Any 72-game regular season is bound to include a few head-scratchers and jaw-droppers, and the Alaska Aces' road-trip opener delivered the incredulity Wednesday night in California.
To report the ECHL-leading Aces beat the last-place Bakersfield Condors 7-6 is merely a bottom-line, Twitter-length summary of the curious and puzzling events that unfolded inside Rabobank Arena.
After all, the hockey game featured the most combined goals in an Aces game this season.
After all, in 41 previous games the Aces had not allowed an opponent more than four goals.
After all, Aces goaltender Adam Courchaine, who entered the night leading the circuit in goals-against average and save percentage -- both those league-toppers vanished after Wednesday's strafing -- had not permitted an opponent more than three goals in his 19 previous starts.
And, to top it off, the decisive strike came on an empty-net, short-handed strike by center Ethan Cox, which made it a most unusual game-winning goal.
Basically, the game had everything but a streaker and a penalty shot -- or, actually, an official attendance -- but it did have a trio of three-goal scorers.
Still -- more bottom-line -- the Aces extended their franchise-record, road points streak to 12 games (7-0-5) and remained 11 points ahead of the pack on the 20-team circuit.
The second half of the game proved particularly surreal.
After Aces sniper Wes Goldie racked back-to-back goals midway through -- and that gives him eight goals in the last five games -- Alaska (31-6-5) led 5-2. But the Condors (10-28-4) rallied on Tyler Helfrich's second goal of the game and Parker Stanfield's goal to cut the deficit to 5-4 before period's end.
Jesse Gimblett's second goal of the night, less than nine minutes into the third period, forged a 5-5 tie.
Less than four minutes later, though, birthday-boy Dan Kissel scored off a Nick Mazzolini feed to celebrate his 25th and give the Aces a 6-5 edge with less than eight minutes left in regulation.
The Condors called their time-out and pulled goalie Bryan Pitton for an extra attacker when Mazzolini was penalized for hooking with 93 seconds to go. But Cox blocked a shot and scored short-handed into an empty net with 44 seconds to go for a 7-5 cushion. That came in especially handy when Bakersfield's Ian McKenzie scored a power-play goal with 22.3 seconds left.
The Aces managed to eat the rest of the clock, and exhale after their sixth straight win against the Condors.
Alaska received first- period goals from Garry Nunn, who snapped his eight-game point drought with his 12th goal, which came in his 37th game, after scoring 11 in 72 games last season; Danny Markowitz, the defenseman turned winger who scored his first ECHL goal; and winger Jordan Kremyr, who scored short-handed for the second time in two games and third time this season.
Wednesday's game opened an 11-game, 20-day road trip that begins with eight games in 11 nights -- starting Friday, the Aces play at Stockton on three consecutive nights.
Goldie's two goals give him a team-high 25 and 360 career ECHL goals, leaving him eight shy of tying Rod Taylor's league record of 368 career goals.
Shuffling the deck
Mazzolini's two assists extended his point streak to seven games -- he has 3-8--11 totals in that stretch.
Goldie's five-game point streak features 8-3--11 totals. He's second in the league in goal scoring behind Las Vegas' Eric Lampe, who bagged two in Wednesday's 4-3 overtime win at Colorado to give him 32. Vegas got the game-winner from former UAA winger Josh Lunden with 51 seconds left in OT.
Aces defenseman Chad Anderson racked a plus-4 rating. Mazzolini and defenseman Kane Lafranchise are tied for second in the league in plus-minus at plus-20.
Courchaine's goals-against average jumped to 1.97 from 1.75 and his save percentage dropped to .922 from .931. That makes Aces goalie Gerald Coleman, in with Lake Erie of the American Hockey League, the new ECHL leader in both categories at 1.80 and .931.
Nunn owns 5-3--8 totals in six games against the Condors this season.
Condors winger Evan Trupp of Anchorage was minus-1 with a team-high four shots on goal.
Aces forward Zach Harrison furnished two assists.
Aces captain Brian Swanson missed his fifth straight game with an upper-body injury and rookie winger Matt Ambroz missed his seventh straight with an upper-body injury. Still, both made the road trip, so they will likely be back in the lineup at some point in the next few games.
Bakersfield's two power-play goals marked the second time this season the Aces have allowed an opponent two man-advantage goals in a game.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 3 2 2 -- 7
Bakersfield 1 3 2 -- 6
First Period -- 1, Aces, Nunn 12 (Harrison), 2:15; 2, Aces, Markowitz 1 (Cox), 3:33; 3, Bakersfield, Gimblett 10 (Lewadniuk), 13:00; 4, Aces, Kremyr 10 (Harrison), 14:51 (sh). Penalties -- Anderson, Aces (holding), 8:03; Mazzolini, Aces (hooking), 13:42; Helfrich, Bakersfield (slashing), 15:31.
Second Period -- 5, Bakersfield, Helfrich 7, 2:25; 6, Aces, Goldie 24 (Kissel, Mazzolini), 8:07; 7, Aces, Goldie 25 (Kissel, Miller), 12:58 (pp); 8, Bakersfield, Helfrich 8 (Pierro-Zabotel), 14:41 (pp); 9, Bakersfield, Stanfield 2 (Helfrich, Pender), 18:47. Penalties -- Helfrich, Bakersfield (cross-checking), 12:17; Lafranchise, Aces (tripping), 13:24.
Third Period -- 10, Bakersfield, Gimblett 11 (Lewadniuk, Gimblett), 8:38; 11, Aces, Kissel 22 (Mazzolini), 12:25; 12, Aces, Cox 8, 19:16 (sh-en); 13, Bakersfield, O'Connor 4 (Pender), 19:37 (pp). Penalties -- Nunn, Aces (hooking), 4:14; Mazzolini, Aces (hooking), 18:27.
Shots on goal -- Aces 11-6-8--25. Opponent 9-8-6--23.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 2. Bakersfield 2 of 5.
Goalies -- Aces, Courchaine, 14-2-3 (23 shots-17 saves). Bakersfield, Pitton, 4-14-2 (24-17).
A -- Not reported (9,000). T -- 2:12.
Referee -- J.M. McNulty. Linesmen -- Brett Martin, Steven Walsh.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News