The goal drought -- shot after shot, game after game, week after week, month after month -- could have tormented Tyler Mosienko.
Nothing the Alaska Aces' center shot toward an opposing net entered actually entered one -- not for 31 games, not in a span of 60 shots on goal and myriad other chances gone wrong, not at the tail end of the regular season or deep into the playoffs, and not in six different rinks located in five different states.
Not from March 9 until -- mercifully, thankfully, gloriously -- Monday night in Game 3 of the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals at Sullivan Arena.
Mosienko's blistering slap shot from the left-wing circle with less than two minutes to go beat Cincinnati Cyclones goaltender Rob Madore high to the glove side and furnished the Aces a critical insurance goal in their heart-stopping 2-0 victory. They own a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series, with Game 4 set Friday night in Cincinnati.
"I saw the goalie start coming forward,'' Mosienko said at Tuesday morning's optional practice at Sullivan. "I acted like I was going to shoot it to the left'' -- Madore's stick side -- "and I shot it to the right. I caught (all of) that one.''
With one strike, Mosienko delivered the dagger to the Cyclones, and killed his personal funk -- little wonder he slid along the ice afterward and celebrated so ferociously.
"You want to see that, because it gives him confidence, and it's a relief, weight off his shoulders,'' said teammate Kane Lafranchise.
Had Mosienko's slump happened when he was younger, the ninth-year pro said, it might have tortured him. But throughout, Mosienko said, he tried to contribute in other ways and remember that he joined the Aces from Denmark -- coach Rob Murray signed him in February -- to chase a championship. He helped the Aces win an unprecedented fourth straight Brabham Cup as the circuit's regular-season champion and helped the franchise to its fourth Finals appearance in the last nine years, and third in the last six seasons.
Mosienko, 30, generated 3-17--20 totals and a plus-11 plus-minus rating in 25 regular-season games, and owns 1-4--5 totals and a plus-7 rating as Alaska's third-line center in 18 playoff games.
"When I talked to Rob to come here, I came here with a purpose,'' Mosienko said. "I've been a point per game guy in this league. When I talked to Rob, we talked about winning a championship.
"I didn't really talk to Rob about my slump, and it wasn't a problem. This is the Finals, and I need to chip in. Luckily, it happened the last two games.''
Mosienko in Game 2 assisted on Ross Ring-Jarvi's goal in a 2-1 loss.
Murray said that while Mosienko endured his goal drought, he nonetheless contributed with sound two-way play, tenacity and veteran leadership. Consider that Murray did not once in that 31-game slump make Mosienko a healthy scratch.
"You take what he hasn't done, and what he did (in Game 3), and it's all good,'' Murray said.
And now, the Aces head to Cincinnati, where Mosienko has unfinished business.
The last time he was in Cincinnati for the Finals was in 2008, when he played for the Las Vegas Wranglers. Mosienko delivered 7-13--20 totals in 21 playoff games, but the Wranglers fell to the Cyclones in six games, with the series-ending game coming in Cincinnati.
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By DOYLE WOODY