CINCINNATI -- With pivotal Game 5 looming Saturday night in the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals -- the Alaska Aces and Cincinnati Cyclones are tied 2-2 in the best-of-7 after Cincy's 3-1 win Friday -- Aces coach Rob Murray said he'll make at least two lineup changes.
Defenseman Kane Lafranchise, who alluded to an injury Friday night, when he said he didn't have the strength in a leg to push off hard enough to keep Jonathan Hazen from wheeling around him for a second-period goal, will come out of the lineup. In his place goes Drew MacKenzie, who has missed a month (10 games) with an upper-body injury. He hasn't played since the clinching win in Alaska's Western Conference semifinals series against Idaho on May 8. Remember, MacKenzie delivered 4-3--7 totals in nine games to that point -- stout numbers for anyone, let alone a blueliner.
Also coming out of the lineup is winger Ross Ring-Jarvi. That's because Alex Belzile will return after missing three games with a lower-body injury. Belzile had two assists in the Aces' 5-3 win in Game 1.
Here inside U.S. Bank Arena, the Aces are holding an optional morning skate. Taking the morning off are forwards Nick Mazzolini, Peter Sivak, Jordan Morrison and Tyler Mosienko, and defensemen Sean Curry and Zach McKelvie, and, of course, Lafranchise.
It's no mystery that if the Aces are going to regain the upper hand in the series, getting their top guys going will likely be necessary.
Mazzolini, the league's leading scorer in the playoffs, has been held without a point in three straight games since scoring the opening goal of the Finals just 74 seconds into Game 1. Sivak doesn't have a goal in three games since returning from a long-term injury. Brendan Connolly has three assists in the series, but is searching for his first goal. Evan Trupp's only Finals point is a helper. Lafranchise and John Ramage, two scoring defensemen, haven't mustered a point.
The Aces' most productive players in the Finals have been second-line center Morrison (3-1--4) and third-line center Mosienko (1-2--3), who enters Game 5 with a three-game point streak. They need help.
Be interesting to see what Mazzolini, the captain, does in Game 5. Throughout the playoffs, he has generated command performances when the Aces have needed him most. Another such time has arrived.
By DOYLE WOODY, adn.com