I suppose the Alaska Aces’ 5-3 season-opening win over the Victoria Salmon Kings at Sullivan Arena on Friday night made for decent pucks – you know, if you like a thundering sold-out house of 6,451, wild momentum swings, 3-on-1 short-handed rushes and highlight-reel goaltending.
On opening night in the ECHL, one thing was clear: referees in fact did receive the memo about cracking down on restraining fouls, and the result is ratcheting up the speed and skill of the world’s fastest game. In Stockton’s 6-1 win at Bakersfield, there were a combined 36 power plays – seriously, that’s not a typo. A relatively low 17 power plays transpired at the Sully, but as Salmon Kings coach Tony MacAulay pointed out, the crackdown means never having to say, ‘Game Over.’’ The Aces led 4-2 midway through the third period, which in days of old meant, “Warm up the bus.’’ Friday, the Salmon Kings cut the Aces’ lead to 4-3 on a power play with less than four minutes left and were on another power play, with goalie Dave Belitski pulled for a sixth attacker, when Aces’ winger Barrett Heisten scored short-handed into an empty net in the waning seconds.
Quoth MacAulay: “A year or two ago, that game was over with seven minutes to go.’’
The Goal of the Night came from Aces defenseman Matt Shasby, who culminated a 3-on-1 short-handed rush in the first period. A 3-on-1 shorty rush? You don’t see that every night. Of course, I’m the guy who during last spring’s playoffs, after Aces center Kimbi Daniels scored with his team at a 5-on-3 disadvantage, wrote that you’d sooner see opposing centers hug at the center-ice circle before you’d see another shorty from a team two men down. You puckheads might remember that Daniels turned the trick again later in the post-season (Disclosure: Obviously, no knowledge is a terrible thing.)
Shasby left the game midway through with what he said was probably a bruised knee. That was caused by a knee-to-knee collision, he said. If he is unable to go in tonight’s rematch – the Aces have just six defenseman on the roster – Aces coach Davis Payne said he’ll dress 11 forwards and 5 defensemen.
For what it’s worth, Friday night’s Aces’ lines: Olivier Filion centering Heisten and Matt Robinson; Vlade Novak centering Mike Scott and Ryan MacMurchy; Kimbi Daniels centering Julian Talbot and Kevin Croxton. The 10th forward was Hans Benson. Defensive pairings were Peter Metcalf and Steven Later, Shasby and Joey Hope, and Corbin Schmidt and Florian Iberer.
And what do we make of the repeated 360-degree spin moves flashed by puck-carrying Aces defenseman Later? Back in the day, and we mean waaaaay back in the day, Chicago Blackhawks center Denis Savard made that move famous and it was dubbed “The Spinorama’’ or some such spelling. What do we dub Steven’s spin – the “See-Ya-Later’’? (Previewed that one for the girlfriend. Response: Giant groan. Everyone’s a critic).
Around the ECHL:
Rookie Tim Wallace of Anchorage scored a goal for Wheeling in its 10-3 loss at Charlotte on Friday. Defenseman by the name of Kenton Smith had a helper for Charlotte – he’s the big bro of UAA defenseman Mark Smith.
Las Vegas had three guys with Alaska connections in the lineup in a 3-2 shootout loss at Fresno. The Wranglers used former UAA captain Lee Green of Soldotna, fellow defenseman Jason Krischuk of Anchorage and former UAF winger Kelly Czuy.
Speaking of the Seawolves, you gotta give it up to them for their come-from-behind 6-5 overtime win on the road against UAF on Friday. That gives them a leg up on earning the Governor’s Cup in the four-game annual series – the Nanooks have won the Cup five seasons running.
UAA senior wing Justin Bourne, one of the truly good guys, copped the game-winning goal, assisted on Jay Beagle’s game-tying goal with 15 seconds left and finished with four points (1-3—4). Bourne was the guy who scored his first career goal at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks as a freshman. His shot from the left wing deflected off something, as this old man recalls, ricocheted high in the air, where the goalie lost sight of it, and somehow descended into the net. Afterward, the ever-glib Bourne related that it was pretty much what he suspected his first goal would be, a shot from the rafters.
That’s it for now, and by the way, don’t expect all the posts to be this long. This is what you get when I can’t sleep – Argh!