The Alaska Aces' last 10 regular-season ECHL games are on the road, but there's one upside to that schedule: Four of those games are against the Las Vegas Wranglers, the league's worst team.
Given the Aces (40-17-5) are leading the circuit and won eight of their first nine games against the Wranglers this hockey season, getting points against the Wranglers should be likely.
That was the case Thursday night, when the Aces made easy work of the Wranglers, 4-1, at Orleans Arena in Nevada.
Alex Belzile bagged two goals for the Aces, captain Nick Mazzolini added a goal and an assist, and defenseman Corey Syvret matched Mazzolini.
After Syvret scored his first goal of the season to give the Aces a 1-0 lead through 20 minutes -- he's only played in 19 games this season because of injuries -- the Aces exploited the Wranglers' league-worst, penalty-killing unit in the second period.
Belzile's even-strength goal was answered by a strike from Las Vegas defenseman Charlie Cook, but then the Aces scored two power-play goals in 57 seconds to expand their lead to 4-1. With Matt Tassone doing time for cross-checking Mazzolini, Belzile scored on a backhander. Just 33 seconds later, Chad Nehring went off for boarding Alaska's Tim Coffman and Mazzolini promptly bombed home a one-timer.
Aces goaltender Gerald Coleman stopped 24 shots. Las Vegas' Travis Fullerton stopped 39 shots.
The Aces strengthened their lineup both Wednesday and Thursday.
Wednesday, the Abbotsford Heat assigned winger Evan Trupp of Anchorage back to the Aces and also sent them rookie defenseman John Ramage. Both were in the lineup against Las Vegas.
Thursday, the Aces signed former Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Aaron Crandall to serve as Coleman's back-up. The Aces needed a second masked man because NHL Buffalo earlier in the week recalled Connor Knapp to Rochester of the American Hockey League. Olivier Roy, who has played more games than any other Aces goalie this season, remains up with the Abbotsford Heat, Alaska's affiliate in the AHL.
Alaska plays Saturday and Sunday at Stockton, then play Tuesday at Bakersfield before returning to Las Vegas for a three-game set. After that, the team will return home because it has 10 days off from games. The Aces close the regular season with three games at Colorado.
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Aces 1 3 0 -- 4
Las Vegas 0 1 0 -- 1
First Period -- 1, Aces, Syvret 1 (Sivak, Mazzolini), 19:03. Penalties -- Coburn, Las Vegas (high-sticking), 14:24.
Second Period -- 2, Aces, Belzile 2 (Findlay, Morrison), 7:47; 3, Las Vegas, Cook 4 (Armstrong, Skelly), 11:14; 4, Aces, Belzile 3, 13:08 (pp); 5, Aces, Mazzolini 22 (Syvret, Martin), 14:05 (pp). Penalties -- Tassone, Las Vegas (cross-checking), 12:42; Nehring, Las Vegas (boarding), 13:41; Martin, Aces (roughing), 18:55.
Third Period -- None. Penalties -- Tassone, Las Vegas (hooking), 1:21; Trupp, Aces (tripping), 5:39; Paukovich, Las Vegas (high-sticking), 8:48.
Shots on goal -- Aces 16-15-12--43. Las Vegas 7-12-6--25.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 2 of 5. Las Vegas 0 of 2.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 13-6-3 (25 shots-24 saves). Las Vegas, Fullerton, 10-18-6 (43-39).
A -- 3,333 (7,773). T -- 2:33.
Referee -- Stephen Reneau. Linesmen -- Steven Walsh, Brett Martin.
By DOYLE WOODY