The University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey team was back on its home ice on Friday night at the Avis Alaska Sports Complex, and with a 3-1 win over visiting Air Force in front of a lively crowd, the Seawolves had a pair of firsts come to fruition.
It marked the first time they’ve won back-to-back games since their regular season schedule got underway. And the first goal of the night was also the first in the collegiate career of Anchorage’s Aiden Westin.
“It felt good and definitely relieves a little pressure,” he said. “I like to score goals, so it felt good to get the first one.”
The freshman forward spent the last two years starring for his hometown’s junior hockey franchise, the Anchorage Wolverines. Westin was playing in his first game back from injury and was able to give the Seawolves the initial lead at the 13:23 mark in the first period following assists from Carson Kosobud and Davis Goukler.
“I was very happy to see Aiden get his first career goal and it was a big one for us,” UAA head coach Matt Shasby said.
UAA nearly led 2-0 at the end of the opening period after freshman forward Riley Thompson found the back of the net at the 5:41 mark. But the scoring play was reviewed and negated due to an offsides penalty.
The Seawolves defended well against the Air Force power play for the vast majority of the night but couldn’t hold on for the final four seconds in one of their short-handed situations about halfway through the second period, and Air Force was able to knot the game up at 1-1.
“We’ve been happy with our penalty kill so far this year and happy with special teams overall on both sides,” Shasby said. “It’s something that if you’re going to win college hockey games, you have to score on the power play and you have to defend well on the penalty kill.”
The game wouldn’t stay tied for long as the Seawolves regained the lead at the 6:44 minute mark courtesy of a goal from senior forward Matt Allen, who was assisted by Thompson and Connor Marritt on the play.
UAA carried its narrow lead into the final period, and after 13-plus minutes of scoreless action, another local product helped the Seawolves extend their lead. Anchorage’s Maximilion Helgeson made it 3-1 with assists from Brett Bamber and Ben Almquist to tie a bow on the Seawolves’ impressive victory.
“You got to love it when you see Anchorage kids on the score sheets, especially at those home dates,” Shasby said.
Westin admires Helgeson’s game a lot and sees a lot of similarities between the two of them that should help the team on offense moving forward.
“He’s a great goal scorer, and if me and him can work like that on different lines, our team will be pretty successful,” Westin said.
Even though he wasn’t able to hold Air Force off the scoreboard entirely, sophomore goaltender Jared Whale had a strong night overall, stopping 31-of-32 shots from reaching the back of the net.
“Jared has been very consistent all four starts,” Shasby said. “He relishes those (scrambles in front of the net) and he does a great job of keeping in front of the puck. They definitely tested him tonight and he stepped up to the plate.”
The Seawolves hope to build on the momentum in their second matchup with Air Force on Saturday night, in the second part of their two-game series, and beyond. The puck was set to drop Saturday at 5:07 p.m.
“Every win builds more and more confidence for our team,” Westin said. “We need to get used to winning because we’re a good hockey team and I think we can go really far.”