For most of the Anchorage Wolverines’ inaugural season, head coach Mike Aikens has touted the benefits of playing four lines to develop depth and foster the team’s young talent.
That depth paid off Thursday in the team’s first playoff game as Hunter Schmitz netted a goal late in the third period of a 2-1 victory over the Springfield Jr. Blues.
“On paper it was our fourth line,” Aikens said. “Hunter took all those faceoffs at the end of the game and did a great job. It’s scary you can lose a faceoff clean and get one in the back of your net. It was a good team effort.”
Aikens said the goal was a result of the line’s typical grinding style as Schmitz smashed in a puck that came on a pass from behind the net.
“He one-timed it, and it either caught a little of the post or crossbar and went in,” Aikens said. “It came off hard work. they’re really good on the forecheck and were playing hard. It’s good to see them get rewarded.”
The goal broke a 1-1 deadlock that lasted for well over half the game.
Springfield struck first on a power play goal by Connor Smith after a penalty by Anchorage for too many men on the ice. That gave Springfield a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission.
The Wolverines tied it early in the second period as the team’s leading scorer, Talon Sigurdson, struck on a one-timer.
“It was a great pass from Colton Friesen,” Aikens said. “He drew the defenseman and passed it over for a one-timer. We didn’t give up that much, we didn’t have a ton of great quality chances either.”
Aikens said Anchorage hit the post three other times on shot attempts in the second period but wasn’t able to convert.
“We kept the course and didn’t panic,” Aikens said. “There were things that helped us win that game with guys sticking to their responsibilities and picking up back-checks.”
Jackson Reineke and Campbell Cichosz added assists on the game-winner and Anchorage goalie Raythan Robbins made 34 saves to earn the win.
The same two teams meet Friday for Game 2 of the series at 4:05 p.m. AST.