ANCHORAGE – The Alaska Anchorage Seawolves’ 2016-17 season comes to an end Saturday following a 5-on-5 overtime loss to in-state rival Alaska Fairbanks, who won 2-1 to capture the 24th annual Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup at the Sullivan Arena in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.
The Nanooks (12-18-4, 11-13-4 WCHA) captured their eighth straight Cup title with an empty-net goal with just 19.2 seconds remaining in the 5-on-5 overtime. Prior to the game-winner, the teams each racked a goal apiece in the second period, eventually forcing extra minutes.
After the Seawolves killed a penalty to start the overtime, the teams exchanged quality chances. With playoff hopes gone, bench boss Matt Thomas opted to pull netminder Rasmus Reijola in the final minute for the extra attacker. The gamble almost paid off as sophomore Mason Mitchell had an open net, back door with 48 seconds remaining, but couldn’t capitalize. The Seawolves needed to win in the first overtime in order to claim the three WCHA points and force an all-decisive shootout for the Cup.
The gamble then turned against the Seawolves, as Tayler Munson and Chad Staley broke away from the UAA defense for an easy, empty-net strike and the three WCHA points. The win placed the Nanooks sixth in the league standings with 40 points. They head to Minnesota State for the WCHA First Round.
Following a scoreless first period of play, the Seawolves got on the board first at 7:04 of the second. Junior forward Tad Kozun forced a turnover behind the UAA net, before finding senior defenseman Chase Van Allen patrolling the blueline. Van Allen’s wrister found sophomore Nicolas Erb-Ekholm, who was screening netminder Davis Jones, for the deflection.
The Seawolf lead lasted for 96 seconds before UAF’s Zach Frye knotted the game with a power-play goal at 8:40. With the Nanooks enjoying a 5-on-3 man advantage, Frye fired through the slot.
Kozun had a breakaway chance in the last 25 seconds of the period, but with pressure coming from a Nanook, he lost the puck between his skates before crashing into Jones.
After the second intermission, Reijola (32 saves) kept UAF from winning in the third, making 10 saves. Playing in just his fifth game of the season, Reijola also stopped five shots in overtime. Meanwhile, Jones made 18 saves.
The Nanooks now hold a 13-8 advantage on the Governor’s Cup series. Three of UAF’s wins (2010, 2011, 2012) were vacated due to NCAA violations.