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By: JP Puma
ANCHORAGE, Alaska - The Alaska Aces used three special teams goals to snap the Colorado Eagles' five game winning streak with a 4-3 victory. Alaska got two goals on the power play and one shorthanded -- two of which came off the tape of NHL players Joey Crabb & Scott Gomez -- while Colorado, still looking for its first win in Alaska, went 0-for-6 on the man advantage.
The teams exchanged goals in the first frame, leading to a 2-2- tie at the first intermission, but it was Colorado's struggles on the power play -- which entered the game ranked 2nd in the ECHL -- that were the main story of the period.
The Eagles were awarded four minutes of man advantage play early in the frame, but struggled to establish anything in the offensive zone. Skating at even strength nine minutes in, however, Kevin Ulanski put Colorado on top with a shot from the right circle. Playing in his first game of the season, it was the veteran forward's first shot of the game, and thus, the season.
Alaska countered a minute later when they took advantage of their lone power play chance of the period, as Kane Lafranchise found Garry Nunn with a backdoor pass on their first shot of the game midway through the opening period.
Colorado went back on top two minutes later when Cody Sol one-timed a shot from the point past Mark Guggenberger. But with Colorado on another power play four minutes later, a common bugaboo of the early season struck again when Crabb tallied a shorthanded goal to tie the game back up at 2. It was the 6th shorthanded goal allowed by the Eagles in 13 games this season (most in the ECHL).
The Eagles went back up just a dozen seconds into the second period on a beautiful play. Ulanski sent a pass from the right midboards to Kyle Ostrow in the slot. Ostrow then sent a spinning pass to Joey Sides on the doorstep to make it 3-2.
But again the Aces had an answer when rookie Jarred Smith picked up his first professional goal at 12:17 on a blast from atop the right circle. It was the first even strength goal allowed by the Eagles since Nov. 3 against the San Francisco Bulls.
Alaska out-shot Colorado, 19-5 in the second period, but Tyler Plante, making his second consecutive start for the Eagles, made several big saves in the period to keep the game knotted up at 3 heading into the third frame.
The Aces took their first lead of the game six and a half minutes into the final frame when Gomez scored a power-play goal from the slot, making Alaska the first team to score consecutive goals in the game. From there, the Aces' defense went to work, led by Guggenberger, who robbed the league's leading goal scorer, Michael Forney, at 13:15 with a lateral move from right to left.
Nunn looked to ice the game with a goal at 18:30, but a penalty on Nick Mazzoloni negated the goal and put Colorado on another power play in a powerful turn of events. But even with Plante pulled for a second extra attacker, the Eagles couldn't capitalize, and the Aces edged them to take the first of three games between the teams this week; the Mountain Division foes will play again on Friday & Saturday.