Success on power play builds Aces' confidence

Mike Nesper

Heading into Game 4 of the ECHL Western Conference finals, the Alaska Aces' power play hadn't scored in 16 attempts going back to the previous series.

Kane Lafranchise broke the drought with a power-play goal that night en route to a 4-1 win. The next day, Nick Mazzolini and John Ramage each recorded power-play tallies, both with a two-man advantage, to help Alaska blank Bakersfield 4-0 and take a 3-2 series lead.

The same trio that sparked the power play kept it going Tuesday at Sullivan Arena as the Aces defeated Bakersfield 4-1 to win the Western Conference finals and advance to the Kelly Cup Finals for the fourth time in the past nine seasons.

Alaska's only power-play goal came just five minutes in when Ramage beat Condors' netminder Laurent Brossoit five-hole on a one-timer off a feed from Mazzolini during a 5-on-3. Lafranchise also assisted.

Success on the power play builds confidence for the entire team, Mazzolini said.

"When your special teams can step up for you at key moments, it's huge," he said.

While the Aces are officially 4 of 20 on the power play since their scoreless streak, two other goals can be attributed to the man advantage. Such was the case Tuesday when Turner Elson buried a close-range shot five seconds after a Condors penalty expired.

Andy Taranto's goal in Game 5 came precisely as another Bakersfield penalty ended.

Positioned just outside of the crease, Elson took a feed from Lafranchise from below the goal line and scored his fourth goal in as many games.

Getting bodies in front of Brossoit is something the Aces have been stressing, Mazzolini said.

"It's huge for guys to battle in front," he said.

The first three games of the series, Bakersfield effectively canceled Alaska's power play by disrupting its entry into the zone, Aces head coach Rob Murray said.

The Aces adjusted in the last three games, Mazzolini said, and used their speed to their advantage.

"We wore them down a little bit with our quick play," he said.

Highs and lows on the man advantage happen to teams at all levels throughout the season, Murray said. When it's not working, he said, just keep chipping away.

When it is working, the entire lineup benefits.

"It's huge," Murray said. "It's a confidence thing."

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