Inside the opening 16 minutes Sunday afternoon, the only question yet unanswered at Stockton Arena was the weight of the anvil the Alaska Aces would drop on the Stockton Thunder.
The eventual answer: Heavy enough to crush the home team.
The Aces reeled off four first-period goals and the first six goals of the ECHL hockey game to furnish goaltender Aaron Crandall a comfortable pro debut and cruise to a 7-2 victory.
Alaska (41-17-6) matched its most prolific goal production of the season, and its three power-play goals also matched its season high on the way to regaining the overall league lead over idle Ontario and running its point streak to five games (4-0-1).
Third-year Aces winger Evan Trupp of Anchorage delivered the first four-point game in his play-for-pay career and was one of six Aces to deliver multiple points.
Here's how it went for the Thunder (29-27-6): Starting goaltender Parker Milner gave up four goals on 12 shots before getting the gate, but his replacement, Brian Foster, allowed three goals on five shots, and Milner ended up back in net for the third period.
The five-goal spread was just shy of Alaska's biggest blowout this season - the benchmark remains the Aces' 6-0 victory over visiting Las Vegas, 6-0, in January.
Crandall's pro debut was moved up to Sunday because Aces veteran goaltender Gerald Coleman was injured in Saturday night's 5-4 overtime loss after twice being run into by Stockton players. One of those collisions came from Stockton's Matt Bergland, which is how Aces winger Brett Findlay came to fight Bergland off the opening draw Sunday - both skaters were issued roughing minors.
In any event, Crandall stopped 17 shots and was gifted the best introduction a new masked man can receive - a lickety-split, four-goal cushion.
"He was good,'' Aces coach Rob Murray said by cellphone. "I had no issues with his game. We limit a team to 19 shots, we should win with any goalie. That being said, he had to make some quality saves.''
Murray said Coleman suffered an upper-body injury but isn't yet certain how much time his No. 1 goaltender might miss. Crandall was signed earlier this week, after closing his career at Minnesota-Duluth, because goalie Olivier Roy has long been up with the Abbotsford Heat, Alaska's American Hockey League affiliate.
Murray said he will soon speak with officials from the Heat and the parent Calgary Flames of the NHL to determine his club's goaltending situation.
After sticking up for his fallen goalie, Findlay charged out of the penalty box Sunday to score just 2:10 into the game. Peter Sivak followed with a power-play strike less than three minutes later and Trupp - he assisted on the goals from Findlay and Sivak -- added two goals to pump Alaska's lead to 4-0 and chase Milner.
"We really jumped on them in the first period,'' Murray said. "Trupp was really good, he worked his magic. That was the game, basically.''
Jordan Morrison scored on the power play early in the second period and Zach McKelvie, a defenseman playing some forward, added his first goal as an Aces, short-handed no less, to give Alaska a 6-0 lead less than six minutes into the second period.
The rest of the game was merely bookkeeping.
Shuffling the deck
The 19 shots the Aces limited Stockton to marked the 14th time this season their opponent has mustered fewer than 20 shots - Alaska is 11-3-0 in those games. The Aces have only been held below 20 shots twice - they went 1-1-0 in those games.
Alaska's four-goal first period was its fifth four-goal period of the season. The Aces have scored three or more goals in a period 19 times this season.
The Aces finished their season series with the Thunder at 5-1-1.
Findlay extended his point streak to five games and owns 4-3--7 totals in that span. He has scored a goal in four of the last five games.
Also stretching point streaks to five games were Sivak (3-3--6) and captain Nick Mazzolini (3-3--6).
The scoring from Saturday's game was corrected and winger Turner Elson received two more assists to give him three for that game. Also, a goal initially credited to Trupp was corrected to credit defenseman Drew MacKenzie, who had two assists Sunday for his second straight multiple-point game.
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Aces 4 3 0 7
Stockton 0 2 0 2
First Period - 1, Aces, Findlay 19 (Mosienko, Trupp), 2:10; 2, Aces, Sivak 27 (Syvret, Trupp), 4:54 (pp); 3, Aces, Trupp 13 (Mazzolini, MacKenzie), 9:40; 4, Aces, Trupp 14 (Sivak, MacKenzie), 15:18. Penalties - Bergland, Stockton (roughing), :03; Findlay, Aces (roughing), :03; O'Connor, Stockton (holding), 3:57; Mazzolini, Aces (tripping), 7:04; Baldwin, Stockton (tripping), 7:57; Martin, Aces (tripping), 16:46; Mele, Aces (elbowing), 19:37.
Second Period - 5, Aces, Morrison (Findlay, Syvret), 2:11 (pp); 6, Aces, McKelvie 1, 5:26 (sh); 7, Stockton, Escobedo 6 (Oslanski, Diamond), 16:57 (pp); 8, Aces, Mele , 18:33. Penalties - Diamond, Stockton (tripping), 1:27; MacLeod, Stockton, major (fighting), 4:39; Curry, Aces, minor-major (instigator, fighting), 4:39; MacKenzie, Aces (tripping), 14:17; Syvret, Aces (holding), 16:03.
Third Period -- None. Penalties - Coderre-Gagnon, Stockton (interference), 5:20.
Shots on goal - Aces 13-4-11--28. Stockton 7-7-5--19.
Power-play Opportunities - Aces 3 of 4. Stockton 1 of 6.
Goalies - Aces, Crandall, 1-0-0 (19 shots-17 saves). Stockton, Milner, (7-11-1) (23-19); Foster, enter 15:18 1st period; exit end 2nd (5-2).
A - 4,037 (9,737). T - 2:19.
Referee - J.M. McNulty. Linesmen - Steven Walsh, Brett Martin.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY