MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin’s losing streak ran to five games Saturday night with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Alaska-Anchorage.
The Badgers (7-5-0 overall, 4-4-0 WCHA) had plenty of opportunities throughout the course of the evening, but it was the Seawolves (4-3-1, 2-1-1) who took advantage of the chances presented to them.
With the game tied at 15:32 of the third period, Alaska-Anchorage wing Jesse Unklesbay fired a slapshot from the top of the circle that deflected off Badger netminder Graham Melanson’s glove and into the net to give the Seawolves the 3-2 victory.
“I’ve seen him come down that wing so many times in practice and miss the net,” Alaska-Anchorage coach Dean Talafous said. “I’m thinking the whole time, ‘Oh, Unks just put it on net and anything can happen.’ And he hit the net.”
Alaska-Anchorage went up 1-0 at the 13:21 mark in the first period on the power play. Defenseman Steve Suihkonen started the play with a wrist shot from the high slot that was deflected over Melanson’s shoulder by defenseman Matt Shasby, who was camped out in front of the net.
Less than a minute later, Wisconsin nearly tied the game when center Kent Davyduke had a point-blank opportunity. Seawolf goaltender Chris King, though, made a nice diving save to stone Davyduke.
At the 16:18 mark, King again kept the Badgers off the board with a phenomenal save. On the play, Dany Heatley made a nice pass to linemate Matt Hussey at the lower edge of the circle. Hussey then one-timed a pass to Davyduke, who was wide open just above the crease. King, though, lunged post-to-post, stretched out and gloved Davyduke’s backhand chance.
Wisconsin finally capitalized on an opportunity at the 19:26 mark in the first period. This time, defenseman Alex Brooks set up Heatley in the circle from the high slot. As King came out of the crease to contest Heatley, the Badger wing fired a picture-perfect, tape-to-tape pass to Davyduke, who shot the puck into a wide-open net to tie the game at 1-1.
The Badgers had a great opportunity early in the second period when King got his blocker on Matt Murray’s centering feed and deflected the puck to forward Dave Hergert in front of the net. The Wisconsin center, though, fired a wrist shot wide of net, saving King, who was not in position to make a stop.
Later in the second period, Hergert had another good opportunity in front of the net, this time on a centering feed from defenseman Brian Fahey. The pass, though, was off the ice and Hergert was not able to get a solid shot. King took advantage, sliding across and stacking the pads to keep the score 1-1.
At 15:10 Davyduke was called for checking from behind and a game misconduct for a hit along the boards.
“I don’t think the referee saw it; I think the linesman made the call,” Wisconsin head coach Jeff Sauer said. “It could have gone either way.”
Just over a minute into the power play, though, Wisconsin took a 2-1 lead with a shorthanded goal with the help of an errant pass by the Seawolves that went sliding into the neutral zone. Badger wing Andy Wheeler chased down the loose puck and slid a pass to forward Matt Murray, who deked past King and put the puck in the back of the net.
Then what should have been a long Anchorage power play quickly evaporated.
At 17:16 Seawolf wing Peter Chytka was called for interference after a check on Wheeler. Just over a minute later, Shasby was called for tripping, giving the Badgers a 59 second four-on-three power play. Wisconsin, which was zero-for-six on the power play, did not convert.
“It seemed like we were back on track heading into the third period,” Murray said.
The Seawolves took the momentum back, however, in the third.
Alaska-Anchorage evened the score with a shorthanded goal of its own on a wrist shot by wing Reggie Simon at 2:50 in the third.
With less than nine minutes to play, Wisconsin wing David Hukalo used a great entry pass from defenseman Dan Boeser at the blue line to split the Seawolf defensemen and get a breakaway on King. Hukalo deked past a sprawling King, but cut the shot too much and slid the puck about six inches outside the post.
“It was 2-2 there and Huk goes down and completely beats him and the puck doesn’t go in the net,” Sauer said. “That’s just the way it was all weekend.”
With the Badgers scrambling toward the end of the game, Heatley had an opportunity in the low slot with 36 seconds remaining, but King made yet another solid save.
“Their goaltender outplayed our goaltender, and that was the difference in the game,” Sauer said. “The bottom line is that I was very pleased with the effort and I was very pleased with a lot of things tonight. I was pleased with the way we competed.
“You go through highs and lows. … We had the high with the quick start, and now we are in a low scenario.
“I’ll never get discouraged. I’m disappointed, but I’ve been doing this too long to get discouraged.”