MANKATO, Minn. — One week ago, Alaska-Anchorage might have played its best game of the season to beat Wisconsin 4-1 Friday night. The Seawolves allowed only 12 shots total in the game, and went on to earn three of four points in the weekend.
A week after dominating the Beavers defensively, the Seawolves again shut down a potent offense as they beat host Minnesota State 2-1 in front of a crowd of 3,117.
UAA (4-8-3, 3-6-2 WCHA) received an exceptional night in goal as sophomore Kevin Reiter stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced. The Seawolf defense took care of the rest, as they kept MSU (7-7-1, 4-6-1 WCHA) from establishing quality scoring chances by keeping the puck against the boards for most of the night.
“Their scoring chances weren’t half as good as ours tonight,” said Reiter. “Our defense got their guys’ sticks off, and I saw every shot. When you can do that, you can control everything and get to the rebounds.”
UAA head coach John Hill was extremely pleased with Reiter’s play in net, calling him “the reason we won the game.”
“Kevin was outstanding,” added Hill. “Not only saving the puck, but his handling of the puck helped us out in more than one occasion, especially late in the game. We kept telling the guys we wanted to keep the puck heading towards their net, and a lot of times he came out and he did a good job of bypassing one or two of their forecheckers by wrapping the puck around the wall.”
The Seawolves outplayed MSU for most of the first period and reaped the benefits 14:16 into the game. After a pileup in front of the net, junior Dan Gilkerson found the puck in the scrum, pulled it to his forehand and fired it past MSU goaltender Jason Jensen for his fourth goal of the year.
The Mavericks pulled even on their only power-play chance with 3:58 left in the period. With John Hopson in the penalty box for UAA, Nate Mauer got the puck and moved from right to left behind the net. He slid the puck to teammate Tim Jackman, who one-timed the puck past Reiter for his team-leading eighth tally of the year.
The first period, which was as open as the game would get, finished in a 1-1 draw as the Seawolves led 11-8 in the shot department.
In the second, both teams played a tighter defensive style as neither allowed many good scoring chances. However, with 2:20 left to play in the second, Anchorage regained the lead off a nifty play from Petr Chytka.
The scoring started as defenseman Eric Lawson shot the puck from the blue line. His shot went wide of the net and bounced to Vladimir Novak, who immediately slid the puck from behind the net to Chytka. Chytka, a junior, lifted the puck over Jensen on the backhand for his sixth goal of the season.
Reiter played outstanding in goal for Anchorage, coming up with numerous saves in the second to preserve the lead.
Early in the second period, MSU forward Dana Sorenson streaked down the left wing with the puck and danced around the defense to create a two-on-one rush. Sorenson passed to his right side to teammate Cole Bassett, who quickly shot the puck on net. Reiter came across on a beautiful sliding save and knocked the puck away with his pads.
Later in the second, MSU got another slow two-on-one rush as Matt Paluczak sent an aerial pass to Mauer on the right side. Mauer redirected the puck out of mid-air and on net, but Reiter was up to the task and made the blocker save.
Reiter’s best saves were in the final minute of the second as UAA had a rare lapse on defense. The puck bounced around the net as Jackman and sophomore Shane Joseph each had chances to score, but Reiter made sprawling saves to keep the puck out.
The sophomore goalkeeper stopped forward B.J. Abel on MSU’s best chance in the third, and the final period belonged to the Seawolf defense as they kept the Mavericks from generating decent scoring opportunities and the game finished 2-1.
The game was a hard-hitting contest with open-ice body checks from start to finish. On the first shift of the game, MSU’s Peter Runkel sent Seawolf defenseman Matt Shasby to the ice with a punishing check. The hits continued throughout the game, most going in favor of the Mavericks.
“By the end of the game my back was hurting,” joked Hill. “We told the guys they (MSU) finish every check and that they are very aggressive. I don’t think we’ve been hit like that all season.”
After the Mavericks scored six goals in each game last weekend as they swept the North Dakota Fighting Sioux on the road, the Seawolves knew they had a tough task to shut down MSU.
But Hill, in his first year as head coach in Anchorage, has changed his team’s defensive style of play. They now emphasize hitting and pinning in the defensive zone, contrary to their containment play from last year.
“I thought our play in the defensive zone was pretty solid for the most part,” said Hill. “I thought we kept the puck outside quite a bit of the time. Anytime you hold a team to one goal, especially a team that just scored 12 in Grand Forks, North Dakota, you’re going to deserve some credit.”
“As a core we did a good job of just moving the puck out,” explained defenseman Eric Lawson. “Coach told us they were going to come out flying, and they did. They hit everything that moved. We were trying to keep them out of the slot area and not give them many scoring chances. (Kevin) made some big saves too.”
Lawson said the game was a matchup of “similar styles. It was a good game that could have gone either way.”
On the other side of the rink, MSU head coach Troy Jutting was disappointed with his team’s play.
“We didn’t deserve to win tonight. Anchorage deserved to win and they won. They’re a smart hockey team. They played a very good hockey game tonight. I was impressed with their discipline and the way they played.”
The two teams will finish the series Saturday night as game time is set for 7:05.