Photo: Erik Hill/ADN
It is only the start of November and there’s 65 games left, but there could be cause for concern for the defending Kelly Cup champion Alaska Aces. With their fourth-straight loss at home (which accounts for all of the Aces home games to date), it ties a club record for consecutive home losses, the second time in 12 years in the ECHL. With a 1-6-0 record to start the season and only scoring over two goals twice in those seven games, you have to wonder if there’s going to be a panic button hit in Anchorage or if they’ll find their way to claw back into a playoff spot.
When asked by Doyle Woody of the Alaska Dispatch in Wednesday’s post-game article, defenseman Corey Syvret thought that the Aces are getting closer and closer by the game to breaking through:
“It’s not like we have to re-invent the wheel, (Rob Murray)’s systems, our structure defensively, demands hard work, but it’s rewarding. We just need to have 16 guys to buy into it and (results) will change. We’re getting closer.”
It’s not hard to think that, as there was a huge turnover of roster from the championship winning team to what they have in the early part of the 2014-15 campaign. Only six guys (Syvrey, Ross Ring-Jarvi, Tim Coffman, Brad Richard, Dustin Molle, and Brendan Connolly) are back from the championship team; so there’s a lot of new guys who have to learn coach Murray’s system and how to adjust to playing in Alaska– which for some people could be a huge change in being in a relatively remote area of the ECHL and the world. Especially with Ring-Jarvi and Molle being out, the Aces are trying to make it big with a lot of rookies in the line-up.
Luckily, the rookies are holding down the fort well for the Aces, with Olivier Archambault (2g, 3a) and Greg Wolfe (3g, 1a) leading the way for the offense, with Wolfe scoring three goals in as many games, getting adjusted from his time at Michigan State University into the professional game. Though the true sign of the new game is the rookies in net with Blues’ prospect Niklas Lundstrom adjusting to the North American game from his time in Sweden, while Andy Iles getting more adjusted to the ECHL after a short five-game stint last year with the Florida Everblades where he won four of his five starts after coming out of Cornell University. Of course, the .862 combined save percentage and and 3.86 combined GAA, there needs to be a lot of improvement in net for the Aces to succeed.
From Woody’s article, the turnovers seem to be killing the Aces, the shots are there for the Aces with goalies of opponents having a .924 save percentage against Alaska, while only giving up 27.5 shots a game– showing that the defense is trying to do all they can, but the goaltending still isn’t there yet. Murray could make more moves should the tide not turn for the Aces– which seems to be happening, as the Aces acquired Andy Bathgate from the Wichita Thunder on Wednesday– who won’t completely change the offense as he is coming back from a season in the Netherlands and Canadian college, plus not being the most offensive one in his junior or minor league hockey career; but shaking up the roster could be a wake-up call to others in the line-up.
There’s still plenty of time and the Aces do have a lot of learning curves to overcome. According to Woody’s article this morning, there’s a series of almost for the Aces— but still not there yet, which seems to be the theme of the early going. That said, this is a team who has made the playoffs their entire ECHL career and only in two of those seasons– had under 40 wins. There’s a winning tradition in Anchorage and if nothing else– the front office will be able to shake it up to get the Aces back on track. The biggest question should be if and when the panic button will be hit and what it will mean for the roster and if the dominance of the Aces is finally hitting a skid.