A good drinking game tonight while watching the game would have been to take a shot everytime the Mankato TV announcing crew referenced how MSU was "dominating" the Seawolves. If it wasn't for my Dad getting pissed off about such references it would have been funny; and of course we both would have ended up drunk as monkeys.
I won't really dispute that for parts of the first and second period the purple cows pressed the action to make most of the play in UAA's end. But, I would dispute who "dominated". Because the Seawolves defensive play actually dominated MSU. Of course, the 'Wolves also "dominated" the finishing of scoring chances.
It's nice when it infrequently happens that I focus on one particular aspect of a series in a preview and such focus comes to be the case. I'd said that the games this weekend might very well be in the hands of the purple cows goaltenders and that turned out to be the case. And I'm not taking a dig at MSU goaltender Austin Lee with that observation. He wasn't per se "at fault" for the UAA 3-0 lead when he got pulled. The team in front of him pretty much did nothing to keep the Seawolves from scoring.
The Seawolves offense "dominated" MSU's defense. The Seawolves defense (Kamal included) "dominated" MSU's offense. Mankato fans and announcers won't see it that way. Troy Jutting certainly didn't seem to in his post game interview. Nevertheless, that was the story. Jutting says his team will play "be better" tomorrow night. I've no doubt they'll step up their efforts. However, with Saturday's game having much more significance for the Seawolves; I'm quite sure they'll play better as well. It wasn't like UAA played their best game of the year or anything.
Tommy Grant got the Seawolves on the board at 18:37 of the 1st on a rush with Alex Gellert. Alex rushed in on the right wing while Grant was going to the net. He fired a hard low shot on goal and it arrived in synchronicity with Grant. Lee got a piece of the puck but with Grant and an MSU defender in proximity the puck ended up in the back of the net. Looked to me like it was Alex's goal but it stood with Grant's name on the scoresheet as the game winner.
Just 2:25 into the 2nd period on a faceoff to Lee's left, Jordan Kwas' faceoff win squirted right into the slot to Nick Haddad who was uncovered in the slot for some reason. Nick had a pretty straightforward task in finishing from inside 15 feet for his 2nd of the year. And it wasn't the easiest goal of the night for Nick.
Craig Parkinson's goal five minutes and four seconds later extended the lead to 3 to nil as once again the MSU defense left him pretty much by himself to knock it home. It was then that Troy Jutting decided to give Lee the hook; because as we all know when your team leaves guys alone in front of the net to score on two even strength goals and your goaltender gives up a power play tally then they deserve to be benched. No doubt that tonight Austin Lee's parents are questioning why they sent their kid to play for him. Getting yanked at that point was unjust and certainly won't do anything to show Lee that Jutting has any confidence in him.
Nick Haddad got his 2nd of the game at 13:17 of the 3rd off a smart play by Brad Gorham. Brad controlled the puck behind the MSU goal, carried it out to the left circle and patiently reviewed his options. He chose to fire a shot at Cook from the dot which was kicked to the right side of the net and a completely uncovered Nick Haddad for perhaps the easiest finish of his career. He just had to lift it over Cook for the finish. He did. End of story.
It's an overwhelmingly good night on the stats sheet for UAA's upperclassmen. 7 of the 10 points went to upperclassmen with all four goals being scored by seniors.
Chris Kamal earned the shutout tonight (his 2nd of the season) stopping 35 shots. I wouldn't want to say his play was "dominating" but he certainly "dominated" nonetheless didn't he? I will give him credit for three really outstanding stops and more than a little credit for excellent positioning on several others that eliminated any real chance for MSU to score. The rest of the time he was just dead on solid in his play. The use of "just" being slightly facetious. Dead on solid in my book is nothing less than it sounds. How could it be any less when you earn a shutout. Much props to his play tonight.
I also like the hard work from the 4th line tonight in what was typical low minutes. They were however very effective on the cycle and "dominated" play in the Mankato end on several occasions. Good work Mickey, Daniel and Tyler.
The final state of the WCHA standings became much clearer tonight though some things are still in flux going into the final games tomorrow. The Seawolves have 24 points and trail Wisconsin by 1 point. Nobody below the Seawolves can pass them on the table; Bemidji has 21 points and Mankato has 20. So 9th place is the lowest UAA will finish; but let's be clear about this -- it would be a ninth place finish with more points that any other 9th place finish in WCHA records. With only a single game remaining 5 teams (Minnesota, CC, St. Cloud, Wisconsin and UAA) are within 5 points of each other. That's nothing less than extreme parity in the middle of the WCHA pack.
Two points for UAA tomorrow night in conjunction with another CC win over Bucky and a DU win over SCSU will put the Seawolves into a tie with St. Cloud at 26 points for 7th place. So UAA fans should be pulling for DU and CC on Saturday.
Here is tonight's boxscore.
Here is tonight's boxscore.