(ANCHORAGE, AK) – Lindsay Sparks extended his goal-scoring and point streaks to 5 and 6 games respectively, but the effort and third period comeback were stifled by the Alaska Aces as they defeated the Rapid City Rush in their home-opener by a 6-2 score in Sullivan Arena on Friday night.
The Aces started the renewal of their division rivalry with a 2-0 lead around the halfway point of the first. Vladimir Nikiforov started the scoring entries 9:13 into the action when he buried a centering pass from Peter Sivak in the near corner by Rush net-minder Chuck Grant, giving the home side an early 1-0 lead (Sivak had the lone assist). Moments later, Ben Lake doubled the lead to 2-0 when he corralled a rebound in front of Grant on a shot from Daniel Moynihan and squeaked it by the goaltender with 7:58 left in the frame (Moynihan and Garet Hunt assisted).
Alaska pulled away in the second period with three more tallies. Peter Sivak scored his first of two when he fired a sharp angle shot by Grant to expand the Aces lead to 3-0 3:24 into the frame (Stephen Perfetto and Ryan Trenz garnered the helpers). Perfetto added his name the goal column of the score sheet on a similar play, sending a sharp angle shot along the goal line by Grant to extend the Ades advantage to 4-0 with 8:43 gone by in the period (Sivak notched his second assist with the lone helper on the goal). Sivak struck for a second time, beating Grant on the glove side as Vladimir Nikiforov found him between the hash marks, giving the Aces a 5-0 lead heading into the third with 6:18 left in the period (Nikiforov and Dax Lauwers assisted). Grant would be replaced in the Rush net by Kent Patterson to start the third.
The Aces added one more tally before the Rush halved the score in the third period. Within the first 1:10 of the final frame, Tim Coffman extended the Aces lead to 6-0 as he beat Patterson for his third of the season (Tim Wallace assisted, while Dax Lauwers got his second assist). The Rush fired back with three unanswered to end the game, the first two of which came a minute apart on a major power play. With 7:18 gone by in the third period, Tim Wallace of Alaska was assessed a five minute major for a cheap elbow on Zach Tolkinen, as well as a game misconduct for the act. He was ejected, and the Rush benefited on his sequence of unfortunate events. With 10:11 left in the game, Lindsay Sparks continued his hot start to the season and buried a centering pass from Brenden Walker that ended Michael Garteig’s shutout for Alaska. The tally cut the Aces deficit to 6-1 (Walker and Garrett Haar assisted). One minute later, Sparks returned the favor as Walker finished his pass over the glove hand of Garteig to cut down the Aces lead to 6-4 with 9:11 remaining in regulation (Sparks got his second point with the assist, while Haar added a second helper). Sparks struck one more time when the Aces botched a pass in neutral ice, causing a two-on-one from the blue line in for the Rush. Ryan Walters had his initial shot blocked by Garteig, but Sparks potted the rebound with 69 seconds left to bring the game to its 6-3 final score (Walters earned the lone assist).
Chuck Grant suffered the loss in his first start for the Rush, stopping 25 of 30 shots in 40 minutes of work (0-2-0). Kent Patterson came in relief in the final period and stopped all but one of 6 shots faced.
Both teams square off in a rematch tomorrow night. Puck drops at 9:15 p.m. MST at Sullivan Arena.