If anyone deserves an Oscar for a debut performance it's John Hill and the Seawolf men's hockey team. New University of Alaska Anchorage hockey coach Hill endeared himself and his team to Anchorage fans at the Sullivan Arena as the Seawolves dished out two stellar performances Friday and Saturday at the Nye Frontier Classic.
The Seawolves played with an enthusiasm and intensity rarely seen in these parts the past few years posting a 5-3 win over Northeastern in Friday's opener.
“The guys came out hard and never let up,” Hill said.
The Seawolves raced to a 2-0 lead midway through the first period on power play goals by senior captain Mike Scott and senior Eric Lawson. Sophomore Vladimir Novak's even strength goal 4:47 into the second period increased UAA's lead to three before Northeastern senior Jim Fahey took advantage of penalties on UAA sophomore Dallas Steward and junior Matt Shasby and scored on the power play.
But these Seawolves don't give up.
“We want to play puck-pressure hockey,” Hill said.
“Awesome—bliss,” Shasby said. “We've been training for a month to get ready for this thing.”
Senior Gregg Zaporzan scored UAA's fourth goal with about six minutes left in the second period. Junior Joe Madstronardi kept the Huskies within striking distance scoring at 15:54 in the second.
“Boy, we had some scoring opportunities,” Hill said. “The guys knew how we wanted to play. We'll wake up tomorrow with an opportunity to play for the championship.”
“We'll play the same way—come out flying,” Shasby said
It was an opportunity the Seawolves didn't waste.
It was a finish for the ages Saturday night against defending national champion Boston College. Down 4-2 with under four minutes to play, Zaporzan scored to pull the `Wolves within one.
A few of the 6,038 fans at the Sullivan Arena headed toward the exits during the final minutes but quickly returned as the Seawolves puck pressure style kept the crowd roaring at the edge of their seats. As the minutes, then seconds, ticked down, the `Wolves kept up the pressure on the Eagles' goal.
As the final seconds disappeared freshman Lee Green pushed the puck past Eagles' goalie Matti Kaltiainen. Referee Jon Campion signaled the goal as the horn sounded.
Neither team scored during the five-minute extra period and UAA salvaged a tie with the national champs. The Eagles won a shootout following the overtime period, but the game goes in the books as a tie.
In a game marred by penalties, including a five-minute major and game disqualification for checking from behind called on Shasby, the Seawolves never lost their cool. Shasby's penalty, as time ran out in the second period, combined with Tyler Schnell's two-minute slashing penalty with under a minute left in the second gave the Eagles a five-on-three to start the third period. Senior Jeff Giuliano found a seam and scored 43 seconds into the period.
“I told them there was probably a good chance they were going to score,” Hill said. “But we'll only be down two with 15 minutes left.”
Sophomore goalie Chris King kept the Eagles at bay the rest of the period, diving, sliding and fielding shot after shot, giving the offense the opportunity to come back. King had 11 saves in the final period and finished with 30 for the game.
“Chris King gave us a chance to win tonight,” Hill said.
King's performance in goal kept UAA close as the Seawolves committed 10 penalties for a total of 34 minutes. The team had plenty of practice killing penalties.
“We did—we got more than we bargained for,” Hill said.
The Seawolf team that finished 7-24-5 last season is no longer. This team is undefeated after two games and their exuberance is contagious.
“The guys are excited, the assistant coaches are excited and so am I,” Hill said.