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.
The Blog about fell off the couch laughing before the puck was even dropped. Hunt was lined up at wing on the center circle. When Bruton arrived to lineup beside him, Hunt immediately shoved him. Nice.
When Bruton fired an early shot on goal that Stockton goalie Olivier Roy gloved for a whistle, Hunt gave Bruton a shove as he was gliding past the net. The two were sent to their respective dressing rooms after trading slashes in the final minute. This is a nice little match-up to watch for the rest of the series. Hunt is the guy who tries to goad the Aces into retaliation. Bruton is the nuclear deterrent.
Don't be shocked if the boys drop the gloves at some point. Both are not particularly big men, but both will drop the gloves with anyone. The Blog loves Bruton's willingness to do whatever it takes to help his club. And The Blog likes Hunt -- no doubt The Cowbell Crew despises Hunt, but as we've always said, he'd be a cult hero if he played in Anchorage and their would be no shortage of Hunt sweaters at Sullivan Arena.
In other ECHL series, Kalamazoo won 3-0 at South Carolina to take a 3-0 series lead. Florida beat visiting Elmira, 2-0, to take a 3-1 lead in the series. So, three playoff games tonight, three shutouts.