Even the most optimistic Alaska Aces fan looking through glacier blue lenses surely must now confess: The good times are long gone, and with them, any faint hope of qualifying for the playoffs.
The Aces' 5-2 loss at Colorado on Saturday night dropped them 14 points out of the last playoff position in the ECHL's Western Conference — Colorado owns that spot at the moment — with just 17 hockey games remaining in their regular season.
To make the playoffs, the Aces (20-29-6) also would have to leap-frog five teams.
The math in undeniable — the Aces will miss the Kelly Cup playoffs for the second straight season. That's a remarkable plunge for a franchise that won the 2014 Cup and has never finished below .500 in 12 previous seasons on the circuit.
The Aces went 0-2-1 in their three-game series with the Eagles (29-23-2), who have won four straight, and are 1-4-1 two-thirds of the way through their season-long, nine-game road trip.
Alaska owned leads in the first two games of the series and was locked in a 2-2 tie through two periods Saturday, yet exited the series with one point, courtesy of Friday's 3-2 overtime loss.
Saturday, the Aces were undone on special teams in the final 20 minutes. They enjoyed three third-period power plays, but the only special-team strike in those instances was Johnny Lazo's short-handed, go-ahead, game-winning goal for the Eagles.
Colorado added two empty-net goals. Lazo and Jesse Mychan each bagged their second goal of the night at Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, with Mychan pushing his team-leading goal total to 25.
The Aces fell into a 2-0 first-period hole after Ludwig Karlsson and Mychan struck seven minutes apart.
Still, Alaska rallied to forge a 2-2 second-period tie on Garet Hunt's power-play goal and Peter Sivak's tally late in the period.
But the Aces couldn't break through on their three man advantages in the third period and now move on to Idaho for a three-game series to wrap the roadie.
Hunt just 31 seconds into the game fought Darryl Bootland for the second straight night and for the fifth time in the last two seasons.
Aces 0 2 0 — 2
Colorado 2 0 3 — 5
First Period — 1, Colorado, Karlsson 9 (Mychan, Boe), 6:57; 2, Colorado, Mychan 24 (Karlsson, Marto), 13:45. Penalties — Bootland, Colorado, major (fighting), :31; Hunt, Aces, major (fighting), :31; Breton, Aces (hooking), 3:48; Veideman, Colorado (hooking), 17:19.
Second Period — 3, Aces, Hunt 7 (Tesink, Wellar), 8:08 (pp); 4, Aces, Sivak 16 (Perfetto, Breton), 18:16. Penalties — Kraemer, Colorado (tripping), 1:55; Sivak, Aces (hooking), 4:02; Marto, Colorado (tripping), 6:08; Zahn, Colorado, minor-misconduct, served by MacIntyre (roughing, continuing altercation), 10:35; Valcourt, Aces, minor-misconduct, served by Eddy (roughing, continuing altercation), 10:35; Zimmerman, Colorado (roughing), 15:16; Traversa, Aces (cross-checking), 15:16.
Third Period ?— 5, Colorado, Lazo 12, 4:14 (sh); 6, Colorado, Lazo 13, 18:50 (en); 7, Colorado, Mychan 25 (Zahn, Ringrose), 19:59 (en). Penalties — Traversa, Aces (cross-checking) :07; Bootland, Colorado (interference), 9:11; Marto, Colorado (hooking), 13:17.
Shots on goal — Aces 6-10-8—24. Colorado 11-4-10—25.
Power-play Opportunities — Aces 1 of 6. Colorado 0 of 3.
Goalies — Aces, DeSerres, 3-9-2 (23 shots-20 saves). Colorado, Lazaruk, 7-5-1 (24-22).
A ?— 5,019 (5,289). T — 2:28.
Referee — Chris Pontes. Linesmen — Dylan Peper, Mitch Macpherson.