The Las Vegas Wranglers and Alaska Aces became the first two teams to earn berths in the 2011 Kelly Cup Playoffs over the weekend.
Las Vegas clinched its spot with a come-from-behind 6-5 win at Idaho on Saturday. The Wranglers scored three goals in the final two minutes to rally from a 5-3 deficit. Aaron Power carried the Wranglers’ offense in the clincher with a hat trick while Chris Francis scored a pair of goals and Ryan Huddy added three assists.
Alaska sewed up its berth with a 5-2 win at Stockton on Sunday. Garry Nunn scored two goals and added an assist for the Aces and Curtis Fraser chipped in with a goal and an assist. Adam Courchaine, who was starting his ninth consecutive game in goal, made 26 saves to record the win for the Aces who have won seven of their last eight road games.
Las Vegas concludes its 10-game road trip this week with games in Ontario on Friday and Saturday while Alaska returns home to Sullivan Arena for a three-game series against Victoria on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The Wranglers and Aces meet four times in Las Vegas over an eight-day span beginning on March 15.
The Wranglers and Aces are tied for first place in the Western Conference with 73 points each. Only four points separate the teams in third through sixth place in the conference. Idaho enters the week in third place with 68 points, one point ahead of fourth-place Stockton. Bakersfield is in fifth place with 65 points while Utah sits in sixth position with 64 points. Victoria currently owns the seventh and final playoff spot in the conference with 57 points. Ontario trails the final playoff spot by nine points with 12 games remaining.