Stellar goaltending, solid penalty killing and scoring by the defense meant one thing for the UAA Seawolves in a weekend series against conference rivals University of Minnesota-Duluth.
You couldn’t tell the difference between a club plagued with injuries and one that was ranked third in the country.
Back-to-back upsets with scores of 5-2 and 3-0 over the Bulldogs gave UAA their first series sweep over Duluth in program history Nov. 5 and 6. Saturday night’s shutout was the first for the Bulldogs in their last 137 consecutive games.
Seawolf goalie Nathan Lawson laid down the law Saturday, as he rejected all 37 attempts by Minnesota-Duluth (5-3-2, 4-2-0 WCHA) for his second collegiate shutout.
“The penalty kill was great tonight in front of me, and I saw most of the shots they were taking on the power play,” Lawson said. “It’s a team shutout, not just an individual shutout.”
Lawson capped off a great weekend of goaltending by the Seawolves (5-2-1, 3-1-0 WCHA). Junior goalie John DeCaro also had a great night between the pipes Friday as the Seawolves battled to the win.
“In net we need to stay focused and concentrate on what is going on around the crease,” Lawson said. “I think John and I both were on our game this weekend.”
Lawson had shown flashes of brilliance at the start of the season when he made the Nye Frontier Classic All-Tournament team in UAA’s upset of the University of Minnesota. With his vision on the ice and his puck-handling skills outside the crease, Lawson is quickly setting fans at ease after the loss of last year’s goaltenders Chris King and Kevin Reiter to graduation.
“I’ve been working on my puck-handling skills for years,” Lawson said. “I know my teammates appreciate my quarterbacking skill, as it’s easier to move the puck out of the zone with my help.”
The Seawolves are on a three-game winning streak and have shown improvement on special teams. The Seawolves tallied three power-play goals against the Bulldogs and only allowed one goal on 12 power-play chances for the Bulldogs.
“On the penalty kill, our guys did a good job of not getting stretched out,” said coach John Hill. “Our defensive zone play, both five-on-five and shorthanded was pretty good all weekend.”
The Seawolves defense finally made their mark in the goal-scoring department when Chad Anderson got the first goal of the season for the defense Friday night, on a backhanded chance off an Ales Parez rebound that was left sitting in the slot.
“I’m supposed to be a defensive defenseman,” said Anderson. “I’m no sniper, so I just threw it at the net and it got in there somehow.”
The goal marked a five-point performance by the defense, equaling their previous season total.
“We want our defenseman to be active in the offensive zone, and be active by joining the rush up the ice,” Hill said. “Our defensemen did a much better job of getting pucks through to the net. We’re pleased with the play of our defensemen, and we know that the numbers will come.”
Highlighting the Seawolves goal-scoring effort against the Bulldogs were Parez and freshman Chris Tarkir’s performances.
Parez was left unattended between the face-off circles as he skated left to right with the puck, late in the second period. He silenced critics that say he is gun-shy at times, as he ripped a wrister top-shelf beating Bulldog’s goalie Isaac Reichmuth over his right shoulder, for the game-winning goal to make it 3-2.
“When I came out of the corner I was thinking pass, because that’s how I’ve always been playing,” said Parez. “The coaches have been telling me to take shots when I have the opportunity.
“We cycled the puck real well on that shift. I was left all alone in the slot, so I knew I had to get a shot off.”
Tarkir’s goal came early in the second period Saturday night, when Bulldog’s goalie Josh Johnson got stuck behind his own net, after going out to play the puck. Tarkir banged home a one-timer from Brett Arcand-Kootenay, as he was cutting to the open net.
“I screamed at Koots, said ‘Yeah, yeah, puck,’ and he timed the pass perfectly,” said Tarkir. “Your eyes get real big when you see the open net, you just have to bear down and knock it in.”
Junior center Matt Hanson suffered Friday what doctors believe to be a high ankle sprain that would leave him on the injured reserve for a couple months. He will have x-rays taken Monday. He joins forward Shea Hamilton, who is out for the six to 12 weeks with a wrist injury. Center Eric Walsky is on the shelf with a high ankle sprain as is forward Jim Dahl with a sprained right knee.
With the weekend sweep over the Bulldogs, UAA’s second over a ranked opponent this year, the Seawolves are getting a reputation as giant killers. Minnesota-Duluth will fall in the WCHA rankings while UAA has a chance to break into the top 15 in this week’s polls.
The Seawolves next go on the road to play the Minnesota State Mankato Mavericks Nov. 12 and 13.