Coleman back in the Aces crease; defenseman B.J. Crum signed

Doyle Woody

Every hockey coach has endured the agonies of second-rate goaltending, or watched his counterpart on the other team suffer it. Side effects for aggrieved bench bosses include sleeplessness, indigestion and general crankiness.

"You'll see a goalie give up a soft goal, and you see the coach and the team have that look like, 'Here we go again,' '' said Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray.

He is among the fortunate ones, though. In Murray's previous two seasons guiding the Aces, Gerald Coleman has most often been his principal goalie, and Coleman is not prone to often surrendering softies.

"If Gerald gives up a soft goal, you don't really say, 'How did that get by him?' '' Murray said. "You say, 'It's not going to happen again.' It's very comforting to me as a coach. You know what you've got and you know your expectations.

"Every night he plays, I know I won't have to worry about him.''

That apparently will be the case again this upcoming season, since the Aces on Thursday announced they have signed Coleman for the fourth straight season. They also announced the return of reliable defenseman B.J. Crum.

Coleman, 28 and entering his ninth pro season, has helped backstop the Aces to an unprecedented three straight Brabham Cup titles as ECHL regular season champions, and he led them to the Kelly Cup in 2011, when he was the circuit's Goaltender of the Year.

For the second straight season, his signing comes with a caveat. After undergoing offseason arthroscopic surgery on his left hip last year, Coleman this offseason underwent the same procedure on his right hip. A year ago, he has still rehabbing when the season started and did not debut until Nov. 23, in the club's 17th game.

Coleman said his rehab is ahead of last year's schedule, and he hopes to be ready to play in games by either the last week of October or the first week of November. The Aces play their first five games in October.

"With two new hips, I'm really excited to play, over the moon about it,'' Coleman said.

Last season, he and Mark Guggenberger formed the league's top tandem. Coleman went 23-6-3, with a 2.17 goals-against average that ranked second in the league, and a .918 save percentage that ranked sixth. In three regular seasons with the Aces, he is 71-26-8 (.714 winning percentage), with a 2.12 goals-against average, .918 save percentage and nine shutouts.

"He's obviously been very consistent -- that's an understatement,'' Murray said.

Coleman said he expects this will be his first season since 2008-09, when he was with ECHL Trenton, that he is not encumbered by hip problems.

Long one of the ECHL's top defensive teams -- Alaska allowed just 2.39 goals per game last season, trailing only South Carolina's 2.38 -- the Aces welcome back a stay-at-home blueliner in Crum.

Crum, 30, will play his fourth season in Alaska. He played for the Aces in 2008-09 and 2009-10, and returned last season when the club plucked him out of the Southern Professional Hockey League.

In 27 games with the Aces, Crum earned 2-6--8 totals and a plus-7 rating.

"He plays physical, he can play lots of minutes,'' Murray said. "He's not a flashy player, not great speed, but he'll occasionally show an offensive flair. And he's a hard guy to play against.

"He was a good find for us. Quiet guy, doesn't say boo. But he understands his role and what's expected of him.''

Crum also comes with an added benefit, especially considering this will be his seventh pro season: He's still not considered a veteran under ECHL rules, which limits teams to four vets. Skaters who have played 260 or more professional games are considered veterans in the league. But because Crum's 20 games last season with the SPHL's Mississippi Surge do not count against the 260 limit -- the ECHL considers it too far down hockey's ladder -- he sits at 258 games.

The announced signings of Coleman and Crum raise to 12 the number of players the Aces have announced for the upcoming season.

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The ECHL's Alaska Aces have announced the signings of 12 players for the upcoming hockey season:

Forwards (6) -- Nick Mazzolini; Evan Trupp, Andy Taranto, Jordan Kremyr, Tommy Mele, Tim Coffman.

Defensemen (5) -- Sean Curry, Kane Lafranchise, B.J. Crum, Brad Richard, Matt Ridley*.

Goaltenders (1) -- Gerald Coleman.

*Denotes PTO (professional tryout agreement)