After dominating play most of Friday night — outshooting Las Vegas by a 3 to 1 margin for much of it and ending with a 2 to 1 cushion — the Alaska Aces nonetheless needed considerable extra time to seize the full bounty of their labor.
On an evening when they stamped a lopsided 49-24 advantage on the shot clock, the Aces went all the way to the shootout to secure a 3-2 victory before an announced crowd of 4,721 at Sullivan Arena.
The Aces (23-9-3) improved to 2-1 in shootouts by winning the skills contest 3-1 in five rounds, courtesy of goals from Peter Sivak, Brendan Connolly and Shawn Skelly, and the goaltending of Gerald Coleman. Coleman, in just his second appearance since offseason hip surgery, stopped 22 of 24 shots in regulation and overtime, and snuffed three of four Wranglers in the shootout.
Las Vegas (10-22-4) had won all three of its previous shootouts.
Alaska’s second straight victory over Las Vegas in a three-game ECHL series that wraps Saturday night gives it a seven-game point streak (5-0-2). The win also maintained the Aces’ three-point edge over the Colorado Eagles atop the Mountain Division.
“It’s really fun to get a win for the fans, as well as for us,’’ said winger Ross Ring-Jarvi, who scored the game-tying goal. “When you play that well, you want to get rewarded.’’
Ring-Jarvi’s equalizer came four minutes into the third period, when Mathew Sisca had the puck in the left corner and threaded a cross-ice, backdoor pass to Ring-Jarvi low in the right circle. Sisca’s pass went between the legs of the defender nearest him and through Wranglers between the circles. Ring-Jarvi beat Travis Fullerton from point-blank range.
“Honestly, that puck should never go through three guys,’’ Ring-Jarvi said. “When it hit my stick, I thought, ‘I have to score.’ ”
After that, the Aces killed off consecutive Wranglers power plays in a sequence that included 46 seconds in which Las Vegas, which in the second period got a go-ahead, power-play goal from Chad Nehring, owned a two-man advantage.
Coleman’s best work came late in the hockey game. After facing just 10 shots in the first two periods, he stopped 12 in the third period and two in OT.
“I don’t know if he was really tested until the third, and he was up to the challenge,’’ said Aces coach Rob Murray.
In the shootout, Sivak used his right skate to kick the puck onto his blade in the opening round and scored on a forehand. Connolly, Alaska’s third shooter, ripped a wrister off Fullerton’s glove and in. And Skelly, in the fifth round, ended it by beating Fullerton low to the glove side.
Skelly said he usually likes to make a move on his forehand and go to his backhand, but changed his plan when Fullerton retreated into the blue paint.
“He backed up pretty quickly,’’ Skelly said. “If the goalie backs into the crease, that’s the green light to shoot.’’
After Nehring beat Coleman between the pads in the first round, Coleman got his blocker on Anthony Perdicaro’s bid, saw Chris Francis wing a shot over the net and got his stick on Jeff May’s shot.
The Aces played with somewhat of a patchwork lineup because center Tim Coffman and winger David Eddy were injured in Wednesday’s series-opening 5-2 Aces win. Both are out with lower-body injuries.
Also, Murray said defenseman B.J. Crum told him early Friday that he wasn’t enjoying the game and had always told himself he’d hang up his blades when he felt that way. The Aces suspended Crum as a procedural move. They maintain his ECHL rights.
Murray signed forward Merit Waldrop of Anchorage, who many times has helped the club when it was short-handed. Pretty good gig for Waldrop, who had two shots on goal: He played wing on a line with captain Nick Mazzolini and Skelly, and his first shift came on a power play in the opening minute.
Defenseman Dustin Molle moved up to play wing. His versatility came in handy when defenseman Brad Gorham in the second period received a major penalty and game misconduct for kneeing Las Vegas’ Carlo Finucci (two assists), the former UAF skater. Alaska killed more than three minutes of that major penalty before Las Vegas took a penalty to end the power play. Finucci returned to the game.
The Aces already are without forwards Evan Trupp and Jordan Kremyr, both up with Abbotsford of the American Hockey League, and Andy Taranto (shoulder). Also, defensemen Corey Syvret and Sean Curry have been out long-term with lower-body injuries.
Fullerton proved a hard case to crack throughout. He stopped 29 of 30 shots through two periods, permitting only Drew MacKenzie’s slot wrister off a Sivak feed.
The Wranglers gained a 1-1 tie five minutes into the second period when Coleman committed to Finucci, whose quick pass furnished Matt Tassone with an open net.
Nehring, who assisted on Tassone’s goal, scored 14 minutes into the third period to put the Aces behind for the only time all evening. Gorham’s penalty came just 10 seconds after that and Nehring immediately fought him, giving him a Gordie Howe hat trick.
Still, the Aces finally prevailed after 2 hours, 33 minutes.
“To tie it up was big,’’ Skelly said. “And to control the play and get the win was gratifying.’’
Shuffling the deck
After earning one assist in his first nine games, Ring-Jarvi has put up 6-11—17 totals in his last 23 games.
Sivak owns a four-game point streak in which he has delivered 3-6—9 totals.
Sisca has points in three straight games, with 2-2—4 totals, and owns 4-4—8 totals in the last seven games.
Mazzolini has an assist in three straight games.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog.
Aces win shootout 3-1
First Period — 1, Aces, MacKenzie 2 (Sivak, Mazzolini), 15:36. Penalties — Tassone, LV (tripping), :31; Molle, Aces (tripping), 3:31.
Second Period — 2, LV, Tassone 8 (Finucci, Nehring), 5:18; 3, LV, Nehring 3 (Cook, Finucci), 14:07 (pp). Penalties — Cook, LV (hooking), 9:06; Molle, Aces (roughing), 12:24; Tassone, LV (roughing), 12:24; Richard, Aces (slashing), 13:51; Gorham, Aces, double-major, game misconduct, served by Skelly (kneeing, fighting), 14:17; Nehring, LV, major (fighting), 14:17; May, LV (hooking), 17:28; Tassone, LV (roughing), 19:52.
Third Period — 4, Aces, Ring-Jarvi 6 (Sisca, Parker), 4:05. Penalties — Richard, Aces (hooking), 11:23; Sivak, Aces (hooking), 12:37.
Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
Shootout — Aces 3 (Sivak G, Sisca NG, Connolly G, Mazzolini NG, Skelly G), LV 1 (Nehring G, Pedicaro NG, Francis NG, May NG).
Shots on goal — LV 4-6-12-2—24. Aces 14-16-14-5—49.
Power-play Opportunities — LV 1 of 5. Aces 0 of 4.
Goalies — LV, Fullerton, 5-8-4 (49 shots-47 saves). Aces, Coleman, 1-0-1 (24-22).
A — 4,721 (6,399). T — 2:33.
Referee — Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen — Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.