Aces sweep Stockton to seize final playoff spot with six games left
STOCKTON, Calif. - Eleven different players registered a point while Niklas Lundstrom made 25 saves, helping lift the Alaska Aces to a three-game series sweep and 4-2 victory over the host Stockton Thunder before a crowd of 5,104 at Stockton Arena on Sunday.
Alaska won its fifth straight game, all on the road (season high), overtaking the Utah Grizzlies by one point for fourth place in the Pacific Division - the final playoff spot - with six games remaining in the regular season.
FINAL STATS: Box score | AUDIO: Game highlights (KFQD) | GOAL: Cameron (KFQD)
In the final all-time meeting between the Aces and Stockton (who will play in the American Hockey League next season), the Aces earned a three-game road sweep in regular season play for the first time in the ten years of head-to-head meetings in Stockton.
The Aces led wire-to-wire, building a lead as large as 3-0 and earned a pair of critical second period goals from its blueline - Corey Syvret (6th goal) and Corbin Baldwin (3rd) each contributed with a goal.
Bryan Cameron broke a scoreless tie with 1:49 left in the first period, deflecting Brad Cole's point shot past Stockton starter Kent Simpson for his 11th goal of the season - also breaking a ten-game drought.
The Aces - chipping away at Stockton's shorthanded roster on seven power play opportunities (limited to 14 skaters for most of the game after Garet Hunt was handed a five-minute cross checking major and game misconduct, 2:56 into the game) - extended the lead to 2-0 on Syvret's two-man advantage goal. Brendan Connolly and Greg Wolfe whipped a corner-to-corner feed back to Syvret, who hammered a one timer past Simpson from the left circle.
Baldwin then took Michael Markovic's pass from behind the net at the right point and stepped into a wrister that beat Simpson blocker side at 6:52 of the third period for a 3-0 lead. But Vinny Scarsella's tap-in goal at the left post, a power play goal, drew the Thunder to 3-1 with 8:34 left.
Chris Francis then delivered the dagger at 4-1 - his 25th goal coming on a three-on-one break - with a finish at the net on Ryan Walters' set up at the left circle with 2:25 left. Bryan Paulazzo's second chance deflection snuck by Lundstrom for a 4-2 deficit just 31 seconds later, but the Aces closed out Stockton in the final seconds without another threat at Lundstrom.
Simpson took the loss with 32 saves.
NOTES: The Aces scratched Evan Renwick, Justin Johnson, Slater Doggett, Tim Coffman, Ryan Tesink, and Brad Gorham ... the Aces' head-to-head series closed at 60-21-8 (11-2-0 this season) ... Walters now has 17 points in the last 12 games ... Connolly finished with 30 points in 14 head-to-head games this season against Stockton ... since February 1, the Aces hold a record of 16-6-3.
The Aces move on to Idaho, visiting the Steelheads this Wednesday at 5:10 p.m. (KFQD).
For Kelly Cup championship merchandise, 2014-15 season tickets, corporate sponsorship packages, and more information, please call 907-258-ACES. The Aces can also be visited on Facebook at www.facebook.com/alaskaaceshockey or on Twitter, @AlaskaAces.
1. AK - C. Baldwin
2. AK - B. Cameron
3. STK - V. Scarsella
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