There was a long, long, third-period sequence in UAA’s labor-intensive and well-earned 2-2 tie with No. 2-ranked Minnesota on Saturday night when the Seawolves were hemmed in their own zone and looked like they might crack.
But UAA junior goaltender Rob Gunderson delivered five saves during that stretch, when the Gophers continually tic-tac-toed the puck around the zone at Sullivan Arena, and captain Chris Crowell and Andrew Pettitt came up with critical shot blocks. At long last, Gunderson was able to smother the puck for a whistle.
In one sense, that back-on-their-heels sequence for the Seawolves was perilous. But it also displayed resolve.
“You’re just thinking, ‘Do or die,’ ” Gunderson said. “It does seem like an eternity — ‘Is (the puck) ever going to get out?’ — but the boys were sacrificing.’’
Coming off Friday night’s disappointing 4-0 Western Collegiate Hockey Association loss to the Gophers, the Seawolves on Saturday responded with passion and drive, bringing an edge to their game. They played much like they did on Oct. 27, when they racked a 3-3 tie at then No. 4-ranked North Dakota before having a bye week prior to entertaining Minnesota.
“That bye week took something out of us,’’ Gunderson said. “Tonight, it was like we were back in UND. It was like everyone was champing at the bit, to block a shot, put a puck on net. The boys were battling.’’
No statistic made that more evident than UAA’s 23 blocked shots — Crowell and defenseman Chris Williams each blocked five shots, and defenseman Scott Warner was credited with blocking four shots.
“They were quicker on the puck tonight, and their goaltender played well,’’ said Minnesota coach Don Lucia. “When you win on Friday, you want the four points, but coming out of here with three points is never bad.’’
After getting blistered for four power-play goals Friday, the Seawolves (2-3-3, 0-2-2 WCHA) only surrendered one Saturday. They killed off a two-man Minnesota advantage that lasted a full two minutes in the second period and also killed off a two-man Gopher advantage that bridged the end of the second period and start of the third period for 47 seconds.
Gunderson, meanwhile, has quietly gone unbeaten (1-0-3) in his four starts. He stopped 31 shots to raise his season save percentage to .902.
“They were all over him, after the whistle, during play, but he was tough,’’ said UAA senior Alex Gellert. “He’s relaxed and confident.’’
The game could have turned to either team’s advantage in the second period.
Minnesota (6-2-1, 3-2-1 WCHA) enjoyed that two-man advantage for two minutes when UAA’s Daniel Naslund was penalized for holding at the same time the Seawolves were docked a bench minor for too many men.
But Crowell responded with a big neutral-zone face-off win and a blocked shot and then combined with Williams to clear the zone.
The Seawolves earned the next big chance when Jake Parenteau received a major penalty for checking from behind on UAA center Matt Bailey. Halfway through that extended power play, though, Bailey was busted for a checking from behind major for the second straight night.
Gellert delivered a 2-1 lead five minutes into the third period, when he beat Adam Wilcox (21 saves) with a wrister from the left circle that glanced off traffic. Gellert’s goal was his fourth this season, tying him with Scott Allen for the team lead.
UAA soon escaped that long sequence of Minnesota pressure, but shortly after that Gophers center Erik Haula struck for the equalizer. Taking a splendid pass up the middle of the ice from defenseman Mark Alt, Haula split the UAA defense, broke in alone on Gunderson and, moving the puck from his backhand to forehand, whistled a shot between Gunderson’s pads.
The teams traded first-period, power-play strikes. Minnesota’s Seth Ambroz scored just two minutes into the game, but Jordan Kwas countered 10 minutes later off a Blake Tatchell pass.
The Seawolves have another bye week now, and they’ll likely spend time trying to figure out how to be better in the first game of any weekend. They are 1-3-0 on Fridays and 1-0-3 on Saturdays.
“Friday, we tend to come out a little slow,’’ Kwas said. “Saturday, we kind of recognize the tempo and pace of the game.’’
And prior to Saturday’s tie, Kwas said, he sensed his team was ready to play hard.
“Even the feeling in the room was that guys seemed more comfortable,’’ he said.
The power-play goal by Kwas was just UAA’s second this season in 26 chances. Saturday’s five power-play opportunities were the most the Seawolves have enjoyed in a game this season.
Gellert, who owns 4-2—6 totals, took over the team lead in points. Tatchell (2-3—5) moved into a second-place tie with Allen (4-1—5) and Bailey (1-4—5).
UAA is winless in its last four games (0-2-2), which have come against North Dakota and Minnesota while those teams were ranked No. 4 and No. 2, respectively, in the country.
The Seawolves next play Nov. 23-24 at Bemidji State and are next at home Nov. 30-Dec. 1 against St. Cloud State.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Minnesota 1 0 1 0 — 2
UAA 1 0 1 0 — 2
First Period — 1, UM, Ambroz 3 (Boyd, M. Reilly), 2:11 (pp); 2, UAA, Kwas 3 (Tatchell, Leask), 12:21 (pp). Penalties — Roy, UAA (cross-checking), :14; Helgeson, UM (cross-checking), 4:38; Parenteau, UM (interference), 7:13; Skjei, UM (checking from behind), 12:11.
Second Period — None. Penalties — Naslund, UAA (holding), 5:26; UAA bench minor, served by Pettitt (too many men), 5:26; Parenteau, UM, major-game misconduct, served by Isackson (checking from behind), 13:11; Bailey, UAA, major-game misconduct, served by Pettitt (checking from behind), 15:39; Williams, UAA (slashing), 19:51.
Third Period — 3, UAA, Gellert 4 (Docken), 5:38; 4, UM, Haula 5 (Alt, Schmidt), 13:31. Penalties — Schmidt, UM (tripping), 3:34.
Overtime — None. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — Minnesota 7-8-13-5—33. UAA 7-10-6-0—23.
Power-play Opportunities — Minnesota 1 of 4. UAA 1 of 5.
Goalies — Minnesota, Wilcox, 5-1-1 (23 shots-21 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 1-0-3 (33 shots-31 saves).
A — 2,911 (6,251). T — 2:33.
Referees — Matt Ulwelling, Brian Thul. Assistant referees — Carl Saden, Travis Jackson.
By DOYLE WOODY