Aces notebook: Finding a backup goalie in a bar, lamenting missed penalty shots, and more

Doyle Woody

So, Rob Gunderson was sitting with his buddies in Hudsons Canadian Tap House back home in Lethbridge, Alberta, about 1 a.m. Saturday, slaking his thirst like a good Canadian boy, when his college coach, Matt Thomas, rang Gunderson's cell phone.

He wondered what in the world Thomas could want at that hour, especially considering Gunderson finished his goaltending career at UAA earlier this year. Gunderson said he hustled out of the bar to take the call.

Turned out the Alaska Aces were looking for a goaltender, and in a hurry, because Olivier Roy had suffered a lower-body injury in Friday night's 5-3 Kelly Cup Finals-opening win over Cincinnati.

"He told me, 'The Aces need a tendy -- Roy hurt himself tonight,' '' Gunderson recalled.

"I'm in a bar right now,'' Gunderson responded.

"Can you make it to (Calgary) for a morning flight?'' Thomas queried.

"Yeah, I can probably get it together,'' Gunderson said.

Thomas told him Aces coach Rob Murray would be calling shortly. Gunderson took that call, again rushing out of the bar so he could better hear the call, and told Murray, yes, he could make a 6:30 a.m. flight in Calgary, about two hours drive from Lethbridge.

"I told him, 'Yeah, but I'm in a bar right now, and I've had a few beers,' '' Gunderson said.

Gunderson, 24, and his buddies arrived at Gunderson's parents house about 2 a.m., he said. He said he packed quickly, hit the road, with his buddies driving him, about 2:30 a.m., got to the airport in Calgary about 4:30 a.m., and caught his flight to Seattle. He then caught a connecting flight to Anchorage and arrived about 11:30 a.m. Saturday, and called his boss back home -- Gunderson said he works in landscaping for the city of Lethbridge -- to tell him he wouldn't be at work Monday and could be gone as long as two weeks. He said his boss was cool with it.

Gunderson said he signed an amateur tryout agreement and was driven to the apartments in South Anchorage where Aces players live. His roommates are veteran winger Peter Sivak and rookie winger Andy Taranto, a rival from UAF who Gunderson faced many times in college.

Gunderson said he took a long nap, showered and reported to Sullivan Arena. He served as Gerald Coleman's back-up Saturday night in the Aces' 2-1 loss to Cincinnati in Game 2 of the Finals.

"It's been a rollercoaster,'' Gunderson said, standing outside the Aces' dressing room after the game. "I haven't eaten since Seattle, 10 hours ago. I'm starving.''

Poor on penalty shots

The sample size is tiny, but the Alaska Aces' postseason penalty shots have proved unproductive.

Winger Brendan Connolly in Saturday's game took the third playoff penalty shot in franchise history and came up empty when Cyclones goaltender Rob Madore got a piece of his glove on Connolly's wrister.

Connolly has company. The Talbot boys came up empty too.

Joe Talbot in 2005 took a penalty shot on Bakersfield's Davis Parley in the division semifinals and failed. Bakersfield won that game 4-3 in overtime.

Joe's younger brother, Julian, was awarded a penalty shot in 2007 in a conference finals game against Idaho and couldn't crack Steve Silverthorn. Idaho won that match, 3-2.

Hey, it happens to the best of them.

Wes Goldie, the ECHL's all-time leading sniper -- 370 goals for Pee Dee, Victoria and Alaska, where he wrapped up his career -- took four penalty shots as a Victoria Salmon King from 2008-2010 and took the collar on all of them. The goalies were Utah's Nathan Lawson, the former Seawolves masked man; Idaho's Matt Climie; Aces stalwart Jean-Philippe Lamoureux and Bakersfield's J.P. Levasseur.

Interestingly, Victoria won all four of those games.

Aces goaltenders have faced three penalty shots in the playoffs and denied all three -- Lamoureux also stopped South Carolina's Travis Morin in 2009 and Coleman stopped former Aces defenseman Ryan Turek of Victoria in 2011.

Connolly's penalty shot was the first of the 2014 playoffs.

In 51 previous ECHL postseason penalty shots dating back to 1996, shooters have managed just 14 goals. And no ECHL player has scored more than one penalty shot goal in playoff history.

Shuffling the deck

With its victory, Cincinnati improved to 5-1 in these playoffs following a loss.

Alaska's loss was just its second of the postseason in regulation.

The Cyclones played without Wade Megan, who is tied with teammate Josh Shalla and Aces captain Nick Mazzolini for the league lead in goals with 10.

Mazzolini had his five-game point streak snapped and rookie winger Turner Elson had his five-game goal streak busted.

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