MANKATO, Minn. — For Chris King and his Alaska-Anchorage teammates, it hadn’t happened in a year and a half.
But thanks to King’s 40 saves and a 2-1 win over Minnesota State, UAA (4-4-0 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA) finally picked up its first WCHA win since Feb. 23, 2002 against Colorado College.
“Because we won some games earlier this year, I really wasn’t even focused in on the fact that we didn’t win a WCHA game last year,” Seawolves coach John Hill said. “And that’s probably because when the season started we decided we were going to bury last year.”
Last season, Alaska-Anchorage was victorious only once, and it came in a nonconference game against Alaska-Fairbanks. But now, Hill thinks “all the demons can be laid to rest.
“Pretty soon people will stop talking about it. We know it was horrendous; we lived through it. And hopefully now people can put it to rest,” he said.
Playing in front of 3,679 fans, UAA got a goal and an assist each from Curtis Glencross and Chris Fournier, two players who didn’t play for the Seawolves the last time the team beat a conference foe. But the real star was King, who was in goal for the team’s last WCHA triumph during his sophomore year.
“I think Chris deserves most of the credit for sure,” Hill said. “We’re not scoring many goals, and we’re fortunate that we’re getting outstanding goaltending.”
“Our goalies are unreal,” Glencross said of King and UAA’s other tender, Kevin Reiter. “We may have some of the best goalies in the league, and we it owe it to them. They’re our backbone.”
King was dominant in the first period. MSU (2-5-1 overall, 1-3-0 WCHA) came out with heavy pressure and outshot the Seawolves 16-6 in the first period. But the UAA goalie kept the game scoreless in the initial stanza.
His best saves came late in the period. MSU’s Kyle Peto fired a pass from the left side of the blue line that teammate Brock Becker redirected on net. But King, on his stomach, reached out his glove and caught the puck at the 16:36 mark.
Moments later, the UAA goalkeeper stoned Nate Metcalf’s blast from the slot.
“Tonight, in the first 20 minutes, if we don’t have Chris King, the game might be over,” Hill said.
King’s play gave way for his team to take a 1-0 lead 44 seconds into the second. On the power play, Glencross attempted a pass from the right side of the net. The pass hit Maverick defenseman Lucas Fransen and bounced back to the sophomore, who put the puck past Maverick goalie Kyle Nixon.
Glencross had three of UAA’s four goals against the Mavericks on the weekend.
“Seems like every time we play these guys, I usually step up,” he said.
The Mavericks bounced back and evened the score at the 12:25 mark of the second. Fransen got a drop pass and made a nifty move to avoid a poke check before firing the puck past King. The tally gave Fransen, a freshman, his first collegiate goal.
“It’s nice to get a first goal,” Fransen said, “but it would have been nice having the win.”
Alaska-Anchorage regained the lead with another early-period goal. Just 32 seconds into the third, Glencross sent a pass from the left corner to Fournier all alone in the slot. Fournier one-timed the puck for his fifth goal of the year.
“I heard Fournier yelling from the far side to get him the puck, so I gave it to him and he buried it,” Glencross said.
King robbed MSU’s Adam Gerlach on a breakaway later in the second and stopped all 11 shots in the final period, and the game ended 2-1.
“We just couldn’t bury the puck,” said Fransen. “We had 41 shots. A lot of them were good opportunities. We just couldn’t put the puck in the net.
“We played well, we worked hard, and that’s all we can really ask for. Sometimes you just don’t get the breaks. Their goalie played well. You gotta give him credit.”
Maverick coach Tory Jutting agreed, saying that his team played well but just couldn’t score.
“Gotta score more than one goal when you get that many chances,” Jutting said. “I think their goalie played very well, but … I don’t care how good a goalie plays. When you get 41 chances, you gotta get your head up and bury the puck.”
The MSU offense has been anemic so far this season. After being one of the top offenses in college hockey last year, Jutting’s club has scored only 14 goals in eight games.
“Goal scoring isn’t something you can coach,” Jutting said. “That’s just something that you gotta get some confidence to do it, and you gotta get a few to get it going a little.”
While MSU seems to be falling from last year’s level, the Seawolves have improved a lot in a year.
“It’s huge after last season,” Glencross said.
“We’ve got a good team right now,” King said. “We work hard, and last year is now gone. We have erased everything that happened last year.”
Conference play will continue for both teams next weekend. The Seawolves will return home to face Denver, and MSU will remain in Mankato to battle Michigan Tech.
“It’s been a long, grinding trip and it’s a good way to end it,” Hill said. “We go home feeling good.”