A pair of wingers expected to produce points are headed back to the Alaska Aces this hockey season and an emerging center who has spent his entire pro career with the ECHL club is headed elsewhere.
The Aces on Thursday announced they have re-signed wingers Evan Trupp of Anchorage and Andy Taranto, the former UAF sniper -- both players were late pick-ups for Alaska last season.
Meanwhile, the Aces traded center Zach Harrison, a principal penalty killer who flourished in the postseason last spring, to the Orlando Solar Bears for future considerations. Harrison said his departure stemmed in part from his desire to be closer to his fiancee -- the couple has usually been time zones apart for the last three years while he played in Alaska and she attended law school in St. Louis.
Aces coach Rob Murray has Trupp, a left wing, and Taranto, a right wing, penciled in among his top six forwards, which means he expects them to play on his top two lines and also log power-play duty.
Murray acquired Trupp, 25, from the Bakersfield Condors in a trade, and added Taranto, 25, after Taranto wrapped his career at UAF.
Trupp last season with Alaska earned 2-6--8 totals in 10 regular-season games and 2-3--5 totals in 11 playoff games. He regularly skated on the first line with center Nick Mazzolini, the team's leading scorer.
After an injury in Milwaukee's American Hockey League training camp as a rookie two years ago necessitated surgery on his right hand, Trupp missed the start of the season and was later traded to moribund Bakersfield, where he began last season.
Starting a season with his hometown team feels like a fresh beginning, said Trupp, the former University of North Dakota standout.
"This is going to be a whole new start, and I'm looking forward to it,'' Trupp said. "This is a good spot, good for my confidence and good for getting back on track.''
Murray expects big things from the third-year pro -- 60 points would be a reasonable neighborhood for Trupp, the coach said.
"He's got something yet to prove,'' Murray said. "His first two years in the ECHL -- he got traded his first year and then was in an unfortunate spot in Bakersfield, a losing team, the last two years.
"With us, he showed us things, but he knows he needs to be more consistent. This is a big year for him.''
Taranto is heading into his first full season in the play-for-pay game. After scoring 59 goals in four seasons for the Nanooks, he furnished one assist in two regular-season games for the Aces. In six playoff games before an injury shut him down, Taranto earned 2-3--5 totals.
"I'm excited to have him back,'' Murray said. "I'm really excited to have him in a full season.''
Taranto's season began Thursday, when he played for the Calgary Flames, Alaska's new NHL affiliate in the Young Stars Classic in Penticton, British Columbia.
Harrison, 25, said he proposed to his longtime girlfriend, Ashley Schawang, during a vacation in Paris with her family last month. His fiancee has just started her law career in Kansas City, Mo. Harrison and Schawang have been in an often long-distance relationship since both were undergraduates, Harrison at Minnesota State-Mankato and Schawang at Boston College.
"It hasn't been an easy ride, let's put it that way,'' Harrison said by cellphone.
He said he and is fiancee will be only one airplane flight apart if he is playing in Orlando, and even closer if he can ascend to the AHL -- Harrison said he is scheduled to go to camp with AHL Chicago later this month.
"Coach Murray was really good about it,'' Harrison said of his move. "I was kind of dreading asking him about it, but he was great.''
Murray said, under terms of the trade, the Solar Bears owe the Aces a player.
"It's a put-it-in-your-pocket kind of thing,'' Murray said of the trade.
Former Alaska defenseman Derick Martin, a veteran who played three seasons for the club (2007-10) and was a fan favorite, has signed with the Utah Grizzlies, rejoining the team he played for in 2011-12.
Martin, 31, last season earned 1-14--15 totals in playing all 72 games with ECHL Orlando.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY