Western Conference Finals Preview

Western Conference Finals (Best of Seven)

#1 Alaska Aces vs. #6 Bakersfield Condors
Series Matchup Sheet

The 2014 Western Conference Finals marks the third all-time postseason meeting between Alaska and Bakersfield. The Aces have won both of the previous meetings, winning 3 games to 2 in the 2005 West Division Semifinals and 4 games to 0 in the 2007 National Conference Semifinals.

For Alaska, this marks the club’s seventh appearance in the Conference Finals in the last 10 years. The Aces have gone 3-3 in their previous six trips to the Conference Finals, defeating Fresno 4 games to 3 in 2006, Las Vegas 4 games to 0 in 2009 and Victoria 4 games to 0 in 2011. Alaska went on to capture Kelly Cup titles in 2006 and 2011 while falling in seven games to South Carolina in 2009.

The Condors are appearing in the Conference Finals for the first time in club history as the team returns to the Kelly Cup Playoffs this season after missing the postseason the last two years.

Alaska defeated Las Vegas 4 games to 0 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals before dispatching Idaho 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Semifinals. The Aces have outshot their opponent in each of their nine games thus far in the postseason, averaging 39.56 shots per game while allowing just 22 against per game. Alaska’s offense is tops through two round averaging 3.67 goals per game, while its defense is also number one allowing 1.67 goals-against per game. Nick Mazzolini leads all players in the Kelly Cup Playoffs with 16 points (4g-12a) in nine games, while a pair of Alaska defensemen, Drew MacKenzie (4g-3a) and John Ramage (2g-5a), share the league lead among blueliners in the postseason with seven points each. Veteran goaltender Gerald Coleman, who backstopped the Aces to their 2011 Kelly Cup title, is 4-1 in the playoffs with a league-leading 1.18 goals-against average.

Bakersfield has been the king of the comebacks through two rounds of the playoffs. The Condors, who defeated Utah 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Quarterfinals and Stockton 4 games to 1 in the Western Conference Semifinals, are 3-0 when allowing the first goal of a game and are 4-1 when trailing after two periods. Against Stockton, Bakersfield rallied from a 2-0 deficit in Game 1 to post a come-from-behind 3-2 win, while in the series clincher, the Condors came back from a 3-0 deficit with four minutes remaining in the second period to post a 5-3 win. Joel Broda leads Bakersfield, and is tied for second in the postseason, with six goals, while Jordan Knackstedt leads the team with 10 points (3g-7a). Goaltender Laurent Brossoit, who tied the ECHL single-season record with eight shutouts in the regular season, has picked up right where he left off notching three shutouts in the playoffs to go along with an 8-2 record a 1.75 goals-against average and a save percentage of .934. While the Aces lead the playoffs in goals-against per game, the Condors are right behind them, ranking second allowing 1.90 goals per game.

Alaska won six of the eight meetings between the teams during the regular season. Peter Sivak led Alaska against the Condors during the regular season with six goals and 15 points while Coleman went 1-1-1 with a 1.62 goals-against average. Erik Burgdoerfer led Bakersfield against the Aces with three goals while Chase Schaber had a team-leading five points, all on assists, in the season series. Brossoit, who started the season in Alaska before he was involved in a trade from the Calgary Flames to the Edmonton Oilers, went 1-1-0 with a 1.62 goals-against average against the Aces.

The winner of the Western Conference Finals receives the Bruce Taylor Trophy. The trophy is named in recognition of Bruce Taylor, who was the founding father of the West Coast Hockey League. In the early 1990s, Taylor purchased teams in Fresno, Reno and Bakersfield and in 1995 joined them with teams in Anchorage, Fairbanks and San Diego to form the West Coast Hockey League. The Taylor Cup was presented to the playoff champion in the WCHL from the league’s inaugural season in 1995-96 until the league ceased operations following the 2002-03 season. Taylor’s ownership in hockey began in 1983 with the purchase of the Burnaby Bluehawks of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League and continued with the purchase of the Richmond Sockeyes in the BCJHL and the New Westminster Royals in the BCJHL.

Game 1 – Friday, May 16 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Alaska
Game 2 – Saturday, May 17 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Alaska
Game 3 – Friday, May 23 at 7 p.m. PT at Bakersfield
Game 4 – Saturday, May 24 at 7 p.m. PT at Bakersfield
Game 5 – Sunday, May 25 at 6 p.m. PT at Bakersfield (If Necessary)
Game 6 – Tuesday, May 27 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Alaska (If Necessary)
Game 7 – Wednesday, May 28 at 7:15 p.m. AKT at Alaska (If Necessary)