College Hockey:
Dropping Anchor: UAA Rallies To Tie Frustrated Gophers

Seawolves' Stuchlik Completes Hat Trick In Waning Seconds

— It went into the books as a tie, but neither team felt that way about it.

One day after a school-record 57 saves for netminder John DeCaro helped topple Minnesota, the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves found a new way to frustrate the host Gophers.

Down a goal with seconds remaining, UAA knotted up the score on Martin Stuchlik’s third goal of the game. The six-on-five tally with eight seconds left in regulation gave the Seawolves a 5-5 tie Saturday at Mariucci Arena.

In a game of exhausting emotional highs and lows, the tie produced a three-point weekend for the embattled Seawolves (9-15-4, 7-14-3 WCHA).

“For us, this tie feels like a win emotionally,” said UAA head coach John Hill, a former assistant under Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “Weekends like this can do a lot for a team.”

Lucia, naturally, had a different perspective.

“Last night I wasn’t as disappointed, because what do you do?” said Lucia in reference to DeCaro’s record-breaking performance. “Tonight, I’m really disappointed because of how it happened. As far as I’m concerned, it’s inexcusable.”

Stuchlik’s goal, off captain Ales Parez’ centering pass from behind the Gopher net, came after Judd Stevens appeared to salvage the split for Minnesota. The Gopher captain stopped a UAA clearing attempt and fired past a screened DeCaro to give Minnesota a 5-4 lead with 1:33 left in regulation.

Minnesota (20-12-1, 13-10-1 WCHA) then watched Andy Sertich’s 60-foot shot on an empty UAA net slide a foot wide, a would-be insurance goal whose absence was crucial thanks to Stuchlik.

“Martin’s got a lot of skill,” said Hill. “Three and a half years ago, he came here as a guy who could barely speak English.

“To his teammates, he’s a hero, and to his coaches he’s a hero too.”

The tie was especially galling for Minnesota, which appeared to have the game in hand entering the third period. With UAA up 2-1 after 20 minutes, the Gophers scored three second-period goals — the last two by Garrett Smaagaard and Tyler Hirsch just 17 seconds apart — to take a 4-2 lead.

But the Seawolves wouldn’t go away. After reclaiming some momentum by killing a Minnesota five-on-three late in the second, UAA scored twice early in the third period.

Stuchlik got the first of those at :35, firing the puck past Justin Johnson off a pass from Parez, who had three assists.

Then, at 1:31, Justin Bourne forced the crowd to reach for its antacids once more. Taking a home-run pass from Eric Walsky, Bourne went in one-on-one with Johnson, cut across the goalmouth and scored on a forehand to tie the game at 4.

“We played our rear ends off for two periods, and gave away the first two minutes of the third,” said Lucia.

The rest of the period was a series of frantic Minnesota rushes, but DeCaro made the stops to keep UAA in position, finishing with 51 saves.

“Johnny was good, and our guys didn’t quit,” said Hill. “Our guys rose to the occasion.”

Early in the first period, Alaska-Anchorage took the lead on the power play as Stuchlik tipped Walsky’s shot inside the post at 6:06. DeCaro picked up where he left off Friday, stopping Danny Irmen on a point-blank stuff and gloving Ryan Potulny’s short-range scoop later in the period.

The Seawolves extended their lead to two on Chad Anderson’s tally. Anderson worked his way around a defender and released a shot that landed under the crossbar to starting netminder Kellen Briggs’ right at 17:28.

Lucia had seen enough, pulling Briggs (eight saves) in favor of Johnson for the second straight game. And though Johnson was solid initially, he eventually gave up three goals on 15 shots as netminding was again suspect for Minnesota.

“We had what, 114 shots?” said Lucia of the Gophers’ weekend total, actually 115. “We had 114 shots and scored seven, they had [46] and scored eight. You do the math.”

Unlike Friday, Minnesota answered the second Seawolf goal. Jake Fleming fired a rebound past DeCaro at 18:12 as the goaltender went down in a heap with UAA’s Luke Beaverson and Smaagaard. At the end of one period, Minnesota’s 24 shots on goal were a season high, as were the 23 saves for DeCaro.

The Gophers knotted it up at 7:24 of the second, when Ryan Potulny took a pass from Tyler Hirsch and loosed a rocket that bounced under DeCaro to make it 2-2.

Finally, at 15:01, the Gophers took their first lead of the weekend. Just as a UAA power play expired, Smaagaard picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, got around the corner and whipped it home for his seventh goal of the year.

Minnesota made the lead 4-2 on Hirsch’s eighth goal of the year 17 seconds later. Sertich shoveled the puck on net after steaming through the slot, and Hirsch swept through and put the rebound away.

That goal seemed to signal that the Gophers were ready for the split, but the Seawolves had other plans.

“I thought when it was 4-2, it was game over,” said Lucia. “That’s what’s frustrating … It should have been 6-0 after two. It should have been game over.”

The tie kept UAA unbeaten this season (2-0-1) against Minnesota, which is now 1-6-1 at home since having its school-record 20-game winning streak snapped in January.

Minnesota next faces the U.S. Under-18 Team in an exhibition Saturday, while Alaska-Anchorage hosts North Dakota for a pair Friday and Saturday.

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