ST. PAUL, Minn. — The proverbial slipper that Alaska-Anchorage slid on last weekend in Madison finally broke Friday afternoon at the Xcel Energy Center.
After knocking off Wisconsin last weekend and Colorado College Thursday night, the clock finally struck midnight for a Seawolf hockey team that may have been outmatched against top-ranked North Dakota.
The Fighting Sioux used three second-period goals and 22 saves from Jordan Parise to move on with a 4-2 win over UAA before 13,597 fans in downtown St. Paul.
Zach Parise, Rory McMahon and Ryan Hale each had a goal and an assist and Brandon Bochenski set up a pair as the Fighting Sioux cruised into Saturday night’s title game.
“We were prepared to play this Anchorage team,” said North Dakota head coach Dean Blais, whose team will go for its eighth WCHA playoff championship Saturday night. “Jordan came up with some saves and kept us in the game and we got some goals from different guys, which is always nice.”
Brady Murray wasn’t one of those “different guys,” but he got the Sioux going late in the first. Bochenski held the puck in the zone and pushed it ahead to Parise, who slid a pass to a streaking Murray. The freshman beat King just under his glove for his 19th of the year.
McMahon gave North Dakota a two-goal advantage 2:16 into the second when he shoved a rebound that King left in the slot under the goaltender for his 10th tally of the season. Parise made it 3-0 when he scored a workmanlike goal midway through the period.
After being dumped in the corner, he got up and went to the net. Bochenski held the puck at the right circle and fired a shot that King stopped, but Parise was there to jam it in just before getting another introduction to the ice.
Curtis Glencross cut the lead to 3-1 after he took a feed from Justin Bourne and beat Parise five-hole, but Hale pounded the nail in 5:20 later just after his team had finished killing off a penalty to Matt Jones.
“If we could have scored on that power play and got that second goal it would have turned the game around,” said UAA head coach John Hill. “But give credit to them, they kill it off them come back down and score.”
Jones came out of the box and went into his zone to help out, the puck ended up on his stick and he started the play the other way, hitting McMahon with a nice breakout pass. McMahon fed it to Hale on the right wing, who skated around Brandon Segal and beat King with a backhand.
“I was just lucky enough to get it back door,” said Hale, on what was only his third goal of the year. “Rory (McMahon) did all the work.”
Things got ugly in the third, when the teams combined for 30 penalty minutes, and Anchorage took advantage.
Lee Green cut the lead back down to two with 2:42 to play on a bomb that Parise never saw. Hill pulled King shortly after, but a high-sticking call to Bourne negated that.
Murray went off for North Dakota though to give Hill another chance to pull King for an extra attacker, put Parise held on, making a number of saves on close-in chances to insure a trip to the final.
“Jordan played real well,” said Blais. “He made some real nice saves.”
The Fighting Sioux move on to face the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. That’s a challenge that doesn’t seem to bother Blais, unless his team repeats its third-period performance.
“Neither team concerns us if we play our game,” said Blais. “What bothers me is how we played in the third period. A lot of times you can tell how you will play the following night with how you play in the third period. If today was any indication of how we’ll play tomorrow, I don’t care if it’s Duluth or Minnesota. We’ll get beat.”
Anchorage has another game in it as well. The Seawolves will face the loser of that game between the Gophers and Bulldogs Saturday afternoon.
“I’m going to get our guys really jacked up tomorrow,” said Hill. “It’s not just a third-place game for us. … We’re playing against a team that’s in the NCAAs and it would be a great way to go out if we can beat them.”
And a great end to a great story.