Different night, different hero, same result for the Alaska Aces -- yet another victory.
Wednesday night, Chris Clackson delivered the game-winning, third-period strike in a one-goal road victory over the San Francisco Bulls. Friday night, Alex Hudson authored the game-winning, third-period goal in a 3-2 road victory over the Bulls at the Cow Palace in California.
While the ECHL-leading Aces continued to get scoring from throughout the lineup -- three goals from three different lines Friday and two helpers from Evan Trupp of Anchorage in his club debut -- there were other notable constants.
Gerald Coleman repelled 30 shots for the Aces, just as Mark Guggenberger snuffed 30 in Wednesday's 2-1 win. The Aces have allowed more than two goals just once in the last 15 games.
Team-leading scorer Nick Mazzolini dropped his 33rd goal, a power-play one-timer off Trupp's second period feed, but then he always seems to figure in celebrations lately. Mazzolini has generated at least a point in five straight games (2-6--8 totals in that span) and in 11 of the last 12 (7-11--18).
And the Aces' league-leading, penalty-killing crew is practically homicidal of late.
Alaska (45-12-6) dismissed all six San Francisco (21-33-7) power plays Friday and has extinguished 44 consecutive opposing power plays in the last 11-plus games. Not only that, but the Aces on Friday killed a Bulls two-man advantage that lasted a full two minutes in the first period.
All of that helped the Aces pocket their sixth straight win.
That victory also was their fifth straight road win, which matches the franchise's third-longest such streak in its 10 ECHL seasons. The Aces also have gone 10 straight road games (6-0-4) without losing in regulation, which ties the second-longest such streak in its league history. And the Aces have taken at least one point in 18 of their last 19 matches.
On top of that, they got a helping hand from the Bakersfield Condors. Last-place Bakersfield hung a 4-2 loss on the Ontario Reign, which allowed the Aces to stretch their advantage on the Reign in the overall standings to eight points. Alaska has nine games remaining in the regular season to Ontario's 10, and the teams close the season with two games in Ontario, Calif.
The Aces took a 1-0 lead midway through the first period Friday when Trupp, acquired in a deal with Bakersfield on Thursday, set up Alexandre Imbeault, who beat Taylor Nelson (26 saves) with a backhander. Nelson was in net because Thomas Heemskerk, who stopped 43 shots Wednesday, was called up to the NHL's San Jose Sharks.
San Francisco's Yanni Gourde scored late in the first period for a 1-1 tie, but Mazzolini's goal midway through the second period restored Alaska's lead at 2-1. Yet Aces captain Steve Ward committed an uncharacteristic, and generous, turnover early in the third period, and San Francisco's Bryan Cameron turned that gift into a 2-2 tie.
Enter Hudson, with his fifth goal in the last five games.
He crashed the crease after linemate Zach Harrison's shot and jammed in the loose puck for the Aces' 3-2 lead, their third advantage of the night.
The Bulls pulled Nelson for an extra attacker in the final 1:42, but to no avail. They lost their fourth straight game.
The Aces don't know what that's like this season. The most consecutive games they've lost in regulation is two.
Shuffling the deck
Mazzolini's goal and assist give him 33-31--64 totals in 61 games, which places him fifth in the ECHL scoring race.
He also has tied his career-high for points, set as a rookie for the Aces in 2009-10, when he generated 27-37--64 totals in 63 games.
Coleman has won six straight starts and is 7-0-1 in his last eight starts.
The Aces improved their league-best, penalty-killing efficiency to 87.7 percent. Next best is Wheeling's 85.4 percent.
Harrison hasn't scored a goal in 14 games, but the third-line center has contributed nine assists and a plus-4 rating in that stretch, and been instrumental in the team's penalty-killing prowess.
Alaska improved its league-best road record to 19-6-5. Those 43 road points already rate fourth all-time in the club's ECHL history. The 2005-06 Kelly Cup-winning team set the standard with 51 points (23-8-5) on the road. The Aces have six more road games left.
Winger Shawn Skelly and defenseman Chris Haltigin, traded to Bakersfield for Trupp, helped out their former club Friday in the Condors' win over Ontario. Skelly had two assists and a plus-2 rating and Haltigin was plus-1.
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Aces 1 1 1 -- 3
SF 1 0 1 -- 2
First Period -- 1, Imbeault 17 (Trupp, Mazzolini), 11:24; 2, SF, Gourde 3 (Walsh, C. Ouellet), 16:34. Penalties -- Schultz, SF, major (fighting), 1:30; Molle, Aces, major (fighting), 1:30; Tam, SF, major (fighting), 4:36; Clackson, Aces, major (fighting), 4:36; Schultz, SF (roughing), 7:42; Hughes, Aces (hooking), 12:00; Baran, Aces (interference), 12:00.
Second Period -- 3, Aces, Mazzolini 33 (Trupp, Lafranchise), 9:50 (pp). Penalties -- Baran, Aces (holding the stick), 2:07; Trupp, Aces (interference), 4:38; Clackson, Aces (slashing), 7:22; Langdon, SF (elbowing), 9:36; Cameron, SF (holding), 15:16; Crum, Aces (tripping), 18:42.
Third Period -- 4, SF, Cameron 18, 2:51; 5, Aces, Hudson 11 (Harrison), 8:42. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- Aces 8-12-9--29. SF 11-10-11--32.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 1 of 3. SF 0 of 6.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 21-4-1 (32 shots-30 saves). SF, Nelson, 8-15-4 (29-26).
A -- 3,578 (8,500). T -- 2:25.
Referee -- Dan Dreger. Linesmen -- Brett Martin, Evan Freeman.
By DOYLE WOODY