It’s time for the UAA Seawolves and UAF Nanooks to rekindle their rivalry and battle it out for the 18th annual Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup.
For the Seawolves, it will be a shot at redemption as they aim to reclaim the cup and in-state bragging rights.
The series will feature a home game for each school starting with the teams facing off in Fairbanks on Feb. 25 in the Carlson Center. The action will then come south to Anchorage for the rematch on Feb. 26 at the Sullivan Arena.
“I expect it to be tight both nights,” Shyiak said. “The games are always fun against Fairbanks and it’s been one of our goals to get back the Governor’s Cup.”
The ‘Wolves (11-16-3, 10-4-2 WCHA), are coming off a home split over 13th ranked Nebraska Omaha. UAA took the first game 3-2 over the visiting Mavericks but lost the rematch 4-1 over the newcomers to the WCHA. They now sit in eighth place in the WCHA standings and are a point out of seventh and two points away from the coveted sixth place that would claim them home ice advantage in the first round of the WCHA postseason.
The Nanooks (13-14-5, 10-13-5-3 CCHA) are coming off their own split on home ice in their final CCHA conference series of the year. They defeated the Michigan State Spartans 4-1 in the opener but dropped a 6-2 decision the following night.
The teams can now fully set their sights on one another. UAA fans may still feel the sting of watching UAF skate away with all the glory.
- Advertisement -
Last year, the Nanooks were able to sweep the series 2-0 and take the cup back to Fairbanks for the first time since 2006. The Seawolves, who had won the three previous Governor’s Cups, fell 7-4 at
Photo by Patrick McCormick. Senior Tommy Grant follows through after scoring a go ahead goal in the second period of Friday night's win. U.N.O. Goalie John Faulkner made several outstanding saves however the 'wolves still managed three goals in the win.
Photo by Patrick McCormick
home and then 3-2 in Fairbanks.
“We got it the first two years I was here and it’s not something we wanted to lose last year and was a tough loss for us so we want to be bring that thing back here this year,” said senior forward Tommy Grant, who posted a goal and two helpers in last years series.
The ‘Wolves were haunted by UAF’s Andy Taranto who had three goals and an assist the first night in Anchorage. The then freshman forward added a helper in the second game to help seal the series for the Nanooks.
Also helping the ‘Nooks cause was goaltender Scott Greenham who turned away 42 of 48 shots to get a pair of wins in net over the Seawolves.
The series win also gave UAF the 9-8 edge in the overall Governor’s Cup series, which has been taking place since 1993.
“It’s always a huge match for not only us as players but the whole school and the whole town,” Grant said. “The rivalry in anything between Anchorage and Fairbanks is huge.”
This year with the series starting in the interior of Alaska, Grant believes the first game could be the make or break contest for UAA.
“I think if we come out hard Friday night (in Fairbanks) and set the tempo, it going to make the game here much easier at home,” Grant said.
If the Seawolves could get a win or tie in Fairbanks, the series may be all but over as they have been nearly untouchable at home lately. They have won five of the last six home games at the Sully and are 8-5-3 overall this year on their pond.
Grant, UAA’s leading scorer with 11-14-25 totals on the year so far, has remained hot as of late. Freshman Matt Bailey (10-10—20) saw his six-game point-scoring streak snapped against UNO on Feb. 19 but has looked more and more dangerous and has found some chemistry with his linemates senior Nick Haddad and junior Mitch Bruijsten.
Freshman Rob Gunderson got the nod in both games against the Mavericks and now has a .898 save percentage to go along with his 2.72 goals against average.
UAF comes into the series as a squad that is offensively led by freshman forward Cody Kunyk (10-12—22 points), senior forward Kevin Petovello (9-11—20 points) and senior defenseman Joe Sova (4-16—20).
On the other end of the ice, you can pretty much pencil in Greenham as the starter for both games. He has started all 32 games and has a 2.13 goals against average that ranks 10th in the nation in that category. Coupled with his .921 save percentage (good for 15th nationally).
The teams offensively seem to be evenly matched. UAF owns a razor thin advantage in goals scored per game edging UAA 2.31 to 2.27. UAF also takes the slim advantage on the power play as they have converted 15.1 percent on their man advantages as compared to UAA’s 14.7 percent.
Special teams has been critical for the ‘Wolves lately. They have been posting impressive numbers since returning after the Winter break.
Dating back to Jan. 14, the ‘Wolves have killed 52 of 57 penalties for a 91.2 percent penalty kill rate.
“It’s been a big reason why we’ve been having success in the wins column,” Shyiak said.
Even more impressive, perhaps, is their power play as of late. The ‘Wolves have converted 10 of their 49 opportunities with the extra man since Jan. 14, good for 20.3 percent. That is thanks in large part to a stellar 37 percent power play conversion rate (10 of 27) at home since that same date.
“On the power play, I think we’ve been good all year long but we weren’t capitalizing on our chances early on in the season,” Shyiak said. “These past eight to ten games, the puck has been finding the back of the net for us.”
Whichever team can establish their special teams and stay out of the penalty box will gain the upper hand on the other one.
If there is one thing the past meetings between these two teams have taught us, it’s expect nothing but hard-hitting and emotional hockey when the two teams take to the same ice sheet.
“When it comes to that time, everybody going to be excited so it’s not difficult to get up for those games,” Grant said.