In 148 previous all-time meetings between Alaska's two college hockey teams dating back to 1979, UAA and UAF have generated thrillers galore, replete with wicked momentum swings, epic comebacks, bad blood and ample pride, all of it tinged by the rivalry between the schools and the state's two largest communities.
Add UAF's 5-4 Governor's Cup victory Saturday to the lore.
This was a night when each team roared back from two-goal deficits at Sullivan Arena, a player on each team delivered his long-sought first collegiate goal, UAF nearly beat itself with penalties and UAA squandered extended two-man advantages in losing for the first time in eight home games this season.
In the end, Cody Kunyk settled matters.
His stats say the Nanooks senior center is the most accomplished current player in the rivalry. His performance in the last eight minutes validated that status.
With UAF trailing 4-2 after UAA scored four unanswered goals to make UAF's two goals in the opening four minutes a distant memory, Kunyk set up Colton Beck's game-tying goal with a ridiculous assist and then roofed the game winner.
It seemed apropos in this rivalry between teams from the 49th state that Kunyk's game-winning strike marked his 49th career goal.
UAF's victory in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association match forged a 1-1 tie in the four-game Cup. UAA won Game 1 on Friday night, 3-2, and Games 3 and 4 close the regular season March 7-8 in Fairbanks.
The Nanooks (6-8-2, 3-7-0 WCHA) snapped their five-game losing streak, which came in a stretch during which they dropped seven of eight games.
"This was a big win in a lot of ways,'' said UAF coach Dallas Ferguson. "Emotionally. Getting rewarded for your hard work. Fighting through adversity throughout the game.''
Meanwhile, the Seawolves (7-7-2, 4-6-2 WCHA) were left to wonder what might have been.
After all, they enjoyed two-man advantages that lasted, respectively, 2:01, 2:00 and nine seconds, and did not score on any of them. That from a team that twice scored with standard one-man advantages.
But UAF goalie Sean Cahill (28 saves) came up large on UAA's first extended 5 on 3 and his penalty-killing crew flourished on the other one.
UAA led 4-2 early in the third period after Scott Allen and Blake Leask scored goals a mere 33 seconds apart. And the Seawolves rejoiced when Andrew Pettitt scored his first career goal in the second period, fittingly in the 49th state, in his 49th career game.
Then it all unraveled.
"Should have been over,'' said UAA goaltender Rob Gunderson. "We stepped away from our game plan -- lock down our D zone and don't puck-stare. We didn't lock down our D zone and we got caught puck-staring.''
Ferguson used his timeout after Leask's goal to settle his club.
"I didn't want a third goal to happen,'' he said. "It was a matter of regrouping and just getting back on track.''
Just 49 seconds after Leask's goal, which came off Zack Rassell's backhanded assist through two defenders, Nanooks freshman Marcus Basara was left shockingly alone at the top of Gunderson's crease. Gunderson snuffed Basara's initial bid, but Basara banged in the put-back to cut UAA's lead to 4-3.
Eight minutes later, Kunyk furnished the play of the game -- and the play of the college season at Sullivan.
Curling in the neutral zone, Kunyk took a pass from Trevor Campbell and barreled into UAA's zone. When Austin Coldwell tried to poke-check the puck from him, Kunyk blew around the defenseman with an inside-out move, which prompted Coldwell's partner, Chris Williams, to slide belly-first into the crease, where he took Gunderson out of the play. Meanwhile, Kunyk (one goal, two assists) backhanded a pass to Colton Beck (two goals, one helper) in the left circle, and Beck fired into a gaping net for a 4-4 tie.
Five minutes after that, Kunyk redirected Basara's centering pass top-shelf for the game winner and his 107th career point.
"I said to him afterward, 'You put the team on your shoulders,' '' Beck said. "Once he got through (UAA's defense) on my goal, I thought, 'If he slides it to me, I'll have an open net for days.' ''
Just as the Seawolves savored Pettitt's first college goal, the Nanooks did likewise when sophomore Alec Hajdukovich of Fairbanks scored in the first period for his first college goal in 32 games.
UAA senior Matt Bailey lamented a game that got away from his team.
"We got a little too high and they made a couple of nice plays,'' Bailey said. "Lot of emotions out there. We were trying to stay out of it, but it's tough. They're our biggest rivals.''
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog.
UAF2 0 3 -- 5
UAA1 1 2 -- 4
First Period -- 1, UAF, Beck 4 (Quinn, Kunyk), 2:03 (pp); 2, UAF, Hajdukovich 1 (Friese), 3:40; 3, UAA, Tatchell 4 (Allen, Coldwell), 9:42 (pp). Penalties -- Hubbs, UAA (roughing, contact to head), :45; UAF bench minor, served by Huysmans (too many men), 8:24; Kunyk, UAF (elbowing), 14:27; Parayko, UAF (boarding), 16:19; Pettitt, UAA (hooking), 18:36.
Second Period -- 4, UAA, Pettitt 1 (Van Allen), 7:03. Penalties -- T. Morley, UAF, major-game misconduct, served by Huysmans (checking from behind), 1:54; Atkinson, UAF (checking from behind), 4:54; Campbell, UAF (roughing, contact to head), 8:23; Erickson, UAF (cross-checking), 8:23.
Third Period -- 5, UAA, Allen 10 (Tatchell, Bailey), 2:57 (pp); 6, UAA, Leask 1 (Rassell, Trupp), 3:30; 7, UAF, Basara 7 (Parayko, Friese), 4:19; 8, UAF, Beck 5 (Kunyk, Campbell), 12:05; 9, UAF, Kunyk 11 (Basara, Beck), 17:13. Penalties -- Youngmun, UAF (contact to head), 2:22; Sproule, UAA (slashing), 6:17.
Shots on goal -- UAF 5-6-9--20. UAA 10-14-9--33.
Power-play Opportunities -- UAF 1 of 4. UAA 2 of 8.
Goalies -- UAF, Cahill, 1-2-0 (33 shots-28 saves). UAA, Gunderson, 5-5-1 (20 shots-15 saves).
A -- 2,857 (6,251). T -- 2:40.
Referees -- Brad Albers, Brett Klosowski. Assistant referees -- Travis Jackson, Carl Saden.
By DOYLE WOODY