Sports

Conti jumps the gun, then jumps Mustangs for two goals in 8-0 UAA hockey win

Sure, it was just an exhibition game, but Anthony Conti is a freshman and he was absolutely pumped Saturday night to get his first shift as a Seawolf.

He was a little too eager. Just 90 seconds into UAA's 8-0 victory over Western Ontario, Conti jumped on the ice at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex. One problem: His line wasn't up, as they say in hockey.

Thus did the rookie winger spend his first shift in the penalty box, serving a bench minor penalty for too many men.

"I was real excited and real anxious, and made a little screw-up,'' Conti said with a laugh.

Coach Matt Thomas was amused, and forgiving.

"I go, 'Get the dumb one out of the way in the preseason,' '' Thomas said.

Conti more than made up for his early transgression. He scored one goal and assisted on two others, and went a team high-tying plus-4 against an opponent that didn't offer much resistance -- the Mustangs assuredly were sharper in Friday night's 3-1 exhibition loss at UAF.

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Conti is the youngest Seawolf. He turned 19 last week and is just one of two UAA players under 20 -- freshman defenseman Tanner Johnson turned 19 six days before Conti. Yet, at 6-foot-3, 207 pounds, Conti holds promise as a budding power forward can develop into a physical presence who also delivers points.

"I want to be a power forward who can dominate the front of the net, but also use skill to get to the outside, and to work in the corners,'' Conti said.

That's exactly what Thomas hopes from Conti, so long as Conti remembers to use his size to his advantage. Big, skilled forwards sometimes fall in love with dangling with the puck and forget they are at their best when they attack the net.

"Ultimately, it will be finding that balance between being too skilled and being a power forward,'' Thomas said. "He had a pretty good understanding of who he is as a player."

Conti is very much a work in progress. He played just one full season of junior hockey, which is unusual for a player who arrives at UAA. Conti put up 9-17—26 totals in 37 games last season with the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League and hit his stride after a trade to the Surrey Eagles. For Surrey, he went 7-10—17 in 18 regular-season games and 2-5—7 in six playoff games.

Conti played right wing on the fourth line Friday with sophomore center Zack Rassell and junior left wing Hayden Trupp. Trupp bagged two goals and Rassell furnished one goal and one helper.

UAA received scoring from throughout the lineup, took a 1-0 lead on Trupp's goal in the final minute of the first period and reeled off four goals in a span of 5:45 of the second period. Western Ontario rarely threatened -- the Seawolves outshot the Mustangs, 29-12.

Senior winger Brett Cameron contributed two goals and an assist for the Seawolves, who also received goals from senior wing Scott Allen and freshman center Austin Azurdia, and two assists each from senior defenseman Austin Coldwell and freshman blueliner Jarrett Brown.

UAA freshman goaltender Olivier Mantha played the first half of the game, but faced just three harmless shots. Sophomore Michael Matyas played the rest of the way and looked sharp in stopping nine shots.

Seawolves notes

Sophomore defenseman Chase Van Allen and Trupp led UAA with four shots on goal each. Like Conti, Van Allen went plus-4.

UAA went 1 for 4 on the power play -- Cameron scored on a deflection of Coldwell's shot from the left point -- and killed all six Western Ontario power plays.

While the Mustangs didn't show much, defenseman Matt Paltridge, 25, was arguably the best player on the ice. He rushed the puck from his own end to UAA's zone several times and proved particularly posed.

Reach Doyle Woody at dwoody@alaskadispatch.com and check out his blog at adn.com/hockey-blog

Doyle Woody

Doyle Woody covered hockey and other sports for the Anchorage Daily News for 34 years.

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