The Alaska Aces spent most of Saturday night chasing the hockey game.
It got away -- far, far away.
The fast-starting Stockton Thunder twice withstood Aces comebacks, pushed their winning streak to five games and snuffed Alaska's four-game winning streak with a 7-4 ECHL victory at Stockton Arena in California.
The Aces and goaltender Mark Guggenberger had both surrendered just five goals in the previous four games, but they equaled that allotment inside two periods, which earned Guggenberger the hook. The seven goals Alaska (5-3-0) allowed were a season high and Stockton (6-1-1) erupted for the second straight night -- the Thunder thumped visiting Bakersfield, 6-1, on Friday.
One of the few bright spots for the Aces, who opened a five-game road trip that continues Sunday afternoon in Stockton, was winger Brandon Dubinsky, the league's reigning Player of the Week. He scored two first-period goals to wipe out the 2-0 lead Stockton stockpiled in the opening eight minutes to give him a team-leading eight goals, seven of which have come in the last four games.
The Aces also got defenseman Kane Lafranchise (one assist) back in the lineup following his four-game absence after he took a check to the head last month. And veteran defenseman Sean Curry, who has been out with a groin injury since training camp, made his Aces debut.
Other than that, though, the Thunder (6-1-1), who are unbeaten in regulation in seven straight games (6-0-1) since an opening-night loss, made it a grim evening for the Aces.
After Garry Nunn's rebound goal midway through the game pulled the Aces into a 3-3 tie, the Thunder reeled off the game's next four goals. Two of those came in the second period from Harrison Reed and Toni Rajala, and Rajala's goal, his second of the game, furnished Stockton a 5-3 lead and chased Guggenberger.
Guggenberger was replaced by Brooks Ostegard, who signed with the club this week and joined it on the road because Aces goalie James Reid is on the 21-day injured reserve.
Yannick Reindeau and Matt Reber pierced Ostergard, a rookie from Robert Morris University making just his second pro start, inside the opening five minutes of the third period to balloon Stockton's lead to 7-3.
Tommy Mele scored a third-period goal for the Aces to notch his first goal since a two-game performance on opening night.
Shuffling the deck
Dubinsky extended his point streak to four games -- he owns 7-2--9 totals in that span.
Alexandre Imbeault's two assists gives him at least one point in all four of his Aces games since being acquired from Orlando. He owns 1-4--5 totals in that span.
Wicked hard night for Aces defenseman Alain Goulet -- he took two first-period penalties and racked a minus-5. Curry went minus-3 in his Aces debut.
Veteran winger Matt Robinson sat out for the fourth time in eight games. Because ECHL teams can use only four veterans in any game, and the Aces have five on their active roster, he's been the odd-man out.
Stockton's Rajala's three-point night gives him 5-4--9 totals in his five-game point streak. Stockton's Philippe Cornet delivered one goal and three helpers.
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Aces 2 1 1 -- 4
Stockton 2 3 2 -- 7
First Period -- 1, Stockton, Cornet 4 (Reber, Rajala), 6:27 (pp); 2, Stockton, Maylan 4 (Reed, Reindeau), 8:21; 3, Aces, Dubinsky 7 (Wrenn, Imbeault), 10:51 (pp); 4, Aces, Dubinsky 8 (Lafranchise, Imbeault), 15:28. Penalties -- Hunt, Stockton (roughing), 1:32; Goulet, Aces (hooking), 5:35; Reber, Stockton (holding), 10:35; Goulet, Aces (slashing), 16:35; Pelss, Stockton (tripping), 19:15.
Second Period -- 5, Stockton, Rajala 4 (Cornet, Henry), 1:42; 6, Aces, Nunn 2 (Mazzolini), 9:57; 7, Stockton, Reed 2 (Henry, Noble), 12:18; 8, Stockton, Rajala (5 DeHart, Cornet), 15:06. Penalties -- Smith, Aces (slashing), 9:57; Hunt, Stockton (roughing), 16:07; Noble, Stockton (roughing), 16:07; Harrison, Aces (roughing), 16:07.
Third Period -- 9, Stockton, Reindeau 1 (Cornet, Hunter), 2:16; 10, Stockton, Reber 4 (Deck), 4:35; 11, Aces, Mele 2 (Sinkewich, Kremyr), 7:14. Penalties -- Kremyr, Aces (hooking), 13:34.
Shots on goal -- Aces 14-9-9--32. Stockton 9-9-9--27.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 4. Stockton 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 4-2-0 (18 shots-13 saves; Ostergard, enter 15:06 2nd period (9-7). Stockton, Bunz, 4-1-0 (32-28).
A -- 8,018 (9,737). T -- 2:16.
Referee -- Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen -- Zach Thornton, Steven Walsh.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY