The Anchorage Wolverines continued their improbable run through the North American Hockey League playoffs Saturday, topping the St. Cloud Norsemen 6-2 at Fogerty Arena in Blaine, Minnesota.
The Wolverines, who swept the semifinal series 2-0, will attempt to be the first team in more than 35 years to win the Robertson Cup title as a first-year franchise.
“We’ve come a heck of a long way,” Wolverines head coach Mike Aikens said. “There’s something special with this team. The bonding, the character. They really care for each other. It’s really awesome to see.”
The Wolverines will face the New Jersey Titans. The Titans defeated the New Mexico Ice Dogs 4-3 in double overtime on Sunday to advance to the championship. The title game will start at 4 p.m. ADT on Tuesday at Fogerty.
After being outshot by a nearly 3-to-1 margin in the 2-1 overtime victory in Game 1, head coach Mike Aikens said Saturday’s game felt more well-deserved.
“Tonight felt a lot better than last night,” Aikens said. “We won last night, but it felt like it was stealing a game. Tonight I thought we owned the victory. Really proud of the guys. We battled hard.”
Anchorage got on the board early in the first on the power play.
Hunter Bischoff got the scoring going for the Wolverines, with assists from Colton Friesen and Hayden Hennen.
Anchorage continued the first-period scoring burst when Friesen found the back of the net at 16:04 of the first with Cooper Morris contributing the assist.
“We matched their intensity, and we were pretty good early on,” Aikens said. “It really helped us to score on the power play. It really gave us some confidence.”
St. Cloud cut the Wolverines’ lead to 2-1 just 17 seconds later as Eagle River native and UAA recruit Brandon Lajoie found the net.
But the Wolverines extended their lead to 3-1 entering the first intermission: Talon Sigurdson scored with just 15 seconds remaining in the period. Danny Reis and Aiden Westin assisted on the goal.
St. Cloud got to within 3-2 in the second, scoring the only goal of the period on the stick of Broten Sabo.
“Once it got to 3-2, I didn’t feel like we were timid or afraid or being tight,” Aikens said. “It felt like we were going to find a way to get it done.”
The Wolverines regained a two-goal advantage at 10:23 of the third as Campbell Cichosz scored with assists from Matt Johnson and Jackson Krock.
Bischoff added his second goal of the day in the final three minutes of the game and Krock scored in the final minute to make the margin 6-2. Both of the last two goals were with an empty net for the Norsemen.
“Our staff made a couple key adjustments,” Aikens said. “I told the guys how great it is when we make small changes, that they go out and execute it. They believe when we tell them this is what we need to do and this is why.”
A night after making an eye-popping 48 saves, Anchorage goalie Raythan Robbins saved 34 of the 36 attempts he faced.
The Wolverines, who were the No. 4 seed heading into the semifinals, toppled a top-seeded Norsemen team that has 11 Division I college signees on its roster.
“This is a good hockey team, and they’re well-coached,” Aikens said. “The hockey was so fast. They’re so aggressive.”