Woody on Hockey

Alaska is hockey heaven -- the Alaska Aces are perennial ECHL contenders, the UAA Seawolves play in the nation's premier college league and NHL star Scott Gomez headlines a contingent of pros. Join the conversation about the Aces and Alaska hockey with Doyle Woody, who has covered the game here at all levels for 29 years.

Contact: dwoody@adn.com

Here's a historically encouraging way of looking at UAA's WCHA series in Grand Forks - 10/25/2012 3:43 pm

Aces: Ambroz released (Plus, Courchaine note) - 10/25/2012 1:26 pm

Aces: Gee, those are some decent linemates Imbeault just got; plus, numbers changes - 10/25/2012 10:45 am

Aces add a defenseman in fourth-year pro Alain Goulet - 10/25/2012 9:59 am

A bunch of Alaska connections play in the Austrian League where Alexandre Imbeault began the season - 10/24/2012 5:41 pm

Man, UAA's Early Schedule Is Odd - 10/24/2012 5:07 pm

Former Aces Center Imbeault Is Now Current Aces Center Imbeault (UPDATED) - 10/24/2012 1:16 pm

North Pole's Copley Is WCHA Rookie Of The Week - 10/23/2012 12:19 pm

Here's a historically encouraging way of looking at UAA's WCHA series in Grand Forks

Playing North Dakota in Grand Forks has never been easy for UAA -- a 3-26-3 record at both the old Engelstad Arena and the new one attests to that -- but at least the Seawolves are catching the Sioux in the first half of the season.

As history shows, that's the best time -- if there is such a thing -- to catch Dave Hakstol's club. In the second half of the WCHA season, his teams have been particular beasts, which is one reason North Dakota has been to the NCAAs in each of his eight seasons as bench boss.

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Aces: Ambroz released (Plus, Courchaine note)

The Alaska Aces today released winger Matt Ambroz to clear some roster space for the additions of center Alexandre Imbeault and defenseman Alain Goulet.

Ambroz played in one game for the Aces this season after appearing in 48 games for them last season, with 3-7--10 and +4 totals, and 88 penalty minutes.

Ambroz initially joined the Aces late in the 2010-11 season after finishing his college career at Nebraska-Omaha.

The Aces also placed injured defensemen Kane Lafranchise and Corey Syvret on reserve and activated veteran winger Matt Robinson.

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Aces: Gee, those are some decent linemates Imbeault just got; plus, numbers changes

In his first practice with the Alaska Aces since he was acquired in a trade Wednesday, Alexandre Imbeault stepped into a pretty sweet gig.

Here at Ben Boeke Arena -- or as The Blog likes to call it, the coldest place on the planet; damn! -- Imbeault is skating at right wing on a line with center Nate Thompson and left wing Brandon Dubinsky. Those latter two dudes, you may be aware, are NHLers currently playing for the Aces during the lockout.

The other practice lines:

Matt Robinson-Nick Mazzolini-Joey Crabb
Tommy Mele-Bobby Hughes-Garry Nunn

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Aces add a defenseman in fourth-year pro Alain Goulet

The Alaska Aces just hit the practice ice at Ben Boeke Arena with a new defenseman in the fold – fourth-year pro Alain Goulet, who played part of last season for the Bakersfield Condors and previously played under Aces coach Rob Murray at AHL Providence, has signed with the Aces. (He has to have signed to be on the ice with the club in-season).

Goulet’s addition gives Murray’s battered blue line at least five defenseman for a three-game ECHL series against the San Francisco Bulls that opens Friday night at Sullivan Arena.

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A bunch of Alaska connections play in the Austrian League where Alexandre Imbeault began the season

Clicking around the series of tubes today after the news broke that the Alaska Aces traded for former Aces center Alexandre Imbeault, couldn't help but notice all the Alaska connections in the Austrian league where Imbeault briefly played to start the season.

One of his teammates with Slovenia-based Olimpija Ljubljana was former Aces center Brock McBride, who is tied for second on that circuit in points with 6-15--21 and +13 totals in 13 games. He's also tied for first in the league in plus-minus.

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Man, UAA's Early Schedule Is Odd

The Seawolves were scheduled to depart town early this morning for Grand Forks, N.D., and two more games with North Dakota -- and, to The Blog, a 6 a.m. flight isn't so much early morning as very late evening.

In any event, the Seawolves just played the Sioux last Friday at UAF's tournament in Fairbanks, and now they play them two more times to open the WCHA season. That's odd, but the Seawolves did the same thing with Nebraska-Omaha last season -- played the Mavericks on a Friday in Fairbanks, then traveled the next week to Omaha to open WCHA play.

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Former Aces Center Imbeault Is Now Current Aces Center Imbeault (UPDATED)

The Alaska Aces have acquired former Aces center Alexandre Imbeault, who helped them to Game 7 of the ECHL’s 2009 Kelly Cup Finals, from the Orlando Solar Bears for future considerations – that deal has taken place even as Aces coach Rob Murray still is trying to get a couple of defensemen because his group is riddled with injuries. (Also, Imbeault has played for Murray before, when Murray was head coach at AHL Providence).

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North Pole's Copley Is WCHA Rookie Of The Week

Michigan Tech goaltender Phoenix Copley of North Pole has been named the WCHA Rookie of the Week after helping the Huskies post a series split against then-No. 1-ranked Minnesota last week.

Copley stopped 28 shots in a 5-3 win on Saturday in Houghton, Mich., then made 31 saves in a 3-2 loss on Saturday.

In three games, Copley is 1-2-0 with a 3.36 goals-against average and .885 save percentage.

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Aces: The D Is Damaged

Alaska Aces captain Steve Ward's summary of the injuries, including his own, to the club's defense, says it all: "That's usually how it goes -- when it rains, it pours.''

Ward suffered a broken right leg in the first period of Saturday's 1-0 win over visiting Utah. He underwent surgery Sunday and is probably looking at 10-12 weeks before he plays again -- more on that in Wednesday's dead-trees edition of the ADN.

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Couple Quick Notes (Thompson, Baldwin)

UAF goaltender Steve Thompson entered this season, his senior year, with only three career starts and just five appearances -- that's because he was stuck behind Scott Greenham for three seasons while Greenham was becoming the all-time leader in everything for the Nanooks.

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Your Pucks Roundup: Aces Win, Ward Breaks Leg; UAA Wins, UAF Wins Its Tournament

The Alaska Aces lost captain Steve Ward, a do-everything defenseman, to a broken leg tonight -- he'll have surgery Sunday -- but pulled out a 1-0 win over Utah on a third-period goal from defenseman Chris Haltigin, making his pro debut, and 23 saves from Mark Guggenberger is his home debut.

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Howes -- That's "Scotty'' Howes To You -- Shines In CHL Allen Debut

Checking out a scoring summary in the Central Hockey League, it turns out our old pal Scott Howes, the former Aces winger and 2011 Kelly Cup MVP, is now "Scotty'' Howes.

In any event, he made a sterling CHL debut tonight with the Allen (Texas) Americans -- Howes racked two goals on three shots on goal and went +3 in a 4-0 victory over the visiting Arizona Sundogs.

Howes spent most of last season in the AHL, so it's weird seeing him all the way down in the CHL. But The Blog believes he can sum up why Howes is in that league in one keystroke: $

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Here's An Interesting Stat About The Aces' Home-Ice Dominance

This is the 10th season of Alaska Aces hockey in the ECHL and tonight's game against the Utah Grizzlies marks the 38th two-game home series the Aces have played at Sullivan Arena.

In the previous 37, they've never lost both games in regulation. That streak is on the line tonight because the Grizzlies won the Aces' home opener 5-2 on Friday.

Granted, three-game home series are much more common that two-game sets because it makes more sense financially for opponents to travel all this way and get a three-game bang for the puck.

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Utah's Armstrong Suspended 3 Games For Hit On Aces D-Man Lafranchise

The ECHL today suspended Utah Grizzlies forward Riley Armstrong three games for his hit to the head of Alaska Aces defenseman Kane Lafranchise on Friday night.

Armstrong delivered the hit in the third period shortly after Lafranchise made a pass near his own blue line. Armstrong, who was fined an undisclosed amount, was issued a match penalty for contact to the head.

Lafranchise, who was bleeding from the mouth after the hit, stayed down on the ice for a couple of minutes before being helped to the dressing room.

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That Was A Quick ECHL Visit For Lawson; Back In The AHL

Former UAA goaltender Nathan Lawson, who was back in the ECHL Friday for the first time in four years, turned that into a fly-by visit.

The Ottawa Senators reassigned Lawson to AHL Binghamton today after Lawson racked 32 saves Friday night for ECHL Elmira in a 4-2 win over Wheeling.

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Utah 5, Aces 2

Friday was not a banner night for the Alaska Aces -- not in the figurative sense of the phrase.

Sure, before tonight's home opener they added some new touches to literal banners -- signifying last season's Mountain Division and Western Conference titles, and Brabham Cup as regular-season ECHL champs.

But then Utah crashed the celebration before 5,328 by racking a 5-2 win.

That snapped Alaska's string of eight straight home-opening wins. The Aces are 8-2-0 all-time in ECHL home openers.

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Some Random Notes (Ruegsegger, Lawson, UAF, Summerhays, Sorenson, Hickel)

Just a few quick updates on Alaska-connected players:

Former Alaska Aces winger Tyler Ruegsegger bagged his first goal of the AHL season tonight, striking on the power play for the Abbotsford Heat in a 3-2 shootout loss to Chicago.

In the ECHL, former UAA goaltender Nathan Lawson made his first appearance on that circuit in four years and racked 32 saves for the Elmira Jackals in a 4-2 win over Wheeling.

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UAA's Lines For Tonight's Game Against North Dakota In Fairbanks

Here's the lineup UAA coach Dave Shyiak has assembled for tonight's game against No. 2-ranked North Dakota at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament in Fairbanks:

Allen-Bailey-Kwas
Roy-Naslund-Cameron
Trupp-Tatchell-Gellert
Murphy-Currier-Crowell

Coldwell-Docken
Warner-Leask
Sproule-Sevalrud

Kamal
Gunderson

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Former UAA Goalie Lawson Back In The ECHL With Elmira

Four years have passed since former UAA goaltender Nathan Lawson appeared in the ECHL, but he's back on the circuit now after the NHL's Ottawa Senators assigned him to the Elmira Jackals.

Lawson, 29 (and, man, does that make The Blog feel ancient), was with AHL Binghamton, but those Senators had three goalies, which is one too many. (Also, the two other goalies are Ben Bishop, who turns 26 Sunday, and is a third-round draft pick with 17 NHL games; and Robin Lehner, 21, a second-rounder with 13 NHL games).

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It Wasn't Always Big Bucks And National Titles For Minnesota Bench Boss Don Lucia (He Recalls His Fairbanks Days)

Former UAF head coach and UAA assistant coach Don Lucia has deep roots in Fairbanks -- it's where he started coaching, where he met his wife, Joyce, and where their four children were born.

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