Nick Massolini, File photo by Jack Lima
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Nick Mazzolini had three points and Jordan Morrison buried two goals to help the Alaska Aces cruise to a 5-1 victory over the Las Vegas Wranglers in Game 1 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals before 4,197 fans at Sullivan Arena on Friday.
Gerald Coleman earned the win with 19 saves and the Aces won their 41st overall home game in playoff history, aided by 11 players who were +1 or better in the game.
Mazzolini opened the scoring at 12:13 of the first period,
Gerald Coleman, File photo by Jack Lima
hammering a one-timer from the slot past Fullerton after Peter Sivak fed him from behind the net and following Las Vegas’ turnover deep in the zone.
John Armstrong’s goal drew Las Vegas even, 1-1 with 3:39 left in the period, but Drew MacKenzie converted Mazzolini’s backdoor feed at the left post for a power play goal to restore the Aces lead, 2-1 with 1:59 to play.
John Armstrong, File photo by Jack Lima
Just 26 seconds later, Brett Findlay fed a wide open Morrison at the goal mouth for a 3-1 lead.
Morrison boosted the Aces to a 4-1 lead just 37 seconds into the second period when he converted off another breakdown at the Las Vegas net, beating Fullerton to the blocker side. John Ramage fired a shot from the right circle that Travis Fullerton kicked to his blocker side. Brett Findlay collected the puck and found Morrison open at the left circle.
Peter Sivak, File photo by Jack Lima
The Aces followed with a 19-8 edge in shots in the third period, limiting Las Vegas’ attack with a conservative approach from the neutral zone.
Sivak’s first goal of the postseason, from the right circle, put the Aces ahead, 5-1 with 1:15 left in regulation when Mazzolini slipped a pass to him from the behind the net.
Fullerton took the loss on 35 saves in his first postseason appearance.
Travis Fullerton, File photo by Jack Lima
NOTES: The Aces scratched Brad Richard, Tommy Mele and Ross Ring-Jarvi … the win was the Aces’ fourth straight in a Game 1 situation over a Pacific Division opponent … the Aces outshot Las Vegas, 40-20 and improved to 11-10 in the postseason over the Wranglers.
Game 2 of the series is tomorrow night, beginning at 7:15 p.m. (KFQD) from Sullivan Arena.