Any point secured in a hockey game on the road is generally encouraging, and while the Alaska Aces pocketed a point Wednesday night, they also suffered the rare experience of squandering a third-period lead.
Still, their 4-3 ECHL shootout loss to the Idaho Steelheads extended to nine games (6-0-3) their streak of consecutive road matches in which they have earned at least a point.
And they required a rally just to get that.
Leading 2-1 after two periods at CenturyLink Arena in Boise, the Aces surrendered third-period goals to Kael Mouillierat and Jacob Cepis to fall behind 3-2 with less than eight minutes left in regulation.
Aces veteran defenseman Bryan Miller got his league-leading club back on even terms at 3-3 with a power-play strike with less than four minutes left in the third period. That goal came after one of Idaho's several ill-advised penalties -- Chad Klassen took a tripping penalty in the offensive zone, which is never a great move.
Another such infraction came in overtime, when the Steelheads (13-21-3) were whistled for too many men on the ice, which afforded the Aces (20-5-3) their ninth power-play opportunity. But they could not generate their third power-play goal of the game.
Credit to Jerry Kuhn, the Idaho goaltender who stopped 41 shots in regulation and overtime, and snuffed four of Alaska's five shooters in the skills contest, where the Steelheads improved to 4-1 this season.
At the other end, Aces netminder Gerald Coleman made 23 saves. But Idaho scored on two of its four shootout bids -- Marc Rancourt and Derek LeBlanc delivered.
In the last two seasons, including playoffs, the Aces have not lost in regulation when they lead after two periods. They are 65-0-2 in those circumstances, with both minor blemishes coming in shootout losses this season.
Wednesday's game was the opener of a three-game series that continues tonight and Friday night.
After a scoreless first period, Idaho, which has won four straight games, seized a 1-0 lead two minutes into the second period when Chad Nehring scooted unmolested out of the left corner, drove to the net and beat Coleman.
Alaska's Garry Nunn answered five minutes later when he scored off a Brandon Gentile rebound to forge a 1-1 tie and stretch his point streak to five games. Nunn, who has furnished four goals in that span, has scored 10 goals in 23 games this season -- he's the Aces' third-leading goal scorer -- after scoring 11 goals in 72 games as a rookie last season.
The Aces jumped to a 2-1 lead that marked their only advantage of the game when a fluke bounce provided an open-net goal for the last guy who needs a gift to score, sniper Wes Goldie.
Aces center Brian Swanson shot the puck into the Idaho zone off the glass during a second-period, power-play. As Kuhn left his net, intending to stop the puck behind the net, the puck ricocheted into the Steelheads slot. That left Goldie, the only guy in league history to bank five straight seasons of 40 or more goals, with a mere tap-in.
Goldie's goal marked his seventh in the last seven games and his 11th in the last 13 games. He leads the Aces with 14 goals.
The Aces welcomed back wingers Tyler Ruegsegger and Chris Bruton, who rejoined them after stints in the American Hockey League. Ruegsegger missed five Aces games while playing for former Aces bench boss Brent Thompson and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Bruton missed three Aces games while playing for the Peoria Rivermen.
One of Ruegsegger's temporary teammates in Bridgeport was Idaho's Mouillierat. Ruegsegger and Mouillierat traveled from the East Coast to Boise on the same flight. But Wednesday night they were back to being opponents, as evidenced by the cross-checking minor penalty Mouillierat took for his hit on Ruegsegger.
Shuffling the deck
The Aces are 4-0-2 against the Steelheads this season.
Dating back to the 2010-11 regular season, and counting last spring's playoffs, the Aces have gone 12-0-2 in their last 14 games against the Steelheads.
With Ruegsegger and Bruton back in the lineup, winger Zach Harrison was a scratch.
Alaska is 1-2 in shootouts this season.
Goldie cranked off a game-high eight shots on goal.
Aces defenseman Russ Sinkewich, up with Abbotsford in the AHL, earned an even rating Wednesday night in a 4-3 overtime win at Grand Rapids. Sinkewich was on the ice for the game-winning goal. He's played three games for the Heat.
The Aces killed all four Steelheads power plays to improve their league-leading, penalty-killing efficiency to 86.4 percent.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Idaho wins shootout 2-1
Aces 0 2 1 0 -- 3
Idaho 0 1 2 1 -- 4
First Period -- None. Penalties -- Scoran, Idaho (hooking), 8:01.
Second Period -- 1, Idaho, Nehring 5 (Rancourt, Purves), 1:58; 2, Aces, Nunn 10 (Gentile, Bruton), 6:48; 3, Aces, Goldie 14 (Swanson), 13:23. Penalties -- Mazzolini, Aces (high-sticking), 2:30; Neal, Idaho (roughing), 7:34; Lowe, Idaho (tripping), 13:02; Mouillierat, Idaho (cross-checking), 16:45; Cox, Aces (interference), 19:21.
Third Period -- 4, Idaho, Mouillierat 12 (LeBlanc, Klassen), 5:38; 5, Idaho, Cepis 8 (Lewadniuk, Lowe), 12:17; 6, Aces, Miller 4 (Kissel), 16:15 (pp). Penalties -- Mazzolini, Aces (tripping), 7:00; Cepis, Idaho (holding), 7:15; Nehring, Idaho (slashing), 9:28; Kremyr, Aces (high-sticking), 16:52; Neal, Idaho (high-sticking), 17:02.
Overtime -- None. Penalties -- Idaho bench minor, served by Mouillierat (too many men), 2:46.
Shootout -- Idaho 2 (Rancourt G, Cepis NG, Lewadniuk NG, LeBlanc G), Aces 1 (Goldie NG, Kissel NG, Nunn NG, Swanson G, Mazzolini NG).
Shots on goal -- Aces 17-9-13-1--44. Idaho 7-7-11-1--26.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 2 of 9. Idaho 0 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 15-4-2 (26 shots-23 saves). Idaho, Kuhn, 8-8-3 (44-41).
A -- 4,148 (5,006). T -- 2:32.
Referee -- Joe Sullivan. Linesmen -- Scott DeBaugh, Ryan Daisy.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News