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

Aces Update: Howes Back With Swanson And Goldie (Tonight's Lineup And A Morning-Skate Note)

With reigning Kelly Cup MVP Scott Howes back in the fold, Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray needed to figure out where to slot the left winger in the lineup for tonight's ECHL Western Conference finals opener in Las Vegas.

Turns out the first line from the Aces' Cup-winning run of last spring will be the first line tonight -- Howes moves into his familiar spot on a line with center Brian Swanson and right wing Wes Goldie, according to Aces spokesman Josh Bogorad.

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So, Cowbell Crew, How Long Do You See This Aces-Wranglers Series Going?

Banged out a column today for Thursday's dead-trees edition of the ADN, before hitting the couch for Bruins-Caps Game 7, and wrote the Aces-Wranglers series smells like it will go six of seven games -- yes, we know, The Blog is so bold!

Anyhow, what say you?

You see it going six or seven? Four, five?

Weigh in, kids.

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Former Aces Winger Robinson In CHL Finals; 4 Other Former Aces Trying To Get There

The Blog finally got around to checking out the Central Hockey League playoffs today and saw that former Alaska Aces winger Matt Robinson scored the OT winner for the Wichita Thunder on Monday night for a 3-2 win that eliminated Texas in the semifinals.

That puts the Thunder, the regular-season champs, in the Finals against a team to be determined -- Fort Wayne beat Missouri 4-1 tonight to force Game 7 on Thursday. Four former Aces -- defenseman Dave Pszenyczny, and forwards Patrick Schafer, John-Scott Dickson and Brandon Coccimiglio -- play for Missouri.

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The Return Of The Reigning Kelly Cup MVP: Howes To Rejoin Aces (UPDATED)

Um, this is sorta good news for the Alaska Aces: Reigning Kelly Cup Most Valuable Player Scott Howes is headed back to the club in time for the ECHL Western Conference Finals.

OK, huge news.

Howes, the winger who has spent nearly all of the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, will meet the Aces in Las Vegas on Wednesday and should be in the lineup for Thursday's opener in the best-of-7 series. All that is according to Aces coach Rob Murray and the club.

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Aces-Wranglers Schedule Is Out, And It's Not Good, But Could Have Been Much Worse

The Alaska Aces just released the schedule for their ECHL Western Conference Finals series with the Las Vegas Wranglers, and it's not good news for Aces fans -- because of rink availability issues, the series starts with two games in Las Vegas even though the Aces own home-ice advantage.

The series starts Thursday night in Vegas, followed by a Friday game in Sin City, a Saturday travel day and a Sunday Game 3 in Anchorage.

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Next Up For The Aces: Las Vegas

The Alaska Aces tonight learned their ECHL Western Conference Finals opponent: The Las Vegas Wranglers.

Las Vegas eliminated Idaho tonight with a 2-1 OT win on Eric Lampe's strike off assists from former Ace Judd Blackwater and Adam Miller -- that's the Wranglers' potent first line.

The Wranglers got 34 saves from Joe Fallon and Jerry Kuhn was once again excellent with 51 saves for the Steelheads.

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Howes Homecoming? We Shall See

Well, Scott Howes is now available.

The winger and reigning Kelly Cup MVP, who was so clutch and dominating for the Alaska Aces on their run to the ECHL's Kelly Cup last spring, is free because his Bridgeport Sound Tigers were swept out of the AHL playoffs today in a 4-3 OT loss to Connecticut that gave the Whale a three-game sweep of the opening-round, best-of-5 series.

Howes played today for the first time in the series, going even and without a point, but with four shots on goal.

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Aces 4, Stockton 1 -- Off To The Conference Finals Yet Again

Another hockey season, another conference finals series for the Alaska Aces.

The defending Kelly Cup champs eliminated the Stockton Thunder tonight in five games with a 4-1 win at Stockton Arena that marked their third straight win there.

And this makes three conference finals in the last four seasons, and six in the club's nine ECHL seasons.

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ECHL Playoff Roundup: Vegas Puts Idaho On Brink; Kalamazoo Advances

The Las Vegas Wranglers moved within one game of reaching the ECHL Western Conference Finals tonight with a 4-1 win at Idaho that earned it a 3-1 series lead heading into Sunday's Game 5 in Boise.

Joe Fallon stopped 25 shots for Las Vegas.

Meanwhile, Kalamazoo, which lost in the Kelly Cup Finals to the Alaska Aces last season, won 5-1 at South Carolina to take that Eastern Conference semifinal series and advance to the conference finals against the Florida Everblades. That series opens Friday in Michigan.

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Tough Times For Thompson -- Former Aces Coach Down 2-0 In AHL Playoffs

Man, tough start for coach Brent Thompson, the former Alaska Aces bench boss who guided them to the ECHL's Kelly Cup last season, and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL playoffs.

Bridgeport lost 3-0 to Connecticut for the second straight game to fall behind 2-0 in the best-of-5, first-round series.

Bridgeport is 0 of 10 on the power play in the series and has not lacked for shots -- Connecticut's Cameron Talbot racked 41 saves tonight after bagging 42 in Thursday's opener.

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Aces Update: Gentile Out Tonight; Bruton A Game-Time Decision

Just got off the phone with Alaska Aces coach Rob Murray, who said defenseman Brandon Gentile will miss tonight's Game 5 against the Stockton Thunder with an upper-body injury and winger Chris Bruton will be a game-time decision because of a lower-body injury.

Murray said rookie defenseman David Shields, recently sent to the Aces from AHL Peoria will take Gentile's spot tonight -- that will mark Shields' pro playoff debut.

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Here's How The Aces Historically Roll In Elimination Games

The Alaska Aces lead the Stockton Thunder 3-1 in the best-of-7, ECHL Western Conference semifinals and Saturday night in California have a chance in Game 5 to eliminate the Thunder.

Historically, the two-time Kelly Cup champs have been pretty effective closers, going 16-8 all-time in ECHL playoff games in which they can win a series.

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Aces 4, Stockton 2

The Alaska Aces have the Stockton Thunder on the ropes after tonight's 4-2 win in California.

The Aces own a 3-1 advantage in the best-of-7 series entering Saturday night's Game 5 in Stockton.

Alaska never led tonight until Steve Ward's power-play goal with less than six minutes to go gave it a 3-2 edge. Nick Mazzolini, who furnished a dazzling assist on Ryan Cruthers' game-tying goal late in the second period, sealed victory with an empty-net goal.

The Aces also received a goal from defenseman Tyson Marsh and 19 saves from Gerald Coleman.

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ECHL Eastern Conference Playoff Roundup: Florida Eliminates No. 1 Seed Elmira; South Carolina Survives

The Elmira Jackals, the No. 1 seed in the ECHL's Eastern Conference, have been relieved of their playoff responsibilities -- the No. 5-seeded Florida Everblades beat Elmira 2-1 with two third-period goals tonight to wrap up that best-of-7 series in five games.

Florida won the last four games of the series.

The Everblades await the winner of the Kalamazoo-South Carolina series. South Carolina avoided elimination tonight with a 4-1, but still trails 3-1 in the series against the franchise the Alaska Aces beat for the Kelly Cup last season.

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UAA Unveils Its 2012-13 Schedule For Final Season Before The WCHA Gets Watered Down

Coming off a last-place finish in the WCHA and pretty dismal season all around (9-25-2, 5-22-1 WCHA), UAA can continue looking forward to next season, and has released its schedule for 2012-13, the last season before the WCHA loses its power programs and becomes a less potent circuit.

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ECHL Playoff Roundup: Idaho Answers

The Idaho Steelheads handed visiting Las Vegas its first loss of the ECHL's Kelly Cup playoffs tonight, coming back from an early third-period deficit with two goals in a span of 2:12 and winning 4-3.

That marked Las Vegas' first setback after five straight wins -- the Wranglers swept Utah in three games and won the first two games of this ECHL Western Conference semifinal series in Sin City -- and cut Las Vegas' series lead to 2-1.

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History Says Aces' Game 3 Win Was Big

Lotta hockey left to be played between the Alaska Aces and Stockton Thunder in the ECHL Western Conference semis, where the Aces lead 2-1 in the best-of-7, courtesy of Wednesday night's 4-0 win in California.

History says a 2-1 lead has treated the Aces well in their eight previous ECHL playoff experiences. A 2-1 deficit -- not so much.

Here's how the Aces have done in 11 previous series that stood at 2-1 after three matches:

2011 vs. Kalamazoo---------------Won in 5 games
2009 vs. Utah----------------------Won in 5 games

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More On Aces' Game 3 Win (ECHL Playoff Roundup)

One of the little beauties of hockey is the small battles that take place on the ice, some of which don't even show up in the summary.

Take the Alaska Aces' 4-0 win over the Stockton Thunder in California tonight, which earned the Aces a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 ECHL Western Conference semifinal series and restored their home-ice advantage.

Stockton winger Garet Hunt is a prototypical pest -- as good as they get, really -- and he tried to goad Aces winger Chris Bruton from the drop of the puck. Make that even before the drop of the puck.

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Aces 4, Stockton 0

The Alaska Aces pushed back tonight -- their 4-0 win at Stockton earned them a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7, ECHL Western Conference semifinal series.

Gerald Coleman racked 22 saves for the bagel.

Goals from Ryan Cruthers (on the power play! Hey!), Wes Goldie, Nick Mazzolini and Jordan Kremyr.

The Aces outshot the Thunder 40-22, including 31-9 in the final two periods.

More later -- probably.

Game 5 is Friday night in Stockton.

Oh, the Aces have home-ice advantage back in their possession.

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Aces Update

Alaska Aces spokesman Josh Bogorad filled us in on a couple of lineup changes for Game 3 tonight in Stockton, Calif., where the puck drops in about 90 minutes on the ECHL Western Conference series with the Thunder.

Chris Bruton, loaned back to the Aces by AHL Peoria, moves into the lineup and rookie winger Tim Hall comes out. Also, Zach Harrison will start the game as the 10th forward, which means Chris Langkow is moving up to center the third line.

Unless coach Rob Murray is juggling lines, which The Blog doensn't expect, here are the forward lines for the Aces:

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