Mitch Jones has played just five hockey games as a pro, but he's already making an impact for the Alaska Aces.
The rookie defenseman authored the game-winning goal Sunday afternoon to supplement Troy Redmann's 32 saves and help the Aces rack a 2-1 road win against the Atlanta Gladiators.
The Aces' victory snapped a five-game road winless streak (0-4-1) that tied the third-longest road winless streak in the club's 13 ECHL seasons.
The Aces (12-18-4), who fell 3-2 in a shootout to Atlanta in Friday night's opener of a six-game road swing in the South, close a three-game series at Atlanta (21-12-2) on Tuesday.
Justin Breton opened the scoring Sunday, bagging his team-leading 12th goal on a penalty shot just three minutes into the game. Breton was awarded a penalty shot after he split the Gladiators defense and was hauled down from behind. He also used his substantial speed to end the game – Breton negated a potential icing call against the Aces in the waning seconds after captain William Wrenn missed a long-range bid at an empty-net goal.
Jones missed the first 29 games of the season with a broken hand. Since he moved into the lineup, he has scored two goals and added an assist – he has one point in each of the last three games.
Coach Rob Murray has paired Jones with Wrenn. Wrenn and Gleason Fournier were easily the club's top pairing before Fournier recently left the team to play in the Great Britain-based Elite Ice Hockey League. Fournier's departure left the Aces with a gaping hole in their lineup, not just because he played in all situations and logged heavy minutes, but also because his eight goals matched the total scored by all of the Aces' current defensemen.
In any event, Jones has proved plenty capable in his young pro career.
Jones cashed in on a Wrenn rebound with the Aces enjoying a two-man advantage just 70 seconds into the third period. That strike staked the Aces to a 2-0 lead and came in particularly handy when Gladiators blueliner Matt Register, a former ECHL Defenseman of the Year (2014 for Ontario) hammered home a goal with eight minutes to go and Atlanta enjoying a 5-on-3 power play.
Redmann continued his sharp play of late. In his last four games, he is 2-1-1 with a 1.72 goals-against average and .943 save percentage.
The Aces killed a Gladiators power play inside the last four minutes before Atlanta pulled Matt Ginn (37 saves) in favor of a sixth attacker in the last 75 seconds.
Shuffling the deck
Peter Sivak's assist on Jones' goal pushed his point streak to five games. The winger owns 1-8—9 totals in that span.
Breton's penalty-shot goal marked just the fifth time an ECHL skater has scored on 16 penalty-shot attempts this season. Atlanta's Ginn has faced a league-high three penalty shots and surrendered two goals.
Breton launched a game high-tying eight shots on goal – Atlanta's Thomas Frazee (assist) matched that – and that was one shy of his season-best nine shots on goal. Breton 10 times has fired five or more shots on goal in a game this season. He leads the Aces with 116 shots on goal in 33 games for an average of 3.52 shots per game.
Sunday's game featured an unusual stat – Breton, at plus-1, was the only skater on either side with a plus-minus rating other than even. He earned the plus-1 for his penalty shot, and the other two goals in the game came on power plays. Power-play goals do not figure into plus-minus rating.
Aces first-line center Tim Coffman lost his four-game point streak.
Alaska improved to 3-8-2 on the road.
Former Aces winger Garry Nunn (2011 Kelly Cup) furnished Atlanta an assist.
Aces 1 0 1 2
Atlanta 0 0 1 1
First Period – 1, Aces, Breton 12 (penalty shot), 3:19. Penalties – Jones, Aces (slashing), 15:03.
Second Period -- None. Penalties – Higgs, Atlanta (roughing), 14:05; Perfetto, Aces (roughing), 14:05; Barteaux, Atlanta, major (fighting), 17:41; Valcourt, Aces, major (fighting), 17:41; Stejskal, Atlanta (cross-checking), 19:15; Atlanta bench minor, served by Nesbitt (unsportsmanlike conduct), 20:00.
Third Period – 2, Aces, Jones 2 (Wrenn, Sivak), 1:10 (pp); 3, Atlanta, Register 4 (Nunn, Frazee), 12:43 (pp). Penalties – Wellar, Aces (slashing), 6:06; Coffman, Aces (delay of game-puck over glass), 10:44; Hunt, Aces (cross-checking), 11:58; Deluca, Aces (tripping), 16:31.
Shots on goal – Aces 11-18-10—39. Atlanta 12-8-13—33.
Power-play Opportunities – Aces 1 of 2. Atlanta 1 of 5.
Goalies – Aces, Redmann, 8-12-3 (33 shots-32 saves). Atlanta, Ginn, 8-6-1 (39-37).
A – 4,185 (11,355). T – 2:28.
Referee – Andrea Barone. Linesmen – Lucas Bisbee, Scott Senger.