In Andy Taranto's injury-plagued rookie season with the Alaska Aces -- a bum leg cost him three games and a shoulder injury shelved him for 27 -- he still has not lacked for opportunity when healthy.
In his first 14 games, the former UAF winger unloaded 41 shots on goal for an average of three shots per game, and many of his chances were glorious. He furnished four goals in that span.
Saturday night, Taranto really unlimbered the ammunition, racking his first pro hat trick on an astonishing nine shots on goal and propelling the Aces to a 6-2 victory at ECHL Western Conference-leading Ontario.
Oh, the usual suspects chipped in too. Peter Sivak scored a goal for the seventh straight game and captain Nick Mazzolini also furnished one, as did Brett Findlay. Sivak leads the Aces with 20 goals and Mazzolini ranks second with 18.
And newcomer Tyler Mosienko, the veteran and former Las Vegas Wranglers center the Aces signed Saturday, made a strong first impression with two assists and a plus-3 rating.
On a night when the Aces outshot the Reign, 27-18, before an announced crowd of 9,584, Taranto and Sivak (seven shots) combined for 16 shots on goal.
Taranto, who joined the Aces late last season after finishing a Nanook career in which he scored 59 goals in 146 career games, owns a hard, accurate shot and a goal scorer's touch.
His first goal, off assists from Evan Trupp (two assists) and Mosienko, came late in the first period at Citizens Business Bank Arena in California and answered an early goal by the Reign's Gasper Kopitar, the younger brother of Los Angeles Kings star center and Slovenian Olympian Anze Kopitar.
Findlay and Taranto scored 24 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the second period to stake the Aces to a 3-1 lead that Ontario trimmed to 3-2 on Cameron Burt's power-play strike midway through the period.
Sivak's goal early in the third period, off a Mosienko helper shortly after Mosienko was released from the penalty box, pumped Alaska's lead to 4-2. Mazzolini and Taranto added goals.
Gerald Coleman made 16 saves for the Aces.
The Reign, meanwhile, continue to have problems between the pipes. Michael Hutchinson proved their anchor in the first half of the season, going 22-4-2 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .921 save percentage.
But since NHL Winnipeg recalled Hutchinson to St. John's of the American Hockey League -- the head coach there is former Aces defenseman and head coach Keith McCambridge -- Jussi Olkinuora, sent down from St. John's, has not proved anywhere near Hutchinson's equal.
Saturday, Olkinuora surrendered six goals on 27 shots to fall to 6-7-1 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .873 save percentage.
Alaska (32-12-3) trails Ontario (32-13-5) by two points in the conference standings, but has played three fewer games and owns a league-leading .713 winning percentage.
Sivak, who also had an assist, and Mazzolini each extended their point streaks to eight games.
The Aces on Sunday afternoon play a matinee against the Reign, then head north to Bakersfield for a Monday matinee against the Bakersfield Condors.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces1 2 3 -- 6
Ontario1 1 0 -- 2
First Period -- 1, Ontario, Kopitar 5 (White, Burt), 8:27; 2, Aces, Taranto 5 (Trupp, Mosienko), 15:49. Penalties -- None.
Second Period -- 3, Aces, Findlay 12 (Morrison, Molle), 1:52; 4, Aces, Taranto 6, 2:16; 5, Ontario, Burt 5 (Kitsyn, Gron), 11:51 (pp). Penalties -- Van de Mosselaer, Ontario (tripping), 6:27; Connolly, Aces (high-sticking), 10:04.
Third Period -- 6, Aces, Sivak 20 (Mosienko), 5:28; 7, Aces, Mazzolini 18 (Davies, Sivak), 8:03; 8, Aces, Taranto 7 (Trupp), 18:03. Penalties -- Mosienko, Aces (tripping), 3:16; Lyon, Ontario, major (fighting), 13:32; McKelvie, Aces, minor-major (slashing, fighting), 13:32; Sheen, Ontario, major (fighting), 15:54; Elson, Aces, major (fighting), 15:54.
Shots on goal -- Aces 8-11-8--27. Ontario 4-7-7--18.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 1. Ontario 1 of 3.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 9-2-1 (18 shots-16 saves). Ontario, Olkinuora, 6-7-1 (27-21).
A -- 9,584 (9,616). T -- 2:20.
Referee -- Nic Leduc. Linesmen -- Tanner Nua, Michel Voyer.
By DOYLE WOODY