Alaska Aces cut four players from final hockey roster

Beth Bragg

The Alaska Aces made their final cuts Wednesday, a process made less painful by the ECHL's decision on the same day to expand the reserved list from two players to three.

Not making the 20-man roster were forwards Phillip Ischi of Kenai, Justin Jokinen of Carlton, Minn., and Jacques Lamoureux of Grand Forks, N.D.

Also cut was hometown favorite Scott Gomez, who skated with the Aces during the preseason because his regular job with the Montreal Canadiens is on hold because of the National Hockey League lockout. But that was expected.

"He never had any intention of playing," Aces coach Rob Murray said. "He didn't get cut because he couldn't make the team."

Three NHL players from Anchorage do intend to play with the Aces -- defenseman Brandon Dubinsky (Columbus Blue Jackets), center Nate Thompson (Tampa Bay Lightning) and wing Joey Crabb (Washington Capitals).

Their additions presented Murray with a dilemma as he finalized his roster, which was submitted to the league Wednesday in advance of this week's season-opening games in Colorado.

The ECHL limits rosters to four veterans, and the Aces have five healthy veterans on contract -- the three NHL players plus defenseman Steve Ward, back for his third season with the Aces, and forward Matt Robinson, who played for the Aces from 2006-08 and rejoined them during the offseason.

Ward will be the team's fourth veteran and Robinson will go on the reserve list, Murray said. Also on the reserve list is Sean Curry, an injured veteran defenseman, and Matt Ambroz, a forward.

The ECHL board of governors on Wednesday voted to expand the reserve list from two players to three, a move that will help teams whose rosters are swelling with players displaced by the NHL lockout.

"It allowed us to not make an extra cut today," Murray said.

The three reserve spots are for the first 30 days of the season or the end of the NHL lockout, whichever comes first. Then it reverts back to two reserve spots per team.

While the NHL lockout has blessed the Aces with local NHL talent, it has inundated some other ECHL teams with players from American Hockey League, which is a step below the NHL and a step above the ECHL. A number of AHL players getting crowded out by NHL players are being assigned to ECHL teams -- according to the ECHL website, Reading, Pa., just welcomed 12 players from the AHL Hershey Bears and Cincinnati just got six players from the AHL San Antonio Rampage.

"Teams are in a bind," Murray said. "They're having to release guys who any other year they'd keep on their roster. This gives you a little bit of relief that you don't have to do that."

Of the 20 players on Alaska's final roster, six are from Anchorage. Besides the three NHL players, that list includes defensemen William Wrenn and Dustin Molle and forward Nick Mazzolini.

Not on the roster but still on contract are goaltender Gerald Coleman and defenseman Todd Orlando. Orlando is on the 21-day injured reserve list and Coleman is rehabbing from surgery he had at the end of last season, Murray said.

"He's listed under 'existing injury' so his name won't show up on the roster," Murray said of Coleman, "but it doesn't mean he won't be with us."


Reach Beth Bragg at or 257-4335.