The Anchorage Wolverines played on their home ice at Ben Boeke Ice Arena for the final time in the 2022-2023 season on Saturday night.
With their slim playoff hopes hanging in the balance, they treated a jam-packed house of around 1,200 fans in attendance to a hard-hitting 2-1 overtime win over Kenai River.
Through the highs and lows, the team was still able to pull out the win and capture the Club 49 Championship Cup. The Cup is awarded to the team that accrues the most in-state wins in games between the Wolverines, Kenai River and Fairbanks.
“To clinch the Cup in our home rink being our last game at home, I think it’s going to be a lasting memory for these guys and especially the 20-year-olds that are leaving,” Wolverines head coach Evan Trupp said.
In his final game as a Wolverine, Anchorage’s Andy Ramsey got to play the role of hometown hero, scoring the game-winning goal at the 1:35 mark in the extended period to win it.
“What a great ending to my last two years here and to be able to do that in front of this crowd and with these guys, I don’t know how to describe it,” said an emotional Ramsey.
During a timeout early in overtime, Trupp said Ramsey led a team chant that fired up his teammates and inspired them to bring it home shortly thereafter.
“It kind of lined up perfectly for our captain to score the game-winning goal,” Trupp said. “He backed up his words. He believed and ended up scoring a pretty miraculous goal.”
Last year the stars aligned and everything fell into place for the Wolverines to make a playoff run in their inaugural season in the North American Hockey League.
Coming into the weekend, they faced an eerily similar circumstance to the previous season, needing to either win out or win the majority of their last few games and get some help.
Their destiny was in their own hands until they fell to Kenai 3-1 on Friday night.
“It was pretty emotional yesterday after the game,” Ramsey said. “It was kind of hard to come to fruition, something that I’ve spent the last two years being a part of with these guys and everything we’ve been through together this year and last year.”
After initially believing they had been eliminated from playoff contention with the disappointing loss, they were relieved when they found out the next day that they still had an outside chance of sneaking in but would need help from Fairbanks to make it happen.
“There’s been a lot of emotions over the last 24 hours with losing yesterday and then finding out that there’s still a chance,” Trupp said. “Emotions were everywhere today, especially throughout the game.”
In what was a rare low-scoring game for the Wolverines, Trupp was proud of the way his team “stayed the course” and “bought in until the very end.”
“It was trusting in the process one step at a time, one shift at a time, not being too result-driven and just focusing on the process each step of the way,” he said.
Anchorage didn’t waste much time drawing first blood in the opening period when Jackson Reineke found the back of the net off assists from Cameron Morris and Tomek Haula.
The Wolverines were briefly deflated after giving up the game-tying goal but had a chance to potentially win the game in the final minute but couldn’t capitalize on their numbers advantage on the ice with a final power-play opportunity.
“I didn’t think we came out great even in the first two periods,” Ramsey said. “I was just trying to talk to the guys all game trying to be positive and say, ‘You never know what will happen and let’s try to end this thing on a positive.’ ”
Unfortunately for the Wolverines, before the clock could strike midnight, they were eliminated from the playoffs because shortly after they defeated the Brown Bears, the Chippewa Steel completed their comeback over the Ice Dogs to win 4-1.
Even though their fate was out of their hands, it didn’t stop the coaches and players from embracing each other in jubilation or sharing it with their fans, family, and friends.
“It was really cool to come back and have that energy for the last time we’re all here,” Ramsey said. “The fans have been so good to us the past two years, and the whole hockey community here, so we can’t say enough good things about them.”