To appreciate how few shots the Seawolves unloaded over the course of 60 minutes Friday night — a season-low 10 — consider that they fired that many or more in 21 of the previous 60 regulation periods of hockey they played this season.
“We really picked our shots tonight,’’ winger Jordan Kwas said with a grin.
He and his teammates could afford to be light-hearted — to the winners go the grins.
The best you could say is UAA was judicious with its ammunition, and that was good enough to rack a 2-1 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory over Minnesota State-Mankato at Sullivan Arena.
Kwas, a senior, registered the game-winning goal midway through the third period when he took a pass from Blake Tatchell and beat Mavericks freshman Cole Huggins from just above the goal line on left wing. Tatchell initiated that attack with a rush into the zone on left wing before cutting to the middle-right of the slot and feeding Kwas at the back door for Kwas’ sixth goal of the season.
Seawolves senior goaltender Chris Kamal, making his fourth straight start, made the lead stand. He stopped 27 shots.
“You credit Chris Kamal,’’ said UAA coach Matt Thomas. “He controlled pucks. He made saves — not necessarily big saves, but saves at the right time, a lot of times to get us a whistle.’’
The victory pushed the Seawolves (10-9-2, 6-7-2 WCHA) into a three-way tie for fifth place in the 10-team WCHA. It also marked the first time they have beaten the Mavericks in the last 10 meetings between the teams.
Minnesota State-Mankato (12-9-0, 10-5-0), which swept UAA in Minnesota in late November, is tied for second on the circuit entering Saturday night’s series finale with the Seawolves.
The Mavericks outshot the Seawolves 28-10 and played on tilted ice for much of the night. Still, their result reminded coach Mike Hastings of a 4-2 road loss to UAF a week ago, when the Mavericks outshot the Nanooks 39-18.
“You’ve got to find a way to make a play, or pay the price to score a goal,’’ Hastings said. “Out of 28 shots, how many were second-chance shots? I didn’t see three? Four?’’
While the Mavericks remained in Alaska all week after splitting their WCHA series with UAF, the Seawolves got stuck in Minneapolis all week after missing a connecting flight there last Sunday following a nonconference series at Wisconsin.
Thursday, the Seawolves finally flew home. But instead of their usual non-stop flight from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Anchorage, their revamped itinerary took them from Minneapolis/St. Paul to Salt Lake City, with another layover in Seattle before a final flight to Anchorage.
Perhaps that long travel day was why the energy the Seawolves seemed to have early on Friday night waned until they appeared to catch a second wind late in the game.
In any event, Kwas said, there’s no use complaining about what you can’t control.
“When it’s a Gong Show like that, you just have to have fun with it,’’ he said.
With UAA leading goal scorer Scott Allen out with an upper-body injury — Thomas said Allen is likely to miss at least four games — the Seawolves got an early lift from an unlikely suspect.
Walk-on freshman winger Brad Duwe of Soldotna opened the scoring 51 seconds into the game, jamming in a rebound at the left post after Brett Cameron went hard to the net with the puck. That marked Duwe’s first college goal and doubled as his first college point.
That 1-0 UAA lead held until late in the period, when the Minnesota State-Mankato power play that tormented the Seawolves in Minnesota — the Mavericks converted on six of 10 man-advantage chances in that sweep — clicked yet again.
Freshman center Zach Stepan, who recently played for Team USA at the World Junior Championship, deflected Zach Lehrke’s wrister from the right point past Kamal for the equalizer.
By that point, the Mavericks were dictating the pace of the game. During a stretch of 38 minutes from early in the first period through to the second intermission, the Mavericks outshot the Seawolves 23-5. And at that point, Stepan, who finished with a game-high six shots on goal, already had fired five shots.
Even so, the Seawolves did not surrender an abundance of glorious scoring chances.
“We stuck with it,’’ Thomas said. “We stayed pretty committed to playing a hard defensive game.’’
UAA improved 8-2-1 overall at home and 6-2-1 in WCHA games on home ice.
Tatchell has scored at least one point in nine of the last 10 games, with 5-6—11 totals in that span.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
First Period — 1, UAA, Duwe 1 (Cameron), :51; 2, MSM, Stepan 6 (Lehrke), 16:39 (pp). Penalties — Bailey, UAA (tripping), 2:09; Coldwell, UAA (interference), 15:00; Gaede, MSM (tripping), 17:40.
Second Period — None. Penalties — Pettitt, UAA (slashing), 6:37.
Third Period — 3, UAA, Kwas 6 (Tatchell), 11:13. Penalties — Margonari, MSM (interference), 6:15.
Shots on goal — MSM 13-11-4—28. UAA 5-2-3—10.
Power-play Opportunities — MSM 1 of 3. UAA 0 of 2.
Goalies — MSM, Huggins, 8-5-0 (10 shots-8 saves). UAA, Kamal, 3-2-0 (28 shots-17 saves).
A — 2,182 (6,251). T — 2:21.
Referees — Peter Friesema, Butch Mousseaux. Assistant referees — Travis Jackson, Will Moran.