On the Alaska Aces' seven-game road trip that wrapped Sunday afternoon with a 5-4 victory at Las Vegas to earn them a 5-1-1 mark on the journey, they received secondary scoring that proved first-rate.
There have been stretches this season when Alaska's top line of captain Nick Mazzolini centering wingers Peter Sivak and Brendan Connolly tortured opponents. On this roadie, though, the second- and third-line forwards flourished.
Sunday, for instance, with Mazzolini out with a lower-body injury, wingers Brett Findlay and Alex Belzile each generated one goal and two assists. Center Jordan Morrison contributed a goal, winger Evan Trupp chipped in two assists, winger Turner Elson delivered a goal and Tyler Mosienko, who can play either center or wing, had an assist.
"We were a one-trick pony for a while, but I wasn't worried about it because you knew the other lines were capable,'' coach Rob Murray said by cellphone. "We're getting secondary scoring by our defense too.''
Blueliners Corey Syvret and Zach McKelvie scored goals Sunday.
On the seven-game trip, Findlay and Trupp each furnished 5-5--10 totals in seven games. Morrison went 3-5--8 in seven games and Elson 2-7--9 in six games. Belzile checked in with 3-4--7 totals in six games and Mosienko had seven assists in seven games. While Mosienko has not scored a goal in the last 11 games, he has provided 11 helpers in that span.
Coming off Saturday night's epic collapse at Orleans Arena - Alaska led 3-1 with 2 minutes, 18 seconds to go in regulation and lost 4-3 - the Aces closed their trip by regaining the overall lead in the ECHL.
The Aces (44-18-6) won a .691 winning percentage that gives them a tiny edge on the Ontario Reign (.689).
The game was tied 3-3 through two periods before Elson and Belzile scored goals 37 seconds apart inside the opening six minutes of the third period. That 5-3 lead held until Wranglers defenseman Nolan Julseth-White scored an extra-attacker goal with 32.2 seconds left to cut the Aces' lead to 5-4.
But Morrison won two face-offs in the waning seconds to prevent the Wranglers from pulling another comeback.
Former UAF forward Carlo Finucci had a hand in all four Las Vegas goals with one goal and three assists, and Chad Nehring had one goal and two assists.
Alaska outshot Las Vegas, 49-32, which continued a trend in the three-game series. Wranglers goaltender Travis Fullerton deserves a cold beverage and a massage after facing 144 shots in three games.
Aces rookie goalie Aaron Crandall stopped 28 shots to win for the fourth time in his five pro starts since closing his college career at Minnesota-Duluth.
The Aces do not play again until April 9, when they open the final series of the regular season, a three-game set, at Colorado.
That respite will give Mazzolini time to heal and also give No. 1 goalie Gerald Coleman, who hasn't played in the last five games (upper-body injury), more time to heal and to get in some practices.
Shuffling the deck
Murray put injured defenseman John Ramage (upper-body) in the starting lineup merely to get him his fourth official ECHL game this season. Players must have played five regular-season games to be eligible for the Kelly Cup playoffs.
To make certain Ramage didn't get hit and aggravate his injury, Murray put him at right wing, the position closest to the Aces' bench. Shortly after the puck was dropped, Ramage went to the bench and didn't play another shift.
The game featured three delay of game penalties, all for putting the puck over the glass from the defensive zone, in a first-period span of just 8:43 - two of the infractions were on Alaska and one on Las Vegas.
That was unusual because in Alaska's previous 67 games this season, only once had two such penalties been called in a game. And that penalty had been called just 14 times overall - six times against the Aces, eight times against their opponent - in those 67 games.
Every Alaska skater with the exception of Ramage was credited with at least two shots on goal Sunday, and 10 Aces had three or more shots on goal. By comparison, just two Wranglers had more than two shots - Finucci (game-high eight) and former Aces winger Shawn Skelly (five). Elson led the Aces with six shots on goal and Syvret had five shots.
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Aces 1 2 2 5
Las Vegas 1 2 1 4
First Period - 1, Aces, Findlay 22 (Morrison, Belzile), 4:05; 2, Las Vegas, May 11 (Armstrong, Finucci), 8:00 (pp). Penalties - Cook, Las Vegas (delay of game-puck over glass), 1:28; Taranto, Aces (hooking), 5:20; Martin, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 7:11; Curry, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 10:15.
Second Period - 3, Las Vegas, Finucci 5 (Nehring, May), 3:18 (pp); 4, Aces, Syvret 2 (Trupp, Mosienko), 4:34; 5, Aces, McKelvie 3 (Findlay, Belzile), 5:47; 6, Las Vegas, Nehring 21 (Finucci, Armstrong), 6:20. Penalties - Richard, Aces (hooking), 3:08; Connolly, Aces (cross-checking), 11:18; Armstrong, Las Vegas (tripping), 15:05.
Third Period - 7, Aces, Elson 4 (Curry, Trupp), 4:52; 8, Aces, Belzile 4 (Findlay), 5:29; 9, Las Vegas, Julseth-White 3 (Nehring, Finucci), 19:27 (ea). Penalties - Armstrong, Las Vegas (roughing), 9:35; Curry, Aces (roughing), 9:35; Bernhardt, Las Vegas (tripping), 10:29; Bernhardt, Las Vegas (slashing), 16:27.
Shots on goal - Aces 17-14-18--49. Las Vegas 8-16-8--32.
Power-play Opportunities - Aces 0 of 4. Las Vegas 2 of 5.
Goalies - Aces, Crandall, 4-1-0 (32 shots-28 saves). Las Vegas, Fullerton, 13-20-6 (49-44).
A - 4,090 (7,773). T - 2:.
Referee - Andy Thackaberry. Linesmen - Steven Walsh, Todd Owen.
By DOYLE WOODY