The last time the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey team took the ice in a regular-season game, Anchorage native Maximilion Helgeson was playing junior hockey in the North America Hockey League for the Kenai River Brown Bears.
Helgeson transferred from Lindenwood University to UAA, and in the Seawolves’ first regular-season game of the 2022-2023 season Saturday, the sophomore forward scored in a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan.
“You couldn’t have wrote a better script,” UAA coach Matt Shasby said. “He came home for all the right reasons and for moments just like this.”
Helgeson believes the role he played in UAA’s triumph in the first contest of the two-game series between the teams brought his hockey journey full circle.
“It means everything,” he said. “As soon as this program started back up, that’s all I wanted to do was to come out here and help win hockey games for the team and community ... I’ve been waiting to score a goal in a UAA jersey for a very long time and have been dreaming about it since I was a kid, and it’s a dream come true.”
In addition to being memorable to Helgeson, Shasby said the Seawolves’ first win of the season was important for the Anchorage community at-large.
“It’s not just another win, it’s a win for everybody that participated to bring this program back,” he said. “I’m extremely proud of our guys. They put it out on the line, and they really deserved that win.”
It had been 938 days since the Seawolves last scored a goal in a non-exhibition game. They lost 1-0 to Simon Fraser in an exhibition game last week in their very first time back on the ice.
Following a tightly contested first 13 minutes of the game, Connor Marritt finally ended the over two-year scoring drought when he slammed the puck into the back of the net off an assist from fellow junior Matt Allen at the 6:23 mark.
“It could’ve been any one of these guys, everyone played so hard today,” Marritt said. “I was lucky that the puck found my stick. My linemates made a good play keeping it in and taking it to the net, and I just cleaned up the trash.”
Shasby was elated when his team was able to strike first and earn a win against the No. 14-ranked Broncos.
“It felt good just to watch the crowd’s reaction to putting one in the back of the net,” he said. “The energy the crowd provided tonight was huge.”
The Seawolves’ lead was short-lived as the Broncos capitalized on their first power-play opportunity of the game to knot the game back up in the first period at the 5:41 mark.
The second period unfolded much like the first until UAA was able to break the tie with just over six minutes left. After failing to capitalize on their first two power-play opportunities, one in each period, they didn’t let their third go to waste.
They had a 5-on-3 advantage for nearly two full minutes and following a couple of unsuccessful close calls, William Gilson got assists from Derek Hamlin and Brandon Lajoie on what would ultimately be the game-winning goal.
“At this level, you have to capitalize on 5-on-3s, and if you don’t, you’re not going to put three pucks in the net,” Shasby said.
Helgeson’s goal came inside the first two minutes of the third period with 18:19 left on the clock. The Seawolves got an unexpected lineup change when they were forced to bring a new goalie into the game for the final 13 minutes after senior goaltender Joey Lamoreaux exited with cramps.
Graduate transfer Nolan Kent came into the high-pressure situation tasked with ensuring the Broncos couldn’t rally.
“Our bench didn’t waver at all,” Marrit said. “We’ve got tremendous trust in all our goalies 1-3.”
Shasby was also very impressed with the play of his backup goaltender in crunch time.
“Nolan Kent is a stud, he came in after Joey gave us literally everything he had,” he said. “I couldn’t be more proud of that tandem.”
The Seawolves showed some good cohesion early in the season and Marritt believes they can continue to turn in complete performances.
“We played such a great team game that if we play like that, we’re going be a tough team to beat,” he said.