Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray and the ECHL hockey team's fans will see a baker's dozen of players new to the club in the next two nights, when the Aces play their annual two-game exhibition series at Sullivan Arena.
The Aces' "Paint the Rink Pink'' games, fundraisers for the local fight against cancer in a setting replete with pink ice and pink sweaters on the home side, are set for Tuesday and Wednesday nights against the Cincinnati Cyclones - the puck drops at 7:15 both evenings.
For Murray, it's a chance to give returners some work -- many of them will likely only play one of the two games -- and an opportunity to see newcomers in game conditions. Performances will sway Murray's decision-making when it comes to cutting down the roster ahead of the club's regular-season opener on Oct. 18.
"I like to see that hockey intellect is there, that what we've talked about systems-wise is going grasped -- overall, that they have a compete-level, that they're not easy to play against,'' Murray said.
Of the 26 players expected to see ice time in the series -- returning goaltender Gerald Coleman (practicing, but not quite ready after offseason hip surgery) and supplemental goalie Micah Perletti won't play -- 13 of them will be wearing an Aces sweater for the first time.
And nine of those guys will be making their debuts as Sullivan Arena. Four newcomers have previously played on Sullivan's Olympic-sized ice. Winger Peter Sivak played for ECHL San Francisco last season - he delivered an overtime dagger for the Bulls. Rookie center Eli Zuck of Anchorage played at Sullivan in college for Minnesota State-Mankato when it faced UAA. Defenseman James Martin played in the rink for ECHL Utah last season. And rookie defenseman Ben Parker played for Canisius in UAA's Kendall Hockey Classic.
Forward Brendan Connolly, like Sivak one of the Aces' prized offseason acquisitions, said he's ready to roll for his new team.
"So far, the fans here expect a lot out of the team,'' Connolly said. "Rob expects a lot, and we expect a lot of ourselves. I'm looking forward to showcasing what we have.''
With 27 players in all competing for jobs - there will likely be a couple cuts on defense and a couple more at forward -- Connolly said he's impressed with the quality of the training-camp roster.
"The talent level is much higher than anything I've seen in my four years of pro,'' he said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
ECHL exhibition games
Tuesday and Wednesday, Sullivan Arena, 7:15 p.m.
Radio: Live 750-AM and FM-103.7 KFQD
TV: Live, GCI Channel 1, outside Anchorage market
By DOYLE WOODY