ANCHORAGE, AK — Both teams went back-and-forth in the 65 minutes played as the Alaska Aces edged out the Rapid City Rush by a 6-5 score, needing a three-round shootout to do so on Thursday night.
The Rush dealt with a lot of adversity in the first period, particularly late in the frame, and despite that, only left the first period down 1-0. The only goal of the period came from Alec Hajdukovich, whose first goal of the season came at 2:44 of the period, firing a bouncing puck off the back wall by Danny Battochio to put the home side up 1-0, Ryan Tesink and Patrick Wellar earned the assists.
Late in the period, Anthony Mastrodicasa (slashing) and Brian O’Rourke (delay of game) received minor penalties 23 seconds apart with just over two minutes to play, which put the Aces on a two-man advantage for over 90 seconds. Despite the tough times, the Rush penalty-kill, ranked #2 in the ECHL, and Battochio stood tall, and staved off the Aces power play barrage to leave the first 20 minutes down by one. Alaska outshot the Rush 23-7 in the opening frame.
Garet Hunt put the Aces up 2-0 just 33 seconds into the second frame. Following a successful Rush penalty-kill, Peter Sivak kept the puck in the Rush zone and deferred to Hunt, who sent a sharp-angle shot parallel with the goal line by Battochio to double his club’s lead.
Moments later, the Rush began a rally of three-unanswered goals in the period that started off with a bolster from special teams. With 5:42 gone by in the second, and just over a minute and a half into the first Rush power play of the night, Max Nicastro registered his first goal in a Rush uniform, finishing a cross-ice pass from Lindsay Sparks that beat Aces goaltender Jacob DeSerres, halving the Rush deficit to 2-1. Sparks and Ryan Misiak notched the helpers. Just over five minutes later, Sean Erickson earned his fifth of the season as he backhanded the puck off of Aces forward Anthony DeLuca, causing it to bounce over DeSerres and in to tie the game at 2-2 with 11:10 gone by in the second. Mark Miller earns his first pro point in his pro debut with an assist, while Destry Straight also chipped in with a helper. With 1:58 left in the period, the Rush capped off their rally thanks to Winston Day Chief, who deflected a Spencer Pommells shot by DeSerres to put his team up 3-2 heading into the final period (Pommells and Brett Kostolansky earned the helpers).
If the back-and-forth action of the first two periods exciting enough, the last 20 minutes, which housed 5 of the 10 total goals scored in regulation, filled the bill.
Garet Hunt scored his second goal of the game by deflecting a Felix-Antoine Poulin broken stick shot by Battochio to square things up at 3-3 with 16:22 left in regulation, Poulin and Nick Cecere registered the assists. Exactly 13 seconds later, however, Winston Day Chief scored for a second time himself, finishing a rush with Brett Kostolansky to put his team back on top 4-3. Kostolansky earned the lone assist, his second of the night.
Alaska’s Stephen Perfetto kept the scoring entries flowing when he tied the game once again, finishing an odd-man rush through the netural zone with a shot from the far faceoff circle in the Rush zone to even things up at 4-4 with 13:48 remaining in the game. Poulin notched his second assist of the game on the goal, while Garet Hunt earned his third point of the game with his only assist.
With 9:03 left in the game, Ryan Walters registered his 23rd goal of the season when he sent a cross-ice pass in the Alaska zone off the stick of Aces defender Marc-Andre Levesque and over the shoulder of DeSerres, once again putting the Rush back on top with a 5-4 count with Mikhail Stefanovich recording the lone helper.
Calamity would befall the Rush, however, with 3:45 separating the Rush from a regulation win. After Tommaso Traversa served a two-minute minor for goaltender interference, he was handed the puck on a Rush defensive zone turnover and beat Battochio to tie things up for a fourth time at 5-5. The goal would force free hockey in Anchorage.
Both teams shot three times in overtime, but could not come up with the game-winner for their respective clubs, subsequently forcing a shootout. Anthony DeLuca would be the only skater on each side to register a goal, and within the minimum three required rounds, the Aces clinched the second point, doing so with a 6-5 win when all was said and done.
Danny Battochio suffers the shootout loss, falling to 19-17-4 on the season after stopping 52 of 57 Aces shots.
Both teams rematch tonight at 9:15 p.m. MST at Sullivan Arena.
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