, 24, was a second-team All-ECHL pick for the Aces last season and two seasons ago was the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender and Rookie of the Year for the Texas Brahmas.
By suspending Guggenberger, the Aces to retain his ECHL rights for the remainder of the season. Another ECHL team cannot employ Guggenberger without making a deal with the Aces.
Alaska opens its road trip Wednesday night against the Colorado Eagles with Olivier Roy as the only goaltender on the roster. Murray said he will use Tate Maris of Denver, a former North Dakota walk-on who played there with current Aces winger Evan Trupp, as an emergency back-up goaltender Wednesday night.
Guggenberger faced something of a logjam in the crease with the Aces because Alaska is in its first season as an affiliate of the NHL's Calgary Flames and American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat. The Flames have rotated three different goaltenders through the Aces, all of them under NHL contract.
Those goaltenders gained No. 1 status and presumably relegated Guggenberger to back-up duty. Still, because of a recent NHL trade that involved Roy, and also because of other circumstances, Guggenberger's six starts are most among the four different goalies who have played in Alaska's first 14 games.
In any event, Guggenberger's departure leaves the Aces with just one proven goalie because veteran Gerald Coleman is not active after offseason hip surgery for the second straight year. Coleman, who backstopped Alaska to the Kelly Cup in 2011, had hoped to be back playing games at this point and is continuing his rehabilitation.
"With the Abbotsford affiliation and the impending return of Gerald Coleman, (Guggenberger) felt it was a good time to go somewhere else,'' Murray said.
The CHL sits fourth on North America's pro hockey ladder. The NHL is tops, with the AHL one rung down, and below that, in order, the ECHL, the CHL and the Southern Professional Hockey League.
With the Americans (10-5-1), Guggenberger joins the defending league champions and returns to the circuit where he first made his pro reputation in 2011-12 by going 22-11-3 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .912 save percentage for the Texas Brahmas.
Guggenberger last season for the Aces went 25-8-5 with a 2.23 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and three shutouts. That earned him second-team All-ECHL honors behind South Carolina Stingrays backstop Ryan Zapolski, the league's Most Valuable Player.
This season, Guggenberger was 5-1-0, 2.21 and .903, with one shutout.
Allen on Wednesday night plays a road game against the Arizona Sundogs.
"I'm really excited to be here," Guggenberger said in an CHL press release Tuesday. "I enjoyed my time in Alaska, but this was the right move for me now. I will be ready to go (Wednesday) night."
Shuffling the deck
Aces defensemen James Martin and Kane Lafranchise on Tuesday were called up to Abbotsford, leaving the Aces with just five defensemen before Murray got hold of former UAA blueliner Brad Gorham of Anchorage, who helped the club out last season, and got him on a plane to Colorado.
Gorham, an engineer, last regular season had two assists and a plus-5 rating in 12 games with Alaska. He played in six playoff games, furnishing two assists and an even rating.
Defenseman Corey Syvret, center Tim Coffman and winger Andy Taranto, all of whom missed the previous two games with injuries, made the trip and will be in the lineup Wednesday, Murray said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
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