The rebound Brett Cameron pounced on in the waning seconds of regulation Saturday night did not merely seize UAA a 1-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory over No. 17-ranked Lake Superior State (Mich.)
The windfall from Cameron’s strike with just 15.9 seconds remaining in regulation at Sullivan Arena proved rich on many fronts.
His game-winning shot from the edge of the crease whipped over Kevin Murdock’s blocker after the Lakers goaltender spit out a rebound of Matt Bailey’s shot also allowed the Seawolves (8-8-2, 5-7-2 WCHA) to hit the holiday break at .500 for the first time since 2009.
Cameron’s career-high sixth goal also lifted UAA into a three-way tie for fifth place in the 10-team league.
Plus, his goal furnished UAA with its first victory in a decade in the final series before the break. Until Saturday, the Seawolves had gone 0-18-1 in such games since they beat Colorado College in 2003 in their final series heading into hiatus.
Cameron’s goal also made a winner out of senior goaltender Chris Kamal, who earned his first start of the season and delivered 19 saves for his fifth career shutout.
“That was huge, to go into the break at .500,’’ Cameron said. “I’m not even sure the last time that’s happened. It’s huge for the team, huge for the program, and it’s a step in the right direction.’’
Cameron reacted to his goal, on which Scott Allen also furnished an assist, with arms raised. That was a much more appealing situation than the one he found himself in late in the second period, when he doubled over after taking a spear to, well, his junk.
As for Kamal, Saturday marked just his second appearance this season and his first start. He found out after Friday’s 3-1 loss to the Lakers that he would start Saturday.
On one hand, Kamal knew he needed to perform strongly if he wants to get into the mix with fellow freshman Rob Gunderson (12 starts) and Michael Matyas (five starts), so that created some pressure. On the other hand, Saturday’s game marked his 59th appearance in green and gold, so it wasn’t his first rodeo.
“Those (nervous) thoughts obviously creeped in, but mostly Friday when I found out I was starting,’’ Kamal said.
Kamal said UAA director of hockey operations Steve Thompson, a former UAF goalie, texted him and told him to stay positive and confident.
“And I’ve played almost 60 games, so I’ve been around,’’ Kamal said.
With coach Matt Thomas scratching three regulars – defenseman Chris Williams, center Tanner Dusyk and winger Hudson Friesen didn’t dress for the first time this season — and juggling his lines, Kamal seized his big chance.
“This week was his best week of practice,’’ Thomas said. “I’ve been watching him, I’ve been rooting for him. Before this week, he’d have a good practice, but then not a very good practice the next day.’’
Kamal’s teammates lightened his load by limiting the Lakers (10-7-1, 6-6-0 WCHA) to just 19 shots. They permitted Lake Superior just three shots on goal on four power plays.
Kamal’s best save arguably came with the Seawolves short-handed late in the first period. Colin Campbell knifed through the defense in the middle of the ice, but Kamal snuffed his bid from the slot. Kamal also benefitted from the two pipes the Lakers struck – Mitchell Nardi’s first-period backhander found the left pipe and Campbell’s shot, off a Quinn Sproule turnover with less than five minutes left, hit the same iron.
Murdock, meanwhile, was light’s out in making 26 saves.
The scoreless tie through 40 minutes marked the first time in 18 games this season UAA and its opponent have drawn to a scoreless tie through two periods. And as time wound down, surely every player wanted to be a hero, and just as surely every player did not want to make a crushing mistake.
“It was like a stalemate for so long,’’ Cameron said. “You don’t want to do too much, but you want to do something.’’
A UAA game locked in a 0-0 tie so late brought back memories of Dean Talafous’ time behind the bench at UAA. Three times in a span of 53 games from 1997-99, during Talafous’ five-season run as coach of the Seawolves, UAA played to 0-0 ties.
But the line of Bailey centering Allen and Cameron – and that line had not been together for more than a month – generated a strong shift deep in the Lakers’ end in the final minute of regulation. When Bailey got the puck on right wing, Cameron knew his destination.
“As soon as ‘Bales’ got the puck, I just knew to go to the net and he’d get it there,’’ Cameron said.
Kamal ventured from his net perhaps more than he has done in any game in his career.
“I don’t know what came over me,’’ he said, half-joking. “I was just trying to get some offense going. I always did want to be a forward.’’
Thomas said he encouraged Kamal to play the puck when opportunity arose because he’s the best of UAA’s three goalies when it comes to puck-handling, which helps out the defense.
Sophomore defenseman Ben Matthews played just his second game this season, and the 11th game of his career, and arguably enjoyed his sharpest performance.
Blake Tatchell’s six-game point streak was snapped. Bailey’s assist gave him a six-game point streak, tying Tatchell for the longest by a UAA player this season. Bailey owns 1-5—6 totals in his streak.
UAA is 7-2-1 on home ice.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog
LSS 0 0 0 0
UAA 0 0 1 1
First Period — None. Penalties – Sternberg, LSS (holding), 3:27; Dommett, LSS (tripping), 5:22; Pettitt, UAA (hooking), 9:46; Trupp, UAA (tripping), 19:01.
Second Period — None. Penalties – UAA bench minor, served by Sproule (too many men), 1:02; Johnson, LSS (hooking), 5:01.
Third Period – 1, UAA, Cameron 6 (Bailey, Allen), 19:44. Penalties – Van Allen, UAA (slashing), 3:15; Bruneteau, LSS (tripping), 12:22.
Shots on goal – LSS 5-5-9—19. UAA 4-14-9—27.
Power-play Opportunities – LSS 0 of 4. UAA 0 of 4.
Goalies – LSS, Murdock, 4-3-0 (27 shots-26 saves). UAA, Kamal, 1-1-0 (19 shots-19 saves).
A – 2,002 (6,251). T – 2:15.
Referees – Peter Friesema, Butch Mousseaux. Assistant referees – Travis Jackson, Nick Walters.