Scoring chances were sparse in the first two games of the ECHL Western Conference finals -- and both the Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors anticipate tight play to continue as the best-of-7 series shifts to California for Games 3-5 next week.
On Saturday at Sullivan Arena, Bakersfield held the Aces to a playoff-low 26 shots, six fewer than the previous low of 32 Alaska fired on net in its 2-1 series-clinching win over Idaho on May 8.
That's just what Condors head coach Troy Mann wanted to see from his club.
"I thought we played an excellent road game," he said.
The Aces were pretty stingy, too, allowing just 22 shots against Bakersfield in a 3-2 overtime loss that evened the series at a game apiece.
"Defensively, we were pretty sharp," Aces winger Brendan Connolly said.
Scoring chances were limited through the first 40 minutes for both squads, each of which managed 13 shots in that span.
"They played a pretty tight game to start," Connolly said. "We just didn't get enough pucks to the net."
Connolly said Alaska simplified its game in the third period and threw more rubber at Condors netminder Laurent Brossoit. Two of the Aces' 10 third-period shots got past Brossoit to force overtime. Connolly and his linemates Nick Mazzolini and Evan Trupp ignited the two-goal comeback, scoring both goals.
Trupp cut the deficit in half when he ripped a shot over Brossoit's right shoulder from the slot 51/2 minutes into the third period. Connolly deposited a rebound into a gaping net to tie the game with 6:23 left in regulation.
Alaska's top line finished with a combined four points and nine shots.
"We're three guys that are just working hard and getting the bounces," Connolly said.
The key to winning on the road is simple, he said: get plenty of traffic in front of Brossoit and get pucks to the net.
"Goals this time of year aren't necessarily pretty goals," he said.
Connolly expects the rest of the series to be just as tight as the first two games.
"You're going to have to earn your ice," he said. "Earn you scoring chances."
Bakersfield's bench boss agreed.
"I'm sure next weekend will be tight checking and tight scores," Mann said.
Reach Mike Nesper at email@example.com or 257-4335
By MIKE NESPER