Aces fall to Steelheads in shootout

Doyle Woody

According to the age-old rink rap, a two-goal lead is the most dangerous one in hockey.

The Alaska Aces and Idaho Steelheads did their damndest to prove that axiom Wednesday night.

The Aces surrendered an early two-goal advantage and the Steelheads blew a late two-goal cushion before Idaho earned a 6-5 ECHL shootout victory at CenturyLink Arena in Boise.

Idaho won the shootout, 3-2, in six rounds, with Rob Linsmayer, whose two goals midway through the third period gave the Steelheads a 5-3 lead, furnishing the winning strike. Pat Nagle (30 saves) snuffed Tyler Mosienko's bid and ended a game that lasted 2 hours, 42 minutes.

Jordan Morrison's goal for Alaska in the fifth round of a skills competition designated for five rounds extended the shootout to an extra inning.

By gaining the standings point in getting the game to extra time, the Aces (34-15-4) narrowly retained their league lead in winning percentage, which will decide the winner of the Brabham Cup as regular-season champion of the 21-team circuit. Alaska owns a .679 winning percentage, the Ontario Reign check in at .676 and the South Carolina Stingrays sit at .670.

Only twice this season have the Aces squandered a lead of two or more goals and lost. They led 3-0 at now-defunct San Francisco on Jan. 10 and lost 6-5 in overtime.

Coincidently, San Francisco's game-winning goal that night featured a primary assist by Morrison, who delivered the principal helper on Brad Richard's game-tying goal deep into the third period Wednesday.

"First of all, what we did well was come out of the first period leading 2-0,'' Aces coach Rob Murray said by cellphone. "And then we didn't protect the lead well enough, and it cost us.

"But we really showed no quit.''

Things looked smooth for the Aces early on in the opener of a three-game road trip when Brendan Connolly and captain Nick Mazzolini scored first-period goals to provide a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.

But the Steelheads reeled off three second-period goals -- Mitch Wahl, Luke Judson and rookie winger William Rapuzzi of Anchorage did the honors -- in a span of 5:10 to seize a 3-2 lead.

Just 29 seconds after Rapuzzi's go-ahead goal, the Steelheads went on a power play. Yet on a night when a nearly full house -- announced attendance was 4,469 in a building that seats 5,006 - witnessed a crazy game, Mazzolini promptly scored on a short-handed breakaway to forge a 3-3 tie.

Linsmayer's goals 81 seconds apart midway through the third period -- he was on the doorstep of Gerald Coleman's crease both times -- restored Idaho's lead and generated its only two-goal lead of the evening.

"The two goals Linsmayer scored were soft, not on Gerald's part, but on our defensemen in front of the net,'' Murray said. "We weren't battling in front of the net.''

Still, Idaho's advantage went poof.

Alaska's Brett Findlay scored 64 seconds after Linsmayer's second goal, with Morrison providing the primary assist, to trim Idaho's lead to 5-4.

Alaska defenseman Brad Richard, the victim of a Mitch Wahl boarding penalty that precipitated a heated exchange early in the period and earned Aces winger Brendan Connolly a game misconduct from his fight with Wahl, got some revenge by securing the game-tying goal with less than four minutes left in regulation.

Like Nagle, Coleman stopped 30 shots in regulation and overtime. He was also in net for that wild 6-5 OT loss to San Francisco -- that game and Wednesday's marked the two highest-scoring games among the Aces' 53 this season.

The Aces on Thursday are scheduled to bus to Utah, where they play the Grizzlies on Friday and Saturday nights.

Shuffling the deck

Aces defenseman James Martin returned to the lineup after missing 15 games. He had surgery to remove a benign tumor from his knee that he has said he first noticed as a 12-year-old and that had recently begun to hamper his mobility.

Martin was minus-3 in his return and Mathew Sisca also went minus-3. On the other hand, center Mazzolini, winger Peter Sivak and defenseman Zach Davies all went plus-3.

Sivak had three assists for the Aces to give him a team-leading 16 multiple-point games this season. Mazzolini's two goals marked his 10th multiple-point game and Connolly's goal and assist was his 12th multiple-point game. Connolly scored a goal for the third straight game and owns 3-3--6 totals in his four-game point streak.

Rapuzzi's one-goal, one-assist game was his 10th multiple-point game and former UAA winger Tommy Grant's two assists marked his seventh multiple-point game.

Wednesday's game was the finale of the 12-game season series between Alaska and Idaho. The Aces went 6-3-3, the Steelheads went 6-5-1.

The Aces are 12-8-2 on the road. They have 18 regular-season games remaining, six at home and 12 on the road.

Former Aces defenseman Russ Sinkewich made his Steelheads debut after arriving in Boise on Wednesday afternoon. He had one shot on goal and an even rating.

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

Idaho wins shootout 3-2 in six rounds

Aces 2 1 2 0 -- 5

Idaho 0 3 2 1 -- 6

First Period -- 1, Aces, Connolly 17 (Sivak, Richard), 10:07; 2, Aces, Mazzolini 19 (Connolly, Sivak), 18:33. Penalties -- de Kastrozza, Idaho (slashing), 14:44.

Second Period -- 3, Idaho, Wahl 14 (Nigro), 4:02; 4, Idaho, Judson 9 (Rapuzzi, Grant), 7:10; 5, Idaho, Rapuzzi 12 (Grant, Judson), 9:12; 6, Aces, Mazzolini 20 (Sivak), 9:53 (sh). Penalties -- MacKenzie, Aces (tripping), 9:41; Judson, Idaho (holding), 14:09; Richard, Idaho (interference), 16:25; Richard, Aces (interference), 16:25.

Third Period -- 7, Idaho, Linsmayer 11 (Nigro, Button), 8:54; 8, Idaho, Linsmayer 12 (Walters, Dodero), 10:15; 9, Aces, Findlay 14 (Morrison, Curry), 11:19; 10, Aces, Richard 4 (Morrison, Findlay), 16:44. Penalties -- Wahl, Idaho, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 4:23; Connolly, Aces, minor-major-game misconduct (roughing, fighting), 4:23; Dodero, Idaho (roughing), 4:23; Judson, Idaho (tripping), 13:19.

Overtime -- None. Penalties -- None.

Shots on goal -- Aces 11-11-12-1--35. Idaho 10-15-9-1--35.

Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 4. Idaho 0 of 2.

Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 10-4-2 (35 shots-30 saves). Idaho, Nagle, 18-11-4 (35-30).

A -- 4,469 (5,006). T -- 2:42.

Referee -- Stephen Reneau. Linesmen -- Scott DeBaugh, Andrew Wetzel.