MINNEAPOLIS — Alaska-Anchorage advanced to the WCHA Final Five for the second time in school history after breaking away from Minnesota in the third period Saturday for a 2-0 victory at Mariucci Arena.
Anchorage’s Mickey Spencer scored his first goal of the season on a breakaway at 2:32 of the third. Jordan Kwas hit Spencer in stride with an outlet pass, and Spencer beat Minnesota goaltender Kent Patterson glove side to break the scoreless tie.
“I thought as the game went on the pressure was obviously on them,” Seawolves coach Dave Shyiak said. “The longer we kept it tight, I thought that was to our advantage. We just needed one break, and it was a guy that got his first goal, and a nice goal.”
Tommy Grant scored the goal that broke the Gophers’ back, also on a breakaway.
It came after a scrum in front of the Anchorage net. The puck was worked out of the zone by Brad Gorham and Brett Cameron. Grant picked up the puck in the neutral zone and converted on the breakaway to put a dagger in the Minnesota season.
“Give Anchorage credit. They came in and the played the way the wanted to play and they stayed with it start to finish for two games,” Gophers coach Don Lucia said.
Aided by 25 blocked shots, Chris Kamal shut out Minnesota for the second time this year at Mariucci.
“We wanted to keep our game simple and play in the mud, which I thought we did tonight and we kept their shot totals down,” Shyiak said. “We outshot them again. We capitalized on a couple chances we had. I thought Chris Kamal was the best player on the ice tonight.”
The loss means Minnesota will not make the NCAA tournament for the third year in a row. It also makes the second straight year Minnesota did not make the WCHA Final Five in St. Paul.
Lucia did not want to talk about what needs to happen to get Minnesota back to the top of the WCHA. This year’s early bounce from the WCHA tournament will only increase the pressure on the Gophers coach.
“Being only a few games over .500 isn’t successful for us,” he said. “It’s a part of this program. I think we had a few guys grow this year.”
Lucia, who has won two national championships at Minnesota, has one year remaining on his contract and could be on the hot seat.
“If you do this long enough, you are going to have highs and you are going to have lows,” Lucia said.
The second period was far from crisp — Minnesota kept shooting pucks into Anchorage players and turning the puck over; the Seawolves couldn’t complete a pass.
After two periods, Anchorage had blocked 18 shots to Minnesota’s one. Shots in close favored Minnesota but Kamal stood tall.
The first period was evenly played. Although the shots favored the Seawolves 9-8, quality chances favored Minnesota.
The Gophers had several odd-man rushes on which they failed to convert.
It was a much better first period for the Gophers than Friday night. They made better decisions with the puck and kept Anchorage’s scoring opportunities to a minimum.
The period ended scoreless.
The Seawolves will stay in the Twin Cities this week to play on Thursday at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.
“We took a major step by getting to the Final Five, but also we this is the most wins we have ever had in the WCHA era,” Shyiak said.
Video: Alaska-Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak:
Video: Minnesota coach Don Lucia: