The stars can’t be incandescent every single night, which is why sports teams that covet success understand their complementary players must occasionally edge into the spotlight.
So it was Friday night for the Alaska Aces — all of their goals in a 4-1 ECHL victory over the short-handed Colorado Eagles came from guys who were not among the hockey club’s top eight scorers entering the evening.
Defenseman Sean Curry, and forwards Zach Harrison, Bobby Hughes and Chris Clackson each scored at Sullivan Arena to support Gerald Coleman’s 21 saves and push the league leaders to their sixth consecutive win.
That marks the third time this season the Aces (24-8-0) have won six straight games. They also improved to 9-0-0 against Colorado at Sullivan in the last two seasons.
Curry began the season without a goal in his first nine games, but has scored three times in his last 11 games. Harrison’s eighth goal of the season tied his career high, and marked his seventh goal in his last 18 games. Hughes started the season without a goal in his first nine games, but has racked four in the last nine games. And Clackson, recently acquired in a trade and playing his fifth game for the team, generated his first goal for the Aces and added an assist.
“Everyone’s chipping in for the most part, and everyone’s having a good time,’’ said Curry, who returned to the lineup after a two-game absence with a lower-body injury.
With four NHL forwards on the team during the lockout, and with proven scorers like Nick Mazzolini, Garry Nunn and Alexandre Imbeault also onboard, the Aces’ secondary players don’t often receive premium ice time.
Yet with an injury-riddled lineup through 32 games, the Aces have needed their complementary players to fill bigger roles.
“Of course, the (stars) are going to score, but we can’t sit back and expect them to do that every night,’’ said Hughes, who has received power-play time of late and scored on the man advantage Friday. “I’ve been able to start scoring lately and it really builds your confidence.
“If you expect to just go out and be a body, you’re wasting your time.’’
Joey Crabb, the NHLer who furnished an assist Friday and leads Alaska with 34 points, one more than Mazzolini, said the Aces need contributions from throughout the lineup.
“It’s awesome,’’ Crabb said. “Any good team has scoring from all its lines, and good secondary scoring. Some of these guys would probably have bigger roles, if not for the lockout.
“That’s pushed them down the lineup, but they’re still making big contributions.’’
Aces coach Rob Murray said relying on everyone has helped his team become well-rounded and given the players meaningful roles.
“My expectations are these (secondary) guys can contribute,’’ Murray said. “It’s taken awhile, honestly, for this team to become a team, not (a situation) where other guys think, ‘Those (NHL) guys will get it done, and I’ll just try not to be a minus.’ ”
The generally sloppy game — hey, first game back from the holiday break for both the Aces and Eagles (16-12-3) — remained scoreless nearly halfway through.
Colorado dressed just 14 skaters, two below the ECHL maximum, and was without snipers Chad Costello and Jack Combs, who are both up with Bridgeport in the American Hockey League. Still, rookie goaltender Adam Brown (28 saves) kept the Aces in check until Curry’s power-play strike.
Curry sneaked in the backdoor at the right post and banged home Crabb’s blistering centering pass from below the goal line.
But that lead vanished eight minutes into the third period when Mazzolini fanned on a pass high in the Colorado zone and Dylan Hood blazed on a breakaway. He slipped a shot between Coleman’s pads to forge a 1-1 tie.
Yet the Aces answered less than two minutes later when Harrison took a pass from Clackson and rifled a wrister over Brown’s glove to restore the home team’s lead at 2-1 nearly exactly halfway through the period. Hughes collected his own power-play rebound two minutes later — he initially deflected Corey Syvret’s drive from the center point — and backhanded home a goal. Clackson added an empty-net goal, with an assist from NHLer Brandon Dubinsky, who returned after missing 19 games with a broken hand.
Syvret also assisted on Clackson’s goal. That was more help from a secondary player. Syvret doesn’t have a goal yet in 27 games, but he’s delivered 15 assists.
Shuffling the deck
The Aces have not trailed in a span of 319:16, just shy of the equivalent of six consecutive regulation games.
Colorado lost its four-game winning streak and its 22 shots on goal tied its season low.
Aces rookie forward Jarred Smith returned from a four-game absence — he took a check to the head in Utah earlier this month.
Dubinsky tied Nunn for the game-high in shots on goal with four.
Crabb has furnished at least one point in 21 of his 31 games this season. Mazzolini has points in 20 of 32 games. Nunn owns points in 19 of 31 games. And Imbeault has points in 18 of his 28 games with the Aces.
Alaska went 2 for 5 on the power play, which marks the fourth time in the last six games it has scored multiple power-play goals. The Aces rank fifth in the league on the man advantage with 21.9-percent efficiency.
The Aces killed all three power plays for Colorado, which leads the league at 25.0-percent efficiency — remember, the Eagles were without Costello and Combs. In any event, Alaska leads the league in penalty-killing efficiency at 86.4 percent.
Colorado 0 0 1 — 1
Aces 0 1 3 — 4
First Period — None. Penalties — Moore, Colorado (boarding), 3:38; Gorham, Aces (tripping), 8:02; Bowman, Colorado (tripping), 13:07.
Second Period — 1, Aces, Curry 3 (Crabb, Nunn), 8:41 (pp). Penalties — Daavettila, Colorado (hooking), 6:51.
Third Period — 2, Colorado, Hood 5 (Sides), 8:14; 3, Aces, Harrison 8 (Clackson, Smith), 10:02; 4, Aces, Hughes 4 (Syvret, Imbeault), 12:05 (pp); 5, Aces, Clackson 7 (Dubinsky, Syvret), 19:20 (en). Penalties — Forney, Colorado (slashing), 2:20; Crabb, Aces (holding), 3:35; Forney, Colorado (elbowing), 10:56; Crabb, Aces (roughing), 13:41; Sides, Colorado (holding), 13:41; Curry, Aces (interference), 16:20.
Shots on goal — Colorado 6-4-12—22. Aces 14-7-11—31.
Power-play Opportunities — Colorado 0 of 3. Aces 2 of 5.
Goalies — Colorado, Brown, 6-2-1 (31 shots-28 saves). Aces, Coleman, 10-2-0 (22-21).
A — 5,596 (6,399). T — 2:20.
Referee — J.M. McNulty. Linesmen — Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY