The Seawolves hit a brick wall when they welcomed No. 13 Minnesota on Friday night for their first official game of the season. Struggling to sustain any offensive attack, UAA got trampled by the Golden Gophers 6-0 in what may be their final home opener.
For the last 15 years, the Seawolves had not lost in their opening game, posting a 12-0-3 record over that span. It became a different narrative when Minnesota’s netminder and Anchorage native Eric Schierhorn returned to his hometown. The reigning Big Ten Conference goaltender of the year deflected all of UAA’s attempts, making history by being the only tender ever to shut out the Seawolves in their season opener.
Execution and consistency were common issues throughout the matchup for the Green and Gold. However, the season was just given life, which is why head coach Matt Thomas is hardly flustered at their performance.
“Believe it or not, there was a lot of things I liked out there,” Thomas said. “I think we got a long way to go, but I am excited for what I did see in a lot of these guys.”
The Gophers’ defensive line is suffused with talent, to say the least. All six of their defenseman have been drafted by an NHL team, and it was clearly displayed on Friday night. The trio of Jake Bischoff (Columbus Blue Jackets), Ryan Zuhlsdorf (Tamba Bay Lightning) and Jack Sadek (Minnesota Wild) combined for three goals, two assists and held the Seawolves to just 14 shots on goal the entire night.
A headache that haunted UAA all of last season was exposed yet again on Friday night: the inability to score a power play goal. Trailing two goals midway through the second period, the game was still very much within reach. The Seawolves caught a break just when they needed to, a five on four player advantage and a chance to cut into the Gophers’ lead. Minnesota defended it with ease, dumping pucks down the ice left and right, never giving the Seawolves a chance to implement an aggressive attack. UAA goaltender Olivier Mantha did all he could when the Gophers sent a flurry of 19 shots his way in the second period alone, but the Seawolves found themselves trailing 3-0 after 40 minutes of play.
The third period was not any kinder to UAA. Open looks continued to be hard to come by, while the Gophers had clear lanes to snipe shots whenever they wanted to. Minnesota piled on three goals in the third, officially putting the game to rest.
“We have to sustain back pressure on defense, but we also need to possess the puck and more pucks to the net,” sophomore Mason Mitchell said after the game. “14 shots is not good enough, get the puck to the net and good things will happen.”
The 15-year streak may have snapped, but the Seawolves have a lot more important issues that need to be brought up. Luckily, it is a long season and UAA will not have much time to dwell on this massacre. The Seawolves will take University of Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday, Oct. 8 in a non-conference interstate battle.