By Matt Nevala
Anchorage Daily News
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Mike Scott. Left corner. Roof job.
Game 7, here we come.
Scott snapped in his sixth playoff goal at 9 minutes, 54 seconds of overtime Friday night, lifting the Alaska Aces to an insanely entertaining 2-1 win over the Trenton (N.J.) Titans in Game 6 of the ECHL National Conference finals.
“It’s probably the best feeling I’ve ever had playing hockey,” said Scott, in his second year with the Aces. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Scott’s goal, set up by linemates Olivier Filion and Charles Linglet, allowed Alaska to even the series 3-3 in the third game of the series decided in overtime.
The decisive Game 7 is Monday night at Sullivan Arena. Tickets, already available at www.ticketmaster.com, go on sale at the Aces office this morning at 10.
The red light behind Trenton goaltender Andrew Allen illuminated at exactly 10:24 p.m., setting off a chain reaction of unbridled Alaska joy inside jam-packed Sullivan. The Aces exploded off their bench, scattering all over the ice in search of someone to hug. Many players tracked down Scott as he blazed his way down center ice pumping his arms in the air. Others pounced on goaltender Peter Aubry, who made 37 saves and all but single-handedly kept Alaska alive as Trenton did everything in its power to end the series in six games.
At the same time, the overflow audience of 6,451 rabid fans stood on their feet for minutes and made so much noise public address announcer Bob Lester didn’t even bother announcing the game-winning goal. The lengthy standing ovation actually started at in anticipation of what was the final faceoff of the evening, seconds before Scott scored.
The undeniably outrageous decibel level even had an effect on Aubry. Goalies don’t normally let anything rattle their focus on the ice surface in front of them.
“There is just so much intensity going on out there, but it’s not something you can ignore,” Aubry said. “It’s kind of neat, and I don’t know, maybe it helps out your other senses because it bails out your hearing.”
Well now hear this, the Aces have at least one more game to play. Monday’s winner advances to the Kelly Cup Finals, where it will face the Florida Everblades.
Trenton tied the game 1-1 with the only goal of the third period, outshooting Alaska 15-5 in the process. But in overtime, it only takes one play to find victory.
“They got the last shot and basically that was it,” said Trenton coach Mike Haviland. “It was a great hockey game.”
Trenton players hounded Linglet, Alaska’s leading scorer in the postseason, all night. He was tied up with a stick here, tugged at by the sweater there. He managed to enter the Trenton zone on the right wing and poke a puck ahead to Filion near the top of the right circle. Filion, the scorer of the overtime game-winner in Game 4 on Sunday in New Jersey, dropped a pass back to Scott, who rifled a riser past Allen (31 saves).
“Filly made a great play, I shot it and saw it went in,” Scott said. “All I know is we lived to play another day.”
Alaska forward Chris Heisten seized the puck Scott shot to win the game and it took its rightful place with the rest of the game-winning pucks from the postseason. A collection of nine pucks, one from each playoff victory, sits high above Filion’s stall in the Alaska dressing room.
During pregame introductions and during most of the first period, the Aces’ sixth consecutive sold-out crowd made more noise than usual — if that’s possible. The Aces were met with a cascade of cheers and clanging cowbells constantly, but the extra electricity didn’t give way to any first-period scoring.
The teams skated to a scoreless draw in the first 20 minutes. Alaska outshot Trenton 10-8.
The Aces made a point of firing every puck it could in the direction of Allen, but the Titans gathered the best chances against Aubry on the other end.
Aubry stoned Les Haggett at 1:35 and made a sprawling stab of Bryce Cockburn’s attempt at 4:39.
Chris Heisten just missed putting Alaska up 1-0 at 8:31 when Trenton defenseman Stephen Wood jumped into the crease to cover for an out-of-position Allen. Wood knocked down Heisten’s liner and Allen pounced on the puck.
Alaska’s scheme to throw puck after puck on net on the power play finally paid off at 9:12 of the second period. For most of the time in Trenton, the Aces failed to get perimeter shots through the Titans penalty-killing unit, therefore limiting the goal-scoring chances.
But after Joe Talbot rolled a crossing pass from the left-wing boards to Ryan Gaucher on the right point, Gaucher delivered the puck to B.J. Young at the center of the blue line. Young wristed the puck at Allen, and when it bounced off the goalie’s right leg Kimbi Daniels banged home the rebound for his fourth postseason goal.
The power-play goal was only Alaska’s second in 27 chances in the series.
Trenton pressed hard near the end of the period, pinning the Aces deep in their zone for almost 90 seconds. But Alaska broke the other way and Allen came up big with a right-pad save on Daniels at 18:38.
Like it had done twice previously in the series, Trenton successfully erased Alaska’s third period lead. This time, the Titans aggressively came after the Aces all over the ice and fired 15 shots at Aubry. Alaska only mustered five.
Haggett, a rookie from Brown University, tied the game at 3:44 with his first playoff goal. Trenton captain Rick Kowalsky picked the puck away from Gaucher behind the Aces net and slid a pass out front. Haggett gathered it and looped a shot through Aubry.
After knotting the score, Trenton turned up the volume of activity in Alaska’s zone. But Aubry stood strong.
The Aces’ best chance in the final moment of the third came at 15:10 when Linglet walked across the slot from the right-wing boards. Allen knocked down Linglet’s back-hander and covered before Young could storm in on net.