MINNEAPOLIS — After trailing 3-0 midway through the opener of a best-of-three WCHA first-round playoff series Friday, Minnesota battled back to start the third period trailing Alaska-Anchorage by a goal.
The Gophers’ Kevin Wehrs tied the game at 11:18 of the third on an unassisted goal.
“I thought when Kevin scored 3-3, okay now we are in great shape,” said Minnesota head coach Don Lucia. “I thought we were getting better as the game went on. Then we took the penalty and they scored.”
It did not take the Seawolves long to respond. Minnesota Freshman Erik Haula was called for slashing penalty at 13:07 while in the offensive zone.
Mitch Bruijsten netted the game winner on the power play at 13:28 on a no-look backhander he threw on net around a crowd of people in front of the net. The puck went off the inside of the pipe and into the far side of the net, and Alaska-Anchorage had a 4-3 victory over the Gophers to take the series lead.
“I thought we showed great signs of majority after being up 3-0 they come back and tie it up,” said Seawolves head coach Dave Shyiak. “Our whole bench was composed. We knew it was going to be a tight game to the end. Ended up a power-play goal to win it. I thought it was just another great team effort.”
Jay Barriball almost tied the game with 10 second left when his blast hit the cross bar and went over the net.
“We hit the cross bar there with 10 seconds to go. The way they played they deserve to win the game,” said Lucia.
The Seawolves never trailed in the game. Anchorage has been on a role lately winning their last three games by a combined score of 12-2.
“It was just nice to see our guys rewarded,” said Shyiak. “I thought we worked hard. I thought we competed hard and we kept their quality shots down.”
The loss by Minnesota was only the second in the WCHA playoffs at Mariucci. The one other win was also at the hands of the Seawolves in 2007.
Anchorage late goal in the first gave them momentum into the second period.
Jade Portwood made it 2-0 Anchorage at 1:56 of the second on a shot from 30 feet out . Portwood one timed a pass from Craig Parkinson. Patterson got a piece of the puck but it was not enough.
Patterson then made a major mistake while playing the puck on the power play. His errant pass was picked off by Alex Gellert at the blue line. Gellert skated in on the breakaway and beat Patterson on a backhand making the score 3-0 Anchorage at 9:19.
The Seawolves were in control and the Gophers looked awful. But that did not last long.
“I think the energy was there but I think the execution wasn’t,” said Lucia. “We had some young guys a little jittery with the puck.”
At 12:12 Jake Hansen converted a penalty shot goal beating Kamal low. The play ignited the Gophers and the crowd.
“It’s a little down right now. I know that everyone is really disappointed that we did not come out and play tonight,” said Hansen.
Just 16 seconds later, Aaron Ness scored a power-play goal on a one-timer by Jay Barriball from the blue line, bringing the Gophers to within a goal.
The game started off slowly. Neither team had a shot on goal for the first seven minutes of the game and only a shot a piece at the 10 minute mark.
The game opened up with the help of a few power-play chances. The edge in play favored the Seawolves. They had two breakaways opportunities and numerous quality shots on Patterson. The Gophers kept turning the puck over.
A minute left in the period and the Seawolves had nothing to show for their edge in play. Patterson had turned aside everything.
At 19:23 Sean Wiles changed that fate, scoring on a rebound of a shot by Tommy Grant.
Shots favored the Seawolves 14-7 after 1 period.
The Seawolves will try and end Minnesota season in Saturday’s rematch at Mariucci Arena.
“The job is only half done. That is what we said to the guys: ‘The job is half done,’” said Shyiak.
“It’s all about tomorrow now,” Lucia said. “You gotta win one game. If you do not win one game the season is over.”
Video: Alaska-Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak:
Video: Minnesota coach Don Lucia:
Video: Minnesota’s Jake Hansen: