The Seawolves used a disciplined workman-like effort to earn a victory and some small measure of redemption after the brutally ugly loss on Friday night. The two WCHA points were crucial in the standings and keeps Mankato and Michigan Tech looking up. UAA now sits one point behind the Gophers for 7th place and 3 behind 6th place St. Cloud.
Jade Portwood got UAA on the board early at 1:44 of the 1st period with a bit of a sneaky surprise wrister to the far corner from near the boards at the top of the circle. It was a solid shot that looked to completely surprise Mankato netminder Kevin Murdock. It was just what the doctor ordered.
The Seawolves had 3 power plays in the 1st period that they were unable to convert including some 2 man advantage time. It was somewhat of an evenly played 1st period but the extra penalties in the Seawolves favor gave them the momentum overall.
Just 1:25 into the 2nd period, Tommy Grant broke Kevin Clark with a nice little tip/steal/pass and they broke in clean for a 2 on 1. Kevin delayed nicely waiting for the pass to open up and as soon as the defenseman committed he laid it onto Tommy's stick for the finish. I couldn't read Tommy's lips from that far away but I'm betting he said, "Thank you" to Clarkie.
With the Mavericks shorthanded at 4:34 the Seawolves picked up their lone power play goal of the night when Luka Vidmar found Clarkie on the backdoor and Kevin sweetly guided it home to make it 3-0. With the penalty calls at that point 5 to 1 in UAA's favor you could smell a make-up call coming and at 5:27 Lee Baldwin got tagged with a ridiculous interference call. The Mavericks power play cashed in at 6:13 when some dufus in a purple uniform passed the puck to some other dufus and eventually some other dufus in purple knocked it in. But even that goal didn't detract from a strong overall performance by the Seawolves over the period.
With the score 3-1 heading into the third you could guarantee that some even-it-up action was in the works. In the 3rd period UAA was whistled for 6 penalties. Fortunately though, the Mavericks got tagged with 5 of their own. In any case, most of the 3rd period was fairly evenly played. The Seawolves had to kill off some 5 on 3 time and Mankato definitely threatened a couple of times. As the period waned Mankato picked up their efforts and had much territorial advantage over the last 6 minutes or so.
Jutting pulled Murdock later than I would have considering how much pressure his team was generating. It mattered not though because Nick Haddad (who was the best penalty killer all night) launched a perfect shot off the glass which looked destined to go in the empty net but Tommy Grant won a race with some puke in a purple jersey to finish the scoring.
Bryce was reasonably solid in the net. The Mankato goal that got past him because Jared Tuton was dropping to block the shot and he was screened. The shot went between Jared's legs and Bryce just didn't have enough time to react once he saw it.
Shots on the night were 25 - 22 in UAA's favor. Here's the boxscore. It was a win that wouldn't have happened without everyone playing well. Everyone on the team should get a pat on the back. I thought Nils Backstrom had a very strong game defensively. One of his better showings so far this season though I wouldn't characterize any of his play in earlier games as substandard. Kevin Clark showed the sort of active play in all three zones that the team needs from him for success. Craig Parkinson had a solid outing and won some key faceoffs. His penalty killing was solid as well. I briefly mentioned Nick Haddad's penalty killing efforts and they shouldn't be overlooked. His hustle and hard work set a good example for the rest of the team. Congrats to everyone for their good efforts.
Friday night after the game Coach Shyiak said that in order to win that "it starts at the back" and tonight that's exactly what happened. Bryce's solid play combined with excellent defensive work from all the blueliners and strong backchecking from all the forwards made the difference.
Obviously the weekend wasn't all we hoped it would be. Friday night's score was embarrassing and all that ... but the win tonight means two points. It keeps UAA ahead of Mankato in the standings at least. For me one win though isn't necessarily a silver lining. This team has self-destructed enough for a full season in these first 14 games. Beat Mercyhurst, implode vs. Michigan; Beat RPI then choke against Bob Mo; don't show up against UND the first night then beat them on Saturday; implode against the Gophers then play better but lose by about the same score on the Sunday game; then owned by Bucky twice; now suicide on Friday before a solid game tonight?
Consistency has been the recognized and talked about problem for the last couple of years. Whatever it is that needs to be found to improve the consistency needs to be found sooner rather than later. I wish I knew what it was. I know there are lots of people expressing themselves here in comments and on USCHO that think they know. Well ... at least I have something solid to write about tomorrow in my usual Sunday Potpourri. There's a lot I have to say so expect it to be a long one.