Aces notebook: Playing hurt, stellar goaltending, and more

Doyle Woody

As some of his Alaska Aces teammates took the ice at Sullivan Arena for an optional practice Tuesday morning, Kane Lafranchise sat in the south stands near the Zamboni entrance, pressing a bag of ice to his face.

There's a lot of that going around -- it's the playoffs.

Lafranchise removed the bag for a moment to give a glimpse of his injury. His right cheek was swollen and he was getting the beginnings of a nice shiner beneath his right eye.

The former UAA defenseman was struck by the puck in the second period of the Aces' 2-0 win over the Cincinnati Cyclones in Game 3 of the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals.

Deep in the offensive zone, Lafranchise stretched with his stick to contest a Cyclone for the puck, and the puck ricocheted off his stick and up underneath his half-shield face mask.

"You worry about your teeth,'' he said. "But it was mostly cheek.''

And then he shrugged.

There's a lot of that going around too. This is the time of season, hockey players say by rote, that if you don't require ice bags or a dip in the cold tub, you're not competing hard enough.

Lafranchise proved instrumental in the Jordan Morrison goal that, with about four minutes left in regulation Monday, finally broke the goaltending duel between Alaska's Gerald Coleman and Cincinnati's Rob Madore.

He saw teammate Brendan Connolly with the puck behind the Cyclones goal line and knew Aces center Nick Mazzolini was headed to the bench for a line change and that Aces winger Peter Sivak was deep on the left wing. That told Lafranchise he would have defensive support behind him from the center replacing Mazzolini -- Morrison, as it happened -- and he made a split-second decision that it was worth the risk to bust down the slot in anticipation of a pass from Connolly.

"I noticed everyone (on Cincinnati) was puck-watching, and there was no one in front of the net,'' Lafranchise recalled.

A Cyclone tied up Lafranchise's stick and Connolly's pass skipped past him, but Morrison arrived to fire a shot on Madore as Lafranchise furnished a screen at the top of the crease. Lafranchise thinks Morrison's shot ticked off his knee before Madore made the save. The rebound kicked back to Morrison, who rifled a low shot through traffic that included Lafranchise to bust the scoreless tie.

Tough moments for Mele

Winger Tommy Mele, often employed on the third line as the extra forward who gets reduced ice time, endured a tough Game 3.

Mele has contributed 3-2--5 totals and a plus-4 rating in 14 games, though he is mostly expected to bang bodies.

In Game 3, though, he took two unnecessary penalties, both with the game scoreless in the third period. He was cited for goaltender interference against Madore two minutes into the period, and it was an obvious penalty. Then, five minutes into the period, after Cyclones defenseman Josh McFadden was already busted for roughing Aces winger Ross Ring-Jarvi, Mele confronted McFadden.

Practically nothing happened between Mele and McFadden, but Mele was sent to the box for unsportsmanlike conduct, wiping out Alaska's impending power play.

Alaska coach Rob Murray had obviously seen enough. Mele did not log a shift in the last 15 minutes.

Coleman is clutch

Gerald Coleman's 30-save gem in Game 3 marked the fifth Kelly Cup playoff shutout of the veteran goalie's career.

Coleman earned one playoff shutout in 2012 and bagged three of them in 2011, when he backstopped the Aces to the franchise's second Kelly Cup.

Coleman is 8-3 in these playoffs, with a league-leading 1.23 goals-against average and stunning .947 save percentage.

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