There was some grumbling among Alaska Aces fans — aka The Cowbell Crew — when the hockey team signed Alex Hudson a couple of months ago and the forward got off to a slow start with his new club.
Likewise, some of the faithful were puzzled by Thursday’s trade-deadline deal in which the Aces acquired winger Evan Trupp of Anchorage, and his modest numbers, from the Bakersfield Condors in exchange for goal scorer Shawn Skelly and defenseman Chris Haltigin.
All of which raises the obvious question: How are Hudson and Trupp working for you now, armchair Scott Bowmans?
Hudson on Saturday scored his sixth goal in the last six games, Trupp delivered his second straight multiple-point game since joining his hometown team and the ECHL-leading Aces polished off a three-game road sweep with a 6-2 win over the San Francisco Bulls.
Alaska (46-12-7) has now accumulated 98 points atop the 23-team league — that’s one more point than the Aces earned each of the previous two seasons, when they twice won the Brabham Cup as the circuit’s regular-season champion. The Aces have eight games remaining and own an eight-point cushion on the Ontario Reign, who have nine games remaining.
The Aces’ seventh straight win also marked their sixth consecutive road win, which ties a club record. They are also unbeaten in regulation in their last 11 road games (7-0-4), which marks the second-longest such streak in their 10 ECHL seasons. The Aces have also lost just once in regulation in their last 20 games (15-1-4).
Hudson for the second straight night scored a tie-breaking goal that ended up as the game winner. His goal off a Zach Harrison rebound eight minutes into the second period cracked a 2-2 tie. Tommy Mele followed with a power-play goal about two minutes later and Trupp scored his first goal as an Ace later in the period.
In two games with the Aces, Trupp has furnished one goal and four assists — he produced one goal and two assists Saturday. That is more indicative of a resume that included 17-24—41 totals in 44 games as a senior at college power North Dakota than his 5-22—27 totals in 60 games with last-place Bakersfield.
In any event, the Aces on Saturday also received a significant contribution from veteran defenseman Sean Curry, who delivered a power-play goal and two helpers for his first multiple-point game as an Ace. Mark Guggenberger stopped 26 shots to preserve a stretch in which the Aces have surrendered more than two goals just once in the last 16 games.
The Aces received one goal each from their first line. Besides left winger Trupp’s strike, center Nick Mazzolini opened the scoring with his 34th goal, second in the league, after Trupp whipped a shot off the cross bar, and right wing Garry Nunn added a third-period goal off a Trupp feed. Nunn also had an assist.
After Mazzolini and San Francisco’s Peter Sivak traded first-period goals, Curry gave the Aces a 2-1 lead with his howitzer in the waning seconds of the period. Former Aces winger Kory Falite scored five minutes into the second period to forge a 2-2, but Hudson’s response in short order triggered a runaway win for the visitors.
The Aces dropped two power-play goals on the struggling Bulls (21-34-7), who have lost five straight. That snapped a nine-game stretch in which Alaska went just 4 for 30 with the man advantage and never managed more than one power-play goal in a game.
Meanwhile, Alaska’s league-leading, penalty-killing unit continued to kill it. The Aces stopped all three Bulls power plays and have dismissed 47 straight opposing power plays in the last 12-plus games. San Francisco went just 2 of 38 on the power play in nine games against the Aces this season, and the Bulls have come up empty on their last 28 power plays.
Aces center Bobby Hughes and defenseman B.J. Crum each contributed two assists.
The Aces open a three-game home series against the Idaho Steelheads on Wednesday at Sullivan Arena, then close the 72-game regular season with a five-game road trip.
Shuffling the deck
Trupp’s five points in two games with the Aces mark the most points he has scored in consecutive games in his 107 matches as a pro.
Mazzolini’s goal stretched his point streak to six games — he owns 3-6—9 totals in that span. His goal also marked his career-high 65th point.
Crum’s two-point game marked his first multiple-point game this season and just his third in 176 career ECHL games.
Guggenberger (24-7-5) ranks second in the league in wins, trailing only Kalamazoo workhorse Joel Martin (27-22-5) and Alaska’s Gerald Coleman (21-4-1) is sixth in wins.
Winger Alexandre Imbeault sat out for the second time in three games with a wonky back and winger Chris Clackson was a scratch with illness.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 2 3 1 — 6
SF 1 1 0 — 2
First Period — 1, Aces, Mazzolini 34 (Trupp, Nunn), 6:37; 2, SF, Sivak 28 (Walsh, Kwiet), 7:58; 3, Aces, Curry 7 (Crum, Hughes), 19:54 (pp). Penalties — Tam, SF (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:42; Molle, Aces (unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:42; Tam, SF (cross-checking), 15:53; Kremyr, Aces (roughing), 15:53; Schultz, SF, double-minor (roughing), 18:53; Hudson, Aces (roughing), 18:53.
Second Period — 4, SF, Falite 12 (King), 4:50; 5, Aces, Hudson 12 (Harrison, Crum), 7:51; 6, Aces, Mele 8 (Curry, Hughes), 10:10 (pp); 7, Aces, Trupp 6 (Curry), 15:48. Penalties — Crum, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 5:42; Sivak, SF (slashing), 8:32; Mele, Aces (slashing), 12:39.
Third Period — 8, Aces, Nunn 17 (Trupp), 10:18. Penalties — Gourde, SF (hooking), 5:08; Mele, Aces (hooking), 14:02.
Shots on goal — Aces 15-10-6—31. SF 6-11-9—26.
Power-play Opportunities — Aces 2 of 3. SF 0 of 3.
Goalies — Aces, Guggenberger, 24-7-5 (26 shots-24 saves). SF, Nelson, 8-16-4 (31-25).
A — 3,618 (8,500). T — 2:14.
Referee — Marc-Andre Lavioe. Linesmen — Steven Walsh, Evan Freeman.
By DOYLE WOODY