Mazzolini's hat trick leads Aces to scrappy 8-4 win

Doyle Woody

While it wasn’t precisely old-time hockey Saturday night at Sullivan Arena — alas, no line brawls — it was hard to say which were more plentiful, goals or hurt feelings.

Sparked by Nick Mazzolini’s career-high-tying hat trick and five-point performance, the Alaska Aces thumped the Utah Grizzlies 8-4 in an ECHL match packed with penalties and power plays.

The teams combined for 114 penalty minutes — 69 docked against Utah — and 17 power plays, and at game’s end Alaska coach Rob Murray and Utah bench boss Kevin Colley shouted at each another on the ice. Presumably, they were not swapping home addresses for Christmas cards.

More likely, Colley was upset Murray had some of his club’s NHLers on the ice for a power play in the waning seconds, which produced a goal by Joey Crabb (Washington Capitals). Perhaps the Aces were merely trying to get to 40 shots on goal — Crabb’s goal came on their 40th and final shot — because 40 or more shots triggered a promotion in which fans in attendance earned a free steak dinner from a franchise restaurant in Anchorage, as public address announcer Bob Lester repeatedly reminded the announced crowd of 5,020.

In any event, the heated tone of the game no doubt stemmed too from Utah’s 4-1 win Friday, which left the Aces steamed.

“It was just really frustrating last game, and absolutely you bring that to the rink,’’ Mazzolini said.

The Aces (18-6-0) countered by pounding the Grizzlies (9-10-2) for four first-period goals, two from Garry Nunn, one from Mazzolini and the initial one from Jarred Smith.

Though Utah answered quickly with goals from former Aces defenseman Mark Isherwood and Brad Mills 68 seconds apart inside the first 2:27 of the second period — that cut Alaska’s lead to 4-2 — Mazzolini made those consecutive goals look slow.

He soon struck twice in 24 seconds, completing his hat trick and five-point night with a one-handed, backhand swipe past Grant Rollheiser (32 saves) to restore the four-goal cushion at 6-2 just five minutes into the third period.

“When you score four goals like that, as soon as you get a period break, it’s a dangerous time,’’ Mazzolini said. “I know we had a really big lead, but we tried to cough it up, we really did. We managed to stop the spiral quickly.’’

Mazzolini’s previous three-goal and five-point game came as an Aces rookie at Utah in 2009.

“It’s the only team I strike big against,’’ he joked.

By the time Mazzolini pushed the lead to 6-2, the game had long been chippy.

Part of that is on the schedule-maker. The Aces and Grizzlies, who close their four-game series Monday night at Sullivan, in this stretch play each other more than the Harlem Globetrotters and Washington Generals. Alaska is in a stretch in which it plays Utah eight times in 12 games. 

Utah is in a stretch in which it plays Alaska eight times in 10 games, including six straight.

“No doubt, you play the same team every day and tempers are going to flare,’’ said Utah defenseman Nick Tuzzolino, the former Ace.

Tuzzolino got the gate late in the game after taking hooking and slashing penalties on Merit Waldrop of Anchorage, who joined the Aces for the weekend and had an assist. That no doubt did not please the Aces.

Tuzzolino blew a kiss to the crowd as he left. “I just tried to give the fans something to boo,’’ Tuzzolino laughed.

 Shuffling the deck

Aces goaltender Mark Guggenberger, in his first start since a 5-4 OT win at Utah on Nov. 24, stopped 17 shots for league high-tying 12th win.

Utah’s Rollheiser made 32 saves. He had to eat all eight goals because the Grizzlies had Micah Perletti of Anchorage as an emergency back-up goalie (E-bug, as it’s known in the business) and an E-bug under ECHL rules can only play if the starter becomes injured.

Mazzolini’s linemates, Scott Gomez and Nunn, each delivered three-point nights. Nunn had two goals and one assist, Gomez had one goal and two helpers.

Gomez did not come out for the third period, apparently suffering a minor injury the Aces did not want to chance worsening.

Utah’s Mills and Mitch Wahl each had three-point nights. Wahl had two goals and an assist, Mills one goal and two assists.


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Utah 0 3 1   — 4

Aces 4 3 1   — 8

First Period — 1, Aces, Smith 2 (Waldrop, Haltigin), 3:14; 2, Aces, Nunn 7 (Wrenn, Mazzolini), 10:43 (pp); 3, Aces, Nunn 8 (Gomez, Mazzolini), 13:04; 4, Aces, Mazzolini 13 (Gomez, Crabb), 19:07 (pp). Penalties — Aces bench minor, served by Waldrop (too many men), 4:45; Martin, Utah (interference), 6:14; Thompson, Aces (cross-checking), 6:51; Maxwell, Utah, double minor (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:49; Schultz, Utah, major-game misconduct (fighting, aggressor), 15:42; Wahl, Utah (tripping), 18:37.

Second Period — 5, Utah, Isherwood 3 (Mills, Falite), 1:19; 6, Utah, Mills 10 (Tuzzolino, Armstrong), 2:27 (pp); 7, Aces, Mazzolini 14 (Nunn, Lafranchise), 4:52 (pp); 8, Aces, Mazzolini 15, 5:16; 9, Aces, Gomez 4 (Molle), 14:31; 10, Utah, Wahl 7 (Isherwood, Mills), 19:07 (pp). Penalties — Wrenn, Aces (cross-checking), 1:56; Gomez, Aces (cross-checking), 4:02; Armstrong, Utah (cross-checking), 4:02; Thompson, Aces, major (fighting), 4:30; Stoflet, Utah, major (fighting), 4:30; Crabb, Aces (roughing), 4:30; Falite, Utah (roughing), 4:30; Glass, Utah (roughing), 4:30; Tuzzolino, Utah (slashing), 11:52; Lafranchise, Aces (roughing), 18:53; Armstrong, Utah, major-game misconduct (fighting, aggressor), 18:53; Curry, Aces, minor-game misconduct, served by Imbeault (roughing, third man in), 18:53.

Third Period — 11, Utah, Wahl 6 (Tuzzolino, Martin), 15:18; 12, Aces, Crabb 11 (Imbeault, Lafranchise), 19:36 (pp). Penalties — Mills, Utah (slashing), :45; Wahl, Utah (misconduct), :45; Crabb, Aces (delay of game), 6:04; Isherwood, Utah (delay of game), 6:04; Waldrop, Aces (holding), 8:31; Nunn, Aces (slashing), 12:45; Tuzzolino, double minor-game misconduct (hooking, slashing, abuse of officials), 17:29.

Shots on goal — Utah 7-10—21. Aces 14-11-15—40.

Power-play Opportunities — Utah 2 of 6. Aces 4 of 11.

Goalies — Utah, Rollheiser, 4-3-1 (40 shots-32 saves). Aces, Guggenberger, 12-4-0 (21-17).

A – 5,020 (6,399). T – 2:37.

Referee — Marc-Andre Lavoie. Linesmen — Scott Sivulich, Steve Glines.