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Aces are piling up points at record pace

Doyle Woody

All day Saturday, things just didn't seem quite normal to Gerald Coleman -- the Alaska Aces goaltender couldn't put his finger on what was different, just that it was.

"Everything felt like something was off,'' the Alaska Aces goaltender said. "It was either going to be a great night or a bad night. It worked out to be OK.''

Though definitely strange.

Bottom line: The Aces beat the Utah Grizzlies 2-1 in a shootout at Sullivan Arena, in large part because Coleman stopped all five Utah shooters in the skills competition.

And so let's get straight to the tire pumping and run down the checklist of superlatives before we get to the odd moments.

The Aces stretched their winning streak to six games.

They stretched their string of games unbeaten in regulation to 10 (7-0-3), which is their second such double-digit streak this season -- they also had a 13-game run (11-0-2). That marks the first time in nine ECHL seasons the Aces have two streaks of 10 regular-season games or more without losing in regulation.

And at the halfway point of their ECHL regular-season schedule -- 36 of 72 games -- the league leaders are 26-5-5. That's good for 57 points in the standings, which matches the 2005-06 Kelly Cup-winning club (27-6-3 at the halfway mark) for most points by an Aces team through 36 games.

Oh, and the Aces have secured at least one point in the standings in 23 of their last 24 games (18-1-5) -- 24 games equates to one-third of an ECHL season.

Not that the Aces are swooning over their play of late.

"In all honesty, not that great,'' said Bryan Miller, who scored the Aces' game-tying, power-play goal in the third period. "It was pretty evident this weekend we didn't play well. Anyone could tell you that.''

Now, for the odd stuff.

The Aces earned a power play 18 seconds into the game when they notified referee J.M. McNulty that Andrew Engelage was listed on the lineup sheet as Utah's starting goaltender, when it was actually Shane Owen who got the start, and was magnificent with 41 saves. Utah got docked a bench minor penalty for blowing the paperwork.

With Utah leading 1-0 early in the third period and the Aces going on a power play, Alaska coach Rob Murray requested a stick check of Utah forward Paul McIlveen to see whether the curve of his blade was illegal. McNulty ruled the stick legal, which earned the Aces a bench minor penalty and negated the power play.

No worries, Murray said. The Aces' power play wasn't really doing much -- they did score on a power play later in the period, but also failed to score later on a two-man advantage lasting a full two minutes -- and he likes his team's chances skating 4 on 4.

"We were convinced the guy's stick was illegal, and I'm still not convinced it wasn't,'' said Murray, who added he had never requested a stick check before in his coaching career.

In any event, odd game all around -- Utah went nearly 23 minutes, bridging the second and third periods, without being credited for a shot on goal. And the Aces went nearly seven minutes between shots late in the first period after cranking off 15 in the first 12 minutes.

"It was definitely different,'' said Aces winger Wes Goldie. "It had a bit of everything.''

That included an exhausted Goldie -- near the end of the third game in three nights -- ever so slowly getting to the bench in overtime for a line change.

"I told (linemate Brian Swanson), I just wanted to lay down,'' Goldie said with a laugh.

Utah (15-16-3), which has lost four straight games and once again was playing with such a depleted lineup that it seemed as if defenseman Derick Martin and Nick Tuzzolino, both former Aces never left the ice, probably deserved more than one point for its effort.

The Grizzlies led 1-0 five minutes into the game when defenseman Tysen Dowzak's shot from the left point hit the stick of Aces winger Garry Nunn, rose and then dipped, hit the tip of Coleman's glove and then his left pad, and went in.

Despite outshooting the Grizzlies 42-14 on the night, the Aces weren't able to forge the equalizer until defenseman Bryan Miller one-timed Nick Mazzolini's set-up past Owen on a power play five minutes into the third period.

While Coleman stoned the Grizzlies in the shootout, the only Aces shooter to succeed was Mazzolini, who faked a forehand shot low to the glove side before roofing it past Owen on the stick side.

Asked if his move was somewhat like one used by Detroit Red Wings magician Pavel Datsyuk, Mazzolini demurred. He said the move feels odd, as if he might take a tumble.

"I definitely would not liken it to Datsyuk,'' Mazzolini said with a grin. "He doesn't look like he's going to fall down.''

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

Aces win shootout 1-0

Utah 1 0 0 0 -- 1

Aces 0 0 1 2 -- 2

First Period -- 1, Utah, Dowzak 1 (McIlveen, Gutierrez), 5:33. Penalties -- Utah bench minor, served by Donovan (illegal lineup), :18; Fadden, Utah (high-sticking), 5:53.

Second Period -- None. Penalties -- Kissel, Aces (high-sticking), 8:35; Ruegsegger, Aces (roughing), 8:35; Sorteberg, Utah (roughing), 17:38; Martin, Utah (interference), 20:00.

Third Period -- 2, Aces, Miller 6 (Mazzolini, Swanson), 5:09 (pp). Penalties -- Dowzak, Utah (tripping), 2:56; Aces bench minor, served by Mazzolini (delay of game), 2:56; Sorteberg, Utah (interference), 4:04; Dowzak, Utah (tripping), 5:23; Utah bench minor, served by Donovan (object on ice), 5:23; Kissel, Aces (hooking), 12:41; Ruegsegger, Aces (goaltender interference), 14:05.

Overtime -- None. Penalties -- None.

Shootout -- Aces 1 (Kissel NG, Mazzolini G, Goldie NG, Swanson NG, Nunn NG); Utah 0 (Watson NG, McIlveen, NG, Fadden NG, MacMillan NG, Tuzzolino NG),

Shots on goal -- Utah 6-4-4-0--14. Aces 16-9-12-5--42.

Power-play Opportunities -- Utah 0 of 3. Aces 1 of 6.

Goalies -- Utah, Owen, 5-6-3 (42 shots-41 saves). Aces, Coleman, 17-4-2 (14-13).

A -- 4,291 (6,399). T -- 2:39.

Referee -- J.M. McNulty. Linesmen -- Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.

Aces at the halfway point

With Saturday night’s 2-1 shootout win over the Utah Grizzlies, the Alaska Aces hit the halfway point of their ECHL regular-season schedule and matched the 57 points put up by the 2005-06 Aces club that went on to seize the Kelly Cup. Here’s where the Aces have been at the halfway point in their nine ECHL seasons:

Season Record/36 Games Points In Standings

2011-12 26-5-5 57

2010-11 21-13-2 44

2009-10 16-17-3 35

2008-09 20-14-2 42

2007-08 19-13-4 42

2006-07 24-10-2 50

2005-06 27-6-3 57

2004-05 19-13-4 42

2003-04 22-11-3 47

Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News