Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray and goaltender Gerald Coleman were talking this offseason when the conversation turned to winger Peter Sivak, who last season for the San Francisco Bulls blistered ECHL backstops for 33 goals.
A goalie's awareness is always heightened when the puck comes over his team's blue line, Coleman mused, but some puck carriers, like Sivak, warrant special vigilance.
"Gerald said that when Sivak comes over the line with the puck, you have to be on high alert,'' Murray recounted.
That's not Coleman's problem any longer because Sivak, 31, next will do his damage as an Ace.
The Aces on Wednesday announced they have signed the veteran winger, who is likely to gain top-line and power-play duties and give the club a dangerous finisher -- after all, Sivak's 33 goals last season, his debut season in North America, ranked fifth on the circuit.
"Every year, I guess, there's X amount of free agents that are available and you'd like to take a shot at,'' Murray said. "He burst onto the scene last year, like, 'Where the hell did this guy come from?' ''
The answer is the Czech Republic. Sivak prior to last season had played his entire career in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. He led San Francisco in goals and points with 33-23--56 totals in 64 games and also scored four goals in nine games with Worcester of the American Hockey League.
Sivak's 266 shots on goal ranked third in the ECHL. He generated a six-game goal streak that tied for the league's longest and also racked two four-game goal streaks. He furnished point streaks of eight games and six games, delivered seven two-goal games and scored nine times on the power play.
"That was a guy we definitely had our eyes on at all times,'' Murray said. "He was a threat practically every time he was on the ice.''
In 12 combined regular-season and playoff games against the Aces -- Alaska eliminated San Francisco in a first-round playoff series -- Sivak went 5-3--8. One of his goals against the Aces was an overtime dagger in Sullivan Arena.
"He has the skill to be at the next level,'' Coleman said. "He can shoot the puck unbelievable. Even if he didn't score, you noticed him out there all the time.''
Murray said that he often found himself zeroing in on Sivak when he watched pregame warm-ups against San Francisco.
"He would just do puck tricks, flip it up, flip it off his back foot,'' Murray said. "Watching him shoot, he was deadly. He's a fluid skater and he has an excellent shot, a quick release he really snaps. He looks good, he carries himself like a player.
"It's a little intimidating. I wanted to watch him, but I didn't want to watch him -- you know what I mean?''
For the Aces, Sivak potentially could serve as a right wing for first-line center Nick Mazzolini, who last season exploded for 36 goals. Sivak, a 5-foot-11, 200-pounder, shoots left, but plays on his off-wing. And he loves to shoot the puck -- he averaged 4.16 shots on goal in the regular season for the Bulls, and in those 12 combined games against Alaska he unleashed 4.75 shots per game.
And Coleman foresees Sivak doing more than just lighting up opposing goalies.
"Facing him in practice every day is going to make me better,'' Coleman said.
Sivak is one of four Aces players, along with Murray and assistant coach Louis Mass, who will attend training camp with the Abbotsford Heat, Alaska's affiliate in the American Hockey League, beginning Friday.
The other Aces at Abbotsford's camp will be defenseman Kane Lafranchise, winger Andy Taranto and winger Jordan Kremyr.
Sivak is the second veteran the Aces have signed -- returning defenseman Sean Curry is the other.
Each ECHL team is permitted a maximum of four veterans, defined by the league as any non-goalie who enters the season with 260 or more pro games of experience. Games played in some lower leagues, both in North America and abroad, do not count against the 260 mark.
Winger Alex Hudson, who the Aces picked up after ECHL Bakersfield released him last season and Alaska was hurting for bodies when the NHL lockout ended, has signed with the ECHL Colorado, the Eagles announced Wednesday. Hudson earned 9-2--11 totals in 31 regular-season games with the Aces last season and added 4-1--5 totals in 11 games.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY