Hockey down to two games before playoffs

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Olivier Mantha blocks a shot from Bowling Green’s Max Johnson during the Seawolves final home game. Mantha made 20 saves in the game. Photo credit: Skip Hickey

After their first meeting in mid-January, UAA and Bowling Green met up again on Feb. 15 and 16. Bowling Green currently sits at No. 3 in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association with only 5 conference loses on the season and 16 wins, almost the complete opposite of the Seawolves.

Their first time meeting, the Seawolves traveled to Ohio to battle out their rivals, only to end up disappointed with a 2-6 and a 2-3 loss. Those losses only contributed to the 10 game losing-streak. Their last win was a 2-1 win against Alabama-Huntsville on Jan. 13.

At that point, the Seawolves were higher in the rankings but have fallen since. Head coach Matt Thomas has been contemplating the issues they have run into over the season.

“I think that any time you’re right in the mix [like we were most of the season] you’re doing something right when you’re at least getting points, but we haven’t been able to really connect offensively because its just injury after injury,” Thomas said.

This time, the home-field advantage for the Seawolves didn’t have much of an effect on the outcome. The first game, similar to the first one in Ohio, resulted in a 2-5 loss for the Seawolves.

As goaltender, the Seawolves made a switch up from the well-known and expected Olivier Mantha, and put in freshmen Brody Claeys for the entire game. He made 25 saves on the night.

Both teams suffered a slow start, with no points in the first period and only 1 each in the second period. Bowling Green pulled things together in the third period to extend their lead by 3 points.

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In addition, both teams started out with an even amount of shots on goal: 8 in the first period. During the second period, UAA made 5 more shots than Bowling Green, who attempted 9. The outcome was the same, both teams making 1 goal.

Once the third period was underway, Bowling Green more than doubled both UAA’s attempts and goals. The Seawolves only put in 6 attempts and made 1 goal; Bowling Green put in 13 attempts and made 4 goals, including 1 empty-netter.

One goal on UAA’s side was scored by sophomore defensemen Tomi Hiekkavirta at 9:16 in the second period. His goal was assisted by senior defensemen Jarrett Brown and freshman forward Jordan Xavier.

Brown made the second goal in the third period of the game. Of his two attempted shots during the game, this was the only one that was successful.

It was early in the period, only two minutes in, when Brown was assisted by junior forward Alex Jackstadt and Xavier to make the final UAA goal of the game.

As for Friday night, the Seawolves came back for redemption on senior night. Seven of the Seawolves will be moving on from their collegiate hockey careers. With all but captain Matt Anholt on the ice, the team came closer to a win, but narrowly lost.

Similar to Thursday’s game, there was no scoring in the first period of the night. That changed when Bowling Green scored nine seconds into the second period for the first goal.

Bowling Green’s Connor Ford managed to score on his only attempt for the night, helping his team win with a 1 point lead at 2-1. Second to that was Tyler Spezia who scored just over halfway through the third period to solidify their win.

As for the Seawolves, it was late in the second period when they were able to temporarily tie up the game.

Regardless of the end score, a momentary tie is still an accomplishment to Corey Renwick and his teammates.

“I think I just want to see us keep getting on the board and also to stay out of the [penalty] box a little bit, we’ve been getting a lot of penalties lately, but yeah, we just need to keep playing hard and stick to our system,” Renwick said.

Senior forward Alec Butcher worked off of assists from senior defenseman Tanner Johnson and sophomore defenseman David Trinkberger to score the Seawolves’ only point for the night.

The tie lasted for 13 minutes until Bowling Green finished off the final point of the night for the win.

Of Bowling Green’s 22 attempts, it was Mantha who made the 20 saves that reduced the lead Bowling Green had over the Seawolves. On the other side of things, Bowling State’s goaltender Eric Gop made 16 saves that prevented the Seawolves from advancing their score.

“It’s been frustrating because we are having to overplay guys and they are getting tired in the third period,” Thomas said. “That is an area that we don’t want to get into but we have a lot of younger guys that aren’t 100 percent comfortable with our systems.”

The Seawolves only have two games left in the regular season. Both games are a part of the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup in Fairbanks, taking place on Feb. 23-24.

Olivier Mantha and Tad Kozun share an emotional farewell to the Sullivan Arena after their final home game on Feb. 16. Photo credit: Colleen Kozun