What started as a blowout became a hard-fought victory for the Athabasca Aces Sunday.
The club hosted the Legal Vipers at the Athabasca Regional Multiplex Sunday, and it didn’t take them long to assert their dominance. In the first half of the opening period, the Aces paced themselves to a 4-0 lead.
Joel Kiselyk got the ball rolling by scoring the first two goals of the game, and he was soon joined on the scoresheet by Justin Tebbenham and Brent Topola.
Though the Vipers scored before the end of the period to make the score 4-1, the 21-9 shot count in favor of the Aces seemed to indicate that the game was going to be a rout.
But the second period told a different story, as the Vipers came out of the dressing room determined to claw their way back. Sure enough, it took them only 29 seconds to score their second goal of the game.
Their comeback hit a snag when the Aces answered right back with their own goal just seven seconds later, courtesy of Andy Skoreyko, and then followed it with two more from Curtis Laboucan and Troy Tangedal to earn a 7-2 advantage.
But the Vipers still kept up the pressure and before the period was over, they had scored three of their own unanswered goals to bring the game within two.
The game finally settled down in the third period with both teams trading chances, but near the halfway point the Aces took a pair of penalties and the Vipers made them pay with a powerplay goal that brought them within one.
That would be as close as they would get, however, as Aces goaltender Jeff Creaser turned away the Vipers again and again on the way to the victory.
When all was said and done, both teams had fired 53 shots at the opposing goaltender, but Creaser was just a little bit better than his Legal counterpart, Tyler Day.
After the game, Athabasca head coach Tony Kiselyk didn’t dwell on how close the game ultimately became. He was just happy to have the victory over Legal, the club’s first such win since entering the league.
“We’ve played them so many times, and they’re hard to beat,” said Kiselyk. “We finally got over the hurdle with these guys. It’s a really good start to the year.”
The Aces need to keep that momentum going if they want to move up in the standings. They are currently sixth out of eight teams in the league and fourth in their division. They will make the playoffs no matter where they end up, but they want to finish as strongly as they can.
To do that, they’ll want to build off what the coach called their best start to a game this season. Certainly, scoring four goals in the first period gives any team a good chance to win. But that’s not going to happen every game.
“We’re not out of the woods yet. The stars will have to align for us to move up in our division,” said the coach. “There’s always work to do.”
That work continues Jan. 15 when the Aces host the Onoway Ice Dogs at 8:30 p.m. The Dogs have beaten the Aces three times this year.
“We know we can beat them,” said Kiselyk. “We need to cut down on mistakes and play hard.”