After losing three straight after the first victory of their inaugural season since being fully reinstated, the University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey team needed a get-right game. The Seawolves found it Friday, bouncing back with a resounding 8-0 victory over the University of Nevada Las Vegas at the Seawolf Sports Complex.
UAA had seven different players score goals and 13 total players record at least one point in the exhibition triumph over the Rebels.
“That’s what we want to see in these games,” UAA coach Matt Shasby said. “Roll four lines, participate in all situations whether it’s special teams, defensive zone, faceoff, and just getting reps underneath all 20 guys.”
The Seawolves primarily played their underclassmen, many of whom were seeing the ice for the first time in the young season and got standout performances from a pair of freshmen in particular.
“It’s nice to have a variety of guys get on the board and it feels good to put eight goals up but at the same time there’s a lot of things we need to be better at (Saturday),” Shasby said. “At the end of the day it was guys executing around the front of the net and getting goals the right way.”
UAA was led in scoring by freshman defenseman William Gilson, who found the back of the net twice on the night, once in the opening period and again in the second.
“I got two great opportunities, our forwards are doing a lot of good work down in the offensive zone,” Gilson said. “Not two of the hardest goals but it was great to get on the board.”
The last time freshman goaltender Jared Whale saw action in a game was back in March when he was playing junior hockey for the Olds Grizzlys in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. In his first appearance and start for the Seawolves, he was lights-out and finished with 18 saves, helping the team to a shutout win.
“It’s been awhile since I played a game but playing with these guys in front of me gives me confidence and I hope I give them confidence as well,” Whale said. “It feels awesome to be back in the win column.”
“Everyone in the room expected that,” Gilson said. “We see it everyday in practice. He’s a great goalie, and I’m glad we got to see that in the ice today.”
The Calgary, Alberta native and his teammates were especially stingy and stout defensively when they were short-handed on the ice as the Rebels couldn’t capitalize on any of their five power-play opportunities that included a 5-on-3 scenario for 34 seconds early in the second period, followed by 5-on-4 for another minute.
“I was happy with the penalty kill tonight,” Shasby said. “Guys were blocking shots and they were executing. At those moments you just got to be smart and outwork the power play and I thought we did that.”
Gilson said that improving on their penalty kill was a point of emphasis this past week after not being able to execute in that area in their two-game series versus Colorado College last weekend.
“They did a really good job of pressuring point guys and trying to force pucks down low to the wall, jumping on loose pucks, and sending them down the ice,” Whale said. “I don’t even think they got a shot in on the 5-on-3.”
UAA used an explosive first period to score all the goals they needed to come away with the win. Junior Matt Allen got the offensive onslaught started by drawing first blood with 12 minutes and 21 seconds left on the clock. Despite being a man short on the ice on the first power play opportunity of the game for UNLV, Gilson scored his first and the second of the game less than three minutes later at the 9:43 mark.
“He’s dynamic from the backend and he has the ability to slip around people and finish,” Shasby said. “We’re looking for Will to do that consistently and he has thus far this year.”
UAA tacked on two more goals before the period ended, three more in the second that included Gilson’s second for the sixth of the game at 11:15 mark. Graduate transfer, Caleb Hite, added eighth and final in the third and final period.
The Seawolves weren’t able to capitalize on any of their own power play opportunities but still managed score the program’s most goals in a single game of the season and the most overall since they beat Simon Fraser 6-1 in an exhibition on September 30, 2017.
“The team was clicking on all cylinders tonight and got a lot of confidence and a lot of offense,” Gilson said.
The last time they scored eight goals in a game came in a season-opening shutout of Western Ontario in an exhibition on Oct. 4, 2014.
While exhibition games don’t count towards the team’s record, they still provide invaluable experience for younger players who don’t hardly ever see consistent time on the ice.
“Hockey is a game where you just need to be on the ice, you need to feel the game, and you need to play the game without thinking,” Shasby said. “The more that we can just roll lines and get guys out there in all situations, the better it’s going to be for us later on down the line and throughout the rest of the season.”