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Morrison a marvel in Aces' Game 5 victory over Cyclones

CINCINNATI -- Not to sound like Jordan Morrison's agent, or his father, but the all-encompassing performance he generated for the Alaska Aces on Saturday night was a marvel.

He was the best skater on the ice, and it wasn't even close.

Morrison, the Aces' second-line center, scored a quick-response goal after the Cincinnati Cyclones scored just 13 seconds into Game 5 of the ECHL's Kelly Cup Finals.

He furnished the primary assist on Brad Richard's game-winning strike with just six minutes left.

He was a principal penalty-killer on a crew that snuffed all seven Cincinnati power plays, including four in a chaotic first period at U.S. Bank Arena.

He blocked shots. He won face-offs. He helped his club remain even-keeled on an evening when it did not lead until Richard scored off Morrison's precise cross-ice feed.

And he seemingly logged so much ice time, particularly in the first period, that you would assume he's non-union labor. ECHL players, in fact, belong to the Professional Hockey Players' Association -- but hockey players crave ice time, and when they get a ton of it, not one of them is going to file a grievance.

When it was over, after the Aces' 4-2 victory earned them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series and stationed them within one win of the third Cup in franchise history, Morrison was, well, Morrison. Just doing his part, he said.

"You try to put it all on the line, do your best for your team and yourself,'' he said.

And that moment early in the second period, when he got up slowly in the offensive zone but still managed to get on the back-check when the Cyclones counter-attacked? Just a flesh wound, if that.

"I think one of the guys kneed me in the head,'' Morrison said. "I was a little shook up. But it's the playoffs -- you have to expect bumps and bruises.

"No worse for wear.''

The work of the 28-year-old, who previously had never escaped the first round of the playoffs in his ECHL career, generated praise in his dressing room

"He's so multi-dimensional,'' said Aces assistant coach Louis Mass. "He performs every aspect of the game at an A level. He's mastered every aspect of it.''

Beyond his goal and assist, Morrison delivered when it came to details. Defending a Cyclones power play with the game tied 2-2 in the third period, he blocked Logan Shaw's shot and followed that by back-checking Byron Froese and clearing the puck off his stick in one move.

"You see a 28-year-old guy block shots, you want to follow his lead,'' said Aces goaltender Gerald Coleman, 29.

Morrison joined the Aces in mid-season along with Brett Findlay after the San Francisco Bulls folded, putting them both out of work. Morrison has said he signed with Alaska specifically to get a shot at a ring. In the regular season, he earned 6-14--20 totals in 31 games, decent, but not particularly noteworthy.

In the playoffs, when little things matter most, he has been at his best. He has definitely been Alaska's best skater in the Finals, and for more than just his 4-2--6 scoring totals, which lead all players in the fourth and final round -- all this from a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder who does not appear imposing. Of course, the size of the heart and the brain don't appear on a bio.

"The guy has such a high hockey IQ,'' said Aces defenseman Drew MacKenzie. "Every time he's on the ice, he makes a difference, offensively or defensively.''

Aces coach Rob Murray mused that surely Morrison's ascent has something to do with his rink resume.

"He's got a great pedigree,'' Murray said. "He's a Peterborough Pete.''

And, yes, a check of Murray's bio reveals the former NHL center also played his junior hockey for the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.

The Aces' first shot at seizing the Cup comes Monday in Game 6 here, and there's work to be done, Morrison said.

"Monday is going to be a huge game,'' he said. "We expect them to bring their best, and we have to do the same.''

So far in these Finals, that's exactly what Morrison has delivered.

This column is the opinion of Daily News reporter Doyle Woody. Find his blog at adn.com/hockeyblog and follow his live tweets from every Kelly Cup Finals game @sportsadn.