As overtime dwindled and Alaska Aces rookie defenseman William Wrenn blew down the right wing Friday night, a rising roar of anticipation erupted from the announced, standing-room-only crowd of 6,411 inside Sullivan Arena.
The only thing louder was the sound of Aces defenseman Kane Lafranchise repeatedly banging his hockey stick on the ice, demanding the puck as the hustled down the left wing.
Wrenn circled the Colorado Eagles net and fed a pass to the left circle, where Lafranchise hammered home a one-timer off a Colorado skate at 3 minutes, 53 seconds of OT that marked his first goal of the ECHL season — and the Aces’ first lead of the evening.
Aces 5, Colorado 4.
“The only reason I did that, called for it, is because I had a step on a guy,’’ Lafranchise said. “Usually, in a game, you don’t tell the other team where you are. (Teammates) at this level usually have their heads up and will see you.
“But I had that step. Glad he saw me — or heard me, in this instance.’’
Wrenn said he actually did glimpse Lafranchise peripherally as he drove down the wing, but then his view was obstructed, so he appreciated the shout-out of sorts from Lafranchise.
“He wanted it, which is good,’’ Wrenn said. “Who knows if I’d have seen him without him acting like that.’’
In any event, Lafranchise’s strike on the night the Aces (10-4-0) became the last team on the 23-club circuit to go to overtime this season also extended Alaska’s winning streak to five games. His winning shot ricocheted off the skate of Colorado defenseman Jason Beatty.
And it capped a wickedly entertaining game played at a break-neck tempo. As the game progressed, it became more and more a high-speed game of shinny, played at a pace that suggested players had espresso mixed in their water bottles.
Friday’s game also marked the second time in the series the Aces trailed much of the game. They beat Colorado 4-3 on Wednesday night, when Scott Gomez’s game-winning goal in the third period delivered their only lead.
Friday, Colorado (6-5-3) led 3-1 after one period and 3-2 after two periods. The Aces twice tied the game in the third period — 3-3 and 4-4.
“It’s always hard to play from behind,’’ Wrenn said. “But the thing I’ve noticed with our team, and the leaders we have, is I haven’t felt down, and I haven’t seen other guys feel down.
“We were getting chances. Most guys are mature enough to know we just have to keep working.’’
That’s especially true against a Colorado team that features the league’s most explosive offense — the Eagles entered the night averaging 4.54 goals per game.
“Their offense — my God, they’re dangerous,’’ Lafranchise said. “They can do anything off the rush. As a defenseman, you have to have your head on a swivel.’’
That was evident early on. Trent Daavettila walked unmolested out of the corner on the power play just five minutes into the game and winged a wrister over the glove of Aces goaltender Mark Guggenberger (20 saves). Three minutes later, former Aces winger Jack Combs, stationed in the high slot, snapped a Chad Costello pass behind Guggenberger in a hockey heartbeat.
Although Zach Harrison cut Colorado’s lead to 2-1, Colorado’s Dylan Hood beat Guggenberger from a tough angle with 8.9 seconds left in the first period for a 3-1 cushion.
But, as often as Guggenberger has lifted the team in front of him already this season, his teammates lifted him Friday.
First, though, they had to crack Eagles goalie Kyle Jones (35 saves). Seems curious to say about a guy who surrendered five goals, but Jones proved exceptional.
In the first four minutes of the second period alone, he twice robbed Joey Crabb, snuffed a Gomez bid from point-blank range and denied Nick Mazzolini.
The Aces finally broke through late in the second period when Alexandre Imbeault picked off a Arthur Bidwell pass behind the net and fed Thompson, who beat Jones for the slot to cut the deficit to 3-2.
Thompson, who unleashed a game-high seven shots on goal, forged a 3-3 tie two minutes into the third period with a goal that illustrated his NHL resume. He drove around Colorado defenseman Cody Sol on right wing, held off Sol with his left arm and shoulder as he cut to the net, and slipped a shot inside the left post.
Michael Forney’s league-leading 11th goal, on the power play, restored Colorado’s lead to 4-3 five minutes into the third period. Just 66 seconds later, though, Crabb was credited with a deflection goal off a Lafranchise shot — upon review, that goal may be changed and credited to Lafranchise.
Shuffling the deck
Imbeault’s two assists snapped his four-game point drought.
Lafranchise extended his point streak to four games and has six points in that span.
Colorado’s Costello, the league’s leading scorer, generated two helpers to push his point streak to eight games — he has 18 points in that stretch.
The Aces improved to 6-1-0 at home entering Saturday night’s series finale.
The annual Guns ‘N Hoses Game pitting Anchorage fire fighters against former Aces is set for 4 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2. Tickets can be purchased at Anchorage fire stations.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Colorado 3 0 1 0 — 4
Aces 1 1 2 1 — 5
First Period — 1, Colorado, Daavettila 5 (Sides, Bowman), 5:20 (pp); 2, Colorado, Combs 9 (Costello, Forney), 8:27; 3, Aces, Harrison 2 (Kremyr. Wrenn), 16:30; 4, Colorado, Hood 2 (Schneekloth), 19:51. Penalties — Nunn, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 3:31; Ezekiel, Colorado (roughing), 10:34; Sol, Colorado (tripping), 12:55.
Second Period — 5, Aces, Thompson 2 (Imbeault), 17:17. Penalties — Sides, Colorado (tripping), 4:15.
Third Period — 6, Aces, Thompson 3 (Imbeault, Syvret), 2:05; 7, Colorado, Forney 11 (Costello, Combs), 5:18 (pp); 8, Aces, Crabb 6 (Lafranchise, Thompson), 6:24 (pp). Penalties — Harrison, Aces (tripping), 3:02; Curry, Aces (boarding), 4:41; Marto, Colorado (hooking), 6:00; Syvret, Aces (interference), 16:21.
Overtime — 9, Aces, Lafranchise 1 (Wrenn), 3:53. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Colorado 10-6-7-1—24. Aces 13-14-10-3—40.
Power-play Opportunities — Colorado 2 of 4. Aces 1 of 4.
Goalies — Colorado, Jones, 4-4-2 (40 shots-35 saves). Aces, Guggenberger, 9-3-0 (24-20).
A — 6,411 (6,399). T — 2:37.
Referee — Nic Leduc. Linesmen — Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY