ST. PAUL, Minn. — Evidently, Alaska-Anchorage is getting used to big victories.
One week after claiming the school’s first two WCHA playoff wins ever, the Seawolves advanced to the league semifinals with a gutty 4-1 win over Colorado College in Thursday’s play-in game at the Xcel Center.
Goaltender Chris King continued to impress, stopping 44 Tiger shots to follow up 74 saves in two games in the Seawolves’ first-round upset of third-seeded Wisconsin.
“Chris King has been outstanding,” said Seawolf head coach John Hill. “If he played at a more high-profile college he’d be getting All-American consideration.”
Buoyed by a supportive crowd, UAA scored three goals in a span of 10 minutes during the second period to take control. The Seawolves won despite being outshot in every period, and 45-18 for the game.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing,” said Tiger coach Scott Owens. “I thought Anchorage had a good game plan, and they had great goaltending.”
Despite King’s efforts, the Tigers thought they could have done more against the senior netminder.
“If you look at how many of those  shots were quality chances, there weren’t that many,” said Tiger Colin Stuart. “We didn’t get to the net enough.”
Alaska-Anchorage (14-21-3) and Colorado College (20-16-3) played a scoreless first period, though not for a lack of scoring chances — most by the Tigers, who controlled most of the last 10 minutes.
Early in the second, with the score still 0-0, the Tigers got the first eight shots on goal, including one off a two-on-one break that Tyler Liebel kept and shot, but couldn’t beat King on his glove side.
The Tigers finally broke through at 9:21. Brett Sterling fired from a hard angle along the near boards, and Trevor Frischmon, circling from behind the net, got his stick on the puck, which banged off King’s leg and into the net to make it 1-0.
But the Seawolves answered immediately — twice. At 9:51, Brandon Segal’s shot from the point eluded netminder Matt Zaba, ending up behind him for the 1-1 tie.
And at 10:51, UAA took the lead on a Vladimir Novak goal. Justin Johnson fired a hard slapshot from the right circle, and Zaba gave up a long rebound that Novak easily slid home for his third goal of the season.
With the season on the line, Owens pulled Zaba in favor of Curtis McElhinney, and CC nearly tied it up. On the power play after a Dallas Steward hold, Stuart fired the puck through the slot for Sterling on the back door, but King got a leg over to stop the shot at the 17-minute mark.
Instead, UAA scored the insurance goal at 19:25 of the second.
Novak led the play, driving into the zone on the left-wing side before dropping the puck for Brent McMann. With the option to shoot or pass across the slot, McMann waited long enough to fool McElhinney before firing the puck just inside the near post to make it 3-1 Seawolves.
King kept the lead at two minutes later. After the Tigers’ Braydon Cox beat his defender around the corner for a one-on-one, King stayed low to stop Cox’s forehand from directly in front.
Still down two goals, the Tigers pulled McElhinney with nearly two minutes left, and despite nearly continuous pressure, couldn’t rally as King stayed rock-steady. Steward tacked on the empty-net goal, assisted by Kronschnabel, with 17 seconds left to ice the UAA win.
Early on, what would have been the first UAA goal was waved off after consulting video replay, which is in effect for all Final Five games. Taking a drop pass behind the net from McMann, Johnson cut in front and fanned on a backhander before depositing a second attempt behind Zaba.
Upon review, however, the goal was waved off as Novak crashed the net and plowed into Zaba before Johnson’s shot entered the crease. Still, the effort was a harbinger of things to come.
“I thought Vladimir’s line was outstanding,” said Hill. “They had two goals that counted and one that didn’t.”
After a high-sticking call against CC’s Brady Greco, Steward drew a second whistle by splitting two defenders and getting hauled down by Andrew Canzanello. But the Seawolves failed to convert either power play, leaving the game scoreless.
As the period progressed, the Tigers got the majority of chances late. Colorado College outshot Alaska-Anchorage 10-4 in the first 20 minutes, a pattern that continued all evening, though to no avail for the Tigers.
The loss appears to eliminate CC from NCAA consideration, after the Tigers entered the Final Five on the outside of the bubble.
“I don’t know the logistics of it,” said Stuart, “but we certainly didn’t help ourselves tonight.”
Alaska-Anchorage will play top-seeded North Dakota in the first semifinal Friday, at 2:05 p.m. CT, with the winner advancing to the WCHA championship game. For the Seawolves, there’s nothing to lose.
“We accomplished our goal [last weekend], to win our first playoff series,” said Novak. “And what do we do now? There’s no pressure on us.”