Gov. Cup gets an early start at the Sullivan Arena

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Tad Kozun faces off with UAF’s Tayler Munson during the first weekend of the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

The Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup is a traditional event played every year for two separate weekends between the two main University of Alaska campuses: Anchorage and Fairbanks.

After returning from the first out-of-state matches, head hockey coach Matt Thomas and the team realized those games gained them valuable experience before the UAF-UAA duel.

“We have to make sure we are finding a way to learn from everything that’s going on here early and [I] think that was certainly the case [on our first road trip],” Thomas said.

These matches are used every year to determine the dominant collegiate Alaska hockey team. Each season, the cup comes down to a total of four games over the course of two weekends. This year, games are played over three weekends and six games; half are played on the ice at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks and the other half at the Sullivan Arena.

“We know how important these weekends are, the rivalry doesn’t really need to be over-hyped because we know that it’s an intense one,” Thomas said. “We know that both communities feel very [included in the rivalry] and we’ve been working hard all week, so we looked forward to [playing] at home.”

On Oct. 20, the Seawolves suffered an unfortunate first loss against the Nanooks.

From the Nanooks side, Steven Jandric, Jack Weiss and Justin Woods all scored early on in the game to give Fairbanks a 3-0 advantage just before the end of the first period. UAF would have kept that advantage into the second period if it weren’t for UAA’s Jordan Xavier.

Xavier, a freshmen forward from Calgary, Alberta, was assisted by junior forward Alex Jackstadt to score with only 37 seconds before the end of the period.

The total of four goals between the two teams lasted for the entire second period. A quiet period, there were only two power plays, one from each team, but no other goals.

The defenses seemed to be up and the offense down on both teams, with UAF only attempting 4 shots, 8 less than the first period, and UAA attempting 7.

“We have a young defense; that can get exposed at times in terms of having to be real aware and responsible as a played, but it is good to see our freshmen get those minutes and get that experience,” Thomas said.

The game didn’t start to heat back up until nine minutes into the third period when UAF’s Ryker Leer scored, assisted by Tristan Thompson and Max Newton.

Jarrett Brown from UAA and Woods from UAF scored a point a piece on power plays halfway through the third period.

Brown, a senior defensemen from Alberta, was assisted by Jonah Renouf and Tomi Heikkavirta to score his first goal of the season from the blueline.

Nearing the end of the third period and the end of the game, Woods and Colton Leiter further increased the Nanook’s lead with two more points to finish the game off at 6-2.

On Saturday night, the Seawolves suffered another loss, this time on UAF’s home ice. The 3-2 win proved to be a tighter match, however.

For the Green and Gold, Austin Azurdia and Xavier were the only two to make goals on Saturday night.

Azurdia, a senior forward, was able to score at four minutes in the first period, sparking the initial and temporary lead for the Seawolves. He was assisted by Jeremiah Luedtke, a junior forward.

Azurdia also assisted the second goal in the third period. The second goal, made by Xavier, was also assisted by Tad Kozun.

The lack of points made by the Seawolves was paired with lack of shots and weak offense. Collectively, UAA made 20 less shots than the Nanooks, ending the game with 17 shots on goal, while UAF attempted 37.

The Seawolves have a break to hone their skills before heading off to Michigan to compete against Lake Superior State on Nov. 3 and 4.