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College Hockey:
Christianson Backstops Seawolves To Draw With Gophers

— When the nation’s fourth-best power play meets its third-worst penalty kill, you might be tempted to make assumptions about which team would do most of the scoring, and how.

Friday night at Mariucci Arena, you would have been wrong. Host Minnesota scored its first goal on the power play, but Alaska-Anchorage twice rallied from one-goal deficits to earn a 2-2 draw. Netminder Bryce Christianson made 34 saves to backstop the Seawolves, who got the tying goal from junior Paul Crowder early in the third period.

With the tie, the Gophers (12-9-6, 9-8-4 WCHA) dropped to seventh place in the tightly-packed WCHA, where just five points separated third from eighth entering the evening. The Seawolves (10-12-5, 7-11-5 WCHA) remained in ninth, one point behind Minnesota State and three behind the Gophers, though Minnesota has two games in hand on most of the league.

The contest featured a number of missed opportunities and lapses on defense for both sides, a fact readily noted by UAA head coach Dave Shyiak.

“I thought it was a sloppy game altogether,” Shyiak said. “Either team could have won … But for us to come into this building, come from behind and get a tie, it was a well-earned point.”

Minnesota outshot UAA, including a 13-3 first-period advantage, though many of the quality scoring chances for both teams came late. Christianson was tested throughout, and Gopher ‘keeper Alex Kangas made 24 saves.

“We have to do a better job finishing,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia, whose team has been held to two goals or fewer in four of its last five games. “We have to score more goals.”

The tie ended Minnesota’s four-game losing streak, though in middling fashion. The Gophers are 2-6-1 in WCHA play since New Year’s and have seemed snakebitten at times.

“You’ve got to keep playing hard,” said Lucia. “You’re not going to get any breaks if you don’t play hard.”

With UAA down a goal and on its final power play early in the third period, the Seawolves converted. Kevin Clark hit a driving Crowder with a sharp pass that gave the sophomore center an open net. Crowder made no mistake, putting away his 10th goal of the year to tie the score at 2 at 5:53.

In overtime, both teams had opportunities, but Kangas stopped Crowder’s stuff attempt off a scramble in front, and Christianson returned the favor with an outstretched arm to deny Jay Barriball from the edge of the crease.

“You can’t fault him at all,” said Lucia of Kangas, who has suffered through a rough stretch. “I thought he did a good job, and I thought he looked like himself.”

Early in the third period, freshman center Jordan Schroeder put the Gophers up 2-1 after an unusual video review. After a turnover, Minnesota’s Justin Bostrom carried the puck up the left side before passing across the slot to Schroeder, who fanned on the shot but had the puck bank off his skate toward the goal line.

Christianson swept the puck away, and “no goal” was the immediate ruling as play continued. But after a stoppage over 30 seconds later, replay was consulted and it was ruled that the puck had crossed the goal line, giving Schroeder his 11th tally of the season and Minnesota a short-lived lead.

“We turned it over, and we obviously can’t turn it over against a team like [Minnesota],” said Shyiak of Schroeder’s goal.

The meeting was the first of the season between the Gophers and the Seawolves thanks to the WCHA’s unbalanced schedule, and Minnesota’s Jay Barriball kicked off the scoring with his eighth goal of the year, on the power play.

Operating from below the goal line, Schroeder delivered a pinpoint pass that Barriball put away from the back door at 5:11. The assist was Schroeder’s team-leading 21st; the center from Prior Lake, Minn., leads all freshmen nationally in helpers and points.

“We talked about how to weather the storm early,” said Shyiak. “We thought if we could get through the first seven or eight minutes, we’d be fine. … But that got the power-play goal right away.”

UAA soon had chances to get the goal back. Seawolf blueliner Nils Backstrom nearly tied it up during a delayed penalty but rang his shot off the post, and Minnesota’s Tony Lucia blocked a Josh Lunden attempt from the slot during the ensuing power play.

After an uneventful start to the second period, UAA fired up its offense with a four-on-three power play. But Minnesota killed that penalty and Kangas stopped August Aiken with a blocker save on a two-on-one rush at the 12-minute mark to preserve the Gopher lead.

But the Seawolves refused to head to intermission scoreless, and with 1.4 seconds left Nick Haddad put away a rebound to knot the score at 1. Haddad’s tally came after Kangas’ pad save on a point shot from Curtis Leinweber as the teams skated four-on-four.

That set up the third period and eventually the tie. Shyiak was glad to have the point, but was unsatisfied with the bigger picture.

“We got a point, but I didn’t think it was our best game at all,” he said. “It was probably a C, C-plus game for us.”

The Gophers and Seawolves return to the ice Saturday for the series finale at 7 p.m. Central time.

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