Through the first two periods of its fifth matchup of the season against in-state rival University of Alaska Fairbanks on Friday night, the University of Alaska Anchorage hockey team was in full control.
The Seawolves had scored a pair of goals and senior goalie Nolan Kent was playing lights out between the pipes with 20 saves and no goals allowed.
But the Seawolves lost control of the game and ultimately the lead in the third period, eventually falling to UAF 4-3 in overtime at the Seawolves Sports Complex.
In the third period, the Nanooks outscored the Seawolves 3-1 to force overtime, where they would get the game-winning goal from Payton Matsui just two minutes and 15 seconds into the extra period.
“I think we ran out of a little bit of gas and they were able to get some offensive zone time,” UAA head coach Matt Shasby said. “They executed off a faceoff; you can’t give those goals up when you’re up by a goal.”
The third period surge by UAF spoiled what had been an outstanding outing by Kent to that point.
“He played as good as he possibly could’ve,” Shasby said. “He was great tonight and he’s been great in every game this year.”
The game marked UAA’s fifth straight loss to UAF in the return of the annual Governor’s Cup. UAF swept back-to-back, home-and-home weekend series in mid-December.
Junior forward Matt Allen led the team in scoring with a pair of goals, one coming in the second period and the other in the third period with just over five minutes left to play in regulation to give his team the lead back.
“My linemates were just making great plays out there and I was just in the right spot at the right time,” Allen said.
Just when it appeared as if the Seawolves had victory in hand with less than a minute left in regulation, Fairbanks scored a game-tying goal with 44 seconds left on the clock.
“We just have to be play a simple game and not get too complicated or too fancy,” Allen said. “First two periods, we talked about what worked was plain and simple ... We kind of got away from that a little bit and they came back.”
Despite the disappointing fifth consecutive loss to the Nanooks, the Seawolves believe they’re headed in the right direction and are making significant strides in their first year since being fully reinstated.
“Second half (of the season) we’ve been playing really well,” Allen said. “We’re right there. We just have to learn how to finish.”
In each of their previous matchups with UAF, UAA has continued to close the margin of defeat and the Seawolves feel like they are on the precipice of turning the corner as a team.
“I’m happy with our effort overall,” Shasby said. “We are making strides as a group, and we’ll get another chance at them (Saturday). The game is not over until it’s over and they did a great job of playing to the end and tying it up and winning in overtime.”
The two teams will face off for the second straight night Saturday in Fairbanks at 7:07 p.m. in the Carlson Center.
“We definitely have to have a chip on our shoulder tomorrow,” Allen said. “They can’t take all six (games) from us.”