Former foe Roy helps Aces beat Bakersfield in series opener

Mike Nesper

Olivier Roy is back in the ECHL Western Conference finals for a second straight season. His goal is the same as the last time -- reach the Kelly Cup finals.

This time, he's helping the Alaska Aces instead of dispatching them in six games as Roy and the Stockton Thunder did in last season's semifinals.

On Friday, the goaltender stopped 25 of 26 shots as the Aces grabbed a 1-0 lead in the best-of-7 series with a 2-1 win over Bakersfield at Sullivan Arena.

Perhaps Roy's biggest save was a pad stop on Greg Miller's wrist shot from the slot in the waning seconds with Bakersfield on a 6-on-4 advantage, having pulled netminder Laurent Brossoit following a hooking penalty on Alaska's Brendan Connollly.

"That was huge," Aces head coach Rob Murray said.

Settling the puck was difficult for both teams in a warm Sullivan Arena. The conditions sparked a few scrambles for possession in front of Roy, but he stayed solid, Murray said.

"He was focused and got the job done," he said.

Roy and Gerald Coleman have split time between the pipes the entire playoffs. The team and the coach have confidence in both, which makes the decision to stay with two goalies easier, said Murray. Coleman will get the goaltending nod in Game 2 Saturday.

"It's a luxury as a coach," Murray said. "Both of them are worthy of playing."

And both accept sharing that playing time.

"We have a lot of respect for each other," Roy said. "You have confidence when he's in net and I have confidence in myself."

Practices become more important for a goalie who only plays half the games -- "You've got to push yourself," Roy said, and try to simulate a game atmosphere.

But splitting time also allows for more rest, something Roy wished he had last season with Stockton. He said fatigue was a factor for the Thunder, who lost in five games to Reading in the Kelly Cup Finals.

When Roy said the when he came to Alaska, it was a bit awkward.

"The last time I saw them we were shaking hands" at the end of Stockton's series triumph, he said. But the Aces didn't hold a grudge against him.

"From the first day, they made me feel part of the team," Roy said.

Roy came to Alaska in an NHL deal between the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers that sent Brossoit -- who started the season with the Aces -- to Bakersfield. Roy also spent time this season in the American Hockey League with the Abbotsford Heat and Oklahoma City Barons. Three of the four goalies who dressed Friday all played games this season for the Barons -- Roy and both of Bakersfield's netminders.

After Chris Collins slid a close-range shot under Roy's pads with 5:15 left in the second period, the Aces goalie kept his net free of rubber the rest of the way.

"I had to keep my game," he said. "Give a chance to the boys in front of me."

That's what playoff hockey requires of goaltenders, Roy said.

"You've got to be focused," he said. "There's no time to let down.

"... Things can happen quickly. If you lose, it's over."

And the Aces have no intention of that happening.

"Our goal is to win the last game of the year," Roy said.

Shuffling the deck

The puck appeared to be bouncing far more than usual Friday night inside Sullivan Arena, and that made it difficult for either team to pass crisply or handle the puck with their usual skill.

The ice wasn't as hard and smooth as usual, several Aces said, not surprising since it was covered all week for Anchorage School District graduation ceremonies and temperatures have been unusually warm for spring.

"But they did a good job,'' Aces defenseman Kane Lafranchise said of the Sullivan crew that takes care of the ice. "After the first period, it got better.''

The Aces have won five consecutive playoff games since their 1-0 overtime loss to Idaho in Game 1 of the previous series. They are 4-1 in home playoff games this spring.

After being held without a point in Alaska's first five playoff games, Trupp has delivered 5-2--7 totals in the last five games, and his one-goal, one-assist performance Friday was his third multiple-point game in that span. He led the Aces with five shots on goal in Game 1.

"He had a helluva game,'' Lafranchise said.

Trupp's five goals tie winger Peter Sivak for the team lead. Sivak sat out his fourth straight game with an upper-body injury.

Aces defenseman Drew MacKenzie sat out with illness and veteran Sean Curry stepped back into the lineup in his place.

And that brings us to our hockey-is-a-small-world segment. Collins, who scored Bakersfield's goal, played two seasons (2006-07, 2007-08) for the AHL's Providence Bruins when Murray was an assistant coach with Providence. One of Collins' teammates in Providence was Curry. And another was Condors forward Jordan Knackstadt, who joined the Bruins late in the 2007-08 season after completing his major-junior career in the Western Hockey League.

Bakersfield's Greg Miller fired a game-high six shots on goal and Joel Broda fired five.

The Aces, who outshot the Condors 35-26, have outshot their opponent in all 10 playoff games.

Reach Mike Nesper at or 257-4335. Doyle Woody contributed to this report.

Bakersfield 0 1 0 -- 1

Aces 0 0 2 -- 2

First Period -- None. Penalties -- Curry, Aces (interference), :29; Steffes, Bakersfield (hooking), 11:53; Steffes, Bakersfield (tripping), 19:12.

Second Period -- 1, Bakersfield, Collins 2 (Thurber, Cunningham), 14:45. Penalties - Carroll, Bakersfield (hooking), 16:13; Burgdoerfer, Bakersfield (delay of game), 17:36.

Third Period -- 2, Aces, Trupp 5 (Lafranchise, Mazzolini), :53; 3, Aces, Morrison 3 (Ramage, Trupp), 17:31. Penalties -- Connolly, Aces (hooking), 19:15.

Shots on goal -- Bakersfield 8-8-10--26. Aces 14-9-12--35.

Power-play Opportunities -- Bakersfield 0 of 2. Aces 0 of 4.

Goalies -- Bakersfield, Brossoit, 8-3 (35 shots-33 saves). Aces, Roy, 4-1 (26-25).

A -- 4,197 (6,399). T -- 2:26.

Referee -- Nick Leduc, Frederic Leblanc. Linesmen -- Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.