UAA scored five goals for just the third time in 30 hockey games this season.
The Seawolves, who had never scored more than two power-play goals in a game this season and had cashed in 12 times with the man advantage all season, racked four power-play strikes.
They had received seven goals from defensemen all season, but received three Saturday at Sullivan Arena, including the first two of freshman Blake Leask’s career.
Yet all that prosperity went unrewarded.
Instead, UAA suffered a defeat as piercing as any this season, falling 6-5 to No. 16-ranked Nebraska-Omaha when Mavericks center Johnny Searfoss scored with 31.2 seconds remaining in overtime.
In a season filled with losses, many of them difficult, none was more excruciating than this one, given UAA twice owned two-goal leads and never trailed until Searfoss delivered his dagger.
“We’re fried,’’ said UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson. “Everyone’s — I don’t know how to put it — tired. Mentally, not physically. I’m not sure how we get out of this hole.’’
On the night UAA cemented last place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association for the second straight season and fifth time in coach Dave Shyiak’s eight seasons as bench boss, the Seawolves (4-19-7, 2-18-6 WCHA) twice failed to protect third-period leads.
Nebraska-Omaha (18-12-2, 14-8-2 WCHA) moved into second place in the league with its weekend sweep — the Mavericks won 3-0 Friday — and kept alive a glimmer of a chance to win the league.
“We desperately needed these points,’’ Searfoss said.
Searfoss’ goal 69 seconds into the third period forged a 4-4 tie. Even so, UAA’s Matt Bailey racked his team’s fourth power-play goal of the night five minutes later to restore UAA’s lead at 5-4. That marked the Seawolves third lead of the night, and their last.
When UAA winger Scott Allen took a tripping penalty with 4:24 left in regulation and the Seawolves still leading 5-4, Mavericks coach Dean Blais made a bold move. Prior to the ensuing face-off in UAA’s zone, he pulled goalie John Faulkner for an extra attacker.
The Seawolves twice enjoyed opportunities to clear the puck from their zone, but failed, and suffered for that shortcoming. Josh Archibald tapped in Matt White’s pass at the left post — the puck actually fluttered nearly shoulder-high behind Gunderson’s back on its way to Archibald — to forge a 5-5 tie and herald overtime.
In the five-minute overtime, the ninth UAA has played this season, Searfoss was stationed near the left post when White, who had four assists, put a pass through the crease that was tipped to Searfoss.
“It just came right to my tape,’’ Searfoss said.
While the Seawolves also received goals from leading point scorer Blake Tatchell and defenseman Derek Docken, their team defense was not exactly in lock-down mode. All six of Nebraska-Omaha’s goals came within spitting distance of Gunderson’s net.
Thus, on a night when the Seawolves chased Mavericks starter Dayn Belfour early in the second period, after Docken’s goal furnished a 3-1 lead, the Seawolves ate another crushing defeat.
“There’s not much to say,’’ Gunderson said. “Obviously, our offense and perseverance were good. We never gave up. But we had mental lapses, and when we had them, the bounces always seemed to end up on their sticks.’’
As agonized as the Seawolves were, the Mavericks were equally jubilant.
“It was really a nail-biter, an emotional roller-coaster,’’ Searfoss said. “You go from being down to tying it, from being down to tying it, so you’ve got to control your emotions.’’
UAA is 0-7-2 in overtime this season.
After mustering a season-low 10 shots on goal Friday, the Seawolves had that many by early in the second period Saturday.
Tatchell’s first-period goal snapped UAA’s scoreless stretch at 102:13.
Tatchell leads UAA in scoring with 8-15—23 totals in 30 games. Jordan Kwas, who had an assist, is second with 9-11—20 totals in 29 games. Bailey ranks third with 7-11—18 totals in 30 games.
UAA is idle this week. It next plays March 1-2 when it faces rival UAF in the annual Governor’s Cup series. The Seawolves then close the regular season with a WCHA series at Denver on March 8 and 10.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
UNO 0 3 2 1 — 6
UAA 1 3 1 0 — 5
First Period — 1, UAA, Tatchell 8 (Sproule, Naslund), 11:09. Penalties — Lane, UNO (goaltender interference), 10:10; Murphy, UAA (slashing), 15:57; cooper, UNO (slashing), 18:35.
Second Period — 2, UAA, Leask 1, :33 (pp); 3, UNO, Polk 3 (Simonson, Aneloski), 2:45; 4, UAA, Docken 3 (Kwas, Sproule), 5:37 (pp);5, UNO, Gwidt 7 (White, Sustr), 12:54; 6, UNO, Walters 17 (Archibald, Seeler), 13:56; 7, UAA, Leask 2 (Tatchell), 16:20 (pp). Penalties — Searfoss, UNO (cross-checking), 4:08; UAA bench minor, served by Tatchell (too many men), 9:16; Cooper, UNO (holding), 15:37.
Third Period — 8, UNO, Searforss 9 (Gwidt, White), 1:09; 9, UAA, Bailey 7 (Gellert), 6:11 (pp); 10, UNO, Archibald 17 (White, Walters), 16:33 (pp-ea). Penalties — Sevalrud, UAA (holding), 2:08; Walters, UNO (high-sticking), 4:51; Seeler, UNO (high-sticking), 7:23; Gellert, UAA (tripping), 10:08; Allen, UAA (tripping), 15:36.
Overtime — 11, UNO, Searfoss 10 (White, Gwidt), 4:28. Penalties — None.
Shots on goal — UNO 8-12-14-3—X37. UAA 7-11-9-0—27.
Power-play Opportunities — UNO 1 of 6. UAA 4 of 6.
Goalies — UNO, Belfour (11 shots-8 saves); Faulker, enter 5:37 2nd period, 15-6-2 (16-14). UAA, Gunderson, 2-9-4 (37 shots-31 saves).
A — 2,660 (6,251). T — 2:.
Referees — Don Adam, Tim Walsh. Assistant referees — Travis Jackson, Brent Johnson.
By DOYLE WOODY