Entering Saturday night, Alaska Aces rookie winger Tommaso Traversa had not scored a goal in the previous 13 hockey games and furnished just one assist in that span.
Traversa's center, Ben Lake, had not provided a point in the previous 14 games. And the third member of the Aces' all-rookie third line, winger Anthony Deluca, had not earned a point in his previous six games and had generated just one point, a goal, in his last 12 games.
All three got better in a big way in North Charleston, South Carolina, where their unexpected scoring seemed fitting in the Aces' wild, come-from-ahead, then come-from-behind, 5-4 ECHL overtime win against the South Carolina Stingrays.
Traversa bagged the Aces' first hat trick of the season and added the principal assist on defenseman Felix-Antoine Poulin's decisive strike nearly three minutes into the five-minute overtime. Deluca racked three assists and Lake added two.
Big production from young, third-line players seemed just about right in a game the Aces led 3-0 in the first period and trailed 4-3 in the third period. Seemed right too on a night when the Aces' usually stalwart goaltender Troy Redmann (34 saves) basically scored one goal on himself and set up another with an errant clearing attempt.
And, again, the production of Traversa and company seemed oddly on the nose for an Aces team that entered 0-5 in post-regulation games – 0-2 in overtime, 0-3 in shootouts – and won on a goal in which a broken stick played a fortuitous part.
"That's why they play 63 minutes,'' Aces coach Rob Murray said, deadpan, by cellphone.
The Aces (14-18-5) stretched their season-best points streak to six games (4-0-2) and raised their record on this six-game road trip to 3-0-2 entering Sunday's trip finale against the Stingrays.
The Aces visit to the North Charleston Coliseum was their first since their 3-2 overtime win in Game 5 of the Kelly Cup Finals in 2009 sent that series back to Anchorage. The Stingrays seized the Cup in seven games.
Alaska raced to a 3-0 lead inside the opening 12 minutes Saturday, the fastest it has assembled such a lead in 37 games this season. Center Tim Coffman scored just 12 seconds into the game and Traversa followed with two goals for his team-best third multiple-goal game of the season.
The Aces' cushion held through one period – but not through two periods.
Jordan Staal scored for South Carolina just 36 seconds into the third period. Jordan Ciccarello scored less than two minutes later when Redmann attempted to deflect a Stingrays centering pass but saw the puck hit the heel of his stick and produce an own-goal. David Pacan followed at the 14-minute mark with a power-play goal off a 2-on-1 pass from former UAA skater Brett Cameron.
Suddenly, it was 3-3.
"I thought, 'Let's just get out of this period – we'll regroup, it's 0-0 going into the third period and anything can happen,' " Murray said.
And South Carolina (20-15-3) went ahead 4-3 nine minutes into the third period when Redmann left his net to play the puck but turned it over and Stephan Vigier pocketed the go-ahead goal.
But Traversa answered just 70 seconds later off helpers from Lake and Deluca to forge a 4-4 tie.
Aces second-line center Stephen Perfetto had a breakaway in overtime, but Vitek Vanecek snapped his pads together to rebuff Perfetto's backhander.
The sequence that ended with Poulin's game-winning goal began with a Traversa pass to defenseman Garrett Haar in the slot. Haar's stick snapped as he attempted a shot that turned into an inadvertent pass back to Traversa. This time, Traversa found Poulin on the back door.
Murray said he earlier this week talked to Lake's line and told the players he needed them to produce offense, at least more than they have recently.
"They're first-year players, they're learning,'' Murray said. "All that being said, they came up big for us tonight.''
Shuffling the deck
Traversa's four points were the most in a game by an Aces player this season.
First-line center Coffman, and linemates Peter Sivak and Collin Valcourt have, each produced two three-point games. Justin Breton owns one three-point game, as does captain William Wrenn and departed blueliner Landon Oslanski.
Aces defenseman/assistant coach Patrick Wellar played for South Carolina in those 2009 Kelly Cup Finals, and current South Carolina coach, and former UAA forward, Spencer Carbery, was a Stingrays player in that series.
Besides the Cup he won with the Stingrays in 2009, Wellar won Cups with the Aces (2006) and the Reading Royals (2013). He also won an American Hockey League Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears (2010).
The Aces have played seven straight games decided by one goal.
Alaska entered the night third in the league in shots per game (34.06) but managed just 22. Probably had something to do with South Carolina, which entered allowing a league-low 25.89 shots per game.
Aces 3 0 1 1 5
South Carolina 0 3 1 0 4
First Period – 1, Aces, Coffman 12 (Sivak, Valcourt), :12; 2, Aces, Traversa 10 (Deluca, Lake), 7:08; 3, Aces, Traversa 11 (Deluca), 11:37. Penalties – Sivak, Aces (holding), 7:57; Gillies, South Carolina, major (fighting), 7:58; Hunt, Aces, major (fighting), 7:58; Ellis, South Carolina (hooking), 12:53; Perfetto, Aces (tripping), 16:40.
Second Period – 4, South Carolina, Staal 5 (Gaul), :36; 5, South Carolina, Ciccarello 1, 2:27; 6, South Carolina, Pacan 10 (Cameron), 14:19 (pp). Penalties – Wrenn, Aces (hooking), 6:03; Hunt, Aces, major (fighting), 11:11; Gillies, South Carolina, minor-major (instigator, fighting), 11:11; Jones, Aces (slashing), 12:28; Deluca, Aces (tripping), 16:00.
Third Period – 7, South Carolina, Vigier 9 (Rodrigues, Mulvey), 9:06; 8, Aces, Traversa 12 (Lake, Deluca), 10:16. Penalties -- None.
Overtime – 9, Aces, Poulin 3 (Traversa, Haar), 2:55. Penalties – None.
Shots on goal – Aces 8-4-8-2—22. South Carolina 14-9-14-1—38.
Power-play Opportunities – Aces 0 for 2. South Carolina 1 of 5.
Goalies – Aces, Redmann, 10-12-4 (38 shots-34 saves). South Carolina, Vanecek, 6-6-3 (22-17).
A – 5,402 (6,712). T – 2:30.
Referee – Lucas Martin. Linesmen – Charlie O'Connor, Zach Thornton.