Aces add speed and heft with two signings

Doyle Woody

The Alaska Aces welcomed a couple of newcomers Thursday, one fresh off a Central Hockey League championship as a rookie, the other a big man with a tiny rink resume.

The Aces said they have signed forward Tom Mele and defenseman Todd Orlando for the upcoming season, giving them 11 players announced for the 2012-13 ECHL campaign.

Prior to Thursday, the players announced all had connections to the club, either as returners from last season -- that was the case for eight of the first nine players revealed -- or, in the case of winger Matt Robinson, past tenure with the team.

Basically, those players previously announced are a lock to make the roster, but Mele and Orlando will no doubt have to impress Aces coach Rob Murray to make the cut.

Mele, 26, last spring won a Presidents' Cup with the Fort Wayne Komets, who have since moved to the ECHL. He put up 7-11--18 totals, a plus-11 rating and 64 penalty minutes in 52 regular-season games, then 2-3--5 totals, a plus-2 rating and 17 penalty minutes in 17 playoff matches.

Mele is a 6-foot, 188-pounder from The Bronx who played four seasons at American International University, where he generated 32-23--55 totals in 132 career games.

Murray said everyone he contacted while vetting Mele talked about Mele's speed. The Aces play on the only Olympic-sized ice in the ECHL -- the rink is 15 feet wider than the standard NHL-sized sheet -- and always look for speed.

"I thought we were a fast team last year, but there's always room for improvement,'' Murray said. "From what I hear, he can fly.

"Everyone talks a big game, but he feels like he has an all-around game, and if something's not working, he says he can do other things like kill penalties, block shots, fight.''

Orlando, 26, has a very thin pro resume -- 14 regular season games last season in a lower-tier Finnish league, where he earned 1-7--8 totals and 48 penalty minutes, and one game with ECHL Cincinnati in 2010-11. Before that, he played a season of club hockey at Oakland University in his native Michigan in 2007-08.

But here's the intrigue surrounding Orlando -- he's 6-8, 231.

"He wants to prove he can play, not just fight,'' Murray said. "But he did tell me, 'No one will take liberties with our guys.' ''

Shuffling the deck

Murray said the Aces will open training camp on Sept. 28.

Murray said three signed Aces -- wingers Tyler Ruegsegger, Garry Nunn and Jordan Kremyr -- will attend camp with the Abbotsford Heat of the American Hockey League.

Ruegsegger has played in 20 AHL games in his first two pro seasons, 16 of them for Abbotsford. Nunn, entering his third pro season, and Kremyr, entering his second pro season, have not played in the AHL.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at or call him at 257-4335.

Woody on Hockey
Anchorage Daily News