ANCHORAGE — In the anguished aftermath of a fifth consecutive loss —Wisconsin beat UAA, 5-3, courtesy of a late empty-net goal Friday night at Sullivan Arena — the Seawolves have little choice but to draw inspiration from the high points of their first game back from the holiday break.
And there were some encouraging signs for a squad that has won just once in its last 13 games, all Western Collegiate Hockey Association matches.
The Seawolves surrendered two goals in a span of 65 seconds in the third period to fall behind 4-1, but quickly returned fire with two goals in a span of 75 seconds to claw back into the game.
Trailing 2-1 in the second period, they burned off a five-minute Badger power play that bridged the second and third periods, blocking four shots during that penalty kill and permitting two shots on goal.
They also scratched back after falling behind 2-0 inside the opening eight-plus minutes. And they finally cracked a streak of 21 straight fruitless power plays with Blake Tatchell’s third-period strike.
Given that none of the other 11 teams on the circuit seem likely to send the last-place Seawolves a sympathy card or wishes to get well soon, they need to muster support from within.
“We battled back,’’ said UAA captain Chris Crowell. “That shows a lot. There was no quit in anyone.
“I guess it’s a bit of a moral victory, but it gets frustrating. They don’t give out points for coming close. We have to find ways to get points.’’
That seemed possible after Blake Tatchell and Jordan Kwas scored to cut Wisconsin’s lead to 4-3 with more than seven minutes remaining. UAA pulled goaltender Chris Kamal (22 saves) for an extra attacker with 67 seconds left and Kwas’ bid from the left circle was denied by Landon Peterson (26 saves) in the final minute before Mark Zengerle sealed the Badgers win with an empty-net goal with 30.8 seconds left.
“We just have to stay positive, get some wins and get a good playoff spot,’’ Kwas said. “We have to look at it shift to shift. Every shift is a chance to turn the season around — that’s the mentality we have to take.
“Maybe a good shift sparks the boys and leads to a good period, a good period turns into a game and a game turns into a weekend.’’
Wisconsin seems on the upswing — the Badgers (5-7-5, 3-5-5 WCHA) stretched their unbeaten streak to seven games (4-0-3) and maintained the momentum they generated in December.
“We kind of felt before the break we were turning the ship around,’’ said Badgers bench boss Mike Eaves.
And the Badgers have averaged more than four goals per game in the last four games, with 17 goals in that stretch, after averaging less than two goals per game in their first 13 games.
UAA’s three goals matched its output in its previous four games.
UAA and Wisconsin averaged a combined 4.19 goals per game heading into Friday night, when they combined for four third-period goals in just 5:50.
“That was all over the map, wasn’t it?’’ Eaves said.
The game arguably turned on the opening minutes, when Wisconsin’s John Ramage and Joseph LaBate furnished a 2-0 lead.
UAA countered on Matt Bailey’s second-period goal to cut the margin to 2-1 before the Seawolves burned a major penalty to defenseman Austin Sevalrud for contact to the head. During that penalty kill, UAA defenseman Chris Williams blocked two shots, and Scott Allen and Tyler Currier each blocked one.
Still, the Badgers earned some breathing room in the third period, when Michael Mersch delivered a gem of a wrister from the left circle — he snapped a shot over sliding UAA defenseman Scott Warner and over Kamal’s glove — and Tyler Barnes banged in Zengerle’s centering pass at the right post.
Even though the Seawolves rallied to make a game of it, they know their slow start was a culprit.
“We were flat off the start and played catch-up the rest of the way,’’ Crowell said. “Apart from the first 10 or 15 minutes, we played well.
“But you’ve got to play a full game to beat these teams.’’
Bailey’s goal and assist marked the junior center’s team-best third multiple-point game of the season.
Kwas’ goal and assist generated the senior winger’s first multiple-point game of the season. And Kory Roy’s two helpers gave him the first multiple-point game of the sophomore winger’s career.
Bailey (3-8—11 in 17 games) and Tatchell (4-7—11 in 17 games) are tied for the team leading in scoring.
Kwas’ goal was his fifth of the season, tying him with Alex Gellert for second on the team. Scott Allen leads UAA with seven goals, but is without a goal, or point, in the last five games.
Attendance continues to be a problem for UAA. Friday’s announced crowd was 2,268, marking the fifth straight home game the Seawolves have drawn less than 2,300.
Wisconsin’s Mersch, who leads them in goals and points with 12-5—17 totals in 17 games, extended his point streak to five games. He owns 3-5—8 totals in that stretch.
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UW 2 0 3 — 5
UAA 0 1 2 — 3
First Period — 1, UW, Ramage 2 (Meuer, R. Little), 2:56; 2, UW, Labate 3 (Mersch, Lee), 8:17. Penalties — Tatchell, UAA (hooking), 8:17.
Second Period — 3, UAA, Bailey 3 (Kwas, Roy), 8:10. Penalties — Ramage, UW (holding), 2:54; Currier, UAA (cross-checking), 8:46; Sevalrud, UAA, major-game misconduct, served by Pettitt (contact to head), 17:27.
Third Period — 4, UW, Mersch 12, 6:29; 5, UW, Barnes 4 (Zengerle, Kerdiles), 7:34; 6, UAA, Tatchell 4 (Docken, Sproule), 11:04 (pp); 7, UAA, Kwas 5 (Bailey, Roy), 12:19; 8, UW, Zengerle 3 (Barnes), 19:29 (en). Penalties — Ramage, UW (tripping), 7:51; R. Little, UW (hooking), 9:08.
Shots on goal — UW 12-6-9--27. UAA 7-10-12--29.
Power-play Opportunities — UW 0 of 3. UAA 1 of 3.
Goalies — UW, Peterson, 3-2-2 (29 shots-26 saves). UAA, Kamal, 2-7-0 (26 shots-22 saves).
A — 2,268 (6,251). T — 2:19.
Referees — Todd Anderson, Brad Shepherd. Assistant referees — Brent Johnson, Carl Saden.