Aces knock off Grizzlies 5-3

Doyle Woody

For a long stretch there — 14 games — Alaska Aces winger Tommy Mele couldn’t sniff a goal. Saturday night, he scored for the third straight game and was one of five different goal scorers in a 5-3 win over the Utah Grizzlies.

Winger Ross Ring-Jarvi had one goal and two assists in his first 15 hockey games this season. Saturday, he bagged one goal and one helper, which gives him seven points in the last four games and nine in the last seven.

Winger Shawn Skelly only cracked the lineup in three of the club’s previous eight hockey games. Saturday, he racked a power-play goal and two assists.

And defenseman Brad Gorham, well, he’s an engineer for BP who does the two-weeks-on, two-weeks-off gig on North Slope and helps out the Aces when they need it. Saturday, he scored his first goal as a pro.

Even though abundant injuries — and add winger Brendan Connolly to the casualties — and call-ups have reduced the Aces to less than their optimal lineup, they are getting production from many precincts. Ten different Aces scored at least a point Saturday, when Olivier Roy stopped 26 shots and the Aces closed their six-game season series against the Grizzlies at 5-1-0.

As the Aces (17-7-1) headed into the Christmas break with Saturday’s series sweep-clinching win over Utah, they also hit the hiatus unbeaten in regulation in their last six games (5-0-1).

“As of late, we’ve been mixing up the lines, giving guys different looks and opportunities, and they’re cashing in,’’ Skelly said.

Skelly one-timed home a first-period, power-play goal off a tic-tac-toe sequence, just as Mele did earlier in the period.

“He’s very effective with his skill set,’’ Aces coach Rob Murray said of Skelly. “You get him on the power play, get a nice set, and he’s going to do damage. I liked all aspects of his game tonight, power play and even strength.’’

Ring-Jarvi sealed victory with his empty-net goal with 71 seconds left.

On a night when the Aces received the first seven power plays of a testy game — Alaska has played Utah six times in the last nine games — they forged a 4-2 lead on second-period goals from Jordan Kremyr (one goal, one assist) and Gorham.

“It was a good feeling,’’ Gorham said, who has helped the Aces out for two seasons after four at UAA, his hometown school. “I haven’t scored in a couple of years.’’

Utah’s Vinny Scarsella deflected Channing Boe’s power-play blast past Roy midway through the third period to cut Alaska’s lead to 4-3. But Roy and the Aces held firm until Ring-Jarvi leached the drama from the outcome.

“As long as we’re grinding out points, that’s all that matters,’’ Mele said.

Utah (7-14-3) is badly in need of points. The Grizzlies are winless in their last seven games (0-6-1).

Whether Connolly will be back for Alaska’s next game, Friday against Western Conference-leading Ontario, is unclear.

Early in the third period, Connolly blew down the right wing and unleashed a shot. Just as he unloaded the puck, Utah’s Kris Hogg slashed Connolly in the face and the winger crashed heavily into the end boards. Hogg, crouched over Connolly, appeared contrite and concerned — he immediately signaled to the benches that Connolly was in distress.

Connolly left the ice under his own power, but he’s a mess and surely due for dental surgery at the least. He left the arena bleeding from his mouth, using a paper cup to catch the blood.

Hogg received a four-minute high-sticking penalty, but the Aces were unable to convert.

They’re winning. Sometimes, it doesn’t look elegant, but points are points.

“(Assistant coach Louis Mass) and I both feel we can play a cleaner game as a team,’’ Murray said. “We’re still having some hiccups, mostly with defensive-zone coverage.’’

Still, they’ve earned 11 of 12 points available in the last six games.

Not a bad way to put some cheer in the holidays.


Shuffling the deck

Kremyr was so eager to get the puck from Gorham’s first pro goal that he went to the Utah net and dug it out even as Grizzlies goalie Ben Meisner was still on his back.

Captain Nick Mazzolini and fellow center Mathew Sisca each furnished an assist to extend their point streaks to five games.

Alaska is 9-2-0 at home. Utah is a league-worst 1-10-0 on the road.

After the teams engaged in scrums after nearly every whistle midway through the game, referee Don Jablonski skated to both benches and scolded them. That’s the officiating equivalent of the father yelling into the back seat of the family ride: “Don’t make pull this car over.’’


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Utah 1  1  1 —  3

Aces 2  2  1 —  5

First Period  — 1, Utah, Hogg 6 (Zahn, Pelech), 4:31; 2, Aces, Mele 6 (Skelly, Trupp), 13:33 (pp); 3, Aces, Skelly 3 (Mazzolini, MacKenzie), 19:55 (pp). Penalties  — Zahn, Utah (cross-checking), 2:21; Kremyr, Aces (roughing), 5:05; O’Brien, Utah, double-minor, served by Jelitto (roughing), 5:05; Vallorani, Utah, double-minor (high-sticking), 11:37; Parker, Aces, major (fighting), 19:34; Paquette, Utah, minor-major (boarding, fighting), 19:34; Ezekiel, Utah, double-minor (attempted spearing), 19:34.

Second Period  — 4, Utah, Zahn 2 (Gwidt, MacQueen), 2:56 (sh); 5, Aces, Kremyr 8 (Ring-Jarvi, Skelly), 14:25; 6, Aces, Gorham 1 (Sisca, Kremyr), 16:11. Penalties  — Kremyr, Aces (unsportsmanlike conduct), 7:03; Kremyr, Aces (roughing), 9:16; Pelech, Utah (roughing), 9:16; Crum, Aces (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:25; Paquette, Utah (unsportsmanlike conduct), 14:25; Gorham, Aces (boarding), 17:32.

Third Period  — 7, Utah, Scarsella 3 (Boe, Paquette), 11:06 (pp); 8, Aces, Ring-Jarvi 3 (Richard), 18:49 (en). Penalties  — Hogg, Utah, double-minor (high-sticking), 3:05; Sisca, Aces (hooking), 9:57; Gorham, Aces (misconduct), 18:41; Paquette, Utah (misconduct), 18:41.

Shots on goal  — Utah 6-12-11—29. Aces 14-8-6—28.

Power-play Opportunities  — Utah 1 of 3. Aces 2 of 9.

Goalies  — Utah, Meisner, 2-8-0 (28 shots-24 saves). Aces, Roy, 7-5-0 (29-27).

A  — 4,586 (6,399). T  — 2:31.

Referee  — Don Jablonski. Linesmen  — Scott Sivulich, Travis Jackson.