Anchorage — Late in the second period, UAA winger Brett Cameron hung his head.
Midway through the third period, he held it high – well, once he rose from bended knee after celebrating the goal that proved decisive.
Rink redemption has a way of transforming body language and attitude, as Cameron could attest Friday night after this game-winning strike and Rob Gunderson’s 19 saves helped stake UAA to a 3-2 win over rival UAF in Game 1 of the Governor’s Cup at Sullivan Arena.
It was Cameron’s turnover behind his own net that, in part, led to Tyler Morley’s goal to forge a 2-2 tie for the Nanooks with just 96 seconds left in the second period.
“Gift-wrapped,’’ Cameron said of that equalizer.
But halfway through the third period, after Scott Allen’s initial shot from the high slot was blocked, the rebound appeared at Cameron’s feet just outside the crease. He banged the puck home for his fifth goal, which ties his career high.
“I was pretty choked about that turnover, so I was really happy to help the boys get a win,’’ Cameron said. “That was huge, because (the turnover) could have cost us the game.’’
Somehow, though the Seawolves managed just a season-low 13 shots on goal, they remained unbeaten (6-0-1) on home ice. It helped that they scored on one of their two power-play chances and held the Nanooks in check on two opportunities.
“Our power play stepped up,’’ said UAA coach Matt Thomas. “We won the special-teams battle. I think our goalie played very well and we found a way to score.
“That was one of those nights we found a way to win.’’
The opener of the 21st annual Governor’s Cup, a four-game showdown between Alaska’s two college hockey teams, doubled as a Western Collegiate Hockey Association match. UAA (7-6-2, 4-5-2 WCHA) snapped its two-game losing streak and UAF (5-8-2, 2-7-0 WCHA) lost its fifth straight game and seventh in its last eight.
“Quite honestly, that’s a little bit of the way things have been going,’’ said UAF bench boss Dallas Ferguson. “Other than the first 10 minutes of the second period, I didn’t have too many issues with our game.
“We’ve got to push through and find a way to get over the hump.’’
UAA sits in a three-way tie for fifth place in the 10-team WCHA and UAF remains in ninth place.
UAF got off to an electric start in the 148th all-time meeting between the teams, with Marcus Basara scoring just 15 seconds in off Morley’s face-off win. And the Nanooks, who easily outshot the Seawolves, 21-13, made a point to consistently get in Gunderson’s grill.
The Nanooks couldn’t have crowded Gunderson more if they were in an elevator with him, which, as circumstances have it, they were just hours before the game.
Gunderson and his roommates – Cameron, Allen and Quinn Sproule – are staying in a local hotel because their rental house is flooded. Turns out it’s the same hotel where the Nanooks are staying, and when the four Seawolves got on the elevator Friday afternoon to head to the rink, Gunderson said some UAF players rode the same elevator.
“There were four of them and four of us, so we stood a chance if something happened,’’ Gunderson said with a laugh.
Gunderson, a senior who seems perpetually in a good mood, said he wasn’t particularly bothered by the Nanooks crashing his net.
“Every time that puck came in, so did one of them,’’ Gunderson said. “Good tactic by them. It’s fun. I’m a nice guy, so it really doesn’t bother me.
“But to be honest, it’s going to bite them in the butt.’’
Actually, it did in the second period Friday.
By then, the Seawolves had forged a 1-1 tie on Dylan Hubbs’ goal late in the first period. Jordan Kwas’ stretch pass put Hubbs on a semi-breakaway. With UAF defenseman Nolan Kaiser hooking him slightly off-balance, Hubbs beat John Keeney high to the glove side.
Midway through the second period, UAF’s Garrick Perry was penalized for charging Gunderson in the crease. On the ensuing power play, UAA defenseman Austin Coldwell scored with a one-timed snap shot off a Blake Tatchell feed to give UAA its first lead at 2-1.
UAA’s defensemen have contributed just three goals through 15 games. All of them have come from Coldwell, a junior who already has reached his career high in goals.
Of course, crease-crashing comes with the potential for penalties, but it’s also a bona fide way to score goals.
“It’s no secret, if you’re going to score goals in college hockey, or any high level of hockey, you’ve got to find ways to get the puck to the net and to get (bodies) to the net,’’ Ferguson said.
As Cameron noted, the Seawolves expect the Nanooks to bring even more determination to the rink Saturday night in Game 2 of the Cup, which closes March 7-8 in Fairbanks with Games 3 and 4 to close the regular season.
UAA’s victory snapped UAF’s three-game winning streak in the Cup, which the Nanooks have won the last four seasons.
Cameron’s goal was his fourth in his last five games – he missed four games last month with an upper-body injury.
Coldwell’s power-play goal was UAA’s first with the man advantage in the last three games.
Kwas’ assist was the 50th of his career.
Tatchell’s assist marked his fifth point in his four-game point streak.
UAA sophomore defenseman Blake Leask played right wing on the fourth line.
UAF is just 2 for 34 on the power play in its last eight games
UAF defenseman Michael Quinn led all players with five shots on goal and Perry added four. Allen, with a team-high three shots, was one of just four Seawolves with multiple shots – Coldwell, Tanner Dusyk and Hubbs fired two each.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
First Period – 1, UAF, Basara 6 (T. Morley), :15; 2, UAA, Hubbs 2 (Kwas, Williams), 15:49. Penalties – Friese, UAF (interference), 12:08; Tatchell, UAA (tripping), 19:09.
Second Period – 3, UAA, Coldwell 3 (Tatchell, Bailey), 11:32 (pp); 4, UAF, T. Morley 7 (Beck), 18:24. Penalties – Sproule, UAA (hitting after whistle), 8:54; Friese, UAF (hitting after whistle), 8:54; Perry, UAF (charging the goaltender), 11:14.
Third Period – 5, UAA, Cameron 5 (Allen), 9:35. Penalties – Sevalrud, UAA (roughing), 10:46.
Shots on goal – UAF 8-6-7—21. UAA 6-4-3—13.
Power-play Opportunities – UAF 0 of 2. UAA 1 of 2.
Goalies – UAF, Keeney, 3-3-1 (13 shots-10 saves). UAA, Gunderson, (5-4-1) (21 shots-19 saves).
A – 2,750 (6,251). T – 227:.
Referees – Brad Albers, Brett Klosowski. Assistant referees – Travis Jackson, Carl Saden.