The Seawolves took what could have been a turning point in their season — a three-goal lead built in a hockey heartbeat, a wave of momentum and the prospect of snapping a six-game winless streak — and promptly flushed it Friday night.
On home ice, no less.
Now, UAA is burdened by a seven-game slide, courtesy of an excruciating 4-3 overtime loss to nationally-ranked St. Cloud State that kept it winless in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The agonizing end for the Seawolves — and, granted, the exhilarating end for the Huskies — came 2 minutes, 9 seconds into extra time, when St. Cloud State rookie winger Jimmy Murray slid a seemingly harmless backhander toward the UAA crease from the left circle. Seawolves junior goaltender Rob Gunderson edged to his left in anticipation of stopping the puck, but said it hit a skate and changed direction.
Slowly, the puck slipped between his pads, touching off a Huskies celebration and leaving the Seawolves to forlornly exit the rink as owners of a 0-4-3 mark in their last seven games.
All that came after the Seawolves built a 3-0 lead in the electrifying first 10 minutes on goals from Jordan Kwas, Tyler Currier and Hayden Trupp, who racked his first college goal.
“Heart-breaker,’’ Gunderson said. “We just wasted it. We were up 3-0, thinking the game was over in the first period.’’
For Murray’s part, his second goal of the night was a happy mystery to him.
“I have no clue what happened,’’ he said. “I got knocked down, and I looked and it was sliding through his five-hole.’’
UAA, which remains last in the 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association, fell to 2-5-4 overall and 0-4-3 in league. St. Cloud, ranked No. 14 in one poll and No. 15 in another, improved to 8-5-0 overall and 6-3-0 in the WCHA, where it holds down second place.
The Seawolves owned a 3-1 lead after two periods — Jonny Brodzinski scored a second-period goal for St. Cloud — so they were in good shape late.
But things quickly turned sour for the Seawolves.
Murray scored off Cory Thorson’s face-off win just 44 seconds into the third period to cut UAA’s lead to 3-2. The Seawolves then faced three Huskies power plays, including a two-man advantage of 33 seconds that they survived.
Yet, with less than three minutes to go and St. Cloud still on the man advantage, rookie winger David Morley drove to the net and had his shot blocked. The rebound came right back to the blade of his stick, though, and he banged a shot between the pads of Gunderson (20 saves) to forge a 3-3 tie.
After outshooting St. Cloud 11-6 in the first period, the Seawolves managed just seven shots on Ryan Faragher (15 saves) the rest of the game. The Huskies unloaded 18 shots in that span.
It seemed a case of the Huskies gradually seizing the momentum and the Seawolves slowly falling back on their heels.
“Maybe a combination of both,’’ Trupp said.
Friday’s loss, in front of a tiny announced crowd of 2,259, came after UAA bolted back from a 4-1 second-period deficit at Bemidji State last Saturday and evened the game late before surrendering a goal inside the last three minutes and losing 5-4.
“Eventually you’ve got to get through it,’’ Gunderson said of UAA’s slide. “It’s the game of hockey — you have to keep pushing. You have to be a man about it.
“Eventually, you’ll get the puck luck.’’
The upside for UAA is it gets another shot at St. Cloud State on Saturday night.
“You’ve just got to stay positive,’’ Trupp said. “What it comes down to is, late, you have to dig down deeper and find a way to get over the hump that we haven’t been able to get over yet.’’
Junior center Daniel Naslund, whose precise pass from the right corner prefaced Trupp’s first college goal, made a point of getting the puck from referee Don Adam.
That assist snapped Naslund’s six-game point drought.
Currier’s goal was his second this season, matching the senior’s career high.
Freshman center Blake Tatchell’s assist on Kwas’ power-play goal was his ninth point, moving him into a tie for the team lead with sophomore wing Scott Allen.
After going just 2 for 31 on the power play in its first nine games, UAA has gone 3 for 9 in the last two games.
Seven of Kwas’ 12 career goals have come on the power play.
UAA’s loss marked its first in four games this season when it led after two periods. The Seawolves are 2-1-1 in such games. St. Cloud’s win was its first in four games this season when trailing after two periods. The Huskies are 1-3-0 in those games.
St. Cloud senior center Drew LeBlanc furnished two assists to give him 114 career points in 142 games.
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SCS 0 1 2 1 — 4
UAA 3 0 0 0 — 3
First Period — 1, UAA, Kwas 4 (Sproule, Tatchell), 3:24 (pp); 2, UAA, Currier 2 (Crowell, Leask), 9:34; 3, UAA, Trupp 1 (Naslund), 10:13. Penalties — Thorson, SCS (tripping), 2:31; Murray, SCS (tripping), 12:17; Allen, UAA (tripping), 18:25; Jensen, SCS (tripping), 19:35.
Second Period — 4, SCS, Brodzinski 3 (Kossila, LeBlanc), 7:38. Penalties — Kwas, UAA (boarding), 18:31.
Third Period — 5, SCS, Murray 2 (Thorson), :44; 6, SCS, Morley 1 (LeBlanc), 17:24 (pp). Penalties — Gellert, UAA (holding), 4:53; Brodzinski, SCS (goaltender interference), 7:00; Roy, UAA (interference), 15:05.
Overtime — 7, SCS, Murray 3 (Holka, Thorson), 2:09. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — SCS 6-7-9-2—24. UAA 11-4-3-0—18.
Power-play Opportunities — SCS 1 of 5. UAA 1 of 5.
Goalies — SCS, Faragher, 7-5-0 (18 shots-15 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 1-2-4 (24 shots-20 saves).
A — 2,259 (6,251). T — 2:14.
Referees — Don Adam, Tim Walsh. Assistant referees — Carl Saden, Brent Johnson.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY