The journey home Sunday after an eight-game road trip that covered nearly three weeks will be a bit more bearable for the Alaska Aces after they wrapped the roadie with a 5-4 win at Idaho on Saturday night.
Not that there weren't a few tense moments for the visitors before the horn blared to end the ECHL hockey game at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.
With the game seemingly in hand after Aces captain Nick Mazzolini's goal eight minutes into the third period pushed their lead to four goals, the Steelheads promptly reeled off three goals in a span of 82 seconds. That gave them more than nine minutes to forge the equalizer, but they could not do so in match they twice trailed by four goals - 4-0 and 5-1.
The Aces persevered to finish the road trip 3-4-1, a pretty modest windfall by their lofty standards.
Still, they improved to 14-7-1 and now return home to the comfort of an eight-game homestand at Sullivan Arena that opens Wednesday when they entertain Utah in the opener of a three-game series.
After generating just 11 goals - that's not counting the "team'' goal in a 1-0 shootout win at Utah last week - Alaska finally got its offense kick-started Saturday. The five goals were the Aces' most in a game on the road trip - until Saturday, they never scored more than three goals in a game on the roadie.
After Mazzolini furnished the Aces a 5-1 lead, winger David Eddy received a double minor for slashing and roughing. Idaho's Gaelan Patterson and Justin Mercier delivered power-play strikes 59 seconds apart, and Anthony Nigro soon followed at even strength with his team-high 14th goal and second of the night.
That made for anxious moments, but the Aces held off the Steelheads (13-7-4), who gave the Aces six power plays before they finally got one of their own.
Alaska took a 1-0 lead on Brendan Connolly's goal late in the first period and doubled it on Jordan Kremyr's goal four minutes into the second period. Ben Parker's power-play goal and Mathew Sisca's even-strength marker earned the Aces a 4-0 cushion deep into the second period before Nigro scored.
Alaska's power play, which went 1 for 8 Saturday, continues to be a concern. The Aces converted just 3 of 43 power-play chances on the eight-game trip while their opponents went 7 for 41. Idaho went 5 for 13 on the power play in the three-game series in which the Steelheads won the first two games.
Alaska, which picked up a point in the standings in Friday's 4-3 overtime loss, outshot Idaho 40-27 on Saturday.
Olivier Roy made 23 saves to pick up the win for the Aces. Pat Nagle stopped 35 shots for Idaho.
The Aces on Saturday released defenseman Jason Cohen of Anchorage after he played four games for them. They had plucked him from the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
Aces 1 3 1 5
Idaho 0 1 3 4
First Period - 1, Aces, Connolly 7 (Coffman), 17:58. Penalties - Cullity, Idaho (tripping), :36; Good, Idaho (slashing), 19:23.
Second Period - 2, Aces, Kremyr 7, 3:56; 3, Aces, Parker 2 (Richard, Eddy), 8:29 (pp); 4, Aces, Sisca 4 (Ring-Jarvi, Richard), 13:43; 5, Idaho, Nigro 13 (Cullity, Kipp), 17:39. Penalties - Wahl, Idaho (cross-checking), 1:49; Good, Idaho (cross-checking), 8:29; B. Robinson, Idaho, double minor-misconduct (slashing, unsportsmanlike conduct), 9:53; Coffman, Aces (hooking), 10:49.
Third Period - 6, Aces, Mazzolini 7 (Ring-Jarvi), 8:04; 7, Idaho, Patterson 3 (Mercier), 9:23 (pp); 8, Idaho, Mercier 10 (Patterson), 10:22 (pp). Penalties - Mercier, Idaho (boarding), 1:43; Wahl, Idaho, double minor (roughing), 2:26; Richard, Aces, double minor (roughing), 2:26; Reum, Idaho (interference), 5:40; Good, Idaho, major (fighting), 8:57; Martin, Aces, major (fighting), 8:57; Eddy, Aces, double minor-misconduct (slashing, roughing), 8:57.
Shots on goal - Aces 13-17-10--40. Idaho 7-9-11--27.
Power-play Opportunities - Aces 1 of 8. Idaho 2 of 3.
Goalies - Aces, Roy, 4-5-0 (27 shots-23 saves). Idaho, Nagle, 5-5-2 (40-35).
A - 3,943 (5,006). T - 2:28.
Referee - Peter Tarnaris. Linesmen - Scott DeBaugh, Andrew Wetzel.
By DOYLE WOODY