A staple from hockey's book of stock explanations: When a glorious scoring chance goes unexploited, the player must absolutely, positively "bear down'' the next time he is afforded ample opportunity.
Time for the Seawolves to unleash their inner grizzly.
UAA's 4-2 loss to No. 15-ranked Denver on Friday night, which marked its sixth straight setback, had nothing to do with lack of scoring chances, but plenty to do with lack of scoring.
That, and some defensive lapses the Pioneers seized upon at Sullivan Arena to earn their fourth straight victory and take the opener of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series.
Denver (14-8-3, 9-5-3 WCHA) moved into a tie for fourth place in the 12-team league entering tonight's series finale. UAA (6-15-2, 3-15-1 WCHA) remained in last place.
The Seawolves outshot the Pioneers, 32-26, and that was the most shots they have unlimbered in their last 13 games. But the combination of stinginess on the part of Denver junior goaltender Adam Murray of Anchorage, who snuffed 30 shots, and wasted chances on the part of the Seawolves left them with their second six-game, WCHA losing streak this season.
"The last three or four games, all the chances have been equal on Grade A chances,'' said UAA coach Dave Shyiak. "We're not scoring, and when we have a breakdown, it seems it's an easy goal for (opponents) and the goaltender doesn't have a chance.''
Case in point: The Denver goal that furnished it a 2-0 lead in the second period.
The Pioneers were on the power play when a scramble ensued in the crease of UAA goalie Rob Gunderson (22 saves). As UAA's four penalty killers fished for the puck against two Pioneers, Denver's Jason Zucker retrieved it and made a quick back-pass to the left post, where Nick Shore was left with a tap-in.
UAA, meanwhile, squandered chances aplenty. Curtis Leinweber and Daniel Naslund each had Murray at their mercy from point-blank range, but neither could elevate the puck above his pads. Sam Mellor enjoyed an excellent chance from the right wing on a 3-on-2 rush, but Murray gloved that bid. Quinn Sproule had many square feet of net in front of him for his one-timer from the slot, but fired wide right.
So many chances.
"You can't even count how many,'' Leinweber lamented. "The guy made some big saves, but at the same time we've got to score there. I thought if I got the puck a foot and a half up or higher, it's in. But I just couldn't get the puck in.''
The only time the Seawolves cracked Murray in the first two periods came on Matt Bailey's backhander late in the first period to cut the Pioneers' lead to 2-1.
Murray, whose club never trailed, got off to painful start. Just 58 seconds into the game, a collision at his net resulted in the cage getting tipped forward and striking him in the back of the head, where a goaltender's helmet has practically nothing in the way of padding or protection.
"Just my skull,'' Murray mused.
Undamaged and undaunted, he produced a strong performance as the Seawolves battled to get back in the game.
"After the first period, they really brought on the heat,'' Murray said.
But Denver leading scorer Drew Shore scored on a backhander in tight on Gunderson 89 seconds into the second period and Luke Salazar converted later in the period when he was left all alone in the low slot. That furnished Denver a 4-1 cushion.
UAA closed the gap to 4-2 on Eric Scheid's turnaround shot from the left circle with just under four minutes to go in the game. Less than a minute later, though, UAA took its second penalty of the game for too many men on the ice.
Bailey's line -- he centered wingers Naslund and Mitch Bruijsten - played exceptionally well, time and again sustaining possession deep in the Denver zone.
"I thought they were the best line on the ice,'' Shyiak said. "They dominated for 60 minutes. It was good to see them rewarded. Now, we need other lines to step up.''
Leinweber said the Seawolves grind their way out of their funk with another hockey staple -- work, work, work.
"We've got to definitely stay positive in the room and in ourselves, and believe we can turn things around,'' Leinweber said.
Shyiak said the Seawolves need to clean up their play in their own zone.
"We had great urgency and desperation in the offensive zone,'' Shyiak said. "We have to have that same urgency and desperation in the D zone.''
Bruijsten's assist on Bailey's goal was his 12th point of the season, tying Leinweber for the team lead.
Denver's power-play goal snapped UAA's streak of 17 consecutive penalty kills over four-plus games. That also marked the seventh straight game the Pioneers have scored at least one power-play goal.
Denver's Loney extended his point streak to six games -- the freshman wing owns 5-5--10 totals in that stretch. Pioneers freshman defenseman Joey LaLeggia had two assists to give him 3-10--13 totals in his seven-game point streak. Salazar added two assists for a three-point night.
Drew Shore's two-point game marked his ninth multiple-point game this season and the 25th of the junior's career.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockey or call him at 257-4335.
DU 2 2 0 -- 4
UAA 1 0 1 -- 2
First Period -- 1, DU, Loney 6 (Salazar, Ryder), 8:13; 2, DU, N. Shore 6 (Zucker, Mayfield), 16:16; 3, UAA, Bailey 4 (Naslund, Bruijsten), 17:52. Penalties -- UAA bench minor, served by Pettitt (too many men), 13:02; Bruijsten, UAA (kneeing), 15:09; Gellert, UAA (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:35; Didier, DU (slashing), 18:35; Ryder, DU (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:35.
Second Period -- 4, DU, D. Shore 16 (LaLeggia, Salazar), 1:29; 5, DU, Salazar 6 (D. Shore, LaLeggia), 12:52. Penalties - Ryder, DU (tripping), 5:32; Bailey, UAA (interference), 19:17.
Third Period -- 6, UAA, Scheid 3 (Roy, Warner), 16:13. Penalties - Gorham, UAA (roughing), 7:43; Dewhurst, DU (roughing), 7:43; LaLeggia, DU (hooking), 14:09; UAA bench minor, served by Mellor (too many men), 17:10.
Shots on goal -- DU 11-9-6--26. UAA 13-9-10--32.
Power-play Opportunities -- DU 1 of 4. UAA 0 of 3.
Goalies -- DU, Murray, 8-2-1 (32 shots-30 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 3-6-2 (26 shots-22 saves).
A -- 2,960 (6,251). T -- 2:20.
Referees -- Brian Thul, Matt Ulwelling. Assistant referees -- Carl Saden, Brent Johnson.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News