ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Late Friday, deep inside the National Hockey Center, Alaska-Anchorage head coach John Hill pondered which direction his team was heading after getting roughed up 5-1 by eighth-ranked St. Cloud State earlier that night.
Would they respond by trying to make immediate changes towards improvement, he asked? Or would they fold up and find a nice place in the corner to sit and hide like they did much of last season, when they went winless for the last 35 games?
Thankfully for the Seawolves and Hill’s internal organs, Anchorage didn’t choose the latter. And after fighting their way through a gritty, 65-minutes stalemate with St. Cloud State Saturday night before 6,083 fans. The Seawolves finally had reason to celebrate.
Or did they?
“We have the makings to be a really good team,” said a subdued Chris King, who turned away 41 St. Cloud State shots in helping his team pick up its first point at the National Hockey Center since a 0-0 tie in late November of 1997.
“This year we’ve been able to change a lot of bad trends. But tonight was kind of the harsh reality of what happens when the puck doesn’t always bounce your way. They got a goal off one of our guys’ stick and another that looked like it was sailing. It’s unfortunate that we lost tonight — I mean tied — because this was our win.”
There was no celebrating inside the Seawolves’ locker room, and if anything, the guys on the other side of the rink were pretty happy with just dodging the bullet. Because King was right: for most of the third at least, this was UAA’s win.
The two teams exchanged goals in the first two periods, with Dallas Steward redirecting a goal in the first for the Seawolves and Andy Lundbohm blasting a shot that sailed past King after hitting a defender in front of him early in the second.
But it was Seawolf captain Lee Green’s shot from the point with the man advantage 2:50 into the third, a shot which somehow squeezed through SCSU’s Adam Coole, that gave Anchorage a lead that looked liked it was going to hold.
And it did, until Husky defender Colin Peters got the puck at the blue line and took a shot that found the corner over King’s blocker. It was Peters’ first goal since the 2002 WCHA Final Five third-place game, and only the third of his career, but it kept Anchorage winless in all 26 games in Central Minnesota.
“I’d like to say I aimed, but not really, I was just trying to get it high,” said Peters.
Regardless it went in, changing what have could have been a real turning point for the Seawolves into just a step in the right direction.
“You wonder how a team is going to respond,” said Hill, who sat his team down for what he called a serious “heart to heart” this afternoon. “If we would have played like we did last night I probably would be walking back to the hotel tonight, which I’ve done.
“But we’ve had a chance to recruit these kids now and I think I know what their character is, so I wasn’t surprised we bounced back. I just wish it wouldn’t take these heart to heart talks. I wish they could just learn to build character during the week at practice and play on Friday and Saturday like it means something.”
“They played a lot better,” said St. Cloud State head coach Craig Dahl. “They were working harder and the early goal gave them a shot in the arm. And their goaltending was really good tonight. The shots in the slot were 19-5 us after two periods but (King) kept it out and we needed to upstairs on him, but we couldn’t get it up there.”
Except for when it counted.