The UAA Hockey team played in two different types of games this past weekend against the Bemidji State Beavers.
One was a low-scoring affair where scoring chances were at a premium. The other, a wide-open and high-scoring contest in which both teams had chances aplenty.
Unfortunately for the Seawolves, it was the same old story as they could not get the result they desired and had to settle for a pair of one-goal defeats to the Beavers in the regular season finale at the Sullivan Arena.
While the sweep propelled Bemidji State (11-14-3 WCHA, 17-16-3 overall) into ninth place in the final conference standings, UAA (5-22-1 WCHA, 9-23-2 overall) found out they will get a playoff rematch with the top-seeded Minnesota Gophers on March 9-11. Last year, the Seawolves swept UM in Minneapolis to shock the college hockey world and book their ticket to the 2011 WCHA Final Five.
However, this time, the Seawolves will go into the series on a low note rther than a high one like they did last season.
The first game of the BSU series, played on March 2, ended 2-1 in favor of the visitors. A pair of breakdowns led to Beaver junior forward Jordan George to claim his 17th and 18th goals to put the Beavers ahead 2-0 in the first period.
“It’s been the same thing all year it seems like,” said UAA senior forward Jade Portwood. “We had a couple breakdowns and their good players took advantage of us. I think their top line had two goals right at the start there with a breakaway and a 2-on-1.
“The whole game after that, we were left to try and fight back and catch them.”
It wouldn’t be long before UAA mounted a comeback. Sophomore forward Andrew Pickering tallied his first collegiate goal off a mid-air deflection set up by freshman forward Sam Mellor. The goal, which came just over two minutes after the Beavers second, would be all the Seawolves could muster however.
The Seawolves were outshot 27-15 on the night and could not find the equalizer late after they pulled sophomore netminder Chris Kamal for the extra attacker. A bid by senior defenseman Brad Gorham was kicked out by BSU goalie Dan Bakala with just seconds left that would’ve sent the game into overtime.
“We struggled to get pucks at the net all night,” Kamal said, who stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced. “We’re kind of short in the lineup but I though we stepped up and played well all things considered.”
Kamal, who manned the crease for the third straight game, kept the Seawolves in striking distance all night, making several big saves down the stretch.
“I’ve felt pretty good the past few starts and I’m going to try and build on that,” Kamal said.
On March 3, the Seawolves honored their four seniors in what was their final home game in the green and gold. Gorham, Portwood, forward Curtis Leinweber and goalie Dusan Sidor all were applauded for their time here at UAA and honored by individual pre-game highlight montages.
All four players were in the starting lineup for UAA but all were given a chance to reflect on how quick the seasons had passed them.
“It’s going to be nice but at the same time it’s going to be sad because you know you’re going to miss all the boys, the coaching staff, the trainers,” Leinweber said, a four-year veteran for UAA. “It’s a good feeling but you wish you had more time now.”
The Seawolves started off early when sophomore forward Jordan Kwas dangled his way between the faceoff circles and backhanded a shot past Bakala. After BSU’s Shea Walters tied up the affair just under three minutes later, Mellor got his fourth goal on the season to give the Seawolves a 2-1 advantage heading into the second period.
Portwood would be the one to increase the lead to 3-1 after he ripped a shot just under the crossbar while falling to his knees. However, The Beavers drew even when they got another goal from Walters and a put-back goal from freshman Matt Prapavessis.
The teams would trade blows again later in the period as well. Freshman Corbin Karl punched in his third on the year only to be answered by a power play strike from BSU’s Brance Orban two minutes afterwards.
Orban would play the role of spoiler when he got his second on the night at 2:56 of the third period. The goal, which made it a 5-4 game in favor of the Beavers, would hold up as Bakala slammed the door on several UAA attempts to tie it before time expired.
Though the loss soured the sendoff for the four UAA seniors, the ‘Wolves now know they are in win-or-go-home mode from here on out. The uphill path back to the WCHA Final Five will take UAA through a familiar destination, one Kamal cannot wait to be apart of.
“I’m excited about the opportunity and there’s a little bit of history between us and (Minnesota),” Kamal said, who backstopped UAA’s 4-3 and 2-0 victories against the Gophers last postseason. “It’s a little bit bigger task this year but anything can happen.
“Personally, I’m not afraid of any of the other teams in this league and I don’t think any of our guys are. That’s a great mindset to have and if we go out there and play hockey, we could surprise some people, again.”