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UAA Athletics

UAA sends hockey team to WCHA playoffs, basketball teams to GNAC tournament

  • Author: Anchorage Daily News
  • Updated: March 4, 2020
  • Published March 4, 2020

UAA senior Oggie Pantovic, shown here battling for a rebound, earned first-team honors from the Great Northwest Athletic Conference on Wednesday. (Photo by Bob Hallinen)

It’s the start of a new season for the hockey team and basketball teams at UAA, which head into postseason play this week.

The hockey team will head to Minnesota for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs. The men’s and women’s basketball teams will head to Seattle for the Great Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.

For the hockey team and men’s basketball team, if they don’t win this week their seasons are likely over. With four wins in 34 games, the hockey team won’t be in the running for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, and at 18-11, the men’s basketball team would be a longshot.

For the women’s basketball team, a conference title isn’t the only path to the NCAA tournament. As the fifth-ranked team in the country and the second-ranked team in the West Region, the Seawolves (29-2 overall, 19-1 GNAC) are assured a berth in the NCAA tournament.

The men (11-9 GNAC) are the fifth seed in the GNAC and will play fourth-seeded Northwest Nazarene (15-10, 12-8) at 1:15 p.m. AST Thursday.

On Wednesday, three Seawolves garnered GNAC postseason honors.

Oggie Pantovic, a 6-foot-7 junior center from Serbia, claimed first-team honors for a stellar season in which he averaged 15.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists. He has reached double figures in scoring in his last 19 games, and he is the team’s leading scorer and rebounder with nine double-doubles.

Earning honorable-mention notice were senior forward Niko Bevens and sophomore guard Tobin Karlberg.

Karlberg, a Grace Christian graduate, is the fourth UAA sophomore to make the GNAC team, joining Brian McGill (2014), Tristan Thompson (2012) and Peter Bullock (2002). He ranks second in the nation in 3-point accuracy (52.0%) and averages 12.9 points, 2.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 steals per game.

Bevens is a two-time honorable mention pick who averaged 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 assists per game. He has hit 107 triples this season and has 189 in two seasons.

The UAA women (29-2 overall, 19-1 GNAC) are the top seed in the GNAC, so they don’t have to play until Friday’s semifinal round. They’ll face the winner of a first-round game between Central Washington and Simon Fraser.

The Seawolves are chasing their sixth GNAC crown in 10 years and their first since 2017. They lost last year’s title game to Northwest Nazarene, 70-64.

On Tuesday, three UAA players made the all-GNAC team and Ryan McCarthy was named Coach of the Year. Senior guards Safiyyah Yasin and Yazmeen Goo both made the first team and junior center Tennae Voliva was an honorable-mention pick.

The GNAC tournament runs Thursday through Saturday, with championship games set for 4 p.m. (men) and 6:30 p.m. (women) Saturday.

The WCHA tournament begins Friday with best-of-3 series in four different cities, including Fairbanks.

Fourth-place UAF will host fifth-place Bowling Green at the Carlson Center on Friday and Saturday, with a third game scheduled for Sunday if needed.

UAA will face third-ranked Minnesota State in Mankato that begins Friday. Minnesota State is the league’s regular-season champion.

The Seawolves haven’t gone to the WCHA tournament since 2014, and they qualified this year despite a 4-18-6 conference record (4-23-7 overall). They finished eighth in the 10-team conference, which sends eight teams to the tournament.

Although UAA hasn’t won a game since Jan. 17, it has skated to ties in three games since then, and all of those ties made a difference, because they are worth points in the WCHA standings.

Among those ties was a 2-2 deadlock with Minnesota State (23-4-1 WCHA, 4-24-6 overall) on Feb. 1, but in the season’s other three meetings between the teams, the Mavericks outscored UAA 17-2.