Most nights, a tie doesn’t trigger elation or anxiety — mostly, it just feels inconclusive.
But after enduring eight consecutive losses, and with a ninth closing in, the UAA hockey team felt rejuvenated by Friday night’s come-from-behind, 3-3 tie with No. 14-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato at Sullivan Arena.
After all, just less than four minutes of regulation separated the Seawolves from another setback before freshmen Blake Tatchell and Bobby Murphy racked goals 40 seconds apart to earn the deadlock.
For a team that hasn’t won since Dec. 1 — granted, the holiday break occurred in the interim — simply gaining a point in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings was enough to boost spirits.
“It was huge to get a point and get back on track,’’ Tatchell said. “We showed a lot of pride and heart, and right now a point means the world to us.’’
With the Mavericks seemingly secure in the comfort of a 3-1 cushion and the clock winding down, the Seawolves went on the power play when Mavericks defenseman Tyler Elbrecht was penalized for interference. Just 4:31 remained in regulation. Eighty seconds later, Tatchell’s shot from the right circle squeezed through traffic and past Mavericks freshman goaltender Stephon Williams of Fairbanks (21 saves).
“I’m not sure if it hit their skate or our skate, or what,’’ Tatchell said. “But I’ll take it.’’
The rare power-play strike for the Seawolves — they convert with the man advantage just 10.3 percent of the time — put a jump in their collective stride.
“That created a spark,’’ Murphy said. “It was just really positive on the bench.’’
On the ensuing shift, Murphy banged in his own rebound for his first college goal and a 3-3 tie.
As important as it was for the Seawolves to get a point out of the opener of a two-game set that closes Saturday night, their three-goal output was likewise encouraging.
Friday marked just the third time in their nine-game winless streak (0-8-1) that they have mustered as many as three goals in a game. That span includes a pair of December losses to the Mavericks in Minnesota — UAA fell 3-1 and 3-0.
UAA (3-13-5, 1-12-4 WCHA) remains last in the 12-team WCHA, five points behind Bemidji State and Michigan Tech, who are tied for 10th. Mankato (14-8-3, 8-8-1 WCHA), coming off consecutive overtime losses at home to Wisconsin, moved into a tie for seventh place.
“One thing that is special about the game is you usually get what you deserve,’’ said Mavericks first-year coach Mike Hastings. “We didn’t keep our foot on the gas, and they took advantage of it. They deserved to come back and tie.’’
The Mavericks jumped the Seawolves early for a 2-0 lead through one period.
Teddy Blueger slipped an off-speed shot from the slot through the pads of UAA goalie Chris Kamal (19 saves) just 55 seconds into the game. Back-checking UAA winger Kory Roy got his stick on Blueger’s stick as Blueger shot, created a change-up of sorts for Kamal.
Jean-Paul Lafontaine scored the first of his two goals late in the period, beating UAA defenseman Austin Sevalrud one-on-one behind the net before walking unencumbered out front to flick a shot past Kamal.
The Seawolves cut the deficit to 2-1 early in the second period when Evan Trupp’s change-up of a wrister from the left circle slid through Williams’ pads.
But Mankato cashed in on a fortuitous bounce midway through the second period, when Lafontaine — right place, right time — was stationed at the edge of the crease on the power play. Kamal stopped Zach Lehrke’s shot, but the rebound ricocheted into Lafontaine’s skate and into the net for a 3-1 lead.
Shortly after that, UAA center Matt Bailey ripped a one-timer off the crossbar on the power play. That seemed another cruel blow for a Seawolves team that can’t seem to buy a bounce — well, at least until Tatchell’s goal, which he said “had eyes.’’
“We kind of found it within ourselves to push with whatever we had left,’’ Trupp said. “It’s always good to get at least a point, but we’re not satisfied.’’
And that’s why junior winger Jordan Kwas cautioned that the Seawolves on Saturday must bring more of the energy they mustered late in Friday’s game.
“As we preach, stay even-keeled,’’ Kwas said. “Don’t get too excited about it. A tie’s a tie.
“It’s a step in the right direction, but we still have a ways to go.’’
Blake Leask, the freshman defenseman who assisted on UAA’s two third-period goals, bagged his first multiple-point game in college.
Tatchell’s goal, his fourth, moved him past Bailey and into the team lead for points with 4-9—13 totals in 21 games.
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MSM 2 1 0 0 — 3
UAA 0 1 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, MSM, Blueger 3 (Hayes), :55; 2, MSM, Lafontaine 7, 17:19. Penalties — Williams, UAA (cross-checking), 1:05; Leitner, MSM (holding), 14:14; Williams, UAA (roughing), 20:00; Margonari, MSM (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period — 3, UAA, Trupp 2 (Naslund), 3:48; 4, MSM, Lafontaine 8 (Lehrke, Palmquist), 11:18 (pp). Penalties — Docken, UAA (slashing), 10:53; Margonari, MSM (boarding), 11:30.
Third Period — 5, UAA, Tatchell 4 (Leask), 16:49 (pp); 6, UAA, Murphy 1 (Leask), 17:29. Penalties — Currier, UAA (roughing), 7:46; Stern, MSM (roughing), 7:46; Trupp, UAA (slashing), 9:01; Blueger, MSM (checking from behind), 9:01; Leask, UAA (tripping), 10:21; Elbrecht, MSM (interference), 15:29.
Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MSM 4-12-3-3—22. UAA 9-9-6-0—24.
Power-play Opportunities — MSM 1 of 3. UAA 1 of 3.
Goalies — MSM, Williams, 11-6-2 (24 shots-21 saves). UAA, Kamal, 2-7-1 (22 shots-19 saves).
A — 2,240 (6,251). T — 2:41.
Referees — Jarod Moen, Brett Klosowski. Assistant referees — Brent Johnson, Travis Jackson.