The wonders of Wes Goldie rarely cease, which is why his Alaska Aces teammates often shrug their shoulders and use a stock explanation when the veteran sniper does something special: "That's Wes.''
So it was Saturday night, when Goldie scored the first two goals of the hockey game, set up Nick Mazzolini's late game- winning strike and spearheaded a 4-2 win over the Stockton Thunder that kept the Aces' head-shaking series of streaks alive.
Still, one play Goldie made especially warranted dropped jaws. And it wasn't even Goldie's first goal, which came when he dove into a goal-mouth scramble with only his left hand on his stick and swept in a puck sitting in the Stockton crease to forge a 1-0 lead about five minutes into the game.
Nope, the play that mesmerized even Goldie's teammates came a mere 36 seconds later, shortly after Nick Mazzolini won a left-wing face-off in Stockton's zone and defenseman Steve Ward nudged the puck to Goldie. Goldie was stationed above the left circle, with his back nearly against the Plexiglass.
Normally, that is a good position from which to begin a series of passes and search for a shooting seam in the opponents' penalty-killing box.
Instead, Goldie snapped a half-slapper that appeared to catch Stockton goaltender Olivier Roy (37 saves) off-guard and beat the masked man high to the short side, over his right shoulder.
For most guys, that's a remarkably low-percentage shot. Wes Goldie is not most guys. He is the ECHL's second-leading all-time goal scorer (355) and the league's reigning goal champ.
Still, the Aces were left slack-jawed when Goldie's shot glanced off the middle bar at the back of the net, making that ringing sound of vulcanized rubber meeting metal, and ricocheted out into the slot, practically before anyone realized he scored.
"That's ridiculous,'' said Aces coach Rob Murray.
Murray said as Goldie went to shoot, assistant coach Louis Mass said, "There's no one there,'' meaning no other Ace was net-front to create a screen or pounce on a rebound. When Goldie scored, Murray looked at Mass. Mass just shrugged.
Said Mazzolini: "I was like, 'Well, he usually knows what he's doing.' It was curious, but it obviously worked.''
Said Aces goaltender Adam Courchaine: "It was actually off the back bar and out in the crease before anyone even raised their arms to celebrate.''
Said Aces defenseman Chad Anderson, who watched the play from the bench: "Did you hear that?''
Said Aces assistant coach Scott Burt: "It amazes me. I watch him every day in practice and he does something like that. That's why he's such a dynamic goal scorer. That's Wes.''
Goldie, who dressed quickly after the game to catch a red-eye flight home to Ontario to spend a few days with his family, laughed at it all.
"I actually made the judgment before the game I haven't been shooting enough,'' he said. "I just needed to put my head down and let it rip from all angles. Fortunately, it went in.''
And now Goldie leads the Aces with 20 goals, one more than linemate Dan Kissel.
The league-leading Aces (29-5-5), meanwhile, have won nine straight games, tying their second-longest winning streak in nine ECHL seasons. They have not lost in regulation in 13 games (10-0-3), tying the second-longest such streak in those nine seasons and matching a streak from earlier this season. They also have won 10 straight home games at Sullivan Arena, which is their third-longest such streak in the ECHL.
Also, they have earned points in 26 of the last 27 games, going 21-1-5 in that stretch.
Aces goaltender Adam Courchaine (23 saves) is now unbeaten in regulation in 15 consecutive starts (12-0-3).
Yet Stockton (15-16-4) roared back from a 2-0 deficit, using Ian O'Connor's goal late in the first period and Jordan Fulton's strike 19 seconds into the second period to push into a 2-2 tie. That held until about four minutes remained in the game.
And that's when Goldie's stick-lift on Stockton defenseman Nathan Deck freed the puck inside the Thunder blue line. Kissel swooped in to pick up the puck and fed Mazzolini, who was cutting right to left through the slot. Mazzolini whistled a wrister over Roy's left arm for the go-ahead goal. Jacques Lamoureux added an empty-net goal with 32.3 seconds left.
And to think Goldie, the league's Most Valuable Player last season, when helped the Aces to the Kelly Cup, was once considering a one-dimensional player -- only a goal scorer. In the last season and a half, he has proved to be reliable defensively, as well.
"That's his commitment to winning,'' Burt said.
Shuffling the deck
The Aces will take the next three days off as a league-mandated All-Star break even though the league does not have an All-Star Game this season. That's why Goldie was headed back to Ontario to see his family.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Stockton 1 1 0 -- 2
Aces 2 0 2 -- 4
First Period -- 1, Aces, Goldie 19 (Anderson), 4:45; 2, Aces, Goldie 20 (Ward, Mazzolini), 5:21 (pp); 3, Stockton, O'Connor 8 (Baker, Cameron), 16:21 (pp). Penalties -- Lafranchise, Aces (tripping), :33; Brodie, Stockton (tripping), 5:16; Hunt, Stockton (charging), 8:20; Miller, Aces (tripping), 13:23; Anderson, Aces (interference), 16:02; Anderson, Aces (roughing), 16:48; Fulton, Stockton (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:48.
Second Period -- 4, Stockton, Fulton 5 (Foy, Fratkin), :19. Penalties -- Hunt, Stockton (roughing), 8:19; Dahl, Aces (slashing), 10:42; Foy, Stockton (slashing), 14:15; Kremyr, Aces (boarding), 15:12.
Third Period -- 5, Aces, Mazzolini 12 (Kissel, Goldie), 16:03; 6, Aces, Lamoureux 3, 19:27 (en). Penalties -- O'Connor, Stockton (tripping), :32; Martindale, Stockton (tripping), 8:37; Ward, Aces (tripping), 11:55; Brodie, Stockton (tripping), 17:02.
Shots on goal -- Stockton 10-7-8--25. Aces 13-16-12--41.
Power-play Opportunities -- Stockton 1 of 5. Aces 1 of 7.
Goalies -- Stockton, Roy, 7-11-4 (40 shots-37 saves). Aces, Courchaine, 12-1-3 (25-23).
A -- 4,241 (6,399). T - 2:19.
Referee -- Geoff Miller. Linesmen -- Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News