By Cleve Dheensaw
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2009
VICTORIA, British Columbia – The Victoria Salmon Kings forced a Game 5 in their ECHL West Division final series by defeating the Alaska Aces 4-0 before 4,656 boisterous fans Friday night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre.
Game 5 takes place Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Salmon Kings trail the top-ranked Alaska Aces 3-1 in the best of seven. Maybe that’s why the whole atmosphere last night, from the Salmon Kings to the fans, seemed so light and loose and different than the usual tension-laden playoff feel. Having nothing left to lose will do that to you. No team in ECHL history has rebounded from a 0-3 series deficit in a best-of-seven series.
“We have no pressure on us. All the pressure is on Alaska to finish off the series,” said Victoria assistant coach Ryan Wade.
The Salmon Kings got a much-needed injection of energy from a couple of players starting their first games of the 2009 post-season. Goaltender Julien Ellis showed why the parent Vancouver Canucks signed him out of junior three years ago and forward Dan Gendur displayed the kind of speed and power that the Canucks saw in him when they inked him last fall to a three-year deal out of the WHL junior Everett Silvertips.
Victoria GM and head coach Mark Morrison played a hunch by inserting Ellis, Gendur and defenceman Jordie Benn, a rookie pro out of the Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL. All three paid immediate dividends with their fresh legs.
Ellis made 28 saves for the shutout. Gendur had two assists, including a spectacular pass that set up Chris St. Jacques in the second period.
“I hadn’t had a start in over a month, so this feels really good,” said Ellis.
“I was ready to go. We did what we had to do. The fans helped us a lot. We don’t want our season to be over.”
The Salmon Kings brass expected nothing less of Ellis and Gendur.
“Both are professional players out to prove a point,” said Wade.
“They got the opportunity and they showed what they have. The shutout was a great testament to Julien’s character. He showed he’s a pro and that he cares. Gendur is a young guy making his first playoff start as a pro. Both gave us a big lift.”
All the Salmon Kings players were, in fact, full value in victory.
A pair of veteran forwards with sub-par production this playoff season, Wes Goldie and Olivier Filion, stepped up for Victoria when reunited with their early-season linemate Gendur. Goldie had two goals and an assist and could have added to that total but put the puck over the net on a penalty shot in the third period. Filion had a goal and an assist.
“Dan Gendur and Ellie were great for us tonight . . . all the boys were playing hard tonight,” said Goldie.
“This feels good.”
Game 4 ended in chippiness on the part of Alaska, with both Benn and Darryl Lloyd refusing to take the bait. The Salmon King who did, strapping forward Sean O’Connor, got the best of Aces forward Brett Hemingway in a tussle. It’s all part of the emotion of the passing parade, shrugged Goldie.
“The Aces are here to battle and so are we,” said the Victoria captain.
“It’s going to be a lot of fun [in Game 5 tonight].”
Fun in the playoffs? What a concept. But that’s where the Salmon Kings are in their head space, insisting all the pressure is on Alaska’s shoulders.