Coming into the 2nd half of the 4 game series to decide the all-important* Governor's Cup the Seawolves just needed a tie tonight to earn their second straight cup. At the end of the 2nd period that result looked like a distinct possibility. In 2 periods of hockey neither team had any significant advantage with the score 1-1. UAF did have an advantage in shots at 24-15 which they earned with good comittment in their defensive end. They blocked more than a few shots and outchanced UAA. Jonny O stood tall when he had to and the 'nooks failed to bury several pretty good chances missing the net more than once. There was no big zone dominance by either team. UAA's penalty killing was effective as they managed to keep UAF off the board on 4 power play chances including a brief 5 on 3 in 1st. Tyler Eckford scored his 6th of the year at 10:10 of the first on a heavy shot from just inside the blueline to put UAF up 1-0 until the 4:18 mark of the 2nd period when Craig Parkinson tipped a Shane Lovdahl shot in on a similar play to UAF's first goal. I didn't see the tip. I thought it went straight in and I think the goal was initially credited to Shane. In any case, there wasn't really much in difference in the teams in the first two periods.
The game however turned in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd. Blair Tassone picked up a "contact to the head roughing" penalty (referee Ryan Gordon's favorite call apparently as he called four other ones on the night) just :22 seconds into the period but 22 seconds later Tyler Eckford was whistled for holding. A minute and nine seconds later Wylie Rogers was whistled for "contact to the head roughing" and when Tassone came out of the box UAA had a 5 on 3 advantage. Just as Eckford's first penalty expired Kevin Clark took a pass from Shane Lovdahl right in the middle of the slot and straight up ripped a shot past Rogers. The goal energized the Seawolves and they began to dominate the game. With a few minutes of good offensive possession, a little neutral zone denial and solid defensive play they "owned" all three zones. At 8:25 Dustin Molle was called for hooking and 26 seconds later UAA owned a 3-1 lead when Paul Crowder picked up a loose puck and found the open right corner to beat a screened Rogers. Game over man (as they say). The Nanooks didn't register their first shot on goal in the 3rd until just after the ten minute mark of the period with Craig Parkinson off on a penalty (nope ... one of the few that wasn't a "contact to the head roughing" call). But 55 seconds after UAA killed the power play Josh Lunden tipped a Shane Lovdahl wrist shot home for a 4-1 lead. That one chased a few UAF fans to their cars. Dustin Sather scored a nice goal for the Nanooks on the power play at 15:26 off a good feed from Dion Knelsen with Tommy Grant off for .... guess what ... say it with me now; "contact to the head roughing".
UAA played a solid smart game when they got the lead. It was those smarts that led to some of the dominating play and the last two goals. Congratulations to them on that. It was a good lesson to learn. Playing smart hockey with a lead is key to learning how to win otherwise tight hockey games. And if you take out the first ten minutes of the 3rd the rest of the game was pretty damn close.
A couple of things I noticed that I wanted to make sure and comment. The first is the pronunciation of a Fairbanks player's name. Why would I care? Well because he is the kid of one the great names in NHL hockey history. Who here has followed hockey for a while? Raise your hands ... ok ok ... most of you. So then you've heard of Glen Sather eh? That's "Say-thUR" not "Saa-thur". It's the hard "A "sound Mr. Cech. Show some respect to the long time Edmonton Oilers Coach and current President and GM of the Rangers eh? See it's like that ... eh? EH! Not a soft "a". Thank god nobody in Edmonton was watching the game.
Secondly, I noticed one Seawolf player that looked crazily excited on each of UAA's goals tonight. Kevin Clark danced into the celebratory pile each time UAA scored. Lots of guys are happy like that when they score a goal. Kevin was happy like that when his teammates scored. I thought that was cool. I don't know why it stood out to me so much but it did.
Lastly, what is with the CCHA and "contact to the head roughing" calls? The camera work was less than excellent all night so besides not being able to see the puck for the whole game I really didn't see the first 4 "contact to the head roughing" calls. But the Fairbanks broadcasters did show a good replay of the Tommy Grant one. Grant had been fighting for position in front of the UAF net with two 'nook defenders, the replay showed both defenders sticks touch Tommy's helmet. Neither of the contacts were anything I'd bitch about particularly and as the whistle blew Tommy gave something more than a shove and less than (anything remotely like) a punch to the ear of one of the defenders. If he'd had better aim it would have been a light face washing for the Nanook. And viola the 5th .... say it with me again .... "contact to the head roughing". LOL. Man the CCHA ought to work on shortening that to something like .... um .... lemme see .... "roughing"? What's with the CTH? Do they call that whenever someone gets a well-deserved face washing?
* I know lotsa folks get jazzed about winning "The Cup" but I've never really been of the mindset that it is all that important. It's bragging rights over a rival. That's all. Too many of them have been settled by stupid shootouts for them to really mean anything in my mind. But that's all I'll say about that; lest everyone flames me.