Gerald Coleman stopped 23 shots for his first shutout of the season and the ECHL-leading Alaska Aces cracked the 40-win barrier Sunday afternoon with a 1-0 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena.
Coupled with Ontario's 4-1 loss at Stockton, the Aces' lead in the overall standings returned to five points.
The Aces (40 12-6) took two of three games in the series with the Wranglers. Sunday, they killed seven Las Vegas power plays and used Sean Curry's second-period goal to prosper.
Mitch O'Keefe made 24 saves for Las Vegas (28-23-5).
The Aces cracked the scoreless tie 14 minutes into the second period on one of the few crisp plays in a game that to that point was a sloppy affair.
With the teams skating 4 on 4, Aces winger Chris Clackson carried the puck wide into the Wranglers zone on left wing and slipped a pass to Zach Harrison in the left circle. Harrison quickly back-handed a pass to his right, where a streaking Curry one-timed the feed past O'Keefe on the glove side for a 1-0 Alaska lead.
Curry's goal was redemption for a glaring mistake he made in Alaska's 4-1 loss on Saturday. With Las Vegas leading 2-1 nearly midway through the third period in that game, Curry's pass up the middle of his zone turned into the turnover that immediately led to a Sean Wiles goal that furnished the Wranglers a 3-1 cushion.
Sunday, a fight was brewing off the opening draw just based on the forward line Aces coach Rob Murray tapped to open the game - Alex Hudson centering Jarred Smith and Dustin Molle, a defenseman who was up on the wing, where he didn't play another shift the entire first period.
Molle and Wranglers winger Adam Huxley jostled some, but didn't do anything more. Just 27 seconds in, though, Hudson and Huxley dropped the mitts and had a spirited bout.
The teams went through a scoreless first period in which Las Vegas enjoyed two power plays, but to little advantage.
The only threatening sequence came just over six minutes into the period, when Las Vegas' Chris Francis and Judd Blackwater jammed away at the puck at Coleman's right post, with Blackwater getting one whack at the biscuit and Francis getting three hacks at it. At one point, the puck was moving along the goal line and Alaska's Smith backhanded it out of danger.
Alaska played without first-line winger Garry Nunn and defenseman Mike Baran, both of whom suffered undisclosed injuries in Saturday's 4-1 loss to the Wranglers. That left the Aces with just five defensemen, one short of the usual complement.
The Aces next play Thursday, when they open a three-game home series against the Bakersfield Condors.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY