Aces on streaks after 2-1 win at San Francisco

Doyle Woody

They are the Alaska Aces, but lately you can just call them Team Streak.

The ECHL-leading Aces seized their fifth straight victory with Wednesday night's 2-1 road win against the San Francisco Bulls in their first visit to the historic Cow Palace.

The win stretched the Aces' string of road games unbeaten in regulation to nine (5-0-4), which extends the fourth-longest such streak in the club's 10 ECHL seasons.

With 45 shots on goal, the Aces have unlimbered 43 or more shots on goal in four straight games.

And the Aces killed all four Bulls power plays Wednesday, which gives their league-leading, penalty-killing crew 38 consecutive kills in the last 10-plus games.

The Aces also have not allowed an opponent more than one goal in any of the last five games, and have only surrendered three goals in that stretch. Mark Guggenberger's sharp, 30-save performance had much to do with Wednesday's forceful defensive effort by the league's stingiest team.

Oh, and the Aces have earned at least a point in 17 of their last 18 games (13-1-4).

All that allowed Alaska to maintain a six-point lead in the overall standings on the Ontario Reign, who went on a scoring binge late in Wednesday's 4-0 win over Las Vegas and have one game in hand on the Aces.

With the game tied 1-1 midway through the third period, Aces leading scorer Nick Mazzolini, who has been the team's most valuable player this season, fed Chris Clackson for the game winner. Mazzolini's 62nd point in 60 games ties him for fifth in the league in scoring. He leads the Aces in goals (32), assists (30), points (62) and power-play points (19), leads active Aces in short-handed goals (3), is a pivotal penalty killer and seems to consistently make clutch, game-altering plays.

Alex Hudson furnished the Aces a 1-0 lead late in the first period when he scored his fourth goal in four games after scoring just once in his first 18 games since the Aces signed him in early January. Hudson cashed in off Jordan Kremyr's helper.

San Francisco (21-32-7), which has lost three straight, generated the equalizer when Yanni Gourde scored deep into the second period. That marked the first goal the Aces had surrendered in 108 minutes, 12 seconds, the equivalent of nearly five and a half periods.

Bulls goaltender Thomas Heemskerk (43 saves) kept the Aces at bay until Mazzolini and Spencer Bennett set up Clackson's 14th goal of the season, which stood up as the winner after the Aces killed a boarding penalty to Clackson and San Francisco's extra-attacker push in the last 40 seconds.

The Bulls played with some new faces in their lineup that are familiar to Aces fans. Former Aces defenseman Mark Isherwood and former Aces winger Kory Falite both made their San Francisco debuts, as did forward Ian Schultz -- all three were acquired from Utah this week in a seven-play deal that set four Bulls to the Grizzlies.

The Aces played without winger Alexandre Imbeault, their third-leading scorer. Imbeault was a late scratch with a lower-body injury and is listed as day-to-day by the club. Also still out is defenseman Mike Baran (upper-body injury).

The teams continue their three-game series Friday and Saturday nights.


Shuffling the deck

With an 18-6-5 road record (.707 winning percentage), the Aces moved past Cincinnati (19-7-4, .700) for the league's best road winning percentage.

Aces winger Garry Nunn unloaded a game-high nine shots on goal and winger Shawn Skelly fired six shots. The 22 shots on goal the Aces fired in the first period marked the most they have cranked in a period this season.

With their road streak of games unbeaten in regulation at nine, the Aces on Friday can tie the second-longest such streak in franchise history. They went 10 games in both 2005-06 (9-0-1) and 2004-05 (9-0-1). The club record is 12 road games (7-0-5) without a regulation loss, set last season in coach Rob Murray's first season as bench boss.

ECHL goaltenders are working over shooters thoroughly when it comes to penalty shots this season -- only nine of 52 shooters have scored on penalty shots this season. And that's after shooters scored on four of the first seven penalty shots. Since then, just five of 45 have converted.

The current 17.3-percent efficiency by shooters is the lowest since 2004-2005, when -- according to the ECHL's online stats archives -- just one shooter converted on 27 penalty shots. That season, Bakersfield's Dennis Shiryaev scored on San Diego's Trevor Koenig on the first penalty shot of the season. The next 26 dudes drew blanks.

This season, Utah's Colin Vock has taken a league-high three penalty shots, scoring just once. Elmira goaltender Maxime Clement has faced five penalty shots and stopped four. There have been three penalty shots in Aces games -- Joey Crabb and Zach Harrison were denied, and Guggenberger stopped Berkley Scott of Utah.


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Aces 1 0 1 -- 2

SF 0 1 0 -- 1

First Period -- 1, Aces, Hudson 10 (Kremyr, Harrison), 17:28. Penalties -- Cameron, SF (high-sticking), 19:30.

Second Period -- 2, SF, Gourde 2 (Cameron, King), 14:53. Penalties -- Langdon, SF, major (fighting), 3:28; Kremyr, Aces, major (hooking), 3:28; Kremyr, Aces (hooking), 10:15; Harrison, Aces (tripping), 19:01.

Third Period -- 3, Aces, Clackson 14 (Mazzolini, Bennett), 9:14. Penalties -- Mele, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 1:29; SF bench minor, served by Cameron (too many men), 5:01; Clackson, Aces (boarding), 11:06.

Shots on goal -- Aces 22-10-13--45. SF 10-12-9--31.

Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 2. SF 0 of 4.

Goalies -- Aces, Guggenberger, 23-7-5 (31 shots-30 saves). SF, Heemskerk, 13-17-3 (45-43).

A -- 2,162 (8,500). T -- 2:17

Referee -- Don Jablonski. Linesmen -- Steven Walsh, Zach Thornton.