The Alaska Aces played their final 10 hockey games of the ECHL regular season on the road, with nothing less at stake than the Brabham Cup, the chalice awarded to the regular-season champion.
By winning eight of those first nine road games, the Aces clinched an unprecedented fourth consecutive Brabham, possession of which grants the winner home-ice advantage throughout the Kelly Cup playoffs.
Now, the Aces have the chance to employ that coveted edge of home ice at Sullivan Arena as a springboard to the franchise's fourth appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals in 11 ECHL seasons.
Coming off consecutive victories in California over the weekend, the Aces own a 3-2 lead on the Bakersfield Condors in the best-of-7 Western Conference finals entering Tuesday night's Game 6 at Sullivan.
Should the Condors skirt elimination Tuesday, a decisive Game 7 would be Wednesday night at Sullivan.
While the Aces are 7-1 on the road in these playoffs, they are 4-2 at home, and those comparative numbers don't make playing at Sullivan a cinch for the home team. Remember, though, both home-ice losses came in overtime - granted, one of them came against the Condors, who won Game 2, 3-2, on Gary Steffes' roofed wrister in extra time.
Still, the Aces delivered the best regular-season, home-ice record (26-8-2) on the 21-team circuit and no doubt expect a throaty crowd Tuesday night to buoy them.
Bakersfield's mission will be to try to quiet the crowd, much like the Aces subdued the partisans at Rabobank Arena in both Saturday's 4-1 win and Sunday's 4-0 victory.
Presumably, the Condors will be much better than they were Sunday in Game 5, when the Aces outshot them by a staggering margin of 42-11, and lend rookie goaltender Laurent Brossoit some support. The Aces have cracked Brossoit for four goals in each of the last three games after managing just four against him in the opening two games of the series.
The Aces' lineup in Game 6 may be more makeshift than ever this spring. They've already missed All-ECHL winger Peter Sivak for the last nine games with an upper-body injury and defenseman Drew MacKenzie has been out all five games of this series with what coach Rob Murray has called illness. All-Rookie defenseman Brad Richard has been out long-term with an upper-body injury.
Additionally, defenseman James Martin was scratched from Game 5 with an upper-body injury and first-line winger Brendan Connolly looked shaky late in Game 5 when he gingerly made his way back to the bench.
The Alaska Aces enter Tuesday night's Game 6 of the ECHL's best-of-7 Western Conference Finals with a 3-2 series edge on the Bakersfield Condors.
In 23 previous best-of-7 series in the club's 11 ECHL seasons, only three times have the Aces owned a 3-2 lead entering Game 6. For what it's worth -- remember, none of the current Aces played in any of the three series referenced -- here's how the Aces have done in those circumstances:
Season Series Opponent Series outcome
2007 Conference Quarterfinals Victoria Aces won in 6 games
2006 Conference Finals Fresno Aces won in 7 games
2006 Division Finals Las Vegas Aces win in 6 games
Entering Tuesday night's Game 6 of the ECHL's Western Conference Finals, Alaska Aces captain Nick Mazzolini leads all playoff scorers with 8-16--24 totals in just 14 games, and his average of 1.71 points per game also leads all playoff scorers. He's ahead of Cincinnati's Bryan Froese, who is averaging 1.44 points per game (23 points in 16 games).
Here's how Mazzolini's points per game average stacks up against the top 10 playoff averages in the 10 previous playoff seasons since the Aces joined the ECHL in the 2003-04 season (minimum 10 games played):
Player, Team Playoff Season G-A-points/games) Points Per Game
Nick Mazzolini, Alaska 2014 8-16--24 in 14 games 1.71
Scott Howes, Alaska 2011 7-12--19 in 12 games 1.58
Trent Daavettila, Kalamazoo 2011 6-22--28 in 18 games 1.56
David Desharnais, Cincinnat 2008 9-24--33 in 22 games 1.50
Ryan Cruthers, Reading 2010 8-16--24 in 16 games 1.50
Vince Bellisimo, Florida 2007 12-11--23 in 16 games 1.44
Josh Soares, Alaska 2009 10-18--28 in 21 games 1.33
Lance Galbraith, Idaho 2007 11-16--27 in 21 games 1.29
David Lundbohm, Florida 2005 12-12--24 in 19 games 1.26
Eric Lampe, Las Vegas 2012 7-14--21 in 17 games 1.24
Reggie Berg, Florida 2004 5-14--19 in 16 games 1.19
ECHL Kelly Cup Playoffs
Western Conference Finals
SERIES: Alaska Aces lead Bakersfield Condors, 3-2
GAME 6: TUESDAY, SULLIVAN ARENA, 7:15 P.M.
RADIO: LIVE AM-550 AND FM-103.7 KFQD
By DOYLE WOODY