The Alaska Aces' Kelly Cup playoffs opening 5-1 win over the Las Vegas Wranglers made them just one of two higher seeds to win in the first eight games of the playoffs.
Granted, one of those wins by a lower seed -- Stockton's 3-1 victory over Ontario -- actually came on home ice. Ontario could not start the series at its rink because it was not available.
By now, you may know that Aces captain Nick Mazzolini tonight delivered 1-2--3 totals, that Jordan Morrison racked the first two-goal playoff game of his ECHL career, that Peter Sivak had one goal and one assist, Drew MacKenzie had a power-play goal, Brett Findlay delivered two helpers and Gerald Coleman made 19 saves.
Also worth noting was a strong performance defensively by the home team at Sullivan Arena. Sound job blocking shots and getting sticks in passing lanes.
Las Vegas would have been in much worse trouble if Travis Fullerton had not made some terrific saves. He got his blocker on Mazzolini's 2-on-1 bid in the first period. He made a nice back door save on Corey Syvret's power-play bid in the second period and snuffed quality chances by Andy Taranto and Turner Elson in the third period, when he also closed his pads to stop Morrison's bid for a hat trick.
Little things make a difference, and combine to make a larger difference. Elson got his stick in a passing lane on one LV power play, defenseman James Martin won a first-period board battle and broke the puck out of the zone crisply. Alex Belzile had a big blocked shot. And Zach McKelvie nicely cleared the puck from Coleman's crease midway through the third period.
Just how much coach Rob Murray likes his defense was obvious by the one blueliner who did not dress. Brad Richard was a healthy scratch, and all he did in a season in which he showed considerable improvement was make the ECHL's All-Rookie Team.
All in all, it was a very sound performance by the Aces, who got some breathing room -- a 3-1 lead -- when MacKenzie and Morrison scored 26 seconds apart late in the first period. Morrison's goal 37 seconds into the second period pumped the lead to 4-1.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com