Hamilton makes history but Seawolves settle for split

Shea Hamilton made UAA history against St. Cloud State and in the process the Seawolves snapped a three-game losing skid.

Hamilton, a standout freshman, added his name to the Seawolf record books Feb. 4 when he scored the first-ever penalty shot goal in the 26-year history of UAA hockey during a 4-3 win over the visiting Huskies.

But UAA (8-15-2, 6-14-2 WCHA) missed a chance for a much needed series sweep after St. Cloud (12-16-2, 6-14-0) rebounded with a 6-3 victory Feb. 5 at the Sullivan Arena to spoil the university’s 51st birthday party.

The Seawolves came into the weekend ranked eighth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings and hoped to earn four points with a sweep of the ninth-place Huskies. UAA head coach John Hill said that in the battle for playoff position every point is needed at this point in the season.

“We’re in a battle for seventh and everybody picked up points that was below us,” Hill said. “Mankato picked up a point, (Michigan) Tech picked up two and St. Cloud picked up two, so it’s very disappointing and discouraging.”

Hamilton was rewarded the rare penalty shot opportunity when he took a pass over the blue-line and was pulled down from behind on the breakaway. On the penalty shot attempt, he showed his agility by faking to the right and pulling the puck back to beat St. Cloud goaltender Tim Boron on the left side of a wide-open net. The score marked his fifth goal in an injury-shortened nine games on the season, which is good for third on the team.

“I was pretty nervous because it was the first penalty shot I had in years. I didn’t even know what was going on at first,” said Hamilton of his historic shot. “I had to ask somebody, ‘What did I do?’”

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It had been 12 years since a UAA hockey player even attempted a penalty shot. During the 1993 season, former Seawolf standout Paul Williams had the rare opportunity at the one-on-one spectacle against the opposing team’s goalie. Williams was unsuccessful and that allowed Hamilton the chance to put his name in the books.

“It’s cool I guess,” said Hamilton. “It would be nice to make history on something more spectacular though.”

Hamilton’s goal was one of four in the Seawolves win; just the sixth time in 25 games UAA has reached that mark. Along with the improbable penalty shot, UAA scored in other unorthodox ways. Eric Walsky scored the Seawolves second goal on a whiffed shot attempt that still managed to slide into the goal. Matt Hanson scored the game-winner with a shot off the helmet of Boron.

UAA needed everything it could get to support goaltender Nathan Lawson. Lawson stopped 28 of 31 shots in the win but looked shaky in the loss. The standout freshman was downright porous, giving up six goals on just 26 Husky shots.

Hill said Lawson’s play in net wasn’t as sharp as it’s been but that sometimes the rest of the team has to pick up the slack.

With only eight games left to play before the WCHA playoffs, the Seawolves need to pick up the slack soon, as they try to position themselves for the best possible first-round match-up.

“We just didn’t get the job done and at this point in the season it’s not good enough,” said sophomore center Charlie Kronschnabel. “With the way the standings are right now we needed to get those two points. That can make or break your season.”

UAA now hits the road to play No. 8 ranked Minnesota on Feb. 11 and 12. Playing the Golden Gophers, a perennial national powerhouse, won’t be an easy task for the Seawolves.

“It’s a great building and it’s going to be an outstanding atmosphere,” Hill said. “The guys should be up for it but it’s going to be quite a challenge because they’re a damn good hockey team.”