Midway through overtime in UAA’s 2-2 tie with Michigan Tech on Saturday night, the most shocking thing — wink-wink, nudge-nudge — happened inside Sullivan Arena.
The Seawolves had just put in a long shift and iced the puck, which by rule meant they could not change their weary players for rested ones before the ensuing faceoff on right wing in their zone.
Suddenly, UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson apparently encountered a problem with a couple of straps on the bottom of his right leg pad. Naturally, he was forced to drop to his knees, remove his catching glove and blocker, and repair those straps. That his teammates were able to gather a few extra deep breaths before the draw was surely just chance.
“Mind-blowing, right?’’ Gunderson said. “What a coincidence.’’
Once Gunderson got all his gear back on, though, UAA center Matt Bailey evidently discovered a problem with his stick. That required him to skate at moderate speed to the bench for a replacement twig before returning to take the faceoff.
“It’s weird,’’ Bailey said, deadpan. “I was really fresh, just needed a new stick.’’
Michigan Tech coach Mel Pearson smiled afterward — he knows gamesmanship when he sees it.
“That’s like the old I-lost-my-contact trick,’’ Pearson said. “I heard that one from a player I coached. In the (American Hockey League), he said his coach told him to go out and tell ’em he lost his contact lens.
“He said, ‘Coach, I don’t wear contacts.’ The coach said, ‘You do now.’ ”
In any event, those delays were arguably the most eventful things that happened in the five-minute overtime, other than Michigan Tech goaltender Pheonix Copley of North Pole moving aggressively to the top of his crease to rebuff Scott Allen’s bid from the right circle.
The tie, one night after UAA captured the opener of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series 3-1, kept the Seawolves unbeaten at home and kept the Huskies winless on the road.
UAA (6-4-2, 3-3-2 WCHA) is 5-0-1 on the Olympic-sized ice at Sullivan Arena — an Olympic sheet is 15 feet wider than an NHL-sized sheet — and sits tied for fourth place in the 10-team league.
“I think it’s a confidence we have at home, because we’ve been good here,’’ Bailey said. “We definitely want to make that part of our culture.’’
Michigan Tech (4-8-2, 2-3-1 WCHA) is 0-7-2 on the road and sits eighth in the league.
The Seawolves never led on a night when Gunderson, a senior, stopped 26 shots and Copley, a sophomore, made 16 saves.
Michigan Tech, which wasted several odd-man rushes Friday, made its first one Saturday count. On a 2-on-1 nine minutes into the game, Mike Neville fed a cross-ice pass to Ryan Furne that Furne one-timed past Gunderson for a 1-0 lead.
The Seawolves needed just two minutes to answer.
With UAA on a power play, Hudson Friesen’s shot from the left point was wide of the net but ricocheted hard off the end boards to Blake Tatchell, who quickly fed Jordan Kwas at the crease’s edge for a tap-in and a 1-1 tie.
That deadlock held until four minutes into the second period, when the Huskies benefitted from a fortuitous, and hard, rebound off the end boards during a two-man advantage. The rebound of Alex Petan’s shot went directly to Tanner Kero, who banged it home for a 2-1 lead. Both Petan and Kero stretched their point streaks to six games on the play.
Michigan Tech’s lead held into the third period, but UAA didn’t try to do too much. Granted, first-year Seawolves coach Matt Thomas shortened his bench — he basically played nine forwards and five defensemen the rest of the way, even with 12 forwards and six blueliners at his disposal — yet the Seawolves remained patient and didn’t try to cheat defensively to gain an offensive break.
“Last year, we’d get down and the seams would come apart,’’ said UAA defenseman Austin Coldwell. “This year, we’ve been down, but we don’t let it get to us. We’re sticking to our game plan.’’
The Seawolves cashed in when Bobby Murphy drew a hooking penalty nearly midway through the third period. After Kwas carried the puck nearly the length of the ice on left wing, he fed Tatchell, who found Coldwell all alone in the right circle.
Coldwell said he was sorely tempted to one-time Tatchell’s pass, but he remembered Copley is apt to challenge a shooter.
“We had a scouting report on him — he’s a pretty aggressive goalie,’’ Coldwell said. “In the back of my mind, I thought he might slide over (to challenge). I waited until he came out to shoot.’’
Coldwell’s wrister beat Copley to the stick side to forge a 2-2 tie that lasted, well, the rest of the way — even through Gunderson’s problem with his strap and Bailey’s discovery that he required a new stick.
The Huskies seemed to have much more jump in their legs Saturday than they did Friday.
“The Olympic sheet does take some time to get used to,’’ Pearson said. “And the travel isn’t an excuse, but that takes some time too.’’
Michigan Tech will remain in Alaska because it has a WCHA series against UAF in Fairbanks upcoming and it’s cheaper and less wearing on the players to stay in-state rather than cover the four times zones back to Houghton and get back on a plane in a few days.
UAA sophomore defenseman Ben Matthews saw his first action of the season, playing at wing on the fourth line. He took two of UAA’s five penalties, one for cross-checking and one for slashing.
The South Anchorage Mighty Moose raised funds for one of their own both nights at Sullivan, with a silent auction, jersey raffle and request for donations.
The youth hockey organization raised funds for one of its players, Michael “Chip’’ Chennault, 12, who is out of state undergoing treatment for lymphoma, according to a Mighty Moose official.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog.
First Period — 1, MTU, Furne 3 (Neville), 9:12; 2, UAA, Kwas 5 (Tatchell, Friesen), 11:15 (pp). Penalties — Stebner, MTU (checking from behind), 10:29; Hubbs, UAA (interference), 18:20.
Second Period — 3, MTU, Kero 4 (Petan), 4:07 (pp). Penalties — Matthews, UAA (cross-checking), 2:17; Sevalrud, UAA (tripping), 3:23; Baltus, MTU (boarding), 6:14; Leibinger, MTU (slashing), 11:42; Sevalrud, UAA (cross-checking), 15:41; Furne, MTU (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:45.
Third Period — 4, UAA, Coldwell 2 (Tatchell, Kwas), 7:55 (pp). Penalties — Matthews, UAA (slashing), 3:40; Leibinger, MTU (hooking), 7:12.
Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — MTU 11-10-6-1—28. UAA 7-5-5-1—18.
Power-play Opportunities — MTU 1 of 5. UAA 2 of 5.
Goalies — MTU, Copley, 3-6-1 (18 shots-16 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 4-2-1 (28 shots-26 saves).
A — 2,468 (6,251). T — 2:38.
Referees — Justin Braun, Bobby Lukkason. Assistant referees — Travis Jackson, Brent Johnson.