Alex Hudson wasn’t coy — he enjoyed that his first two-goal game as a pro came against the team that cast him aside earlier this hockey season and helped lift his Alaska Aces to a 5-1 victory over those Bakersfield Condors.
“It’s definitely rewarding for me to score against them,’’ Hudson said. “After they released me, it was them kind of saying I wasn’t good enough to play for them.’’
After generating modest totals in his first 18 games with the Aces – one goal, one assist – Hudson on Thursday night scored two goals inside the opening 10 minutes at Sullivan Arena to propel the ECHL’s top team (41-12-6) past the team with the ECHL’s worst record (18-37-5).
Hudson’s outburst highlighted Alaska’s four-goal first period, which marked the eighth time this season they’ve unloaded four markers on an opponent in a period.
“Any team in this league can win or lose any night, so it’s important to get off to a good start,’’ Hudson said. “We kind of planted that seed of doubt in them early tonight.’’
The Aces picked up Hudson, a second-year pro who can play wing or center, in early January when the NHL lockout ended and they were short players on a road trip in California. Alaska coach Rob Murray got on his cellphone and called Hudson, who lives about 15 minutes away from the Ontario Reign’s home rink – Hudson said he was curious who was calling him from the 907 area code -- and the 25-year-old was in the lineup the next afternoon. That was three days after the Condors released Hudson.
What started out as a temporary gig has turned into full-time employment for Hudson, and he’s gone from worst to first.
“I feel blessed,’’ he said.
Thursday, the line of Hudson, Zach Harrison (two assists) and Jordan Kremyr (one assist) kick-started the Aces, helped them seize a 4-0 lead inside the opening 17 minutes and chased former UAF goaltender Scott Greenham (13 saves) after one period.
Hudson scored his first goal after defenseman Kane Lafranchise rang a shot off the left post less than three minutes into the game. Hudson tucked the rebound into an open net behind Greenham. He scored again seven minutes later on another rebound.
“Harrison and Kremyr play so hard, it’s easy for me to feed off them,’’ Hudson said.
That combination was the Aces’ third-line unit Thursday – the third line is ordinarily designed as a checking line — and combined for 11 of Alaska’s season-high 48 shots on goal.
“Going forward, and in the playoffs, you need a checking line,’’ Murray said. “(But) as we all know, the best way to check is to keep the puck in the offensive zone.’’
The Aces pushed their lead to 4-0 on wrist shots by defenseman Sean Curry and winger Alexandre Imbeault, who returned after missing four games with a wonky back.
“We were moving the puck well, we were aggressive and we played well systematically,’’ Imbeault said. “When you play a team like that, it’s dangerous because they have nothing to lose.’’
The Condors settled down when Brian Stewart (30 saves on 31 shots) took over in the scoreless second period.
By then, though, the game was basically out of reach against an Aces team that is the stingiest on the 23-team circuit and has surrendered more than two goals once in the last 12 games. Alaska has earned points in 14 of its last 15 games.
Aces goaltender Gerald Coleman, coming off a 1-0 shutout of Las Vegas on Sunday, when Curry potted the only goal, made 30 saves.
Bakersfield finally cracked Coleman about seven minutes into the third period, when Peter Boyd scored his team-leading 18th goal to punctuate a furious scramble on Coleman’s crease.
Still, the Aces restored their four-goal cushion in the opener of a three-game series with Bobby Hughes’ power-play goal six minutes later.
Aces center Nick Mazzolini assisted on that goal for his second helper of the evening and his team-leading 58th point, which ties him for seventh in the league.
Shuffling the deck
The Aces’ league-leading penalty-killing crew stopped both Condors power plays and has killed 29 consecutive opposing power plays in the last seven-plus games.
Winger Garry Nunn (two assists) returned to the lineup after missing one game with a lower-body injury and fired a game-high, and season-high for him, eight shots on goal.
Aces defenseman Mike Baran missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.
The game was just the second this season between Alaska and Bakersfield. The Aces won 2-1 at Bakersfield on Nov. 30. The teams continue their three-game series Friday night and wrap it with a Sunday matinee.
Alaska improved to a league-leading 24-6-1 (.790 winning percentage) on home ice. Idaho, at 19-4-4 (.778) sits second in home-ice winning percentage.
With 88 points in 59 games, the Aces won a seven-point lead in the overall standings on Ontario, which has 81 points in 57 games. Sitting third are the Reading Royals with 78 points in 59 games.
With the Aces-Condors series having an off day Saturday, Bakersfield’s Greenham and defenseman Scott Enders, both UAF alums, plan to check out that night’s UAA-UAF Governor’s Cup game at Sullivan.
Ditto for Bakersfield’s Evan Trupp of Anchorage, whose younger brother, Hayden, plays for UAA.
They aren’t the only ones in this series with a dog in the UAA-UAF fight. Aces defenseman Dustin Molle played nearly all his college career at UAF after starting at UAA. And Lafranchise played at UAA.
The Condors also include former Aces defenseman T.J. Fast.
Four-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer Dana Vollmer dropped the ceremonial opening puck. She’s in town as an ambassador for the American Heart Association.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com or call him at 257-4335.
Bakersfield 0 0 1 — 1
Aces 4 0 1 — 5
First Period — 1, Aces, Hudson 7 (Lafranchise, Harrison), 2:28; 2, Aces, Hudson 8 (Kremyr, Harrison), 9:41; 3, Aces, Curry 6 (Mazzolini, Nunn), 15:21; 4, Aces, Imbeault 15 (Hughes), 16:38. Penalties — Koger, Bakersfield (tripping), 6:46.
Second Period -- None. Penalties – Crum, Aces (tripping), 13:46; Coleman, Aces, served by Imbeault (roughing), 18:36; Legace, Bakersfield (roughing), 18:36.
Third Period — 5, Bakersfield, Boyd 18 (Burgdoerfer), 6:44; 6, Aces, Hughes 12 (Mazzolini, Nunn), 12:41 (pp). Penalties — Trupp, Bakersfield (kneeing), :54; Harrison, Aces (tripping), 7:00; Lyon, Bakersfield (interference), 10:56; Enders, Bakersfield (boarding), 18:21.
Shots on goal — Bakersfield 6-15-10—31. Aces 17-15-16—48.
Power-play Opportunities — Bakersfield 0 of 2. Aces 1 of 4.
Goalies — Bakersfield, Greenham, (10-16-2) (17 shots-13 saves); Stewart, enter 0:00 2nd period (31-30). Aces, Coleman, (18-4-1) (31-30).
A — 3,450 (6,399). T – 2:17.
Referee – Brett Sheva. Linesmen – Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.
By DOYLE WOODY