The war is on but the veterans are missing

It’s time to start hanging missing-in-action posters around the University of Alaska Anchorage campus. The juniors and seniors on the hockey team are nowhere to be found.

Production from the upperclassmen was missing, as the Seawolves emerged from a weekend series winless with a 3-2 loss and a 2-2 tie against the visiting University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs to open the WCHA regular season.

“It’s the same line every night,” head coach John Hill said. “We created no offense. Right now it’s safe to say that our seniors and juniors are not doing their job; they’re not producing.”

The UAA upperclassmen were looking for a spark from junior left wing Dallas Steward, who played in his first games of the season after returning from injuries. Instead, they got exactly what they have all year – nothing.

For a line that posted combined totals of 26-37-60 last season, Steward and seniors Vladimir Novak and Peter Chytka – UAA’s main scoring line – had no points during the series and only one assist for the season.

A constant bright spot was the continuing production from a young line of Curtis Glencross, Ales Parez and John Hopson. The trio accounted for all the Seawolf goals and seven of the team’s 10 points.

The line didn’t waste any time making their mark in the first period of Friday night’s game. Sophomore forward Hopson was in front of the net to punch in the rebound of a backhanded wrist shot from teammate Ales Parez.

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Glencross scored his second career goal on a second-period power play and extend the lead 2-0.

All the while the Seawolf penalty kill, which was ranked second in the WCHA coming into the weekend, remained strong. They weathered the storm until Seawolf miscues caused three goals in a 6-minute span.

First, freshman defenseman Matt Hanson’s simple outlet pass went straight to Bulldog right wing Nick Anderson deep in the UAA defensive zone. He and two teammates picked UAA goalie Kevin Reiter apart while the rest of the Seawolves were at the other end of the ice.

Halfway into the period, a face-off at the Seawolf net saw the puck dribble towards the net and sophomore Junior Lessard flip the equalizer stick-side past Reiter. Just over a minute later, the Seawolf defense left forward Tyler Brosz all alone in the left circle to scorch a one-timer past Reiter top-shelf and extinguish the Seawolves’ flame.

Saturday’s game saw a re-energized Seawolf squad come out and apply pressure all night, grabbing a 2-1 lead in the third period they couldn’t hold. The team, which had no breakaways Friday, had two Saturday while outshooting the Bulldogs for the first time this season.

“We played awful yesterday and it certainly wasn’t the same team today,” Hill said. “We had guys storming the net and creating offensive opportunities.”

The first period was scoreless as both teams watched numerous pucks ping off the posts.

A barrage of stinging slapshots in the second period finally penetrated Bulldog goalie Isaac Reichmuth as Parez’s attempt skipped across the ice and through his legs.

Lessard added his second goal of the series 6 minutes later by tapping the puck into the net after it died behind Reiter.

Hopson notched his team-leading fifth goal of the season at 2:39 of the third period.

With 7:25 remaining, a shot from center John Francisco wove from the blue line, through two UAA defenders and just inside the right post to cap the scoring.

Reiter wanted the shot back, but it didn’t taint an outstanding series from the senior who stopped 37 of 42 shots.

“He’s been playing phenomenally,” Hopson said. “Now, we just need to pick up our end of the play to help him out.”

That responsibility rests on the shoulders of UAA’s main line. Neither Vladimir Novak nor Peter Chytka managed a shot on goal.

“They (the freshmen) need the upperclassmen to lead the way, carry them, and ease their transitions – not the other way around,” Hill said

Over the weekend, UAA extended their winless streak to five, fell to 1-10 in WCHA openers, and 9-30-7 overall against the Bulldogs, while missing their chance to secure the program’s 350th victory.