In hockey, how a team performs on the power play can tip the scales and ultimately decide any given game.
An inability to defend against and capitalize on the power play cost the Anchorage Wolverines an early lead and prevented them from rallying late against the Wisconsin Windigo in a 7-3 loss at the Ben Boeke Ice Arena on Friday night.
“I thought we had some Grade A chances on the power play in the second half of the game that could’ve been some of the difference but it didn’t go in for us,” Wolverines Director of Hockey Operations Keith Morris said. “You have to score on the power play if you’re going to be a successful team.”
This was the first of a three-game weekend series and marked the team’s second straight loss dating back to last weekend when they split their home-opening series with the Janesville Jets.
“We started out really good, came out with a lot of energy, a lot of jump, got the lead and unfortunately made some mistakes where it cost us goals,” Morris said.
The Wolverines got out to a strong start and were in complete control of the opening period. Not only did they defend well on the Windigo’s first power play opportunity but they were the first ones on the scoreboard after Layten Liffrig scored a shorthanded goal against his former team with an assists from Kyle Bauer and Cooper Morris at the 14:27 mark.
Anchorage native Aiden Westin scored the first of his two goals of the game with a minute and a half left in the first to put the team up 2-0 thanks to assists from Revelin Mack and Cameron Morris.
“He’s very opportunistic when he gets a chance to score because he’s fast, big and strong,” Morris said.
It didn’t take Wisconsin long to get on the board early in the second period after Cameron Boche found the back of the net after just three and half minute had elapsed. Just 24 seconds later he assisted teammate Paul Huglen, whose goal tied the game at 2-2.
While neither of those goals came via power play, the Windigo capitalized on their next two chances with a numbers advantage on the ice, with the second ultimately being the game-winner.
After the Wolverines’ Fedya Nikolayenya got sentenced to four minutes in the penalty box for a high-sticking double minor, he was joined by teammate Gage Brown who got called for a tripping minor.
“It started off with a couple of bad penalties,” Westin said. “We got a little laid back once we went up by two (goals). They kind of just crawled back and took over the game. We dug ourselves into a hole and just couldn’t climb out.”
Wisconsin took full advantage of the 5-on-3 and 5-on-4 chances that were created late in the second period and got goals from Tyler Grahme and Luke Levandowski to go up for good.
“Things just kind of went from bad to worse,” Morris said. “It was one of those games that we’ve all been involved in where it kind of gets away from us.”
Westin tacked on another goal 30 seconds into the third period to make it a one-goal game but the Wolverines still weren’t able to capitalize on any of their three power play opportunities in the final period while allowing the Windigo to score three more goals to extend their final margin of victory.
“They forced us really hard and our power play really struggled tonight,” Westin said. “Most nights we usually get one or two powerplay goals. We didn’t get one tonight and I think that really cost us.”
Prior to the first puck drop of the game both teams and all those in attendance joined in a moment of silence and then made some noise in memory of Wolverines superfan Logan Brown who recently died from kidney disease. Morris said he was well-known throughout the entire Anchorage hockey community, having played the game in his youth.
“Logan Brown was a wonderful young man and was a young boy when he came through our program,” Morris said. “He’ll be sorely missed.”
Westin was teammates with Brown’s older brother Connor during their youth days and knew him well.
“We would’ve loved to get the win for him tonight but he’s in all of our prayers and it’s a really tough loss to the hockey community,” he said. “We really want to get a win for him tomorrow and Sunday as well.’