TAs goofy as it sounds, considering the Alaska Aces got off to a dismal start and absorbed anguish in overtime, it’s conceivable that in three week’s time they could look back on Saturday night and actually give thanks.
Getting pierced in extra time never feels fantastic at the time, but the Aces’ 5-4 OT road loss to the Stockton Thunder came with a comforting caveat: With less than 11 minutes left in regulation, their odds of actually earning a point in the standings seemed longer than the twig used by Aces defenseman Corey Syvret.
Yet the Aces rallied for three goals in a span of 8 minutes, 15 seconds, to force extra time and gain a point in the standings.
That single point allowed the Aces (40-17-6) to remain tied with the Ontario Reign (40-17-6), who were 4-3 OT losers at Bakersfield, for the overall lead in the 21-team ECHL with matching .683 winning percentages.
And that’s important because the regular-season champion — that crown will be determined by winning percentage — earns the Brabham Cup and home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup playoffs.
“Like I said to the guys after the game, ‘Down three goals with half a period to play, not many people would give us a chance at getting a point, and we did,’ ‘’ Aces coach Rob Murray said by cellphone. “Who knows? It might come down to a point.’’
The Aces controlled much of the game at Stockton Arena and outshot the Thunder, 34-22. Yet as the teams approached the mid-point of the third period, Stockton led 4-1 and goaltender Brian Foster (30 saves) held the Aces in check.
Then the ice became terribly tilted against the home club.
Aces captain Nick Mazzolini cut the deficit to 4-2 with more than 10 minutes to go, and winger Brett Findlay and defenseman Drew MacKenzie scored goals 47 seconds apart inside the final three and a half minutes to get the Aces to overtime.
“Mazz’s goal came off a face-off play that got him a one-timer, and that gave us a little bit of jump, we got in on the forecheck and got some good looks,’’ Murray said. “I was really pleased with the way we didn’t quit. We just kept coming.
“You start to get to a point where you believe you can come back. You could just feel it on the bench — the energy level was extraordinary.’’
Alaska stretched its point streak to four games (3-0-1) and Stockton (29-26-6) snapped its three-game losing streak heading into a Sunday matinee between the teams.
The Thunder received the game-winning strike from former UAA blueliner Lee Baldwin, who banged home his own rebound.
Stockton started strongly, getting a goal from Corey Trivino less than two minutes into the game. Though Evan Trupp answered six minutes later, Ben Rosen and Trivino scored before the end of the first period to boost Stockton’s lead to 3-1. Joey Martin’s goal early in the second period pushed the lead to 4-1.
Trivino figured in all four Stockton goals in regulation, and his two-goal, two-assist night marked the second four-point career game for the second-year pro.
That the Aces secured a point was critical too because they’ll have to get the rest of their points on the road. Saturday’s game was the club’s second in a stretch that requires it to finish the season with 10 consecutive road games. The Aces play Tuesday in Bakersfield, then head back to Las Vegas — they beat the Wranglers 4-1 Thursday — for three games before getting a week off prior to a three-game, regular season-ending trip to Colorado.
Shuffling the deck
Murray said he will have to check with veteran goaltender Gerald Coleman (17 saves) to see if Coleman is good to go for Sunday’s matinee. He said the Thunder twice ran Coleman — “ran’’ in hockey lexicon means “ran into deliberately.’’
If Coleman needs a break, recent addition Aaron Crandall, fresh off his college career at Minnesota-Duluth, would make his first pro start.
Defenseman Brad Richard sat out the game in Las Vegas on Thursday with illness. Murray kept the same lineup Saturday that he used in Vegas because it was successful. That meant Richard was a scratch, but Murray said he could be back in the lineup Sunday.
Three Aces extended their point streaks to four games — Findlay (3-2—5 in that span), Mazzolini (2-3—5) and Peter Sivak, who had an assist (2-2—4
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
First Period -- 1, Stockton, Trivino 9 (Rosen, Bergland), 1:52; 2, Aces, Trupp 12, 8:05; 3, Stockton, Rosen 6 (Trivino), 13:50; 4, Stockton, Trivino 10 (Martin, Quine), 19:42 (pp). Penalties -- Hunt, Stockton, major-misconduct (fighting), :02; McKelvie, Aces, major-misconduct (fighting), :02; Spacek, Stockton (boarding), 4:16; Martin, Aces (cross-checking), 6:58; Baldwin, Stockton (cross-checking), 14:10; MacKenzie, Aces (interference), 17:56.
Second Period -- 5, Stockton, Martin 18 (Trivino), 3:35. Penalties -- Bergland, Stockton (interference), 6:46; Ramage, Aces (hooking), 12:46; Syvret, Aces (cross-checking), 15:17.
Third Period -- 6, Aces, Mazzolini 23 (MacKenzie, Sivak), 9:15; 7, Aces, Findlay 18 (Mosienko, Ramage), 16:38; 8,Aces, MacKenzie 3 (Trupp, Elson), 17:25. Penalties -- Diamond, Stockton (elbowing), 5:50; Curry, Aces (boarding), 10:05; Hayes, Stockton (cross-checking), 11:31; Henry, Stockton (roughing), 12:15; Trupp, Aces (roughing), 12:15; Escobedo, Stockton (tripping), 13:38.
Overtime -- 9, Stockton, Baldwin 7 (Martin, O'Conner), 2:46. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- Aces 10-9-14-1--34. Stockton 9-5-4-4--22.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 6. Stockton 1 of 5.
Goalies -- Aces, Coleman, 13-6-4 (22 shots-17 saves). Stockton, Foster, 21-13-4 (34-30).
A -- 5,825 (9,737). T -- 2:28.
Referee -- Stephen Reneau. Linesmen -- Steven Walsh, Brett Martin.
By DOYLE WOODY