The Seawolves finally cleared their biggest hurdle of the season Saturday -- winning a Western Collegiate Hockey Association game -- but they hit the road this weekend still challenged by ample obstacles.
UAA arrives at Minnesota State-Mankato for a two-game series still seeking its first league road win of the season (0-2-2) and also -- depending on your point of view -- trying to establish momentum, or keep it.
Coming off a 3-1 home-ice win over St. Cloud State to snap a seven-game winless funk (0-4-3) -- that on the heels of a 5-4 overtime loss to the Huskies the previous night -- the Seawolves on Friday aim for back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Such a result would also help them begin digging their way out of the basement in the 12-team WCHA.
A strong weekend -- two points or more from the four points available -- would lend the Seawolves some momentum as the holiday break approaches. They have one more series, a WCHA set at home against Minnesota-Duluth, before taking time off.
Last Saturday's victory was delivered by a combination of elements the Seawolves will likely require for success: capable goaltending, diverse scoring and some measure of special-teams superiority. Junior Chris Kamal made 32 saves, the Seawolves three goals came from the combination of three different forward lines and a defenseman (Scott Warner), and they killed St. Cloud's three third-period power plays.
Getting scoring from throughout the lineup, defensemen included, remains critical for the Seawolves, especially considering they have only enjoyed one consistently threatening forward line of late -- freshman Blake Tatchell centering junior left wing Scott Allen and senior right wing Alex Gellert -- and their goal scoring thins out considerably after the top two lines.
The Mavericks enter riding a four-game winning streak -- sweeps at Wisconsin and at home against Bemidji State -- backstopped by freshman goaltender Stephon Williams of Fairbanks.
Williams, the former state player of the year for Lathrop, has been named the WCHA Rookie of the Week each of the last two weeks. In his four-game winning streak, which included his first college shutout, Williams has crafted a 1.25 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He also has allowed just three even-strength goals in that run.
Minnesota State-Mankato also includes senior forward Eli Zuck of Anchorage, who owns 2-3--5 and plus-5 totals in 12 games and is 1-2--3 and plus-3 in the last four games. The Mavericks are 5-0-0 when Zuck gets on the score sheet.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
3-5-4, 1-4-3 WCHA
7-5-2, 5-5-0 WCHA
Friday. 4:37 p.m. AST; Saturday, 4:07 p.m. AST
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TV: Live, GCI Channel 1
By DOYLE WOODY