As a road series to savor, the Seawolves can't do much better than their workmanlike weekend of quality comebacks in Houghton, Michigan.
UAA's 3-2 Western Collegiate Hockey Association victory over No. 17-ranked Michigan Tech on Saturday night – the Seawolves won by the same count Friday night – delivered their first league road sweep this season.
Precisely as the Seawolves did Friday, they stormed back Saturday from a 2-1 deficit to generate two third-period goals and safeguard their lead to sophomore goaltender Olivier Mantha.
Mantha, making his 12th consecutive start, stopped 30 shots Saturday after furnishing 32 denials Friday.
"Mantha was great,'' UAA coach Matt Thomas texted. "Made all the big stops.''
UAA's road sweep was its first in the WCHA since sweeping UAF in Fairbanks in January.
And it marked the Seawolves' first WCHA road sweep of a regular-season series since March 2011, when goaltender Chris Kamal, their current director of hockey operations, went all but unconscious in 4-0 and 4-1 wins at Minnesota State-Mankato. Kamal stopped 66 of 67 shots that weekend, then promptly backstopped UAA to a two-game playoff sweep at Minnesota the following weekend.
With Saturday's win, UAA (8-6-2, 5-4-1 WCHA) has already matched its overall victory total from last season (8-22-4, 5-21-2 WCHA), when it finished last on the 10-team circuit. With 11 points in the WCHA, the Seawolves already are within one point of matching their league point total from last season.
"Team just played hard,'' Thomas texted. "We executed really well.''
The Seawolves' sweep came at the back end of a four-game road trip in which they faced league co-leaders. UAA lost twice at Minnesota State-Mankato a week ago and was riding a four-game skid (0-3-1) when it arrived on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.
Brad Duwe authored Saturday's game-winning goal with about five minutes left at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena. The junior winger from Soldotna evidently is limiting himself to big goals – his only goal prior to Saturday was an overtime strike against Arizona State in the season opener.
Duwe stole the puck from a Husky, stepped around Michigan Tech junior goaltender Matt Wintjes (24 saves) and tucked the puck in behind him.
The Seawolves were in position for Duwe's go-ahead goal because defenseman Chase Van Allen forged a 2-2 tie in the opening minute of the third period. Van Allen's goal, off helpers from Mason Mitchell and Austin Azurdia, came just seconds after a UAA power play expired.
Imagine if UAA could get its power play going. The Seawolves went 0 for 2 with the man advantage Saturday and are 0-18 in the last six games, and 2 for 31 in the last nine games.
Michigan Tech freshman Brett Boeing gave the Huskies a 1-0 lead with his first college goal, less than seven minutes into the game. UAA defenseman Jarrett Brown answered less than four minutes into the second period. The Huskies countered on Tyler Heinonen's team-leading 11th goal, this one on the power play, to regain their lead at 2-1 late in the second period.
That set the stage for UAA's third-period comeback. The Seawolves have won three times this season when trailing entering the third period, and tied another game in which they trailed after 40 minutes.
UAA returns home to entertain UAF in a WCHA series Friday and Saturday at Sullivan Arena that doubles as Games 1 and 2 of the annual four-game Governor's Cup for supremacy of Alaska college hockey.
UAA 0 1 2 -- 3
MTU 1 1 0 -- 2
First Period – 1, MTU, Boeing 1 (Davis, Gillies), 6:31. Penalties -- None.
Second Period – 2, UAA, Brown 2 (Kozun, Sevalrud), 3:46; 3, MTU, Heinonen 11 (Petan, Boeing), 17:29 (pp). Penalties – Azurdia, UAA (high-sticking), 6:53; Anholt, UAA (delay of game), 8:28; Watson, MTU (holding), 11:08; Mantha, UAA (tripping), 15:50; Watson, MTU (interference), 17:51; Hubbs, UAA (diving), 17:51; Eick, MTU (interference), 18:33; Petan, MTU (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:33; Tatchell, UAA (unsportsmanlike conduct), 18:33.
Third Period – 4, UAA, Van Allen 2 (Mitchell, Azurdia), :38; 5, UAA, Duwe 2, 14:49. Penalties – Kozun, UAA (holding the stick), 17:15.
Shots on goal – UAA 8-11-8—27. MTU 10-14-8—32.
Power-play Opportunities – UAA 0 of 2. MTU 1 of 4.
Goalies – UAA, Mantha, 7-6-2 (32 shots-30 saves). MTU, Wintjes, 0-1-0 (27 shots-24 saves).
A – 3,419 (4,466). T – 2:16.
Referees – Dan Kovarik, Mike Forys. Assistant referees – Dan Juopperi, Ryan Gordon.