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.
Ward was injured blocking a shot early in the game. He hobbled off, but soon returned to the ice for a power play. But when he pushed off with his right leg in an attempt to keep the puck in the zone, he crumpled and agonizingly made his way to the bench. Soon, he went off the ice, accompanied by trainer Alan Diamond.
Ward has a spiral fracture of his right fibula and will require pins and plates to repair it in surgery. The Aces were already without his usual partner, Kane Lafranchise, who was not even in the building Saturday after taking a hit to the head Friday that earned Utah's Riley Armstrong a three-game suspension.
Ward and Lafranchise are minutes eaters. They play a regular shift, play on the power play and kill penalties. Most nights, when Alaska is protecting a one-goal lead like it was tonight, that pairing would be on the ice. Saturday, it was Haltigin and rookie William Wrenn logging that last-minute duty.
Expect coach Rob Murray to be hunting for D-men. The Aces already had two on the shelf before this weekend's injuries in veteran Sean Curry and Todd Orlando.
On the college front, UAA got two goals from freshman Blake Tatchell and two goals and a helper from sophomore Scott Allen in a 6-3 win over Merrimack at UAF's Brice Alaska Goal Rush in Fairbanks.
UAF beat No. 2-ranked North Dakota, 2-1, in the late game to win its own tournament. Goaltender Steve Thompson of Anchorage made 25 saves and was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player.
And, finally, in a non-hockey aside, congrats to the South football team, which beat Service 28-19 to win the large-school state football championship and avenge both last season's loss to the Cougars in the state title game and a regular-season loss to the Cougars.