In its first home game since mid-October, the University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey team not only won a third game in a row with a 6-0 triumph over visiting Simon Fraser on Friday night, but the Seawolves avenged their season-opening loss as well.
The Red Leafs had spoiled the Seawolves inaugural game since being fully reinstated after a 30-month hiatus by edging them out 1-0 on Sept. 23.
“Once that took place at the beginning of the year, you mark it on your schedule of being able to rematch,” UAA coach Matt Shasby. “They’re a quality hockey team and we’re happy with the win tonight, but tomorrow is a new battle.”
Shasby said the team has come a long way since that defeat and is starting to come together after more or less being constructed from scratch to start the 2022-23 season.
“Our freshmen have gotten experience, overall the team spending significant time together on the road where you just kind of become a team,” Shasby said. “We’re happy with where we are but we still have a long way to go.”
With the extended stretch away from the home rink, the Seawolves believe they are a materially different team than the one that played in front of fans early in the season at Seawolf Sports Complex.
“I feel like we’ve had a lot of time to mesh and get better,” senior forward Ben Almquist said. “I think it showed out there that the time really made us mature and we’re a lot better team out there tonight.”
This also marked the Seawolves’ first game since Nov. 17 prior to the Thanksgiving break. They had won two straight games in Las Vegas over UNLV and Liberty by a combined 12-2 margin.
“We’ve been working a lot on offense in practice and emphasizing the fact that we can make plays, and we just have to really focus on it and make sure that we’re making that second pass,” Almquist said.
Shasby said that “scoring is one of those things where it comes with confidence” and now his players are playing and executing at higher levels.
The Seawolves had five different players record goals and were led in scoring by Almquist, who found the back of the net twice.
“It’s good when you’ve got a bunch of open ice to skate with and teammates playing good around me,” he said.
Almquist’s first goal put UAA up 2-0 in the opening period and was the only power-play opportunity the Seawolves were able to capitalize on with all of their other goals coming at full strength.
“We’re a really strong five-on-five team,” Almquist said. “We’ve been really working on our power play and we’re not quite there yet and it showed. But we just have to lean on our five-on-five play and the power play goals will come.”
Starting goalie Nolan Kent didn’t see a whole lot of action for the vast majority of the game as the Seawolves were on the prowl for most of the night until the Red Leafs tried to mount a late comeback with a furious flurry of shots in the final minutes of the third period. The graduate transfer was lights out from start to finish and was credited with the shutout win.
“It’s hard for goalies when they don’t see a lot of shots and he got quite a few quality looks there at the end of the game,” Almquist said. “He shut the door, and that’s what we can rely on him for.”
Shasby said that result was exactly what they expected from the Kent given his wealth of experience.
“We expected him to come in and hold down the fort regardless of how many shots he’s got,” he said. “He’s been great all year. He was great at Northern Michigan, and he’s been solid for us and that’s why he got the start.”
UAA and Simon Fraser will conclude the exhibition series on Saturday night back at the Seawolf Sports Complex with a slated puck drop time of 6:07 p.m.