Sudden-death overtime, particularly when facing elimination, which UAA confronted Friday night, is hockey's version of throwing dice -- a single roll delivers ecstasy to one side, agony to the other.
The Seawolves came out on the excruciating end.
Gerald Mayhew's goal early in extra time at Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., earned No. 4-ranked Ferris State (Mich.) a 5-4 victory over UAA in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association semifinal.
"They made one more play than us,'' said UAA first-year coach Matt Thomas by cellphone.
And that moment extinguished an otherwise noteworthy season for the Seawolves (18-16-4) at the same time it propelled the regular-season champion Bulldogs (28-9-3) into Saturday's championship game against Minnesota State-Mankato, a 4-0 winner over Bowling Green in the other semi.
Ferris State's Kory Cane won a left-wing face-off against Matt Bailey back to Mayhew, who moved to his right into the high slot and unleashed a wrister past the attempted shot-block of UAA's Scott Allen and the stick side of goaltender Chris Kamal at 2 minutes, 38 seconds of OT. Mayhew, a freshman winger, scored two goals Friday to give him four goals in three games against UAA this season -- in 30 other games, he scored two goals.
His final strike Friday pierced the Seawolves, naturally, but they finished their six-month campaign with some reasons to rejoice, even if that realization takes some time to reach after the sting of season's end diminishes.
The Seawolves generated the program's first winning season in more than two decades, a comeback first-round playoff series win on the road against rival UAF and the prospect that a program struggling most seasons, for so long, can spark a resurrection.
Credit for that turnaround, Thomas said, goes in part to former coach Dave Shyiak and his staff, who recruited these Seawolves, and in larger part to those players.
"We had a motivated group,'' he said. "Those are the guys who pull on the jersey every night and deliver.''
Friday, they did so in a game every bit as momentum-swaying and tumultuous as UAA's first-round clincher, a 5-4 victory at UAF six nights previous.
In this age of neutral-zone trapping, left-wing locking, manifest shot-blocking and insistence on suffocating defense, the Seawolves' last two games seemed like stepping into the Wayback Machine and dialing up the go-go 1980s, when score-fests reigned and defensive diligence was more often an oxymoron.
Consider the second period Friday, when the teams combined for five goals in a span of 8:13 -- three goals for the Seawolves, two for the Bulldogs. To that point, UAA and its opponents had rifled home a combined 17 goals in less than five periods. By comparison, UAA and its opponents in one stretch this season needed five full games to combine for 17 goals.
UAA's rally -- the Seawolves scored four consecutive goals after falling behind 2-0 inside the opening seven minutes -- at one point captured it a 4-2 lead.
In Ferris State's regular-season series sweep of visiting UAA -- 4-2 and 5-3 -- the Bulldogs raced to a 2-0 first-period lead in the opener and a 3-0 first-period cushion in the finale. Friday's came started with a here-we-go-again refrain.
Mayhew scored on the power play after the puck fortuitously ricocheted to him off the skate of UAA center Blake Tatchell and Justin Buzzeo roofed a wrister on Seawolves starting senior goaltender Rob Gunderson for a 2-0 Bulldogs lead.
Even to that point, the Seawolves were actually carrying the play, and they continued to as Brett Cameron scored on a deflection of Austin Coldwell's shot-pass from the center point less than three minutes after Buzzeo's goal. By period's end, the Seawolves owned a 13-4 advantage in shots -- they outshot the Bulldogs 38-23 on the evening -- and all the momentum.
Coldwell, freshman center Zack Rassell and freshman winger Hudson Friesen followed with consecutive goals for a 4-2 UAA lead in the second period, when Ferris State junior goalie C.J. Motte (34 saves) looked vulnerable.
But the Bulldogs bounced back on goals from Garrett Thompson -- his team-leading 16th -- and Andy Huff before period's end to forge a 4-4 tie before intermission.
Thomas pulled Gunderson (eight saves on 12 shots) for fellow senior Kamal to start the third period -- "It just didn't seem like Gundy's night,'' Thomas said -- and Kamal (10 saves) buoyed his team. He stopped a Thompson breakaway 75 seconds after coming into the game cold and stopped Thompson again in the waning seconds of regulation.
"What an awesome thing to have a senior go in and bail out another senior and keep us in the game,'' Thomas said. "He was a difference-maker. They kind of had their foot on the gas pedal and he had to be great to hold us in, and he was great.''
Then came overtime, and the inevitable -- deliverance for one side, dejection for the other.
"Pretty proud of the guys -- they came to play,'' Thomas said. "They completely battled their hearts out.
"(Ferris State) didn't go away, kept battling. Both teams played with a ton of passion and heart. It was a pretty good college hockey game, as much as that sucks to say.''
Coldwell's goal and assist gave him 6-13--19 totals in 38 games, tops in all three scoring categories for UAA blueliners. Call it a career season -- after all, in 60 games as a freshman and sophomore, his totals were 4-15--19.
Cameron's goal was his 10th of the season in 34 games -- the red-shirt junior in his first 76 games in green and gold scored nine goals.
Friday's game was the final UAA match for Bailey, Gunderson, Kamal, winger Jordan Kwas (one assist) and defenseman Quinn Sproule.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
UAA1 3 0 0 -- 4
Ferris St. 2 2 0 1 -- 5
First Period -- 1, Ferris St., Mayhew 5 (Kane), 4:41 (pp); 2, Ferris St., Buzzeo 14 (Thompson, Anselmini), 6:31; 3, UAA, Cameron 10 (Coldwell, Leask), 8:54. Penalties -- Cameron, UAA (elbowing), 3:00; Mayhew, Ferris St. (interference), 19:15.
Second Period -- 4, UAA, Coldwell 6 (Kwas, Tatchell), 7:16; 5, UAA, Rassell 3 (Hubbs, Pettitt), 8:56; 6, UAA, Friesen 3 (Dusyk, Trupp), 11:22; 7, Ferris St., Thompson 16 (Buzzeo, Czarnowczan), 12:50; 8, Ferris St., Huff 11 (Binkley, Lowney), 15:29. Penalties -- Czarnowczan, Ferris St. (charging), :14; Cameron, UAA (tripping), 3:41; Buzzeo, Ferris St. (high-sticking), 3:51.
Third Period -- None. Penalties -- None.
Overtime -- 9, Ferris St., Mayhew 6 (Kane), 2:38. Penalties -- None.
Shots on goal -- UAA 13-12-12-1--38. Ferris St. 4-8-9-2--23.
Power-play Opportunities -- UAA 0 of 3. Ferris St. 1 of 2.
Goalies -- UAA, Gunderson (12 shots-8 saves); Kamal, 6-7-1, enter 0:00 3rd (11-10). Ferris St., Motte, 27-7-3 (38 shots-34 saves).
A -- 4,494 (10,834). T -- 2:45.
Referees -- Keith Sergott, Kevin Longseth. Assistant referees -- Rick Nelson, Matt Tyree.
By DOYLE WOODY