The Seawolves never trailed Thursday night -- until there was nothing they could do about it.
Colton Beck roofed a wrister 3 minutes, 40 seconds into overtime to lift UAF to a 3-2 victory over UAA and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-3, Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks.
Beck, a second-team All-WCHA pick earlier Thursday, was wide open when he received the puck from linemate Marcus Basara, an All-Rookie selection, low in the left circle. Beck took a stride to the bottom of the circle, and with UAA senior goaltender Rob Gunderson (28 saves) crouched against his right post, sniped a sharply-angled shot over Gunderson's near-side shoulder.
Now the Seawolves (16-15-2), who split a regular season-ending series in Fairbanks last weekend, must win Game 2 Friday night in the Golden Heart City to prolong their season. They did that last week, when UAF (18-13-4) won the series opener 7-2 before UAA rebounded for a 3-1 win in the finale of the Governor's Cup, which the Nanooks won in a shootout to seize the hardware for the fifth straight season.
"Need to find a way to be better for 60 minutes (Friday),'' UAA coach Matt Thomas said in a text. "Backs are against the wall now.''
Until Beck delivered his 14th goal of the season, the game was largely shaped by unusual suspects.
UAA freshman Tanner Dusyk, who had been a scratch more often than he played in the second half of the regular season, furnished a 1-0 lead less than three minutes into the second period. He collected the puck in his zone and raced up the left side 2-on-1 with fellow rookie Hudson Friesen. Dusyk flicked a wrister over the glove of Sean Cahill (20 saves) to score his second goal of the season and snap his 13-game goal drought.
UAF freshman defenseman Justin Woods of Fairbanks answered with his first career goal -- Thursday marked his 31st game -- 12 minutes into the second period. He scored off his own rebound for a 1-1 tie and also assisted on Beck's game-winning strike.
But UAA sophomore center Blake Tatchell, the team's fourth-leading scorer yet mired in a 14-game goal funk, restored the Seawolves' lead at 2-1 six minutes into the third period. He got around WCHA Defensive Player of the Year Colton Parayko in the slot and, from the goal line to Cahill's right, somehow threaded a shot through -- and perhaps off -- a traffic jam of skates in the crease.
Basara answered on the power play with about six minutes left in regulation to forge the 2-2 that held through regulation. He took a pass from Josh Atkinson in the slot, faked Gunderson to the ice and slipped a shot through Gunderson's pads for his 12th goal of the season.
UAA and UAF have been clashing since 1979 and Thursday's meeting marked the 152nd encounter, yet it also marked the first time the rivals have played a postseason series. For the better part of the last two decades, they played in different conferences. And before that, they only briefly played in the same league -- the Great West Hockey Conference in the late 1980s -- and that one did not have a postseason.
Only when a slew of teams fled the WCHA, which has included UAA for two decades, did several teams from the now-defunct Central Collegiate Hockey Association, including UAF, join forces with the teams remaining in the WCHA.
This is the first season of the revamped league, which lost much of its power luster -- departures included Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Minnesota-Duluth, Denver, Colorado College and St. Cloud State -- but gained parity. For instance, after a 28-game league schedule in the regular season that ended last weekend, only six points separated third place through ninth place in the 10-team league.
The third-seeded Nanooks played without center Tyler Morley, a third-team All-WCHA pick who suffered a lower-body injury in last Friday's game. They also lost defenseman Trevor Campbell during the game.
Sixth-seeded UAA was without injured freshman Chase Van Allen, one of its more active defensemen with the puck.
The Seawolves went 0 for 3 on their power play and are 0 for 9 in the last three games against the Nanooks.
Thursday's result marked the third one-goal game in the five games between UAA and UAF this season.
Friday night, careers are on the line for several Seawolves. Gunderson, center Matt Bailey, winger Jordan Kwas, defenseman Quinn Sproule and goalie Chris Kamal need a victory to force a Game 3 Saturday and prolong their stays in green and gold.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog.
UAA 0 1 1 0 -- 2
UAF 0 1 1 1 -- 3
First Period -- None. Penalties -- Cameron, UAA (hooking), 9:11; B. Morley, UAF (tripping), 15:56; Atkinson, UAF (cross-checking), 18:47; Bailey, UAA (slashing), 18:47.
Second Period -- 1, UAA, Dusyk 2, 2:44; 2, UAF, Woods 1 (Youngmun, Hochhausen), 11:59. Penalties -- Bailey, UAA (tripping), 3:51.
Third Period -- 3, UAA, Tatchell 8, 6:24; 4, UAF, Basara 12 (Atkinson), 13:54 (pp). Penalties -- Youngmun, UAF (interference), 7:29; Hubbs, UAA (roughing), 12:10.
Overtime --5, UAF, Beck 14 (Basara, Woods), 3:40. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- UAA 7-5-8-2--22. UAF 8-9-12-1--30.
Power-play Opportunities -- UAA 0 of 3. UAF 1 of 3.
Goalies -- UAA, Gunderson, 8-7-2 (30 shots-28 saves). UAF, Cahill, 10-4-1 (22 shots-20 saves).
A -- 1,752 (4,595). T -- 2:46.
Referees -- Peter Friesema, Butch Mousseaux. Assistant referees -- Carl Saden, John Conoy.
By DOYLE WOODY