Before they even stepped onto the Carlson Center ice to play the Nanooks on Friday night in Fairbanks, the Seawolves were winners.
A couple of hours before faceoff, Lake Superior State defeated Ferris State, a result that assured the UAA hockey team a spot in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs for the first time since 2014.
The outcome on the ice was not as favorable for the Seawolves -- UAF took a 5-2 victory and can win the annual Governor’s Cup series between Alaska’s two college hockey teams with another win on Saturday. UAF leads the four-game series, 2-1.
Luc Brown scored a goal and an assist for the Seawolves, who led 2-0 midway through the second period before giving up five straight goals. UAA senior Tomi Hiekkavirta opened the scoring with a goal in the first period.
The Seawolves outshot the Nanooks 31-28. They play UAF again Saturday, and if they win the Governor’s Cup will be decided with a shootout.
The Seawolves took the ice Friday knowing they were headed to the WCHA playoffs. They will finish the regular season in eighth place in the 10-team league, which holds an eight-team postseason tournament.
Ferris State is in ninth place, and until Friday’s 5-0 loss to Lake Superior State, the Bulldogs had a chance of catching the Seawolves. Now they don’t.
UAA entered the final weekend of regular-season play with 21 points to Ferris State’s 17. A win is worth three points, so even if Ferris State wins its final game Saturday against the Lakers, it won’t be enough to overtake the Seawolves.
UAA will play the WCHA’s first-place team in the best-of-3 quarterfinal round that begins next Friday. Its opponent will likely be Minnesota State, although second-place Bemidji State could knock Minnesota State out of first place if it beats the Mavericks in a Saturday game in Bemidji, Minnesota.
Bemidji beat Minnesota State 3-1 Friday to move within three points of the Mavericks in the WCHA standings. If Bemidji wins again Saturday, both teams would finish with 68 points and Bemidji would win the tiebreaker by virtue of a 3-1 record against the Mavericks.
UAA was 0-1-1 against Bemidji State and 0-3-1 against Minnesota State this season.
The last time UAA made the conference tournament, the sixth-seeded Seawolves met the third-seeded Nanooks in the first round of the WCHA tournament and won the series with a 5-4 victory in Game 3 in Fairbanks. That put UAA in a single-game semifinal match against Ferris State, which the Seawolves lost 5-4 in overtime.