Wandered down to the rink this morning because -- well, playoffs.
In any event, about half the Alaska Aces skated through a light optional practice -- much of the other half of the team sat in the stands, playing peanut gallery -- before the departure late this evening for Cincinnati, where Game 4 of the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals is set against the Cyclones on Friday night.
The Aces are coming off a 2-0 victory in Monday's Game 3, when they used goals from centers Jordan Morrison and Tyler Mosienko inside the final four minutes to complement Gerald Coleman's 30-save bagel and earn a 2-1 series lead in the best-of-7.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the game -- after a lousy first period -- was ridiculously good in the final 40 minutes. Coleman and Cincy's Rob Madore were better than ridiculously good throughout.
We'll have much more about the Aces, and about Game 3, online later tonight and in Wednesday's dead-trees edition of the ADN, but wanted to deliver a couple of thoughts about that match here.
* Didn't recognize until today, after Aces coach Rob Murray cued up some video for me, that both Aces goals came almost immediately after captain and center Nick Mazzolini came off for a line change. Morrison flew off the bench and into the Cincy slot to bang home his own rebound off Brendan Connolly's feed from behind the net. Mosienko bolted off the bench and into the Cyclones zone on left wing, with at least three Cincy players on the other side of the ice and one making a questionable change. That's why he was so wide open when he accepted Connolly's rink-wide pass from right wing before bombing a slapper past the glove of Madore (32 saves).
* Cincy coach Ben Simon was not pleased about a non-call against Aces defenseman Brad Richard shortly before Morrison's strike. As the puck bounced in the Cyclones zone, Aces defenseman Corey Syvret jumped into the play, but the bouncing puck eluded him and Cincy's Jonathan Hazen appeared off to the races. Near the red line, watching in real time after lifting my face from the computer screen (hey, first-edition stories to be filed at the buzzer don't write themselves), I though Richard hooked Hazen to knock him off the puck. After watching video, I don't think so any longer. But I do think Richard used his free hand (right hand) to tug Hazen's left elbow. The Blog thinks it was a penalty. But another thing I did not catch in real time was that Syvret, on the back-check was making damn good time and had a shot at bothering Hazen had Hazen carried the puck into the Aces zone.
* Hazen is killing it on breakaways. In Game 3, he snuffed Connolly and Peter Sivak. In Game 2, he stopped Connolly's penalty shot. In Game 1, stopped Turner Elson's breakaway.
So, imagine The Blog's zero surprise to note that Madore in the regular season stopped 18 of 19 dudes in the shootout for a crazy .947 save percentage that was the finest by any goalie that faced 10 or more shootout bids. Think we can agree his work on breakaways in this series is not a fluke.
* Wasn't just me that thought, compared to the other eight periods in the series, that the first period of Game 3 barked. Coleman afterward said he thought it was a matter of both teams feeling each other out, and some nerves.
Talked to Aces defenseman Kane Lafranchise in the stands at practice, and he said he thought it was a strikingly bad period all the way around.
"It was like not one person played well, on either team, except the goalies, of course,'' Lafranchise said.
Oh, almost forgot, the peanut gallery at practice, chirped a bit, as you might imagine -- spirits always tend to be higher after a win, not so curiously. "C'mon, Gundy, mix in a save,'' was one chirp directed at new back-up goaltender Rob Gunderson, the former UAA netminder the Aces brought on board after Olivier Roy suffered a lower-body injury in Game 1. Rob said after practice that, no, he wasn't very good today. Also, the boys in the stands were heartily amused when winger Brett Findlay took a hard digger and fell face-first to the ice. Ah, remember, if they're laughing at you, it's because they love you. Right?
OK, gotta get writing the story for Wednesday's paper before catching a flight outta here Tuesday night.
Talk to you next from Cincy. Or from the Aces' bus traveling from Chicago to Cincy. Or from an airport. Or...whatever.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com