Former Alaska Aces forward Alex Hudson scored with 31.9 seconds left in regulation Saturday night to lift the Colorado Eagles to a 3-2 home-ice, regular season-ending victory over the Aces.
For the Aces, that meant -- well, nothing really.
The Aces' 5-0 victory at Colorado on Friday night clinched their fourth straight Brabham Cup as ECHL regular-season champs and assured them home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Friday's result rendered Saturday's game at the Budweiser Events Center relatively meaningless for the Aces. It was on the schedule and they're professionals, so they played it.
Of course, the match was meaningful for the Eagles, who also closed their regular season and still hope to climb one spot into fifth place in the Western Conference. They must await the result of Sunday's Las Vegas at Bakersfield game to see whether they rise past Bakersfield into the fifth spot.
The Aces open the playoffs when they entertain Las Vegas at Sullivan Arena on Friday night in Game 1 of the best-of-7 series.
The Aces finished 45-19-7 to earn 97 points in the standings for the third time in the last four seasons. They played just 71 games instead of the traditional 72 because the entire Western Conference schedule was adjusted after the San Francisco Bulls folded in late January.
Alaska's All-ECHL winger, Peter Sivak, assisted on Andy Taranto's first-period goal and scored 71 seconds into the second period to rack his 21st multiple-point game in 67 appearances this season. He led the Aces in goals, assists and points with 31-52--83 totals, furnishing the franchise's highest point total since Wes Goldie's 83 points in 72 games in 2010-11, when Goldie was voted the circuit's Most Valuable Player. Sivak's 52 assists were the most by an Aces skater since defenseman Peter Metcalf delivered 53 helpers in 62 games in 2007-08, when Metcalf was All-ECHL.
Sivak also won the league's Sportsmanship Award -- he took just five minor penalties all season -- and Monday will be honored with the league's Plus Performer of the Year Award. Sivak, who was plus-2 Saturday, finished plus-49.
The Aces surrendered a league-low 164 goals this regular season. They allowed just 2.31 goals per game, the fifth-stingiest mark in the ECHL's 26-season history.
The Aces also delivered the league's highest goal differential this season at plus-79, after scoring 243 goals and surrendering just 164. That plus-79 is the third-highest in the franchise's 11-season ECHL, behind the plus-121 generated by the 2005-06 team that went on to seize the first of the team's two Kelly Cups and the plus-94 earned by the 2006-07 team.
Alaska coach Rob Murray used Saturday to give some players a break heading into the postseason. Captain and first-line center Nick Mazzolini got the night off, as did No. 1 goaltender Gerald Coleman and defenseman James Martin.
Murray's only serious concern Saturday was the potential for injuries, and he reported his crew made it through the game safely.
Shuffling the deck
Winger Evan Trupp assisted on both Aces goals to finish the regular season with a six-game point streak in which he contributed 3-8--11 totals.
Sivak scored one goal in all three games in the series.
The Aces went 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, which were all on the road.
The Aces' three shots on goal in the second period tied their fewest in a period this season and their 16 shots on goal tied their fewest in a game this season. Both marks tied those set Jan. 24 in a 4-3 loss at Colorado. The Eagles fired 30 shots Saturday, just as they did in that Jan. 24 game.
Aces winger David Eddy has been recalled to Abbotsford of the American Hockey League. That's basically a paper transaction. Eddy earlier this week said he was summoned to Abbotsford to continue his rehabilitation following hip surgery.
A total of 18 different Aces missed a combined 353 games with injuries this regular season. That's the most games missed since the totals have been unofficially tracked in the last six seasons.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Aces 1 1 0 -- 2
Colorado 0 2 1 -- 3
First Period -- 1, Aces, Taranto 13 (Sivak, Trupp), 4:28. Penalties -- Ramage, Aces, double-minor (roughing, slashing), 8:14; Hudson, Colorado (roughing), 8:14; Forsberg, Colorado (interference), 11:29.
Second Period -- 2, Aces, Sivak 31 (Taranto, Trupp), 1:11; 3, Colorado, Johnston 6 (Ulanski), 13:55 (pp); 4, Colorado, Beatty 2 (Hudson, Ulanski), 14:38. Penalties -- Nemec, Colorado (high-sticking), 9:15; Morrison, Aces (tripping), 12:36; Syvret, Aces (hooking), 15:40; Ostrow, Colorado (tripping), 17:38.
Third Period -- 5, Colorado, Hudson 13 (Birch, Daavettila), 19:28. Penalties -- Hau, Colorado (roughing), 12:42; Syvret, Aces (roughing), 12:42; Richard, Aces (cross-checking), 12:42; Forsberg, Colorado, misconduct (abuse of officials), 12:42.
Shots on goal -- Aces 6-3-7--16. Colorado 12-11-7--30.
Power-play Opportunities -- Aces 0 of 3. Colorado 1 of 4.
Goalies -- Aces, Crandall, 4-2-0 (30 shots-27 saves). Colorado, Butler, 6-8-1 (16-14).
A -- 5,289 (5,289). T -- 2:20.
Referee -- Frederic Leblanc. Linesmen -- Butch Mousseaux, Robert Keltie.
By DOYLE WOODY