These next two weeks will presumably drag especially slowly for the Seawolves, who have a forlorn fortnight ahead before they get a shot at redemption.
UAA's schizophrenic 3-1 loss to No. 8-ranked Minnesota on Saturday night -- the Seawolves were dominated in the first period before owning the game in the second and third periods -- stretched its winless start in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association to four games.
That marks UAA's worst four-game WCHA start in coach Dave Shyiak's seven seasons, and the Seawolves are idle this week, so they do not get an immediate chance to regain the groove of their 3-0-1 nonconference start. They do not play again until Nov. 11-12, when they hit the road for a league series against defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth.
Coupled with Friday's 5-0 loss to the Gophers and two road losses a week ago to Nebraska-Omaha, the Seawolves (3-4-1, 0-4-0 WCHA) sit last in the 12-team league. Minnesota State-Mankato is also without a point in the league, but the Mavericks have only played two WCHA games.
Minnesota (7-1-0, 4-0-0 WCHA), meanwhile, sits atop the league after a start much more promising than the previous two seasons, when the Gophers in the first four league games opened 1-3-0 and 0-3-1. Plus, Minnesota's league wins have all come on the road.
Scoring continues to be a struggle for the Seawolves in league play, where they have managed just three goals in those four losses.
For inspiration down the road, the Seawolves at least can point to their play in the second and third periods Saturday, when they outshot the Gophers 23-11 and consistently carried the play. Of course, the Seawolves were on the wrong end of the tilted ice at Sullivan Arena in the first period, when the Gophers overwhelmed them with a 20-4 shot advantage.
Trailing 2-0 midway through the game, the Seawolves cut the lead to 2-1 on freshman winger Sam Mellor's power-play back-hander. That strike seemed to spark the Seawolves. After consistently being beaten to loose pucks and appearing a step behind the play in the opening 20 minutes, the Seawolves after Mellor's goal gained the jump on the Gophers.
"We just had to, really,'' Mellor said. "We got our feet moving, fore-checked hard and started winning puck battles.''
From Rob Gunderson's vantage point in the Seawolves' net, his crew began to look like the team that started the season so well.
"Sam's goal flipped a switch,'' Gunderson said. "I thought, 'This is the team I know.' ''
But Minnesota senior goalie Kent Patterson buoyed his boys, making nine third-period saves, the best of which came when he barely got his right arm on Mickey Spencer's 2-on-1 wrister from the right circle.
"That's what you need a senior goalie for,'' said Minnesota coach Don Lucia.
Patterson, who stopped 22 shots in Friday's shutout and backed that up with 26 saves Saturday, said he expected a third-period surge from the Seawolves.
"I figured it was going to be like that because, historically, UAA is always a gritty team,'' Patterson said.
Minnesota earned a 1-0 lead through one period, just like it did Friday. This time, the Gophers used Zach Budish's strike midway through the period, off Nick Bjugstad's feed from behind the net, to get off to a strong start. That's the kind of start UAA wanted to generate.
"We've got to find that in our game, to jump teams when they come up here,'' Spencer said.
Minnesota gained a 2-0 cushion four minutes into the second period on a brilliant, short-handed individual effort from Nate Condon. After Patterson made a stick save on defenseman Scott Warner's power-play shot from the left point, the puck ricocheted hard directly out to the high slot. Condon picked it up on the go, raced up the middle of the rink, and split Warner and defenseman Derek Docken to break in alone on Gunderson, who he beat with a wrist shot to the stick side.
Mellor finally got UAA on the board, and his power-play goal snapped a streak of 15 consecutive power-play failures for the Seawolves.
But UAA could not gain the equalizer, despite ample opportunity.
The Seawolves enjoyed a power play in the last minute, and Gunderson went off for an extra attacker that gave them a 6-on-4 advantage, when Gophers freshman Kyle Rau blocked Warner's shot and scored into an empty net with 46.2 seconds left.
And now the Seawolves must wait two weeks before getting another shot at their first conference win.
"We'll reflect on this, then wash off this week and last week, and kind of have a clean slate,'' Gunderson said.
Freshman winger Andrew Pettitt made his UAA debut Saturday, one night after freshman center Eric Scheid made his debut. Scheid also played Saturday. Pettitt went into the lineup for junior winger Mitch Bruijsten, who was a healthy scratch for the first time this season.
Freshman forward Kory Roy of Anchorage, who has been recovering from a sprained ankle in training camp, is the only rookie yet to play this season.
The Seawolves killed all three Gophers power plays to mark the first time this season Minnesota's nation-leading power play has been held scoreless.
UAA on Saturday also became the first team this season to hold the nation's leading scorer, Minnesota sophomore Erik Haula, without a point.
Despite taking the loss, Gunderson improved his goals-against average to 2.22 and raised his save percentage to .913.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Minnesota 1 1 1 -- 3
UAA 0 1 0 -- 1
First Period -- 1, UM, Budish 3 (Bjugstad, Rau), 10:54. Penalties -- Pettitt, UAA (interference), 11:35; Spencer, UAA (cross-checking), 19:22; Alt, UM (high-sticking), 19:22; McLeod, UAA (boarding), 19:45.
Second Period -- 2, UM, Condon 4, 4:03 (sh); 3, UAA, Mellor 2 (Warner, Gellert), 11:40 (pp). Penalties -- Marshall, UM (interference), 3:02; UM bench minor, served by Budish (too many men), 5:18; Haula, UM (hooking), 11:28.
Third Period -- 4, UM, Rau 7, 19:13 (sh-en). Penalties -- Currier, UAA (holding), 16:00; Hansen, UM (slashing), 17:17.
Shots on goal -- UM 20-6-5--31. UAA 4-14-9--27.
Power-play Opportunities -- UM 0 of 3; UAA 1 of 4.
Goalies -- UM, Patterson, 7-1-0 (27 shots-26 saves); UAA, Gunderson, 1-2-1 (30-28).
A -- 3,343 (6,251). T -- 2:08.
Referees -- Craig Welker, Johnathan Morrison. Assistant referees -- Carl Saden, Travis Jackson.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News