'Bulls kids' spark Aces victory in Game 1 of Kelly Cup

Mike Nesper
Bob Hallinen

On Jan. 31, the Alaska Aces acquired Jordan Morrison and Brett Findlay via free agency after the San Francisco Bulls folded.

Great signing.

Dubbed the "Bulls kids" by their Alaska teammates, Morrison and Findlay combined for five points Friday at Sullivan Arena, including three straight goals that wiped out a two-goal deficit and helped the Aces earn a 5-3 win over the Cincinnati Cyclones in Game 1 of the Kelly Cup Finals.

The duo skated on the same line at San Francisco this season, and they live together with their third linemate, Alex Belzile, who came to Alaska from Gwinnett in a Feb. 28 trade for the rights to former Aces netminder Mark Guggenberger.

Their off-ice friendship translates to on-ice chemistry, Findlay said.

That chemistry was on display Friday when Findlay fed Morrison in the slot and Morrison buried a one-timer to cut Cincinnati's lead to 3-2 late in the second period.

Just 2:38 later, it was Belzile clicking with Findlay. Belzile held the puck in the zone and found a wide-open Findlay, who received the pass in the slot and tucked a backhand shot five-hole on Cyclones' goalie Rob Madore.

"It was a massive way to end the second period," Morrison said.

Morrison capped the comeback when he snapped a bar-down game-winner midway through the third period, lifting the Aces to a 4-3 lead.

Each skater on the Morrison-Findlay-Belzile line had at least two points and the trio combined for 3-4--7 totals, bringing their combined postseason totals to 12-18--30.

Findlay, a rookie, said Morrison's experience -- he's in his sixth professional season -- has helped him develop at the ECHL level.

"He makes everything easy for me," Findlay said. "He's such a smart player."

Coming to an Aces team now competing in its fourth Kelly Cup Finals in nine seasons was an easy choice, Morrison said.

Findlay said he decided on Alaska first and nagged his linemate to follow.

"I egged him on to come," Findlay said.

When Findlay and Morrison arrived, head coach Rob Murray kept the pair together.

"He's my little sidekick," Morrison quipped.

Belzile was added a month later, and the trio ended the regular season together and has played virtually every shift of the playoffs as a unit. Each brings a different style of play to the line, Belzile said.

"We have a good chemistry," he said.

On Friday, they also displayed plenty of grit, orchestrating an impressive response in a game that looked certain to end in favor of the visitors.

"We reacted well," Belzile said. "That would have been a huge one for them."

Reach Mike Nesper at mnesper@adn.com or 257-4335.