ST. PAUL, Minn. — The margin for error for Alaska-Anchorage goaltenders Chris King and Kevin Reiter has always been small. The Seawolves aren’t the kind of team that will win a lot of shootouts, especially against the powerful offenses they faced in the last two days of the WCHA Final Five.
So as more pucks found their way past King and Reiter, the Seawolves’ chances got smaller. On Saturday, UAA finally collapsed under the weight of another game in which it faced 40 shots on goal.
Minnesota-Duluth outshot the Seawolves 40-27 and took control with three second-period special-teams goals in a 4-2 victory in the Final Five third-place game at the Xcel Energy Center.
Evan Schwabe, Junior Lessard and Luke Stauffacher scored to negate a Curtis Glencross first-period goal for UAA, and the Bulldogs’ Bryan McGregor added a third-period goal for the Bulldogs, who got a desired victory to send them into the NCAA tournament on a good note.
Reiter made 36 saves for the Seawolves (14-23-3), after King made 41 saves in a 4-2 loss to North Dakota in Friday’s semifinals and 44 stops in a 4-1 victory over Colorado College in Thursday’s play-in game.
But the Seawolves know they owe a lot of their postseason run to their goaltenders. On Saturday, they owed their first-period lead to Reiter, who stopped all 17 shots he faced in the opening 20 minutes.
“The way he was playing, I thought we had a chance,” Seawolves senior Dallas Steward said. “All it took was more execution by our team and some special teams, power plays, and we could have been up 3-0. He could only hold us for so long.”
It all came crashing down for the Seawolves in the second period, when two power-play goals and a shorthanded score appeared to take some life out of UAA. Coach John Hill said he didn’t think there was a time when his team’s gas tank hit empty because the excitement of being at the Final Five was still running through them.
But UMD (26-12-4) grabbed the momentum with the Seawolves’ Martin Stuchlik in the penalty box. After a roughing call midway through the period, Schwabe tied the game with a putaway of a loose puck at the right post. Stuchlik took a holding penalty three minutes later, and Lessard put the puck past Reiter off a scramble in front.
The final kick from the UMD special teams came from Stauffacher, who took a pass from Brett Hammond on a shorthanded rush and beat a moving Reiter between the pads for a 3-1 lead with 45.5 seconds left in the second period.
“I think we made our own mistakes, to be honest with you,” Steward said.
UMD backup goaltender Josh Johnson, starting his second game in the last three weeks, made 25 saves. The Bulldogs continued to play without injured fourth-leading scorer Tyler Brosz, and played Saturday’s game without No. 3 scorer Tim Stapleton.
Defenseman Tim Hambly also is out with an injury, meaning the Bulldogs were without players who accounted for 101 of the team’s 458 points going into Saturday’s game.
Lessard, the team’s leading scorer and the top national goalscorer, missed the third period after limping off the ice with a twisted left knee late in the second period.
“That’s why I’m prouder of our team today,” UMD coach Scott Sandelin said. “Some other guys got some ice time and some guys stepped up. We didn’t play a great game, but we did what we had to do.”
The Bulldogs saw UAA take the lead on Glencross’ fourth goal in his last four games 12:14 into the first period. Glencross stopped on a rush and slapped a shot high past Johnson for his 21st goal of the season.
“That’s probably one of his prettier goals,” said Hill, whose team got a goal from Vladimir Novak with 17.1 seconds left in the game for the final margin. “All his goals are nothing but fury and power. … I’m surprised he didn’t blow it five feet over the net, because that’s usually what he does.”
But the Bulldogs snatched away the lead and the game with their third-period outburst. It was an important victory to refocus UMD in its last game before the NCAA tournament.
“We just had to get our game on track for going into the tournament,” said Bulldogs winger Marco Peluso, who had a pair of assists.