AD Main Menu

24 guys dressed, 24 guys contributed in Aces' postseason run to Kelly Cup

Doyle Woody

In a postseason run that spanned 21 hockey games in a stretch of nearly two months, the Alaska Aces went 16-5 in the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs and Monday night captured a league record-tying third championship with a 4-0 road victory over the Cincinnati Cyclones.

The Aces dressed 24 different players under the direction of third-year coach Rob Murray, who lifted the Cup for the first time, and assistant coach Louis Mass, who lifted it for the third time, twice as an assistant, once as a player.

It isn't hockey hyperbole to suggest that each player made tangible contributions to a team that owned surpassing talent, depth, attention to detail and drive, and was also buoyed by the intangible of a harmonious dressing room.

"That's a team,'' captain Nick Mazzolini said as he watched his teammates celebrate Monday evening at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. "We had skill guys who blocked shots. We had energy guys who scored goals.

"Everyone found a way to be an asset, at a key moment, and that's what a championship team does.''

Here are the players who banded together and earned the right to skate on the celebratory side of four post-series handshake lines, lift the Kelly Cup and add it to their carry-on for the flight home to Anchorage:

No. 1 -- G Rob Gunderson. When Olivier Roy went down with a groin injury in Game 1 of the Finals, Murray tracked down the former UAA goaltender in a bar in Lethbridge, Alberta, and the rookie hours later hopped on a plane to Anchorage. Preternaturally upbeat -- Gunderson seems like he was slipped a time-release happy pill at birth -- he fit right in.

No. 2 -- D/W Zach McKelvie. Suffered a dislocated elbow in the finale of the Western Conference Finals in Bakersfield, California, and treated it like a paper cut. At his best on the blue line, he acted like a hammer that treated every opponent as a nail.

No. 4 -- D Drew MacKenzie. Led all ECHL defensemen with five goals and all players with five power-play strikes, including one in the Cup-clincher. After missing a month with concussion symptoms, returned for Game 5 of the Finals and was arguably the team's best blueliner that night.

No. 5 -- D Brad Richard. Suffered a broken finger in a morning skate in the first round, underwent surgery, came back in the Finals and scored the game-winning goal late in the third period of a 4-2 win in Game 5.

No. 6 -- D Kane Lafranchise. Blew in from the AHL in the second round and proved himself an elite two-way defenseman who was a one-man breakout, delivering 11 points in 15 games.

No. 7 -- D James Martin. Generated a plus-minus rating of even or better in nine of his 11 games and lent depth to an almost ridiculously stacked blue line.

No. 9 -- W Brendan Connolly. Furnished six assists in the last four games of the Finals, including two in the clincher, and was the sandpaper that rubbed opponents raw.

No. 10 -- W Alex Belzile. His fore-check and pass set up Brett Findlay's game-tying goal in Game 1 of the Finals and his third-period goal in the Game 6 clincher sank the dagger in the Cyclones.

No. 11 -- W Tommy Mele. Scored goals in consecutive games in the second round against Idaho, doled out hits aplenty and hounded the puck.

No. 14 -- W Ross Ring-Jarvi. Furnished speed, energy and penalty-killing, and never complained about a limited role as the 10th forward.

No. 15 -- W Brett Findlay. Set up Belzile's dagger in the Cup-clincher, and in Game 1 of the Finals, with the Aces trailing 3-1, assisted on Jordan Morrison's goal and scored a goal to tie the game in an eventual 5-3 win.

No. 17 -- D Zach Davies. Scored four assists in four games bridging the second and third rounds and got his lone goal in a four-goal ambush of Idaho in Game 4 of the second round.

No. 19 -- W Evan Trupp. Held off the score sheet in the first five games of the playoffs, he erupted for six goals in next six games and 13 points in a span of nine games.

No. 20 -- D Corey Syvret. Steady, steady, steady -- he earned an even plus-minus rating or better in 19 of 21 games.

No. 21 -- C Tyler Mosienko. Endured a 31-game goal drought bridging the regular season and the first 17 games of the playoffs and snapped that funk with the insurance goal in a 2-0 win in Game 3 of the Finals. Relentless on the puck and one of the team's top forwards in the Finals.

No. 24 -- D John Ramage. Led all league defensemen with 13 points in 20 games and tortured opposing teams so much in early rounds he might as well have been called John Damage.

No. 26 -- D Sean Curry. His game-tying, bar-down goal in Game 5 of the Finals was as big as his All-World playoff beard. His plus-12 led all league defensemen.

No. 29 -- W Andy Taranto. His only playoff goal was a huge one that gave Aces a 2-0 lead in their 4-0 win to eliminate Bakersfield in third round.

No. 35 -- G Olivier Roy. Split starts with Gerald Coleman and went 6-1 with one shutou before suffering a groin injury in Game 1 of the Finals.

No. 39 -- G Gerald Coleman. Carried the load in the Finals, where he delivered two shutouts, including a 23-save gem in the Cup-clincher. Just as in the Aces' 2011 run to the Cup, he was in net when the final horn blew on the postseason and the celebration began.

No. 42 -- C Nick Mazzolini. Dominated the first three rounds, set team records for playoff assists and points, racked up 31 points that stand as fifth-most in ECHL playoff history. He got the party started in the Cup-clincher with a first-period, power-play strike and added an assist.

No. 44 -- C Jordan Morrison. Seized Game 5 of the Finals by the throat and strangled it to death with one goal and one assist in a do-everything performance. Team's best forward in the Finals.

No. 49 -- W Turner Elson. Dazzling speed helped him score seven goals, third on the club behind Mazzolini (11) and Morrison (9), and his versatility allowed Murray to use him on all three forward lines at some point in the postseason.

No. 91 -- W Peter Sivak. All-ECHL selection scored five goals in first four games of playoffs before he was shelved with a broken collarbone. Returned before he was fully healthy and showed his commitment to a two-way game in Cup-clincher by blocking shots and breaking up a Cyclones odd-man rush with a hustling back-check.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog

 


By DOYLE WOODY
dwoody@adn.com