With less than eight minutes remaining in the second period, the Alaska-Anchorage men’s hockey team had a chance to break a 1-1 tie with Wisconsin, when the Seawolves were awarded a power play.
But less than a minute later, it was Wisconsin that stole the momentum with a short-handed goal, stunning the Seawolves. The Badgers parlayed that energy into three more third-period goals on their way to a sweep with a 5-1 victory.
“That was the killer. I thought we weathered the storm. We kept it tight,” Anchorage head coach Dave Shyiak said. “We had a power play and a chance to go up [and we give up] a shorthanded goal.”
“I like the fact that this weekend we were closer to our game that we want — being relentless in all areas of our game. That’s a good sign,” UW head coach Mike Eaves said.
The statistics may support a blowout similar to Friday’s 6-1 UW win, but the game was still up for grabs until Nick Licari got his first career shorthanded goal.
“It was a close game and they could’ve bounced back in it, but that just put us ahead and got us going again,” sophomore defenseman Joe Piskula said.
The Badgers dominated the first-period shot chart again Saturday, out-shooting the Seawolves 14-5, but the effort went unrewarded in a scoreless first stanza.
Badger forward Robbie Earl — who has been a thorn in the Seawolves’ side throughout his career — put Wisconsin up 1-0 early in the second period.
On what was essentially still a power play — UAA’s Merit Waldrop had left the penalty box seconds earlier — Earl capitalized on a pass from Ryan MacMurchy at 5:54.
Waldrop evened the game less than three minutes later with a sharp wrister from the right circle that found its way past the Badgers’ Brian Elliott.
The goal was reviewed — the first time replay has been used at the Kohl Center under new league rules — but stood as a score, knotting the game 1-1.
The Seawolves got their power play chance — one of many penalties over the final two periods — but Licari and the Badgers stole the thunder.
Badger forward Andrew Joudrey skated the puck in down a player and fired a shot at Nathan Lawson. Lawson made the save, but gave up the rebound to Licari, who flip the puck over a streaking defender and Lawson for the goal.
Licari, a senior, has been the focal point of UW’s penalty kill in recent years, and finally was rewarded with a shorthanded tally.
“I had a lot of chances, I just never put one in,” Licari said. “It was kind of nice to get that one … it means a lot.”
“He’s always been pretty effective in keeping the puck out of the net for us and tonight he was awarded with a big shorthanded goal,” Eaves said.
Anchorage continued to hang with the Badgers into the third period, but saw it all come crashing down in the final 11 minutes of the game.
“I felt we didn’t quit working,” Shyiak said. “I thought we battled right to the end, and I thought they got a couple lucky goals again.”
UW freshman Ben Street got his second goal of the year skating four-on-four at 9:09 of the period. Ross Carlson threw the puck at Lawson, but it was blocked in front.
A stumbling Street got his stuck on the puck and put it past Lawson for the dagger, making the game 3-1.
Piskula got his first career goal on a power play just 1:25 later when his shot was blocked and sent behind the net to Carlson.
Carlson found a streaking Piskula and the puck glanced off his leg and into the net. Replay was used again, but the goal stood.
“I couldn’t tell if it hit the shaft of my stick, or it was a knee pad,” Piskula said “I wouldn’t want to get my first goal if it was an illegal play.”
Lawson was the victim of some tough goals, but made 36 saves in yet another gritty effort against Wisconsin. Elliott stopped 20 pucks and allowed just one even-strength goal on the weekend.
Street got his second goal of the game, another power-play goal, with 2:22 remaining to round out the scoring.
For the second straight night the once-struggling UW power play, which was converting on 6.9 percent of its chances coming into the series, scored twice on the man-advantage.
The Badgers were 2-for-9 officially, and essentially 3-for-9 with the man still out of the play on the first goal of the game.
“That’s a difference maker in the game,” Shyiak said. “We were 0-for-7. We had a chance to take the lead and didn’t take advantage of it.”
But it was the shorthanded goal that changed the game.
Wisconsin will look to carry the momentum of their three-game winning streak and stay atop the WCHA standings at North Dakota next weekend, while Anchorage will try to bounce back against Minnesota State at home.