The special teams that have generally served the Alaska Aces so well this season proved their downfall Friday night in a 2-1 ECHL road loss to the Las Vegas Wranglers.
With the hockey game on the line in the third period, the Aces' recently dormant power play failed to convert on three straight chances against the Wranglers' exceptional penalty-killing crew.
Those three man advantages -- out of five power-play chances in which the Aces came up bust -- came after former UAA winger Josh Lunden afforded the Wranglers a 2-1 lead with his power-play strike six minutes into the third period.
League-leading Alaska (32-10-6) has been hampered by its power-play futility much of this road trip, which continues with the series finale Saturday in Sin City. The Aces have failed to convert on 17 consecutive power plays in the last five games.
That shortcoming cost them Friday night in another tight game with the Wranglers (29-14-4). Alaska won Thursday's series opener between the circuit's top two teams, 4-2, with an empty-net goal for cushion.
Aces sniper Wes Goldie, the league's reigning Most Valuable Player, on Friday was held without a point for the sixth consecutive game, his longest drought in his two seasons with the club. He was not credited with a shot on goal at Orleans Arena, marking the second time in 46 games this season he has been held without a shot.
The Aces, who Saturday play their eighth road game in the last 11 nights as part of an 11-game journey, received their only goal from rookie winger Jordan Kremyr.
Kremyr opened the scoring 35 seconds into the second period with his third goal in three games. But the Wranglers answered 67 seconds later on Geoff Paukovich's goal for a 1-1 tie.
Aces goaltender Adam Courchaine, making his 12th consecutive start while Gerald Coleman is flourishing in the American Hockey League, stopped 21 shots. Las Vegas' Joe Fallon made 26 saves to rack his league-leading 24th victory.
Aces winger Zach Harrison's career-best, seven-game point streak came to a close. Meanwhile, Lunden pushed his point streak to five games and has generated five goals and seven points in that stretch.
Alaska's loss was its first in four games against the Wranglers this season. Aces captain Brian Swanson, Goldie's usual center, missed his 11th straight game with an upper-body injury and the Wranglers once again played without Eric Lampe, the league's leading sniper, who is injured.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 0 1 0 -- 1
Las Vegas 0 1 1 -- 2
First Period -- None. Penalties -- Huxley, Las Vegas (boarding), 2:57; Ambroz, Aces (tripping), 6:26; Huxley, Las Vegas, major (fighting), 12:28; Olson, Aces, major (fighting), 12:28.
Second Period -- 1, Aces, Kremyr 13 (Ward, Ruegsegger), :35; 2, Las Vegas, Paukovich 3 (Weston), 1:42. Penalties -- Lunden, Las Vegas (slashing), 5:30.
Third Period -- 3, Las Vegas, Lunden 13 (May, Madill), 6:13 (pp). Penalties -- Marsh, Aces (cross-checking), 4:24; Boe, Las Vegas (hooking), 7:20; Lunden, Las Vegas (tripping), 11:10; Busto, Las Vegas (roughing), 16:12.
Shots on goal -- Aces 7-8-12--27. Las Vegas 6-12-5--23.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 5. Las Vegas 1 of 2.
Goalies -- Aces, Courchaine, 15-6-4 (23 shots-21 saves). Las Vegas, Fallon, 24-8-4 (27-26).
A -- 5,254 (7,773). T -- 2:20.
Referee -- Geoff Miller. Linesmen -- Todd Owen, Wally Lacroix.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News