How do you mess up the hottest goaltending in the league? The Victoria Salmon Kings managed to do just that last night at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre as the Alaska Aces continued their all-time ECHL mastery over the Fish.
The 6-3 victory before 4,168 fans pushed the Aces league-best record to 11-2-1. It also moved Alaska's all-time record against the Salmon Kings to 31-9-4 and a Kings-killing 16-4-3 in Victoria. It was also part revenge -- the Aces lost their three-year dominance atop the West Division to the Salmon Kings last season. But if their early-season form holds, these Aces are threatening to race away so far ahead atop the division the other teams may need the Hubbell Telescope to find them.
There haven't been too many occasions to second guess Victoria head coach Mark Morrison in his time behind the bench. But the decision not to start Jonathan Boutin, so hot he was named goaltender of the week by the league, was baffling. Starter Todd Ford has been very strong at points this season but let in two soft power-play goals to gift Alaska a 2-1 lead before being lifted at 25 seconds of the second period.
Boutin, however, came in cold and seemed out of sorts himself as he also proceeded to let in a couple of questionable goals as Alaska built a 5-3 lead by the end of the second period. Against the Aces, farm team of the St. Louis Blues, a two-goal deficit heading into the third period is close to insurmountable. It was, as the Salmon Kings dropped back to .500 at 7-7-1.
It was sloppy but it wasn't for lack of effort on the part of the Salmon Kings, who buzzed the Alaska net for 21 shots in the second period en route to outshooting the Aces 35-26.
Ford, but not Boutin, is among nine Salmon Kings players contracted to either the Vancouver Canucks or AHL Manitoba Moose in the Canucks minor-pro chain. Moose GM Craig Heisinger was in town to scout the game but that had zero to do with the decision to start Ford.
"That bears on nothing," said Heisinger, who said he was here to look at all the players.
"The idea is to have depth," he said.
Morrison said he felt it was Ford's turn to start. Simple as that.
"It was my decision. We have two goalies and they can both play, and I have to keep them both going," said Morrison. "Tonight we were unlucky [in the nets]. Six goals on some 20-odd shots is not good enough."
The result was bittersweet for Olivier Filion of Victoria, who scored twice and added an assist against his former team of four seasons.
"I was happy early to get two goals against my old team [Filion's counters had it at 2-2 by 34 seconds of the second period] but I don't really care about the three points because of the loss," said Filion.
"The thing is, Alaska didn't even play a good game. But we were struggling in our own zone. It's not fun to lose a game like that. We're going to have a big talk and we have to be ready for Friday, and we will."
Former BCHL South Surrey Eagles junior Colin Hemingway led Alaska with two goals and two assists.
The Aces didn't toy around with their goaltending as rookie-pro Jean-Phillipe Lamoureux, the 2008 NCAA Hobey Baker finalist who has started every Alaska game this season, recorded his 11th victory.
The teams meet again tomorrow and Saturday at the Memorial Centre.