The bottom line from the Alaska Aces' 3-2 shootout loss tonight at Ontario, and other results around the ECHL: The Aces now own the first tie-breaker over Ontario in the race for the Brabham Cup, and Las Vegas and Greenville were eliminated from the pool of contenders.
The Brabham, which the Aces won last year on the way to the second Kelly Cup in franchise history, is a big deal because it would afford them a first-round playoff bye and home ice throughout the postseason, both of which kinda worked out for them in 2011.
Ryan Cruthers' goal with less than two minutes to go proved huge. It got the Aces to overtime, guaranteeing Ontario could only pick up one point on Alaska in the standings. Oh, and that penalty-shot denial by Gerald Coleman on Bill Bagron of Eagle River midway through the third period proved enormous.
Apparently, some dude on the Aces also scored some kind of historic goal (check a blog entry written earlier tonight).
Anyway, the Aces might want to send Idaho goalie Jerry Kuhn a bouquet (he stopped 45 shots in regulation and overtime, and three of five Las Vegas shootout bids to backstop the Steelheads' 3-2 SOW at Las Vegas). Earlier, Gwinnett's 3-2 win at Greenville eliminated Greenville from the Brabham hunt.
That leaves the Aces, Gwinnett, Ontario and Elmira as the only teams that can win the Brabham. Alaska owns the first tie-breaker -- non-shootout wins -- over the three other teams.
And although the Aces fell in a shootout for the fifth straight time and are a league-worst 3-8 in the skills competition, you folks in the Cowbell Crew should have one mantra right now. All together: "THERE IS NO SHOOTOUT IN THE PLAYOFFS!''
And Cowbell Crew: Elmira plays Sunday at Wheeling, so consider yourselves huge Nailers fans.
Here's how the race for the Brabham stacks up, now that the Aces, Ontario and Elmira each have four games left, and Gwinnett three games remaining:
Alaska------94 points in 68 games
Gwinnett---91 points in 69 games
Ontario-----90 points in 68 games
Elmira------88 points in 68 games