Results of games played hours earlier and many time zones away Friday night clinched UAA a playoff berth in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
And that was a wrap for the cheery portion of the Seawolves’ evening.
Once UAA hit the Carlson Center ice in Fairbanks for a Governor’s Cup game against rival UAF — and that match doubled as a pivotal WCHA clash — things began badly for the Seawolves and went downhill from there.
UAF 7, UAA 2.
Or, an alternative score: Cody Kunyk 4, UAA 2.
Kunyk, the center who has given UAA problems throughout his career, generated the best goal-scoring performance of his four seasons in his penultimate game against his club’s intrastate rival, bagging four goals.
Kunyk delivered those four goals on four shots. He’s the guy who helped generate a third-period comeback from a two-goal deficit in a UAF win in Anchorage in December and his work Friday earned UAF a 2-1 lead in the annual Governor’s Cup.
The Cup wraps Saturday night with the regular-season finale for both teams at the Carlson Center.
UAF has won four consecutive Cups. UAA must win Saturday just to force a post-game shootout to determine possession of the Cup. Otherwise, UAF will win a fifth straight Cup to match the five straight it won from 2002-06 and UAA’s second senior class in a row will have never hoisted the hardware.
UAF (17-12-4, 14-11-2 WCHA) clinched home ice for the WCHA playoffs and won its seventh straight game, and ninth in the last 10 games.
In nine career games against UAA, Kunyk has delivered 8-6—14 totals and a plus-9 rating. His 22 goals are believed to be the most by a Nanook since Jeff Trembecky racked 24 in 1996-97. And his 40 points are the most by a Nanook since center Dion Knelsen (43 points) and current Alaska Aces winger Andy Taranto (42 points) breached the 40-point barrier in 2009-10.
UAF, which also received two goals from Tyler Morley, including one 69 seconds in, engineered the Seawolves’ most lopsided loss in the rivalry since the Nanooks swaggered 6-0 on Sullivan Arena ice on Oct. 23, 2004.
“We got outplayed, plain and simple,’’ UAA coach Matt Thomas said by text. “(UAF) played as well as any team I’ve seen in a long time, so you tip your hat to them.’’
UAF led 3-0 after one period, marking the second straight game UAA (15-14-3, 11-12-4 WCHA) has trailed 3-0 after 20 minutes.
“Our starts have put us behind the eight-ball too much lately,’’ Thomas said. “That needs to change. It’s important for us to get big performances (Saturday).
“We have a chance to win the Governor’s Cup and we need to regroup very quickly to accomplish that. It’s all about the response now.’’
Kunyk scored a goal just after a Nanooks power play expired late in the first period to push the lead to 3-0. He added another midway through the second period when he exploited a Seawolves turnover. He also scored in the opening minute of the third period and on the power play midway through the third period.
His four-goal game is one of four in Division I this season.
UAA’s Brad Duwe and Brett Cameron sandwiched goals around one from UAF’s Trevor Campbell later in the third period, but that was mere window dressing on a blowout.
UAF moved into sole possession of third place in the 10-team league. The top four teams earn home ice for next week’s first round of the playoffs and one spot remains open, but UAA officials do not think there is a scenario — multiple tie-breakers and a log-jammed middle of the pack made the math mind-bending — in which the Seawolves can seize home ice.
After starting the night tied for fifth, UAA slipped into sole possession of sixth in a league where the top eight teams qualify for the playoffs.
According to uscho.com, the highest UAA can finish is sixth and the lowest it can finish is eighth.
So, the prospect of home ice looks like history, which leaves the Seawolves one goal they can accomplish before hitting the postseason: Winning the Cup for the first time since 2008-09 and making up for Friday’s humiliation.
Find Doyle Woody’s blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
UAA 0 0 2 — 2
UAF 3 1 3 — 7
First Period — 1, UAF, T. Morley 16 (Campbell, Atkinson), 1:09; 2, UAF, T. Morley 17 (Perry, Basara), 18:40; 3, UAF, Kunyk 19 (Huysmans, Atkinson), 18:53. Penalties — Hochhausen, UAF (boarding), 12:36; Duwe, UAA (tripping), 16:38.
Second Period — 4, UAF, Kunyk 20, 9:59. Penalties — Youngmun, UAF (hooking), 14:19.
Third Period — 5, UAF, Kunyk 21 (Beck, Basara), :46; 6, UAA, Duwe 3 (Trupp, Tatchell), 9:13; 7, UAF, Kunyk 22 (Beck, Parayko), 11:44 (pp); 8, UAF, Campbell 4 (Perry), 19:19; 9, UAA, Cameron 8 (Bailey, Allen), 19:46. Penalties — Sevalrud, UAA (roughing), 10:32.
Shots on goal — UAA 5-10-7—22. UAF 13-7-12—32.
Power-play Opportunities — UAA 0 fo 2. UAF 1 of 2.
Goalies — UAA, Kamal, 6-6-1 (32 shots-25 saves). UAF, Cahill, 9-3-1 (22 shots-20 saves).
A — 3,921 (4,595). T — 2:27.
Referees — Kevin Hall, Brad Albers. Assistant referees — John Conoy, Carl Saden.
By DOYLE WOODY