Coming off their first loss in regulation in more than a month, the Alaska Aces unlimbered their big guns Saturday night at Sullivan Arena, where they strafed the Idaho Steelheads, 6-3.
The first line of center Nick Mazzolini and sniping wingers Wes Goldie and Dan Kissel accounted for four goals and seven points as the ECHL leaders finished their 11-game homestand at 10-1-0.
Kissel scored two goals, Mazzolini delivered a one goal and one assist, and Goldie furnished one goal and two helpers.
Saturday's win came after Idaho's 4-2 victory on Friday snapped the Aces' nine-game winning streak and 13-game point streak.
The first line made sure the club bounced back with a purpose, which it has done after each of its four home-ice losses this season. In home games after a loss this season -- and the Aces are 24-4-0 at Sullivan -- the Aces are 4-0-0 and have outscored opponents 22-11.
Saturday, the Aces (30-6-5) turned the Idaho crease into a shooting gallery, unloaded 50 shots on goaltenders Jimmy Spratt and Jerry Kuhn. That was one shot shy of Alaska's season high -- they cranked off 51 shots on Idaho in 7-2 win in Boise on Nov. 18.
Mazzolini fired a game-high eight shots on goal Saturday, with Kissel registering four shots and Goldie three. Still, Mazzolini said, he's prone to trying to set up his wingers.
"I always seem to think pass-first,'' Mazzolini said. "And when you have guys like that, you're just trying to get it in their wheelhouse.''
Mazzolini moved into the pivot between Goldie and Kissel five games ago, when first-line center and former NHLer Brian Swanson suffered an upper-body injury that has sidelined him since.
To hear Mazzolini tell it, he just doesn't want to upset the chemistry of his wingers.
"At this level, those guys know how to find you and, hopefully, you can keep up and find them, and try not to make ass of yourself,'' Mazzolini said. "Replacing Swanny is impossible, especially on face-offs. I'm really trying to bear down on face-offs because we really miss him there.''
Goldie, who leads the Aces with 23 goals, said there hasn't been much of an adjustment since Mazzolini began centering the line.
"We seem to have chemistry,'' he said.
Mazzolini's first-period goal, on a centering pass that somehow banked past Spratt as Goldie crowded the crease, opened the scoring. After Michael Neal answered for Idaho, a furious goal-mouth scramble in the Steelheads crease later in the first period benefitted Kissel. He stayed away from the traffic jam and stationed himself just off the right post. When the puck came to him, he had a yawning net before him and scored to snap a six-game goal drought.
"After a couple games, you always wonder, and you want to get that next one,'' Kissel said. "I was just happy to get an open net.''
Kissel scored on a rebound early in the second period for his 21st goal and Ethan Cox followed with a deflection of Steve Ward's shot 14 seconds later to give Alaska a 4-1 cushion and chase Spratt in favor of Jerry Kuhn.
When Idaho's Tommy Lange scored from a severe angle on Aces goalie Adam Courchaine (23 saves) later in the period, Goldie scored two minutes later from the edge of the crease to restore a three-goal lead at 5-2.
That marked Goldie's sixth goal in the last four games.
"The last couple of games before these (over the weekend) I'd kind of been playing on the outside,'' Goldie said. "A lot of us have -- too cute. So I focused on getting to the crease and causing a ruckus, and if I don't get something, maybe someone else will.''
Goldie and Kissel, with a combined 44 goals, make the Aces one of three teams on the 20-team circuit to have a pair of 20-goal scorers.
Idaho's Derek LeBlanc cut the Aces' lead to 5-3 early in the third period, but Jordan Kremyr's short-handed breakaway strike with about five minutes to go sealed victory for the home team.
Shuffling the deck
Ward was the only Aces skater who was not credited with a shot on goal, but he furnished two assists to give him 4-15--19 totals in 41 games after posting 5-18--23 totals in 69 games for the Aces last season.
Defenseman Kane Lafranchise also had two assists.
Former Aces and Seawolves skater Merit Waldrop filled in for the Aces on Saturday and registered an assist on Goldie's goal, and he fired three shots.
The Aces now embark on an 11-game, 20-day road trip and do not play again at Sullivan until Feb. 17, when they open a three-game series against the Bakersfield Condors.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Idaho 1 1 1 -- 3
Aces 2 3 1 -- 6
First Period -- 1, Aces, Mazzolini 13 (Goldie, Lafranchise), 4:24; 2, Idaho, Neal 4 (Matheson), 10:58; 3, Aces, Kissel 20 (Goldie, Mazzolini), 13:16 (pp). Penalties -- Coyle, Idaho (tripping), 11:19; Lowe, Idaho (hooking), 12:37.
Second Period -- 4, Aces, Kissel 21 (Miller, Ward), 1:48 (pp); 5, Aces, Cox 7 (Ward, Harrison), 2:02; 6, Idaho, Lange 2 (Lowe, Gergen), 15:25; 7, Aces, Goldie 23 (Waldrop, Lafranchise), 17:25. Penalties -- Gergen, Idaho (slashing), :29; Hepp, Idaho (tripping), 4:11; Cox, Aces (delay of game), 8:14.
Third Period -- 8, Idaho, LeBlanc 7 (Maccarone), 2:03; 9, Aces, Kremyr 9, 15:35 (sh). Penalties -- Goldie, Aces (tripping), 7:14; Anderson, Aces (hooking), 14:05.
Shots on goal -- Idaho 6-12-8--26. Aces 18-19-13--50.
Power-play Opportunities -- Idaho of 3. Aces 2 of 4.
Goalies -- Idaho, Spratt, (6-5-0) (33 shots-28 saves); Kuhn, enter at 13:16 1st, exit at 14:43 1st, re-enter at 2:02 2nd, exit at 0:00 3rd (17-16). Aces, Courchaine, 13-2-3 (26-23).
A -- 4,694 (6,399). T -- 2:16.
Referee -- Joe Sullivan. Linesmen -- Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News