There were plenty of hard hits and hard shots on the ice Saturday at Sullivan Arena. There was also some hard luck for the Alaska Aces hockey team.
Despite outshooting the Idaho Steelheads 46-23, the Aces suffered a 4-3 ECHL loss in a shootout. Idaho won the shootout 3-0, shortly after a potential game-winning overtime goal teased the home fans by dancing across the goal line.
The Aces nearly took their second straight game from Idaho with 4:07 to play in the five-minute overtime period. A 3-on-3 breakaway led to a shot from defenseman Brad Richard. The wrister hit the post and the puck rolled along the goal line behind the goalie.
The light behind the goal flashed and the crowd went crazy until the referee waved off the goal to a smattering of boos and chants about his incompetency. Instant replay wasn't used by officials, but a replay showed the call was correct.
Idaho's first three shooters scored in the shootout and the Aces failed to score at all.
"It's always tough losing a shootout, but playing a team like Idaho this weekend, we go head-to-head with them pretty well," said Aces winger Shawn Skelly. "To come out with three out of four points, even with the loss in the shootout, is still a win in our books."
The Aces (19-10-1) earned two points with a 4-3 win Friday against the Steelheads and one point Saturday, running their season total to 40.
The Steelheads (17-11-2) picked up two points Saturday to bring their total to 38.
The game was well worth the price of admission. The teams traded blows until the bitter end. Fights nearly broke out on several occasions, but action remained relatively clean. The pace was fast from the beginning, with two goals for each team coming in the first period.
Idaho's William Rapuzzi of Anchorage opened scoring less than four minutes in, but was answered by an Aces goal from Ross Ring-Jarvi.
Idaho's Brett Robinson put his team up 2-1 with less than two minutes to play in the frame and, shortly after, Idaho earned a power play that didn't go its way. The Aces scored a shorthanded goal on some nice teamwork between Richard and Evan Trupp. Richard fed a pass from the right side of the net to the left and Trupp finished the high-speed transaction with his 10th goal of the season and second in as many nights.
The score remained 2-2 more than halfway into the second period when Skelly gave the Aces a 3-2 lead on a highlight-reel shot.
Skelly found himself with space on the left wing and rifled a nice shot into the upper left corner of the goal. His celebration was almost as cool as the goal -- he raised his stick, dropped to one knee and ran his gloved right hand along the ice before swooping into a celebratory upper-cut. Idaho goaltender Pat Nagle is a good friend of Skelly's, so the celebration had a purpose.
"I had like five or six shots on goal yesterday and he kind of gave it to me via text message last night after the game, so it was a little added inspiration to try to get a nice goal," Skelly said. "I was excited, to say the least."
Once on the bench, Skelly was still relishing his goal and didn't see Idaho's Rob Linsmayer knot the score at 3-3 just 21 seconds later on a close-range strike.
"We always have pretty intense games against them," Skelly said. "It's always pretty high pace. Both sides like to throw the body."
The Aces ended the eight-game home stand, their longest of the season, with a 5-3 record. They begin a three-game road series with the San Francisco Bulls on Thursday.
Reach Jeremy Peters at email@example.com or 257-4335.
Idaho wins shootout 3-0
First Period -- 1, Steelheads, Rapuzzi, 6 (Grant Robinson), 3:53; 1 Aces, Ring-Jarvi, 4 (Sisca), 13:37; 2 Steelheads, Robinson, 4 (Grant, Kipp), 18:11; 2 Aces, Trupp, 10 (Richard, Kremyr), 19:40. Penalties -- Sisca, Aces (hooking), 15:02; Mazzolini, Aces (roughing), 18:43.
Second Period -- 3, Aces, Skelly, 4 (Mazzoloini, Richard), PP, 11:46; 3, Steelheads, Linsmayer, 4 (de Kastrozza, DeLisle). Penalties -- Cullity, Steelheads (holding), 3:04; Kremyr, Aces (hooking), 5:36; Grant, Steelheads (too many men), 11:06; Dodero, Steelheads (roughing), 12;08; Linsmayer, Steelheads (roughing), 12:08; Zuck, Aces (roughing), 12:08; Elbrecht, Steelheads (roughing), 19:35; Zuch, Aces (interference on goalkeeper), 19:35.
Third Period -- none Penalties -- Mele, Aces (holding), 17:38
Overtime -- none Penalties -- Cullity, Steelheads (roughing), :19; Trupp, Steelheads (roughing), :19.
Shootout -- Idaho 3 (Rapuzzi G, Wahl G, Grant G) Aces 0 (Trupp NG, Skelly NG, Mazzolini NG)
Shots on goal -- Idaho 9-6-7-0-1--23. Aces 12-13-15-6-0--46.
Power-play Opportunities -- Idaho 0 of 4. Aces 1 of 3.
Goalies -- Idaho, Nagle, 10-12-15-6 (46 shots-43 saves). Aces, Kangas, 7-5-7-0 (22-19).
A -- 4,620. T -- 2:38.
Referee -- Frederic Leblanc. Linesmen -- Scott Sivulich, Steve Glines.