-With collaboration from Patrick McCormick
The wave of momentum that the Seawolves rode into St. Paul, Minnesota and the WCHA Final Five Playoffs came crashing down, and put what was perhaps an unjust end to their 2010-11 campaign.
Unfortunate bounces and misfires were the main culprits in putting an abrupt halt to the UAA hockey season as they lost 4-2 to the 13th ranked Colorado College Tigers in front of 13,131 in attendance at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It doesn’t sit well and doesn’t feel right,” said UAA Head Coach Dave Shyiak at the post-game press conference. “I can’t take anything away from the guys tonight. I’m proud of the way we played.
“It just wasn’t in the cards tonight.”
Anchorage native William Rapuzzi put the Tigers (22-17-3) on the board first at 7:30 of the first period when he was the beneficiary of a fortunate bounce, something that CC would see more of come their way.
A puck was thrown toward the net, bounced off UAA sophomore Scott Warner’s stick, and found its way to a wide-open Rapuzzi who was able to deposit the puck behind a sprawled out Kamal from the low slot.
UAA (16-18-3) continued to have the better chances to score in the first, but were unable to solve CC goaltender Joe Howe. Senior Tommy Grant, junior Jade Portwood, and sophomore Daniel Naslund all had glorious opportunities that Howe was able to fight off.
The opportunistic Tigers struck again, as Tim Hall fired a wrister from between the circles that beat Kamal high glove-side. Hall found the puck after UAA junior Brad Gorham blocked a shot from the point from Ryan Lowery.
The 2-0 deficit heading to the locker room didn’t tell the story of the solid first period the team put together.
UAA dominated just about every area on the stat sheet after the first period. They were winning more faceoffs (10-5), outshooting CC (7-5), and had the more scoring chances (5-2).
Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalize on those chances, and had to see the bad puck luck continue to torment them into the second period.
A seemingly harmless shot from the point by Tiger defenseman Joe Marciano turned into a nightmare for UAA senior Craig Parkinson. The puck floated through traffic and forced Parkinson to try and jump out of the way. The shot ricocheted off his skate during the escape attempt and redirected with deadly accuracy to beat Kamal at 4:39 of the period.
After the goal, Shyiak elected to take his timeout to try and settle his team down. He also elected to pull Kamal in favor of fellow freshman goaltender Rob Gunderson. Kamal, who couldn’t be put at fault for any of the three goals he allowed, stopped four of seven shots in 24:39 minutes of action.
“We told him to keep his head up,” Parkinson said, when speaking about Kamal after being pulled. “He’s battled hard for us and he deserved a better fate and deserved us to battle him through it.”
The Seawolves finally got rewarded at 14:57 as sophomore Mickey Spencer got his second goal in as many games for UAA. The gritty fourth-liner turned sniper said it was all about getting back up to game speed.
“I’ve been hurt most of the year and finally had my feet under me and definitely was starting to feel better now,” Spencer said, who had the game winner in the series-clinching win over Minnesota back on Mar. 12.
With a power play just coming to an end for UAA, freshman defenseman Quinn Sproule riffled a shot from the point. Spencer, who was positioned between the circles, got a textbook deflection to beat Howe on the short side.
Sophomore Alex Gellert would be credited for the second assist, and UAA seemingly was back in it with plenty of time left to work with.
UAA continued to be the better of the two teams at even strength and had a few more good looks at cutting the deficit in half. However, it would be the Tigers who would fine the twine yet again and weather the UAA storm.
CC would pump another one in the waning seconds of the second period. Marciano blasted home a shot through traffic that beat Gunderson over his right shoulder. The goal came with just 17.7 seconds showing on the clock and crushed any momentum UAA had been building.
The third period went by seemingly fast and once again saw UAA outshoot the Tigers (8-5). The Seawolves also were unable to capitalize on a 5-on-3 power play opportunity early in the third.
The goal in which UAA desperately sought finally came, but left the ‘Wolves very little time to try and rally.
Senior Luka Vidmar would get his second goal of the season at the 18:59 mark of the final period. With sophomore Naslund serving a five-minute major penalty assessed to sophomore Tyler Currier (who also got a game misconduct) for checking from behind, Vidmar wristed a deceptive shot from just inside the blueline that beat Howe.
Gorham and Portwood would get credited with the helpers on the shorthanded strike.
CC would hold on to take the victory and would move onto the WCHA semifinals against top-ranked North Dakota. UAA, the hard luck loser, did everything right except get the bounces, and held the Tigers to just 16 shots on the night compared to the 23 that they had themselves.
Parkinson, Vidmar, Sean Wiles, Grant, and Nick Haddad all will have played their final game for the Seawolves, but their contributions have been monumental in Shyiak’s eyes.
“I thought our seniors were incredible this year, and they built the foundation and the blueprint that our program needs to move forward,” Shyiak said.
Parkinson, an assistant captain and leader all year long for his young team, pointed out that the future is very bright for the program.
“It was a great season and there’s a lot of good guys in that locker room,” Parkinson said. “I wish I was coming back. There’s a good group there and I see them coming back (to the Final Five) quite often.”