(photo: Todd Meixner)
The first three games of the Kelly Cup Final have been played between the Alaska Aces and the Cincinnati Cyclones in Anchorage, Alaska. The Aces captured two games out of three as the series turns to Ohio for the next set of three. Alaska is two wins away from another Kelly Cup Championship, but Cincinnati is far from done in this series.
The two teams play a fundamentally different breed of hockey in this West meets East matchup. Alaska is all about puck possession and getting deep to set up their passing game in the offensive zone. The Cyclones favor a run-and-gun style allowing their swift skating forwards to carry the puck through the neutral zone and get all they can at the net.
The first game of the series, Alaska got on the board first, with Aces Captain Nick Mazzolini notching his 10th goal of the post-season. The Cyclones then exploded offensively in the second period with goals coming from Wade Megan, Barry Almeida, and Logan Shaw. Alaska netminder Olivier Roy left the game with an apparent lower body injury and Gerald Coleman would take over between the pipes, closing the door on Cincinnati’s scoring. The Aces’ Jordan Morrison and Brett Findlay tied the game at three before heading into the final frame. Morrison would light the lamp a second time on Cyclones goaltender Rob Madore for the go-ahead goal and Aces forward Turner Elson sealed the Cyclones fate as he fired a shot on an empty net in the final 18 seconds, the final score 5-3.
The Cyclones took the second game by a score of 2-1 with all goals tallied in the first period, the first coming from Aces forward Ross Ring-Jarvi, his first goal of the post season. Cincinnati rallied and quickly took the upper hand with goals from Byron Froese and Jonathan Hazan coming just 21 seconds apart in the first period. The rest of the game became the battle of the goaltenders, as each team poured on the heat. The Cyclones appeared to push the lead forward another goal in the third period as Joe Basaraba seemed to have scored his first pro playoff goal; however, the referees determined that it was kicked into the net so it got waved off and the 2-1 contest remained. Madore made 35 saves despite heavy pressure from the Aces in the waning minutes of the third period to give Cincinnati the victory and tie the series at one apiece.
Game three appeared to be a boil over of tension and aggression on both sides, as pushing and shoving resulted in penalties doled out to Aces and Cyclones alike. The game showcased the talents of the men between the pipes, Aces Coleman and Clones Madore, each making spectacular saves to keep the game scoreless through two periods of play. Riding a hot streak, Jordan Morrison found the weak spot in Madore’s netminding, giving the Aces a 1-0 lead with just over 4 minutes to play. Morrison’s goal came after the Cyclone’s Hazen had a breakaway attempt but was hauled down from behind without a penalty call. The puck, turned over, found its way back the other way, with the Aces capitalizing. Alaska workhorse forward Tyler Mosienko got a well-deserved first goal of the playoffs with just two minutes to go, finalizing the win over Cincinnati 2-0 and giving Aces goaltender Coleman the shutout victory.
The Aces will continue to be without goaltender Olivier Roy as the series shifts to Ohio. Alaska signed former UAA product Rob Gunderson to an ATO after Roy’s game 1 injury sidelined him. On the plus side Aces top forward Peter Sivak made a quiet debut in game 2 after injury kept him out of the Western Conference Finals with the Bakersfield Condors.