Aces doomed in OT again

Doyle Woody

Extra time has been extra painful for the Alaska Aces lately.

Saturday night in Las Vegas, the Aces went beyond regulation for the third straight hockey game and the fourth time in six games, and absorbed a familiar, forlorn fate.

Wranglers forward Chris Francis scored with nine seconds left in overtime to seize a 3-2 ECHL victory in a game the Aces led 2-0 in the first period.

In the four games that have extended beyond regulation of late, the Aces have lost twice in overtime and twice in a shootout, as they did Friday night in Sin City, when they fell 5-4 after losing the skills competition.

Even so, the point the Aces (32-11-5) earned in the standings lifted them into a three-way tie with Ontario and Reading atop the 23-team league. All three clubs have 69 points, but Alaska has played one more game than the other co-leaders, both of which lost in regulation Saturday.

The Aces enjoyed a power play in overtime, just their second man advantage of the night, but to no avail.

Still, they are 3-0-3 in Las Vegas this season. But Saturday's defeat also marked the first time this season they have gone three straight games without a victory. Prior to the two games in Vegas, the Aces lost 3-2 in overtime to visiting San Francisco.

The Aces jumped to a 2-0 lead inside the opening 14 minutes on the strength of two goals from newcomer Shawn Skelly, the first at even strength and the second on the power play.

Skelly has scored goals at every level -- junior, Division III college, the Southern Professional Hockey League and, now, the ECHL. The goals give him five goals and seven points in seven games with the Aces.

Las Vegas cut Alaska's lead to 2-1 when Eric Lampe struck on the power play late in the first period. That was no shocker -- Lampe is the league's reigning goal-scoring champ.

But the guy who forged a 2-2 tie for the Wranglers (21-19-5) is not a familiar name on the scoring side of the score sheet. Adam Huxley's goal five minutes into the second period marked his second in 37 games this season. The former Ace (briefly) is better known for what he does with his fists -- his 18 major penalties rank second in the league and he entered the night third in penalty minutes with 184.

Aces goaltender Mark Guggenberger made 28 saves and Wranglers masked man Joe Fallon stopped 27 shots.

The Aces played for the second straight night without winger Alexandre Imbeault, who was out with illness.

The team is back home this week for a three-game series against the Stockton Thunder beginning Friday night at Sullivan Arena.

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Aces 2 0 0 0 -- 2

Las Vegas 1 1 0 1 -- 3

First Period -- 1, Aces, Skelly 4 (Ward, Bennett), 3:22; 2, Aces, Skelly 5 (Ward, Hughes), 13:40 (pp); 3, Las Vegas, Lampe 17 (Blackwater, Campanale), 18:32. Penalties -- Skelly, Aces (boarding), 5:50; Madill, Las Vegas (hooking), 12:01; Molle, Aces (tripping), 16:25.

Second Period -- 4, Las Vegas, Huxley 2 (Paukovich, Boe), 5:22. Penalties -- Crum, Aces (slashing), 7:17; Molle, Aces (high-sticking), 10:32.

Third Period -- None. Penalties -- Paukovich, Las Vegas (roughing), 17:51; Kremyr, Aces (roughing), 17:51.

Overtime -- 5, Las Vegas, Francis 17 (Wiles, Cook), 4:51. Penalties -- Lampe, Las Vegas (roughing), :39; Curry, Aces (roughing), :39; Julseth-White, Las Vegas (slashing), 2:30.

Shots on goal -- Aces 12-8-9-0--29. Las Vegas 9-18-2-2--31.

Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 2. Las Vegas 0 of 4.

Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 16-6-4 (31 shots-28 saves). Las Vegas, Fallon, 15-12-5 (29-27).

A -- 7,100 (7,773). T -- 2:37.

Referee -- Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen -- Brett Martin, Wally Lacroix.