Seawolves defense makes Huskies roll over

Behind a strong defensive effort, the UAA hockey team sent its three seniors off the Sullivan Arena ice with a win. In the process, the Seawolves took three points from Michigan Tech and secured seventh place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

“It was great as a senior, going out with a win,” said senior forward Jim Dahl. “It meant a lot, especially in such a hard fought and emotional game.”

To open the series Feb. 25, the Seawolves skated to a 2-2 tie giving up two late power play goals to the Huskies. But UAA (11-16-5, 9-15-4 WCHA) responded with a 1-0 win Feb. 26 over Michigan Tech (8-21-4, 7-17-2) with goaltender John DeCaro earning a shutout behind some inspired penalty kill play on Senior Night in front of 4,601 fans.

In the opener Justin Johnson and Shea Hamilton scored goals and the Seawolves led 2-0 after two periods. But UAA gave up a pair of third period power-play goals to the Huskies, who went 2-of-4 with the advantage. The teams played a scoreless overtime session. The tie eliminated the Seawolves chances for home ice in the upcoming WCHA playoffs.

DeCaro again came up huge for the Seawolves. The junior stopped 50 shots but UAA was outshot 52-34. Only the two power play tallies by the Huskies marred his third 50-save performance of the year.

“We’ve been able to count on both of our goalies all year,” said Dahl. “Johnny stepped up his game once again, and I think we’re going to ride him as long as we can.”

DeCaro turned around the next night to turn away 32-of-32 shots and earn his first shutout as a Seawolf to cap a three-week hot streak in net. Since being inserted in the starting lineup Feb. 11 at Minnesota, DeCaro has gone 3-1-2 in six starts.

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DeCaro had help as the Seawolves shut down Michigan Tech’s No.7 ranked power play, leaving the Huskies 0-for-4 on the man advantage in the win.

“Our penalty kill was huge all weekend,” said Chad Anderson. “They were able to stick together and get it done, and that created some momentum for us.”

The Seawolf penalty kill was at its best when the players were able to hold the Huskies during an almost two-minute long 5-on-3 shorthanded stint early in the third. Luke Beaverson and Charlie Kronschnabel took back-to-back penalties giving the Huskies the advantage but the Seawolves were able to pressure the puck and fill the shooting lanes effectively.

“I think I only saw two or maybe three shots the whole two minutes,” said DeCaro.

The momentum the Seawolves gained from their penalty kill led to the demise of the Huskies. Kronschnabel set up the game-winning goal with a perfect cross-ice pass through the slot to an open Chad Anderson, tallied his third goal of the season when he blasted a slap shot at Michigan Tech goalie Cam Ellsworth midway through the third

period. The puck found the back of the net after ricocheting off the inner arm of Ellsworth.

“Our goalie coach, Chad Meyhoff, said their goalie has a hard time putting his elbows in, so I shot to the middle and it went through,” said Anderson.

UAA head coach John Hill said he’s happy his three seniors left the Sullivan ice with a victory. Stuchlik has already finished his degree and Dahl and Green both have one more class to take before graduating from UAA. The trio is part of the first Seawolves team to make the Final Five, which they did last season. They also won two consecutive Nye Frontier Classic titles. Now Hill said he hopes they can add a Governor’s Cup to the list.

The Seawolves will now travel to Fairbanks to play a two game series March 4 and 5 against UAF. The series will mark the second half of the 2004-05 Governor’s Cup, a trophy that the Seawolves and Nanooks have battled for since they started playing hockey in the 1979-80 season. The season series is currently tied at a game apiece. The Nanooks have won the last three Cups and the Seawolves are hungry to take it back.

“The Governor’s Cup means everything to us right now,” said Dahl. “All we can think about is Fairbanks and winning the Cup.”