Justin Kirchhevel made a dynamite debut for the Seawolves on Friday night, scoring his first collegiate goal just before the horn ending the first period and bagging his second in the waning seconds of the game.
What happened before his two strikes and between them, though, helped send UAA to its fifth straight loss.
Minnesota State-Mankato killed a major penalty early, then scored three unanswered goals in the second and third periods and held on for a 3-2 victory in UAA's home opener in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
"It's definitely bittersweet,'' Kirchhevel said. "We got the loss. We outshot them (31-18), out-chanced them, but they won, so we've got to come out harder (tonight).''
Kirchhevel made his UAA debut in the team's seventh game because he suffered a broken ankle in the playoffs late last season for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs of the North American Hockey League, and aggravated the ankle early this season.
"He's still working on his conditioning,'' said UAA coach Dave Shyiak. "He's real heady -- smart, skilled, and he can make plays, and we need that in the lineup.''
That Kirchhevel is playing Division I hockey is something of a novelty. He's from Brookings, S.D., and said he's one of two guys from South Dakota to make it to college hockey's elite level -- the other is freshman forward Matt Ferris of Princeton, who is from Pierre. Kirchhevel split last season between St. Louis and Fairbanks and racked 16-21--37 totals in 39 regular- season games.
Both his goals before an announced crowd of 2,953 at Sullivan Arena on Friday came on deflections, his first on a redirection of a Tommy Grant shot from the right point, his second on a redirection of a Scott Warner shot from the left point. His second goal came with UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson (15 saves) on the bench for an extra attacker and pulled UAA (1-5-1, 0-3-0 WCHA) to within one goal at 3-2 with 21.1 seconds left.
But Mavericks sophomore goalie Phil Cook (29 saves) stymied the Seawolves time and again. He and his shot-blocking teammates killed off four UAA power plays in the final 11 minutes, including a 91-second stretch when UAA enjoyed a two-man advantage.
Cook and company also kept the Seawolves silent during a major penalty in the first period, when Mavericks defenseman Evan Mosey received a game misconduct and five-minute penalty for checking Grant from behind. The Seawolves mustered seven shots on Cook in a sequence of 4:38 before a Mickey Spencer cross-checking penalty ended the man advantage.
"The goaltender has to be our best penalty killer, and Cooker came up huge,'' said Mankato sophomore wing Eli Zuck of Anchorage. "He was definitely our best player tonight and the boys rallied around him.''
He got no argument from Shyiak.
"I thought the difference in the game tonight was their goaltender,'' Shyiak said.
Four of UAA's five losses have come by one goal.
The Mavericks (2-2-3, 2-2-1 WCHA) began their comeback from the Seawolves' 1-0 lead with Andrew Sackrison's goal five minutes into the second period and took a 2-1 lead late in the period when Mike Louwerse walked around the UAA defenseman and scored.
Zuck scored the power-play goal that proved the game winner when he redirected defenseman Kurt Davis' wrist shot from the center point past Gunderson.
"I tipped it down off the ice and it bounced, and fortunately got over the goalie's shoulder,'' Zuck said.
The game marked the first of eight straight road matches for the Mavericks.
"It's kind of nice to know we can win when things aren't going our way,'' Zuck said.
For the Seawolves, tonight's finale marks their final chance to snap their losing streak before an upcoming idle weekend.
With regular defensemen Brad Gorham (concussion) and Wes McLeod (sprained shoulder) out of the lineup, Shyiak dressed sophomore forwards Alex Gellert and Tyler Currier at defense and gave them meaningful minutes.
"I thought they did real well,'' Shyiak said.
He paired them with regular defensemen. Gellert usually paired with sophomore Scott Warner, and Currier usually paired with freshman Quinn Sproule.
"You want them with a stable guy who has played the position,'' Shyiak said.
The pairing of junior Curtis Leinweber and senior Luka Vidmar was the only regular pairing that remained.
Grant and freshman center Jordan Kwas each furnished an assist. Both players have scored at least one point in six of UAA's seven games. Grant (2-5--7) and Kwas (1-5--6) are UAA's top two point producers.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Mankato 0 2 1 -- 3
UAA 1 0 1 -- 2
First Period -- 1, UAA, Kirchhevel 1 (Grant, Vidmar), 19:59 (pp). Penalties -- Cameron, UAA (slashing), 8:38; Mosey, Mankato, major-game misconduct, served by Lehrke (checking from behind), 11:48; Spencer, UAA (cross-checking), 16:27; Jokinen, Mankato (holding), 18:44.
Second Period -- 2, Mankato, Sackrison 2 (Grant, Leivermann), 5:34; 3, Mankato, Louwerse 2 (Youds, Elbrecht), 17:56. Penalties -- Vidmar, UAA (roughing), 11:55; Cooper, Mankato (holding), 14:49; Vidmar, UAA (holding), 20:00.
Third Period -- 4, Mankato, Zuck 2 (Davis, Lehrke), 2:17 (pp); 5, UAA, Kirchhevel 2 (Warner, Kwas), 19:38. Penalties -- Vidmar, UAA (interference), 2:08; Spencer, UAA (boarding), 4:03; Mankato bench minor, served by Lehrke (too many men), 10:51; Mueller, Mankato (high-sticking), 14:36; Davis, Mankato (hooking), 16:44; Youds, Mankato (interference), 17:14; Kwas, UAA (roughing), 20:00; Youds, Mankato (roughing), 20:00.
Shots on goal -- Mankato 4-10-4--18. UAA 9-10-12--31.
Power-play Opportunities -- Mankato 1 of 6; UAA 1 of 7.
Goalies -- Mankato, Cook, 2-2-1 (31 shots-29 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 1-3-0 (18-15).
A -- 2,953 (6,251). T -- 2:18.
Referees -- Brad Shepherd, C.J. Beaurline. Assistant referees - Steve Glines, Travis Jackson.