Aces blank Condors to take 3-2 series lead

Doyle Woody

The Bakersfield Condors entered Sunday night as the only team among the four remaining in the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs that had not lost consecutive hockey games.

They have now.

The Alaska Aces, sparked yet again by captain Nick Mazzolini, beat the Condors 4-0 at Rabobank Arena in California to take a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference finals.

Coming off three games in three nights in Bakersfield -- the Condors won Game 3, 5-4 on Friday, and the Aces took Game 4, 4-1, on Saturday -- the teams travel back to Alaska on Monday and play Game 6 Tuesday night at Sullivan Arena.

Game 7, if necessary, is Wednesday at Sullivan.

The Aces on Tuesday will be seeking their fourth berth in the Kelly Cup Finals in their 11 ECHL seasons.

Alaska outshot Bakersfield by the ridiculous sum of 42-11.

With the game scoreless, though the Aces owned an overwhelming margin in shots and puck possession, Mazzolini got the Aces on the board about eight minutes into the second period.

After Aces goaltender Olivier Roy stopped a Condors short-handed 2-on-1 bid, Alaska defenseman Kane Lafranchise, from deep in his zone, hit Mazzolini with a pass just over the red line. Mazzolini carried the puck on right wing on a 2-on-1 with Ross Ring-Jarvi, who a moment earlier had been released from the penalty box, and ripped a slapper over the glove of Laurent Brossoit.

About two minutes later, Mazzolini, stationed just below the goal line on right wing, threaded a pass to Andy Taranto, left unattended at the edge of Brossoit's crease just as an Aces power play expired. Taranto, playing just his fourth game of the postseason, flicked a wrister over Brossoit's glove for a 2-0 lead. Evan Trupp took a hit to get Mazzolini the puck.

In Alaska's Game 4 win, Mazzolini delivered two goals and an assist in the opening 4:06.

His two-point second period marked his eighth multiple-point effort in 14 playoff games this spring and his sixth multiple-point period of the playoffs.

The Aces could have been in even better position through two periods Sunday if not for Brossoit's strong work. His right-pad save on Zach McKelvie's breakaway coming out of the penalty box with the Aces already leading 2-0 in the second period kept his club in the hunt.

But the Condors' plethora of penalties continued to pierce them.

Aces defenseman John Ramage poked home a rebound during a two-man advantage midway through the third period to push Alaska's lead to 3-0. Ramage scored off the rebound of Mazzolini's redirection of Trupp's pass.

The Condors pulled Brossoit for a sixth attacker with just less than four minutes to play. Turner Elson scored an empty-net goal to mark his third goal in three games and push Alaska's lead to 4-0.

Since the Condors bolted to a 3-0 first-period lead in Game 3, the Aces have outscored them 12-3.

Alaska has permitted opponents just 25 goals in 14 playoff games. Also, the Aces have outshot their opponent in every playoff game.

Brossoit, who began his rookie season with the Aces before an NHL trade landed him in California, has played every second of the postseason for Bakersfield. Roy and veteran Gerald Coleman, who backstopped Alaska to the 2011 Kelly Cup, have evenly split time in net.

McKelvie, who has played forward throughout the playoffs, moved back to his natural position on defense Sunday, when blueliner James Martin came out of the lineup.

In the Eastern Conference finals Sunday, the Cincinnati Cyclones scored two third-period goals for a 2-1 victory at Greenville that furnished them a 3-2 lead in that series. Game 6 is Tuesday in Cincinnati.

Like the Aces, who own two Kelly cup titles (2011, 2006), Cincinnati has won two Cups (2010, 2008).

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