VICTORIA, British Columbia—The Alaska Aces punched their ticket to the Kelly Cup finals in thrilling fashion, as Scott Howes buried the series clinching goal with 34.9 seconds left, lifting Alaska to a 3-2 victory over the Victoria Salmon Kings in game four of the ECHL's Western Conference finals. The win completes a four-game sweep of the Salmon Kings and keeps the Aces unbeaten in the postseason.
It may have been a sweep, but they weren't easy games. However, the Aces proved clutch in all four contests. The win was Alaska's third of the series decided in the final 35 seconds of regulation or later.
The Aces took a 2-0 lead in game four on first period goals by Dan Kissel and Howes, who now has 15 points in the playoffs. Victoria, playing to avoid franchise extinction, rallied back and tied the score at 2 midway through the third period. Most of the third was a goaltenders duel between Gerald Coleman and David Shantz, who robbed Howes twice on brilliant glove saves. Coleman also stopped a penalty shot in the third by former Aces Ryan Turek.
The win propels the Aces into the Kelly Cup finals for the third time in six seasons. Alaska will face the winner of the Wheeling-Kalamazoo series. That best of seven series is knotted at one game apiece.
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