ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Evan Trupp snapped his brief postseason scoring drought with two goals Friday night to spearhead the Alaska Aces to a wild 6-4 win over the Idaho Steelheads that leveled the ECHL Kelly Cup Western Conference semifinal series at one game apiece.
The teams combined for six third-period goals, three for each side.
Game 3 in the best-of-7 clash is Monday night in Boise. Idaho won Game 1, 1-0, on Thursday, courtesy of Gaelan Patterson's overtime strike.
The game ended with hostilities. Aces defenseman Drew MacKenzie and Idaho forward Mitch Wahl fought briefly.
Idaho finished 2-for-4 on the power play; Alaska was 2-for-8.
Aces goaltender Olivier Roy stopped 18 shots, and Idaho's Pat Nagle made 41 saves.
Nagle gave Josh Robinson a break. Robinson played the four-overtime victory Monday over Colorado that marked the longest game in ECHL history and played in Idaho's OT win Thursday.
The Aces played without All-ECHL winger Peter Sivak, their leading goal scorer in the regular season (31) and playoffs (5). He suffered an upper-body injury in Game 1. That injury caused him to miss a series of shifts in the second period Thursday, though he did play in the third period and overtime.
Idaho knows what it's like to be without some of its ammunition. Out injured for the Steelheads are forwards Tommy Grant and Anthony Nigro, who combined for 40 goals in the regular season.
Alaska stretched its lead to 3-1 on Trupp's power-play rebound, which marked his second goal of the night after failing to register a point in the Aces' first five playoff games.
The game became increasingly hostile in the second period, as if a cup or chalice of some kind is on the line in the postseason. Aces winger Tommy Mele and Idaho's Andrew Conboy traded stick-work on a face-off and after both were sent to their respective penalty boxes, continued their debate.
A mini-scrum was sparked after former Aces defenseman Russ Sinkewich delivered a hit on Trupp in the neutral zone.
The Aces nearly lost their 3-1 lead when they twice committed ghastly turnovers while on a power play early in the third period.
First, Idaho's David deKastrozza picked off a pass and blew in to beat Roy with a breakaway wrister that cut Alaska's lead to 3-2 - deKastrozza led the league in the regular season with six short-handed strikes. Just 16 seconds later, Mitch Wahl stole an Aces pass for another short-handed breakaway, but Roy gloved Wahl's wrister for a whistle.
The Aces soon went on another power play and MacKenzie racked his fourth goal of the playoffs, all with the man advantage, for a 4-2 Alaska lead. All four of MacKenzie's strikes have come on the same play - MacKenzie sneaking down from the left point into the circle to accept a back-door pass, and this one came from Jordan Morrison.
MacKenzie's goal came on Alaska's fourth consecutive power play.
But Idaho answered with a back-door man-advantage strike of its own - deKastrozza's pass from the right-wing goal line found Justin Mercier at the left post for a tap-in that left Roy no chance with less than nine minutes to go.
Late in the third, Alex Belzile furnished a dazzling goal off the rush for a 5-3 Aces lead. That lasted all of 12 seconds before Scott Czarnowczan fed Brock Montgomery for a tap-in at the right post that cut Alaska's lead to 5-4.
Alaska countered in short order - Mele one-timed Tyler Mosienko's feed from behind the net 76 seconds after Montgomery's goal to restore a two-goal lead at 6-4.
Idaho struck first, snapping its string of 17 consecutive fruitless power plays with Jason Bast's marker from the edge of the crease exactly seven minutes in.
The Steelheads fired 10 shots on Roy inside the opening nine minutes after managing 10 shots through 40 minutes in Game 1.
But the Aces took over the period midway through -they outshot the Steelheads 20-11 in the first 20 minutes - and erupted for two goals in 43 seconds to seize a 2-1 lead.