Aces sweep Wranglers, run winning streak to 4 games

Doyle Woody,Adn Staff


Through five hockey games — the last four of them victories, including Sunday’s 3-0 breeze at Las Vegas — the Alaska Aces have done a thorough job of pumping their own tires.

The Aces have outscored opponents 19-6.

They have twice bagged shutouts — Joni Ortio owns both after his 18-save bagel Sunday — and have not surrendered more than two goals in a game.

They have outshot opponents by the ridiculous total of 219-84, and outshot their opponent by at least 22 shots in all five games — Sunday’s tilted equation:  43-18.

Their penalty-killing unit is cruising along at 89.5-percent efficiency. And while their power play is operating at a so-so 14.8 percent, that easily ranks in the upper one-third of the 22-team ECHL.

Also, the Aces in their three-game sweep at Orleans Arena — they won 3-2 Friday and 7-2 Saturday – scored the last 11 goals of the series.

“I said all along we’re a very skilled hockey team, and it’s just a matter of time before we clicked,’’ Aces captain Nick Mazzolini said by cellphone. “I still think we have a higher ceiling. We’re really excited about where we can go.’’

Playing their third game at Orleans Arena in less than 48 hours, the Aces (4-1-0) prospered in Sunday’s matinee by jumping the Wranglers (2-3-0) with two early goals and then never allowing them a sniff at a comeback.

A road team that already has earned the first two wins in a series commonly referred to around the league as a “3 in 3’’ can often find itself content entering the series finale, and often find that satisfaction brings suffering. Yet the Aces pounced early Sunday.

“My message to the guys was, especially in this situation, where we dominated so badly, we wanted to put doubt in (the Wranglers’) minds with a good start,’’ said Aces coach Rob Murray.

Mazzolini opened the scoring four minutes into the game with his first goal of the season, redirecting the puck on the power play. Nine minutes later, sizzling center Tim Coffman jammed a rebound past Mitch O’Keefe (40 saves) to furnish a 2-0 cushion.

The goal was Coffman’s team-high fourth and gave him six points — three goals, three assists — in the series.

Jordan Kremyr added a third-period goal, so all three Alaska centers — Mazzolini, Coffman and Kremyr — pocketed goals.

Ortio, meanwhile, only occasionally was tested, and the Finn did not falter.

He poke-checked Geoff Paukovich on a breakaway in the second period and smothered the puck for a faceoff. And he produced a point-blank, power-play save on Robbie Smith in the third period, when the Aces’ lead was still at 2-0.

Ortio improved to 3-1-0 with a 1.01 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.

Mazzolini said the Aces still can reduce the number of quality chances they surrender, deliver a more consistently pestering fore-check and polish the chemistry of the forward lines.

Still, Murray said there’s no one area of his team’s game at the moment that he finds truly lacking.


Shuffling the deck

In 11 of 15 periods this season, the Aces have outshot their opponents by at least a ratio of 2 to 1. They have not yet been outshot in a period.

Peter Sivak, who assisted on Mazzolini’s goal, fired a game-high eight shots on goal. Kremyr gunned seven shots on goal, and Mazzolini and Andy Taranto each got off five shots.

The Aces had Sunday night off in Vegas and are scheduled to fly home Monday. Said Mazzolini in anticipation of Sunday night: “We’re on our best behavior, but having fun.’’

The Aces on Friday night open a three-game home series against the Bakersfield Condors (0-3-1) at Sullivan Arena in another “3 in 3’’ series.


Find Doyle Woody’s blog at or call him at 257-4335.


Aces2    0    1 — 3

Las Vegas0   0    0 — 0

First Period — 1, Aces, Mazzolini 1 (Trupp, Sivak), 4:12 (pp); 2, Aces, Coffman 4 (Connolly, Syvret), 13:22. Penalties — Mentink, Las Vegas, major (fighting), :04; Molle, Aces, major (fighting), :04; Finucci, Las Vegas (delay of game-puck over glass), :38; Huxley, Las Vegas (boarding), 3:28; Paukovich, Las Vegas (tripping), 6:15.

Second Period — None. Penalties — Trupp, Aces (tripping), 1:08; Aces bench minor, served by Farmer (too many men), 10:42; Cook, Las Vegas (interference), 18:06.

Third Period — 3, Aces, Kremyr 2 (Molle), 15:47. Penalties — Mazzolini, Aces (hooking), 1:00; Mentink, Las Vegas (interference), 6:54; Molle, Aces, double-minor (roughing, unsportsmanlike conduct), 10:15; Huxley, Las Vegas, double-minor (roughing), 19:13.

Shots on goal — Aces 16-11-16—43. Las Vegas 2-9-7—18.

Power-play Opportunities — Aces 1 of 6.  Las Vegas 0 of 5.

Goalies — Aces, Ortio, 3-1-0 (18 shots-18 saves). Las Vegas, O’Keefe, 0-2-0 (43-40).

A — 3,882 (7,773). T – 2:22.

Referee — Stephen Reneau. Linesmen — Wally Lacroix, Todd Owen.