The Seawolves round out their regular season this weekend in games 3 and 4 of the 23rd annual Governor’s Cup series. The Friday and Saturday night matches in Fairbanks will mark the third and fourth meetings between UAA (8-16-2 WCHA) and the Alaska Nanooks (6-16-4 WCHA) this season.
The Seawolves salvaged only a single point in their two-game home stand with the Nanooks the first half of this season. UAF won 2-1 during the Friday night contest on Dec. 11 before the teams skated to a 1-1 tie the following night.
The Seawolves cannot afford a loss either night if they plan on winning their first Governor’s Cup in 6 years. The Seawolves last took home the Governor’s Cup when Sarah Palin was still in office: 2009.
The two Alaska teams have been regulars on each other’s calendars for over three decades, but the victor of the season series was not awarded a shiny trophy — the Governor’s Cup — until the 1993-94 season.
The tournament has fluctuated between a two-game, single-weekend series, into a four-game series that takes place over the length of the season. The tournament is currently in the latter form, following the substantial realignment of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association prior to the 2013-14 season.
“It’s a natural rivalry because they are the only two hockey-playing [higher education] institutions in the state,” Tim McDiffett, UAA associate athletic director, said.
The Nanooks have a 11-8 advantage in Governor’s Cup titles, despite UAA holding a 31-28-7 edge in the Cup’s 22-year-history. UAF vacated cup titles in 2010-13 due to NCAA violations.
“We’re looking to go up there and get four big points and bring home the cup,” Blake Tatchell, senior forward, said. “We definitely get fired up because there’s always pretty big crowds there.”
Both teams haven’t given their fans much to cheer for this season. Without the scoring punch of many of their WCHA counterparts, wins have been hard to come by and now both are at risk of missing the postseason.
The Seawolves sit just above the Nanooks in the conference standings with 18 points. Both Alaska teams were swept last weekend against league-leaders Minnesota State-Mankato and Michigan Tech respectively. Goal tending and defense will likely determine who gets the upper-hand this weekend.
“We got to come and play a gritty-style of game,” senior UAA defenseman Blake Leask said. “They’re a very high-risk, high-reward team. Everything they get, they get off of turnovers.”
“There is just so much at stake when both teams happen to play, that guys seem to bring their game to a new level,” UAA head coach Matt Thomas said. “You hope your team finds a level that’s a little more superior than your opponent.”
Friday and Saturday’s games can be streamed on WCHA.tv at 7:07 p.m AKST.