DULUTH, Minn. — A ton of pucks were thrown in the direction of Alaska Anchorages Jon Olthuis on Saturday night at the DECC.
As Minnesota Duluth put 49 shots on goal, Olthuis came up with 46 saves, the most by an opposing goalie in three periods this season, as Anchorage finished the regular season with a 4-3 victory and a Western Collegiate Hockey Association men’s series sweep before 5,114 fans.
No. 13-ranked UMD was considerably better than in Friday’s 5-4 loss, yet couldn’t get past Olthius enough and is 0-3-2 the last five games. The Bulldogs (16-12-8 and 10-11-7) were already forced to the road for the first round of the WCHA playoffs this weekend, as Minnesota won at Michigan Tech 2-0 to clinch the fifth and final home spot.
UMD finished seventh and will be at Colorado College for the best-of-three opening round starting Friday. Colorado College (16-10-10) tied at Denver 1-1 and tied for fourth with Wisconsin, but is seeded fourth.
“There’s no doubt we were the better team tonight, but we also needed to get to rebounds after the first shot and we didn’t do that enough,” said UMD senior captain Matt Greer. “The only thing that matters now is next weekend, and we’re putting Anchorage behind us.”
UMD, almost unbeatable at home for much of the season, finished with consecutive losses at the DECC for a 10-4-3 home record and is 0-3-3 the last six games against Anchorage.
For a fifth straight game, UMD had a second or third-period lead and couldn’t get a victory playing against Michigan Tech, Minnesota and Anchorage.
The ninth-place Seawolves (14-15-5 and 9-14-5) are on a season-best four-game win streak heading to Denver to start the playoffs.
“We were opportunistic and found a way to win,” said Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak. “Confidence is everything and we’ve found some of that the last two weeks. Getting a couple of breaks tonight and being able to score against maybe the best goalie in the league should help us ride this wave of confidence.”
In a decisive second period, UMD went up 1-0 in peppering Olthuis on a power play, breaking through on a Justin Fontaine goal at 4:55. It was his 14th goal and 44th point of the season in 36 games.
Anchorage got the next three goals, two by star winger Kevin Clark, all in the last nine minutes of the period, to zoom ahead 3-1.
Clark scored with 8:03 left, fourth-line center Shane Lovdahl recorded his first goal of the season on a rebound with 4:41 to go and Clark got a fortunate bounce for a power-play goal with 2:19 remaining. A dump-in bounced off the Zamboni door and to the slot for Clark and UMD goalie Alex Stalock was out, trying to corral a puck that never got to him. It was en empty-net score for Clark, who had six points in the series.
UMD led 25-5 in shots on goal at one point, but the Seawolves found the net.
“Our effort was better and the goalie was the difference in the game,” said UMD coach Scott Sandelin. “We had some good chances, we just haven’t had the puck-luck bounces. The only part I was disappointed in was the second period.”
Senior center MacGregor Sharp, on UMD’s best streak of the season, got the Bulldogs within 3-2 at 7:12 of the third period on a power-play goal. It was his eighth goal in seven games, 19th of the season and 43rd of his career.
The teams exchanged goals in the last minute, Nick Haddad into an empty net with 31 seconds left for Anchorage and Greer with 13 seconds to go.