After being collared for the first five games of the ECHL Kelly Cup playoffs -- zero points -- winger Evan Trupp has erupted of late, becoming the Alaska Aces' leading postseason goal scorer.
Not coincidentally, Trupp's transformation began when All-ECHL winger Peter Sivak dropped out of the lineup with an upper-body injury and Trupp moved onto captain Nick Mazzolini's first line.
Since rejoining Mazzolini and winger Brendan Connolly -- Trupp enjoyed success with those two during first-line stints in the regular season -- the third-year winger from Anchorage has flourished.
In six games since moving to the top line, Trupp has generated six goals and three assists, playing a part in nearly half of the Aces' goals -- nine of 21 -- in that span. He's also gone plus-5 in those six games, delivered multiple-point nights in four of them and unleashed 31 shots on goal.
By comparison, in the first five games of the playoffs, spent on the third line, Trupp was held without a point, had an even rating and managed just eight shots on goal.
With the best-of-7 Western Conference finals tied 1-1 against the Bakersfield Condors entering Friday's Game 3 in California, Trupp has been the Aces' best forward in the series.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the Aces have scored four goals in the series -- they won Friday's opener 2-1 and lost 3-2 in overtime in Game 2 -- and Trupp has contributed to all of them. He had one goal and one assist in each game, and all four of his points came in third periods, when the Aces were either trailing or tied.
While the 5-foot-10, 155-pound Trupp, who the Aces acquired from the Condors in a trade late last season, is best known for his slick stick-handling and set-up work, he's not shy about heading to the hostile areas of the rink. His game-tying goal in Game 1 came off his own rebound in the Condors crease and his assist on Connolly's game-tying strike in Game 2 came at the crease.
Trupp in the regular season for the Aces racked 17-33--50 totals and a plus-16 rating in 51 games. He also earned his first promotion to the American Hockey League with the Abbotsford Heat, who signed him to an AHL deal. Trupp for the Heat put up 1-6--7 and minus-3 totals in 17 games.
When Bakersfield's Gary Steffes struck in overtime to earn the Condors the Game 2 victory, it marked the first time in Aces defenseman Kane Lafranchise's five playoff games this spring that he had been on the ice for an opponents' goal.
Lafranchise has been on the ice for seven Alaska goals in that span, and owns a plus-minus rating of plus-6 in his five games.
The former UAA blueliner, who spent most of the season with Abbotsford, has furnished the Aces with four assists, and has played in all situations. He has been especially adept at skating the puck out of his zone to initiate the attack, or jumping into the play to join the attack.
Aces veteran center Tyler Mosienko has always been more of a set-up man than a natural goal scorer in his ECHL career, yet he is mired in a particularly long goal drought.
Mosienko has not scored a goal in the last 25 games -- that's all 11 Aces playoff games and the final 14 games of the regular season.
In that span, Mosienko has generated 13 assists -- 11 in those final 14 regular-season games, but just two in 11 playoff games -- but in his goal drought has come up empty on 49 shots on goal.
Prior to joining the Aces in February after playing most of the season in Denmark, Mosienko in 300 career ECHL games averaged .287 goals per game, which equates to nearly 21 goals in an average ECHL season of 72 games.
Granted, Mosienko is getting almost all his ice time at even strength as the pivot on the third line, where he has had Turner Elson on his right wing, and Tommy Mele and Zach McKelvie working shifts on his left. Still, the Aces could use an injection of offense from Mosienko and his linemates, who don't have a point through two games of the conference finals.
Shuffling the deck
The three goals the Aces surrendered in Saturday's loss marked just the second time in 11 playoff games they have surrendered more than two goals.
Alaska has outshot its opponents in every playoff game. Still, the 26 shots it has fired in the Game 2 loss was by far their fewest in a playoff game this spring - the previous low was 32 in a series-clinching 2-1 win at Idaho in the previous round.
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By DOYLE WOODY