The Alaska Aces enter the 2014 ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs with the highest postseason winning percentage in league history at .646 -- no other franchise possesses a winning percentage above .600 -- and the two-time Cup-winning franchise has proved adept at home and on the road.
Alaska owns a 40-22 playoff record (.645) at home and a 42-23 playoff record (.646) on the road.
The Aces have won their opening playoff series in nine of their 10 ECHL postseasons, and they've usually enjoyed an easy time of it -- witness their 35-10 record (.778) in opening series.
Alaska opens these playoffs Friday night at Sullivan Arena, where it entertains the Las Vegas Wranglers in Game 1 of a best-of-7, Western Conference quarterfinal series.
On paper, this series is lopsided. The Aces finished with the league's best record in the regular season (45-19-7) to win a fourth consecutive Brabham Cup, and went 11-2 against the Wranglers (20-44-8), who finished last among 21 teams. Put another way, the Aces finished the season with more than twice as many points as the Wranglers, 97 to 48.
Of course, in Alaska's first ECHL playoffs in 2004, its opening-round opponent was Brabham Cup winner San Diego, which earned 26 more points than the Aces in the regular season. The Aces swept that best-of-5 series in three games, winning Games 1 and 2 in San Diego after going 0-3-2 there in the regular season.
For what it's worth, in nine of the ECHL's previous 25 seasons, the Brabham Cup winner has been eliminated in the opening round. Still, it hasn't happened since 2005, when Pensacola fell to Greenville in four games of a best-of-5 series.
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Rulers of their opening round
In the Alaska Aces’ 10 previous ECHL Kelly Cup playoff appearances, they have advanced out of their opening series nine times, and usually in dominating fashion — the Aces own a 35-10 record (.778 winning percentage) in opening-round games.
Their only opening-round series loss came in 2010, when the Stockton Thunder beat them in four games in a best-of-5 series that features Games 1 and 2 in Wasilla because Sullivan Arena was not available. Only once in an opening-round series have the Aces been extended to a decisive game — they beat Bakersfield in Game 5 of a best-of-5 series in 2005.
In current coach Rob Murray’s previous two seasons, the Aces won both their best-of-7, opening-round series in five games. Alaska opens the playoffs Friday when it entertains the Las Vegas Wranglers at Sullivan Arena in Game 1 of a best-of-7, Western Conference quarterfinal series.
Here’s how the Aces have done in their opening round in previous seasons:
2013San Francisco BullsAces 4-1
2012*Stockton ThunderAces 4-1
2011*Idaho SteelheadsAces 4-0
2010Stockton ThunderThunder 3-1
2009Utah GrizzliesAces 4-1
2008Idaho SteelheadsAces 4-0
2007Victoria Salmon KingsAces 4-2
2006Utah GrizzliesAces 4-0
2005Bakersfield CondorsAces 3-2
2004San Diego GullsAces 3-0
*Denotes second-round Kelly Cup series; Aces earned first-round bye.
By DOYLE WOODY