The annual battle for college hockey in Alaska drops again this weekend with UAA-UAF

Doyle Woody

No current UAA player has ever lifted the Governor's Cup -- UAF has hoisted the hockey hardware the last three seasons -- and for five Seawolves seniors, this weekend's two-game clash delivers their last chance to, well, deliver in the intrastate rivalry.

The Seawolves and Nanooks split the two-game series in each of the past two seasons -- both teams won on home ice in both seasons -- but the Nanooks won shootouts to keep possession of the hardware.

Shootouts are a slim measure of superiority. Still, the Nanooks have prospered in a post-overtime skills contest that is used to break ties in their conference, the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, but is not employed in UAA's conference, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

Though the teams play just twice a season -- near season's end, no less -- and compete in different conferences until both play in the retooled WCHA next season, the rivalry remains heated.

"They come to our tournament and we go to their tournament, but we don't play each other,'' said UAA senior center Tyler Currier of Anchorage. "We see each other play, and we respect them, but we really want to beat them. It's almost like the whole season is building up to this. There's no love lost.''

And for Seawolves seniors Curry and Scott Warner, captain Chris Crowell, and Alex Gellert and Daniel Naslund, this weekend's series is their last chance to win the Cup.

"I can't tell you what I'd do to hoist that Governor's Cup,'' Currier said.

Meanwhile, no current Nanook has ever had to watch the Seawolves lift the Cup.

The Nanooks enter 14-14-2 and assured of playing host in a first-round CCHA playoff series. The Seawolves enter just 4-19-7 and have already cemented last place in the WCHA, which means they will hit the road for the league playoffs like always.

Still, seizing the Governor's Cup would furnish the Seawolves, who have won just once in 14 games since the holiday break, a lift heading into their final WCHA series at Denver and then their playoff series.

The Governor's Cup remains one of the focal points of UAA's schedule, along with WCHA games and its season-opening Kendall Hockey Classic.

"It's in a bracket all its own,'' Currier said. "With WCHA games, every point matters. Playoff games are obviously fun. But the Governor's Cup is in a league of its own.''

UAA will play for the Cup without two valuable contributors. Junior wing Jordan Kwas, second on the club in goals and points with 9-11--20 totals in 27 games, will miss the series with a sprained ankle. And sophomore defenseman Austin Coldwell, will sit out his second straight series with a sprained knee.

The Seawolves will need to keep close tabs on UAF's top line of junior Cody Kunyk centering junior left wing Colton Beck and senior right wing Andy Taranto. Taranto (12-12--24) leads the team in goals and is tied for the team lead in points. Kunyk (8-16--24) leads the team in assists and is tied with Taranto for the point lead. Beck owns 10-7--17 totals that tie him for second on the team in goals and tie him for fourth in points.


Seawolves notes

The first annual UAA-UAF Alumni Game is 2 p.m. Saturday at Sullivan Arena and will feature former Seawolves stars like defenseman Matt Shasby and goaltender Chris King, and former Nanook stars like center Keith Street and goalie Wylie Rogers.

Donations are welcome and will benefit the UAA Hockey Scholarship Fund.

Also Saturday, the first annual Tailgate Party drops at 5:30 p.m. in the Sullivan parking lot. The Seawolves will sign autographs following the game that night.

The Governor's Cup has gone to a shootout six times in 19 seasons, with the Nanooks winning five of those, including the last four shootouts.

The Seawolves are 11-7-2 against UAF in coach Dave Shyiak's tenure. His clubs have won the Cup three times --2007, 2008 and 2009 -- in his seven previous seasons.

UAA and UAF next season, when both compete in the WCHA, will play each other four times instead of the usual two.

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