UAA-UAF split series, UAF wins shootout and cup

All Photos by Patrick McCormick

Two heated rivals, two electric atmospheres, two lopsided wins for home teams.

One heartbreaking way to see the Governor’s Cup leave town for the UAA Seawolves (12-17-3, 10-14-2 WCHA) and back into the hands of their biggest rivals.

The ‘Wolves and UAF Nanooks (14-15-5, 10-13-5 CCHA) both won their home games in the series but it would be the ‘Nooks retaining the cup after they won a series deciding shootout.

“It’s pretty weird how we win a big game at home in front of a big crowd but then lose the shootout and the cup just like that,” said UAA senior forward Nick Haddad. “It kind of feels like a lose in the locker room but we have to take away the positives and remember we played well.”

This year, the series started up at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks and would shift to the Sullivan Arena for the rematch.

UAF would hold serve in their own rink as they skated away with a 5-1 decision. For UAA, they were the tough luck losers in a game that was tightly contested for the first two periods.

Things couldn’t have started off better for the ‘Wolves. Just 25 seconds into the game, junior Brad Gorham, an Anchorage native, unleashed a wrister from the top of the left circle and over UAF goalie Scott Greenham to give UAA a 1-0 advantage early on.

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It wouldn’t be until 11:38 of the second period that the Nanooks would get on the board when Carlo Finucci fed Kevin Petovello from behind the net. Petovello stuffed home a shot behind UAA freshman goalie Rob Gunderson.

The deadlock would be carried over into the third with both teams looking for the momentum-shifting goal.

UAA had a golden opportunity when two ‘Nooks were whistled for penalties three minutes into the final period. However, the Seawolves couldn’t register a shot on their 5-on-3 opportunity and

Unfortunately, that goal would come to the home team as Colton Beck found a loose puck between the circles and fired home a shot high glove side over Gunderson.

Then, the Seawolves, had a costly defensive breakdown that would they would have to pay for dearly.

UAF won the ensuing faceoff at center and rushed into the UAA zone. Cody Kunyk danced around one Seawolf defenseman and put a low shot that Gunderson kicked away. The rebound came right onto the stick tape of UAF’s Andy Taranto and he made no mistake with the loose change and gave UAF a 3-1 lead just seven seconds after going up 2-1.

UAA would wind up giving up two more goals in the remaining time, one coming after pulling Gunderson and the other while on the penalty kill.

UAA went 0 for 4 on the power play while they killed 5 of 6 UAF power plays. Final shot totals were 35-25 in favor of the home team.

The following night saw the series shift to Anchorage where the Seawolves would continue their home dominance with a convincing 4-1 victory over their northern rivals.

Again, it was UAA getting the games first tally. Freshman Brett Cameron riffled a slap shot from the right circle that was initially saved by Greenham. Cameron, however, followed up on his own shot and cashed in on his fourth goal of the season at 6:05 of the first period. Haddad and freshman Jordan Kwas were credited with the helpers.

UAA wouldn’t take long to add on to their lead as they cashed in on the power play just 1:11 later. UAF defenseman and Anchorage native Bryant Molle attempted to clear the puck after a scrum in front of the Nanook goal but ended up depositing the puck in his own cage.

UAA sophomore Scott Warner, who also hails from Anchorage, got credit for the goal, his third on the year, while senior Craig Parkinson and sophomore Mitch Bruijsten received assists.

The Seawolves weren’t done there as junior Jade Portwood joined in on the action with his first goal of the season. The defensive forward redirected a drive by senior Sean Wiles 13:42 into the first frame of play. Parkinson picked up the second assist on the goal.

The score would be 3-0 Seawolves at the first intermission and saw the home team enjoy a 10-5 advantage in shots.

The green and gold continued to poor it on as senior Tommy Grant found the back of the net with his team-high 12th goal of the season by way of the power play. Grant one timed a shot from the low right wing after good puck movement from the ‘Wolves.

Parkinson and Kwas both registered their third and second assists, respectively, on the night.

It was the second goal the Seawolves got on the power play and would be more than enough for freshman goalie Chris Kamal to work with.

Kamal was stellar throughout the night stopping 19 of 20 shots he faced. He was called upon to make a few dynamic saves but said his defense was the reason for his success on the night.

“All the credit for the win goes to them tonight,” Kamal said, who flirted with his second shutout of the season. “They stopped probably twice as many shots as I did.”

Kamal’s shutout bid was ruined when Kunyk scored his 11th goal of the year on the power play at 11:36 of the third period.

UAA won the special teams battles as they killed 7 of 8 UAF power plays while connecting on 2 of 6 of their own man advantage opportunities in front of the 4,622 fans in attendance.

The Seawolves were physical from start to finish, blocked shots left and right, and were excellent on the forecheck. This coupled with good special teams and taking advantage of their chances made this one of the best games the Seawolves have played all season long.

The game, which was the last home contest for all five Seawolf seniors, was a fitting but somber final game for seniors like Haddad.

“Last time we do everything here in this arena and last time on this ice,” Haddad said. “It’s a pretty weird feeling but I had a lot of fun here my four years here.”

For others, the game against the Nanooks was the only way to send off their departing upperclassmen.

“It was the seniors last home game and everyone was playing for them,” Kamal said. “It was a great way for them to end it with a win like that.”

With both teams having won a home game apiece, the Governor’s Cup would have to go to the skills competition in order to proclaim a winner.

UAF would jump out to the 1-0 lead in the shootout when Beck beat Kamal low blocker side. On the other end, Greenham denied Kwas who tried to go high with the backhand.

Both UAF (Petovello) and UAA (Grant) would be shut down in the second round which set the stage for Taranto who would stuff home a series clinching shot.

A tough one to swallow for the Seawolves who went from the high of beating the hated UAF Nanooks to the low of having to watch that very same Nanook team hoist the cup after winning the tiebreaker.

“I think the important thing here is how we rebounded from a tough loss last night,” Shyiak said. “The guys came out with a purpose and we hit the reset button and got the win.”

Now the Seawolves turn their full attention back to WCHA play as they travel to Mankato, Minnesota for their final conference series before the playoffs start. Minnesota State (14-14-6, 8-14-4 WCHA) will provide a stiff road test for the Seawolves who will look to continue their strong play into the postseason.

“They’re a good team and we’re fighting neck and neck with them in the standings,” Haddad said. “More than anything, we need to go there and play well to carry momentum into the playoffs.”