What little separates the ECHL-leading Alaska Aces and the second-place overall Las Vegas Wranglers is thinner than a skate blade, as illustrated by the three-game series that wrapped with the Wranglers' 4-2 win Saturday night in Nevada.
In 180 minutes of hockey, the teams were only separated by more than a goal fro 2 minutes, 54 seconds.
Las Vegas outscored Alaska 8-7 in the three games in three nights at Orleans Arena.
And for the season, the Aces have won three of five games between the clubs. Alaska has claimed six points in the season series and Las Vegas five.
Saturday night, the difference came down to the third period, when Las Vegas' Adam Miller scored twice, including an insurance marker with less than two minutes to go, to wrap his hat trick.
One big difference between the clubs, though, came on special teams. Las Vegas (30-14-4) scored a power-play goal in each of the series games - Miller's first goal in the third period came with the man advantage and proved the game winner - and Alaska (32-11-6) failed to score a power-play goal in any of the matches. The Aces went 0 for 4 Saturday and are 0 for 21 in their last six games.
The Aces permitted the Wranglers eight power-play opportunities Saturday, and that was strikingly out of character for them. Those eight man advantages were not only a season-high for an Aces opponent, but in the 48 games leading up to Saturday, Alaska had given an opponent as many as six power-play chances in a game just three times. In Alaska's five games previous to Saturday, it gave opponents a grand total of eight power-play chances.
Dan Kissel scored both the Aces' goals to give him a team-leading 27. He gave the Aces a 1-0 lead midway through the first period and Peter MacArthur countered for the Wranglers early in the second period. Miller's first goal of the evening, in the second period, earned Las Vegas a 2-1 lead, but Kissel answered just 14 seconds later for a 2-2 deadlock.
Zach Harrison assisted on both Kissel strikes. Harrison lost his career-high, seven-game point streak in Alaska's 2-1 loss Friday, but now has generated 2-9--11 totals in the last nine games.
Saturday's game was the Aces' eighth in 11 nights on their season's longest road trip, an 11-game grind that closes with a three-game series in Idaho.
Wranglers goaltender Joe Fallon stopped 19 shots for his league-leading 25th win. Aces goalie Adam Courchaine made 17 saves.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 1 1 0 2
Las Vegas 0 2 2 4
First Period - 1, Aces, Kissel 26 (Nunn, Harrison), 10:33. Penalties - Smith, Las Vegas, major (fighting), 3:58; Olson, Aces, major (fighting), 3:58; Marsh, Aces, major-major-game misconduct, served by Ambroz (roughing, fighting), 3:58; Campbell, Las Vegas, minor-major, served by Wiles (interference, fighting), 3:58; Weston, Las Vegas, double-minor (roughing), 10:33; Anderson, Aces (roughing), 10:33; Lunden, Las Vegas (roughing), 11:05; Goldie, Aces (delay of game), 18:53; Olson, Aces (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period - 2, Las Vegas, MacArthur 16 (May, Lunden), 2:02; 3, Las Vegas, Miller 23 (MacArthur), 13:52; 4, Aces, Kissel 27 (Harrison), 14:06. Penalties - Huxley, Las Vegas, major (fighting), 6:17; Ambroz, Aces, major (fighting), 6:17; Miller, Aces (slashing), 8:02; Kremyr, Aces (slashing), 11:40; Ward, Aces (boarding), 16:19; Madill, LV (cross-checking), 17:43.
Third Period - 5, Las Vegas, Miller 24 (MacArthur), 9:14 (pp); 6, Las Vegas, Miller 25 (Lunden), 18:24. Penalties - Kissel, Aces (hooking), 5:41; Olson, Aces (high-sticking), 9:14; Paukovich, Las Vegas (hooking), 18:37.
Shots on goal - Aces 9-7-5--21. Las Vegas 4-12-5--21.
Power-play Opportunities - Aces 0 of 4. Las Vegas 1 of 8.
Goalies - Aces, Courchaine, 15-7-4 (21 shots-17 saves). Las Vegas, Fallon, 25-8-4 (21-19).
A - 7,447 (7,773). T - 2:41.
Referee - Geoff Miller. Linesmen - Todd Owen, Wally Lacroix.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News