Aces return to winning ways, beating Ontario Reign 6-3

Doyle Woody

Not to diminish Sunday's contributions from the Alaska Aces' old guard -- veteran linemates Wes Goldie and Brian Swanson combined for seven points, and their young sidekick Dan Kissel added three more -- but a couple of guys who have been complementary players were likewise worthy of compliments.

Second-year winger Garry Nunn and rookie defensemen Kane Lafranchise each delivered in a combustible 6-3 ECHL win over the depleted Ontario Reign at Sullivan Arena and continued breakout seasons.

One night after the Aces (20-5-2) saw their streak of 13 consecutive games with a point snuffed by the Reign (13-11-2), Nunn and Lafranchise helped kick-start the league leaders in a game that featured a combined 106 penalty minutes.

Nunn's goal seven minutes into the game started the Aces rolling -- they jumped to a 4-0 cushion before the game was half over -- and Lafranchise's precision assist on Wes Goldie's goal to give Alaska a 3-0 lead marked one of his two helpers.

Nunn's ninth goal of the season gives him 20 points in 22 games to rank him third on the team in goals and points. That 9-11--20 scoring line and plus-10 rating comes after he generated 11-21--32 totals and a plus 16 rating in 72 games last season.

This time around, the second-year wing is getting the power-play time he didn't last season -- his six power-play points triple his man-advantage total last season -- and he is utilizing his tremendous speed.

"He can pretty much skate with anyone in this league, or around them,'' Goldie said.

Since Nunn joined the Aces late in the 2009-10 season -- he was technically a rookie last season -- he has added about 20 pounds to get 185 pounds on his 5-foot-9 frame. And he has not lost any of his elite speed.

"That makes it harder to knock me off the puck and I think my shot has gotten better,'' Nunn said.

He spoke while signing autographs on the ice during a Skate With The Aces session after a game - "He'll be the one with all the teenage girls around him,'' Goldie cracked.

Nunn said the confidence first-year coach Rob Murray has shown in him -- giving him ample power-play time, for instance -- has boosted his belief.

"I knew I had to come into training camp and earn my spot,'' Nunn said. "It's really nice coach has confidence in me.''

Goldie, who racked one goal and three assists Sunday and leads the team with 13-13--26 totals in 25 games, said both Nunn and Lafranchise have benefitted from increased ice time.

"When you're a younger guy and your coach puts you out there in big situations, your confidence snowballs, and that's the case with (Lafranchise) and Nunner,'' Goldie said.

Lafranchise, who joined the Aces late last season after three seasons at UAA, is an excellent skater who more and more is jumping into the attack. His two assists Sunday give him 1-13--14 totals in 24 games -- he put up 0-5--5 totals in 22 games with the Aces last season -- and, at plus-17, he's tied with teammate Steve Ward for the best plus-minus rating on the circuit.

Lafranchise said playing a regular shift with veteran defenseman Bryan Miller and a power-play shift with veteran defenseman Ward, plus playing on the league's top team, has made the transition to pro hockey more seamless.

"Everyone's rolling and everyone's confident, and it makes it easier because everyone is where they're supposed to be, and I can move the puck,'' Lafranchise said. "That's my job.''

In a game that featured nine roughing penalties, six fighting majors and three game misconducts, Lafranchise also delivered the game's biggest hit. Though he's more a finesse player than a physical force, the 6-foot-1, 199-pounder leveled Ontario's Kyle Kraemer with a clean, open-ice hit at the end of the second period.

"First career hit,'' Lafranchise joked. "I'm glad I didn't hurt him or injure him. I don't hit often, but when I do I try to go for a big one.''

Shuffling the deck

Goldie's four-point night was his most productive of the season and marked his seventh multiple-point game.

Swanson's two goals and one assist were his first three-point night of the season and his fourth multiple-point game.

Kissel delivered two goals -- he's tied with Goldie for the team lead at 13 -- and an assist. That was his third two-goal game this season and seventh multiple-point game. He also snapped his eight-game goal drought and four-game point drought. Both droughts marked his longest barren stretches this season.

Adam Courchaine stopped 25 shots for Alaska to give him a 5-0-1 record in his last six starts.

Ontario starting goaltender Jean-Francois Berube doesn't seem to have mediocre games, at least not against the Aces -- he's either excellent or awful.

Berube beat the Aces 4-1 Saturday and shut them out 2-0 earlier this season, but in three other starts the Aces have chased him. Sunday, he was gone before eight minutes were played in the second period, having surrendered four goals on 18 shots.

Francois Brisebois scored two goals for Ontario. Ontario center Bill Bagron of Eagle River snapped his 10-game goal drought when a dump-in in the third period took a wicked ricochet off the glass in the left corner. As Courchaine went behind the net, figuring to stop the dump-in, the puck instead glanced off the glass, then off the left post, and left Bagron with a tap-in.

Ontario dressed just 14 skaters -- nine forwards, five defensemen -- for the third straight night, and the Reign were playing their fourth game in five nights in a stretch that included travel to Anchorage. They were reduced to 13 skaters when winger Derek Couture received a double-game misconduct in the second period and played more than half of the third period with 12 skaters because Kraemer got a misconduct.

At one point in the second period, penalties caused the Reign to be down to 11 skaters.

The Aces will likely take today off from practice. Tuesday, they travel to Boise, Idaho, and on Wednesday night open a stretch of three games in three nights against the Steelheads.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at or call him at 257-4335.

Ontario 0 1 2 -- 3

Aces 1 3 2 -- 6

First Period -- 1, Aces, Nunn 9 (Harrison, Gentile), 7:18. Penalties -- Estrada, Ontario (charging), 1:05; Ambroz, Aces (cross-checking), 11:38; Brisebois, Ontario (hooking), 17:04; Goldie, Aces (high-sticking), 17:53; Kremyr, Aces (roughing), 18:10; Anderson, Aces (roughing), 18:10; Couture, Ontario (roughing), 18:10; Bowen, Ontario (roughing), 18:10; Cox, Aces (roughing), 20:00; Van de Mosselaer, Ontario (roughing), 20:00.

Second Period -- 2, Aces, Swanson 3 (Goldie, Kissel), 3:12; 3, Aces, Goldie 13 (Lafranchise, Miller), 4:34; 4, Aces, Kissel 12 (Goldie, Swanson), 7:47 (pp); 5, Ontario, Brisebois 7 (Stretch, Huxley), 14:30 (pp). Penalties -- Anderson, Aces (holding), 4:39; Irwin, Ontario (elbowing), 7:31; Kraemer, Ontario (slashing), 9:39; Ambroz, Aces (roughing), 12:15; Huxley, Ontario (roughing), 12:15; Ambroz, Aces (elbowing), 14:21; Gentile, Aces, major-game misconduct (fighting, secondary altercation), 14:30; Kremyr, Aces, major (fighting), 14:30; Anderson, Aces, major (fighting), 14:30; Couture, Ontario, major-double game misconduct (fighting, secondary altercation, continuing altercation, 14:30; LoVerde, Ontario, major (fighting), 14:30; Stretch, Ontario, major (fighting), 14:30; Kraemer, Ontario, minor-misconduct (roughing), 20:00.

Third Period -- 6, Ontario, Bagron 7 (Neigum, Van De Mosselaer), 6:10; 7, Aces, Swanson 4, 14:30 (en-sh); 8, Aces, Kissel 13 (Goldie, Lafranchise), 18:12 (en); 9, Ontario, Brisebois 8 (Stretch, Huxley), 19:03. Penalties - Ward, Aces (high-sticking), 14:17.

Shots on goal -- Ontario 6-6-16--28. Aces 13-7-5--25.

Power-play Opportunities -- Ontario 1 of 5; Aces 1 of 5.

Goalies -- Ontario, Berube, 3-5-1 (18 shots-14 saves); Carrozzi, enter 7:47 2nd (5-5). Aces, Courchaine, 5-1-1 (28-25).

A - 3,946 (6,399). T - 2:32.

Referee - Tom Chmielewski. Linesmen - Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.

Blog: Woody on Hockey
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