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Aces takes ever-changing lineup into home series with Colorado

Doyle Woody

Between players shuffling back and forth from their American Hockey League affiliate, trades, injuries, guys released, a roster limit, temporary fill-ins and an occasional bad fit, the Alaska Aces have used 40 players this ECHL hockey season.

Seems like a lot, especially given the circuit's 20-man limit on the active roster.

It's not.

The ECHL is a development league.

And something is seemingly always developing on the roster front.

The Aces used 42 players last season, and in the previous five seasons averaged 39 players a season.

Even with all those guys coming in and out of the lineup this season, only twice in 58 games have the Aces been forced to dress fewer than the maximum 16 skaters. On both those occasions, they dressed 15.

"So it's not like you're trying to patchwork a lineup every night,'' said Aces coach Rob Murray.

The latest arrival is winger Alex Belzile, who has played four games for Alaska since he was acquired in a trade with the Gwinnett Gladiators.

Gwinnett has used a league-high 48 players this season, matching the number used by the Ontario Reign entering Wednesday's games. Greenville has used 47 and Toledo 46.

Belzile (pronounced Bell-zeel), who had missed all but three games this season after suffering a concussion, said he was excited to land with the league's top club, a perennial title contender. The Gladiators rank 19th in the 21-team league.

"The mind-set of the guys here is different,'' Belzile said. "We're in first place, and these guys want to win. I was really happy to be traded to the top team in the league.''

Belzile last Saturday absorbed a big hit from Bakersfield's Chris Collins late in Alaska's 4-2 win. When Collins checked Belzile into the end boards, his elbow/forearm rode up Belzile's body and into Belzile's head, which was driven into the glass. Collins received a major penalty for boarding and, subsequently, a two-game suspension from the league.

Belzile said he was momentarily dazed from the hit, but was thankful he did not suffer another concussion. He scored a goal in Sunday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Condors.

"I woke up (Sunday) and thought, 'I'm good,' '' he said. "It was a test. I always take the positive from something.''

Alaska's latest roster development came Wednesday when first-line left winger Brendan Connolly was recalled by the Abbotsford Heat, Alaska's AHL affiliate. With 20-26--46 totals in 46 games, Connolly is third among Aces in both goals and points.

The Colorado Eagles, who the Aces entertain in a three-game series that opens Thursday night, will also be without one of its top forwards. Trent Daavettila, whose 21-39--60 totals in 52 games ranks him second among Eagles in points and third in goals, was loaned to AHL Lake Erie.

Colorado, which sits third in the Western Conference, has used a league-low 28 players.

It's the ECHL, so expect more moves, from practically every team. The league's trade deadline is 11 a.m. ADT Thursday and teams can still add amateur players after that, once those players' junior or college season ends.

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

Colorado Eagles

28-18-10

at

Alaska Aces

37-16-5

Thursday, Friday, Saturday; Sullivan Arena, 7:15 p.m.

Radio: Live 750-AM and 103.7-FM KFQD

 

BODY COUNT

The Alaska Aces so far this season have used 40 different players, which isn't extraordinarily high or low when you look back at their last few seasons. Here's how many players the Aces have used in their previous 10 ECHL seasons:

ECHL Season           Players Used By Aces

2012-13                    42

2011-12                    38

2010-11                    36

2009-10                    42

2008-09                    36

2007-08                    34

2006-07                    31

2005-06                    36

2004-05                    24

2003-04                    28


By DOYLE WOODY
dwoody@adn.com