PRINCETON, N.J. – A 2-0 loss to Trenton in Game 7 of the National Conference Finals on Monday ended the season for Alaska Aces, but 2004-05 will be remembered as a special year for the Aces and their fans.
“Seldom, if ever, has a team captured the hearts of a city, or in this case, an entire state the way the Aces did this year,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna. “This represents not only a memorable time in Alaska sports history, but a proud moment in the history of the ECHL.”
The Aces run to the National Conference Finals has been selected as the “Greatest team sports moment in Alaska history” in an online poll by the Anchorage Daily News: Alaska’s Newspaper. The Aces had more than six times the number of votes received by the second-place finisher – “Libby Riddles becoming the first woman to win the Iditarod in 1985”.
The City of Anchorage was scheduled to honor the Aces when Mayor Mark Begich declared Wednesday as “Alaska Aces Pride Day” with the presentation of a proclamation to the players, coaches and owners in a ceremony at Town Square.
Alaska had its sixth consecutive standing-room-only crowd of 6,451 on Monday, giving the Aces the six largest crowds through the conference finals of the 2005 Kelly Cup Playoffs. Selling out all but one of its eight games, Alaska leads the postseason in total attendance with 50,109 and average attendance with 6,263, more than the 6,251-seat capacity at Sullivan Arena. In its first two seasons in the ECHL, Alaska has sold out nine of its 11 playoff games and 12 regular season games, including eight in 2004-05. The Aces increased their average attendance by more than nine percent from 2003-04 when they had increased it by more than 42 percent.
The Aces won the West Division and reached the conference finals without their leading scorer and ECHL Most Valuable Player Scott Gomez, who was injured in a 4-3 overtime loss at Bakersfield in Game 4 of the West Division Semifinals. Playing in his hometown of Anchorage during the National Hockey League lockout, Gomez was named MVP by league coaches, finishing ahead of teammate Chris Minard. Gomez led the ECHL with 86 points and 73 assists in 61 games while Minard led the league with 49 goals and finished fourth in scoring with 78 points in 69 games.
Finishing first in the National Conference at 45-19-8 and 98 points, Alaska has reached the Kelly Cup Playoffs in each of its first two seasons since joining the ECHL as an expansion team in 2003-04. The Aces set team records for wins (45), points (98), road wins (23), consecutive wins (6) and consecutive road wins (5) while tying the team record for home wins (22) and consecutive home wins (4). In the opening round of the postseason a year ago, the Aces (82 points) swept regular-season point champion San Diego (108 points), the seventh-largest postseason upset (26 points) in ECHL history, before losing in the division finals to eventual champion Idaho.