One moment, the Seawolves had the Gophers reeling in their own rink.
Soon, though, it was the Seawolves who teetered on the brink Saturday night.
And then: So long, Seawolves.
Western Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season champion Minnesota ripped off six unanswered goals, including four in a third-period span of less than five minutes, to hammer UAA 7-3 at Mariucci Arena in Minneapolis.
That gave the Gophers a sweep of the first-round league playoff series -- they won the opener, 2-1, on Friday -- and avenged their two-game sweep at the hands of the Seawolves in the same building a year ago.
UAA finished the season 9-25-3 and lost its final five games. That was big-time back-tracking for a program that last season advanced to the WCHA Final Five for the second time in school history.
And to think UAA led 3-1 midway through Saturday's game after stringing together three straight power-play strikes in the second period - Matt Bailey delivered two of them and Scott Allen the other.
But the Gophers raced back on the strength of goals from Zach Budish and Nick Bjugstad to forge a 3-3 tie through two periods.
Minnesota (25-12-1) steamrolled UAA in the third period.
Erik Haula, who scored both Gophers goals Friday, scored goals 18 seconds apart about five minutes in -- he struck on a breakaway and then on a rebound -- and Seth Helgeson and Sam Warning soon added goals.
Haula in four games against UAA this season generated 6-3--9 totals.
Most of the goals Minnesota scored came from strikingly poor UAA defensive play.
The first goal Minnesota goal, a deflection by Jake Hansen, was generated when defenseman Ben Marshall fired a shot from the left point -- there was not a Seawolves skater anywhere near him. The next two goals were tap-ins. The fourth came on a breakaway and the fifth on a net-front rebound.
As is often the case, goaltender Chris Kamal, so strong Friday though just decent Saturday, received little help on a night UAA was outshot 38-19. UAA was held to fewer than 20 shots in five of its last six games. Minnesota outshot UAA 72-36 in the series.
One thing UAA did very well Saturday was run its power play, which converted on three of four chances. UAA went 5 of 18 with the man advantage in four games, all losses, against Minnesota this season.
But the Seawolves were outscored 17-5 in those games and failed to score a single even-strength goal against Gophers goaltender Kent Patterson.
UAA opened the season by winning its own Kendall Hockey Classic and then winning UAF's Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament the following weekend, starting the season 3-0-1.
But the Seawolves then lost their first six WCHA games and in the second half of the season endured an eight-game conference losing streak. UAA finished last in the 12-team league.
The Seawolves also lost three players, two of whom were tied for the team scoring lead when they departed. Winger Mickey Spencer was the co-leading scorer when he left the team at the holiday break. Winger Mitch Bruijsten, who was UAA's co-leading scorer heading into the playoffs, was kicked off the team for failing to fulfill academic obligations. And defenseman Wes McLeod left the team shortly before the break.
Bailey's two goals gave him a team-leading 10. The sophomore center also scored 10 goals as a freshman.
Bailey (10-7--17 in 34 games) and senior winger Curtis Leinweber (9-8--17 in 33 games) tied for the team lead in points. That marks the fewest points by a Seawolves leading scorer since defenseman Mark Smith's 15 points in 35 games in 2005-06, coach Dave Shyiak's first season, when UAA went 6-27-3.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
UAA 0 3 0 -- 3
UM 1 2 4 -- 7
First Period -- 1, UM, Hansen 12 (Marshall, Alt), 4:03. Penalties -- Leinweber, UAA (hooking), 7:55; Gorham, UAA (hooking), 10:48; Gorham, UAA (holding), 13:40; Haula, UM (cross-checking), 18:55.
Second Period -- 2, UAA, Bailey 9 (Allen, Docken), :35 (pp); 3, UAA, Bailey 10 (Kwas, Coldwell), 7:57 (pp); 4, UAA, Allen 3 (Coldwell, Docken), 8:20 (pp); 5, UM, Budish 11 (Rau, Bjugstad), 11:16; 6, UM, Bjugstad 16 (Haula, Schmidt), 19:14 (pp). Penalties -- Naslund, UAA (tripping), :40; Helgeson, UM (elbowing), 7:11; Ambroz, UM (roughing), 7:11; Crowell, UAA (roughing), 12:10; Bailey, UAA (hooking), 16:17; Gorham, UAA (interference), 18:28.
Third Period -- 7, UM, Haula 18 (Rau, Budish), 5:05; 8, UM, Haula 19 (Warning, Alt), 5:23; 9, UM, Helgeson 4 (Condon, Matson), 6:36; 10, UM, Warning 6 (Haula, Marshall), 9:39. Penalties -- Holl, UM (cross-checking), 10:08; Currier, UAA (interference), 10:08; Alt, UM (high-sticking), 11:22.
Shots on goal -- UAA 6-7-6--19. UM 8-13-17--38.
Power-play Opportunities -- UAA 3 of 4. UM 1 of 7.
Goalies -- UAA, Kamal, 4-13-0 (38 shots-31 saves). UM, Patterson, 26-12-1 (19 shots-16 saves), Kremer, enter 19:16 3rd (0-0).
A -- 9,018 (10,000). T -- 2:25.
Referees -- Butch Mousseaux, Peter Friesema. Assistant referees -- Rick Nelson, Sterling Egan.Blog: Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY
Anchorage Daily News