UAA Athletics

UAA hockey team finally triumphs over UAF in final game of Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup series

For Connor Marritt and the rest of his fellow seniors on the University of Alaska Anchorage men’s hockey team, their Saturday night game against instate rivals was more than just the fifth and final matchup of the annual Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup series.

It was a chance for them to do something the program had yet to do since being reinstated two years ago. Beat the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

“These are the games we look forward to from August and the start of the year,” Marritt said. “We mark these on the calendar ... That added expectation in practice and battling and everything carried into the game.”

Thanks to an explosive second period in which they outscored the Nanooks 3-0 to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, a packed house at the Avis Alaska Sports Complex was witness to a milestone moment for the program as the Seawolves claimed a 4-2 victory.

“We’ve been waiting for that moment for so long and just to have it in our hands and celebrate with the guys was great,” Marritt said. “It’s been a long time coming and feels so good. I wish we could’ve done this sooner but I hope this keeps trending in the right direction.”

Prior to this triumph, UAA had lost 10 of its last 11 games against the Nanooks and played the Nanooks to a 2-2 tie the last time they took the ice against each other on Jan. 13. The win marked the Seawolves’ first in the series in nearly five years since they won 4-0 at home on Oct. 26, 2019.

“Fairbanks is one of the better teams in the country and it took us 12 games to get here but I’m happy for the guys and thought they played a good third period to close it out,” UAA head coach Matt Shasby said.


Despite trailing by a goal coming out of the opening period, UAA didn’t take long to get on the board themselves and double up the score on UAF.

“We came into the locker room after the first and knew we didn’t have to change anything, just keep going, trust the process, trust the system, and that’s what we did,” Marritt said.

Freshman forward and local product Aiden Westin drew first blood with a game-tying goal at the 17:31 mark, and 42 seconds later, senior forward Ben Almquist broke the short-lived stalemate when he managed to get the puck in the back of the net amidst a scrum in front of Nanooks goalie Pierce Charleson on a power play.

“That first goal was huge and kind of broke their backs a little bit and opened things up for us,” Shasby said.

A little more than eight minutes later, Marritt scored the game-winning goal, which gave them what ended up being the final margin of victory they’d need to win the game even though they tacked on a fourth for good measure in the third period.

“We went out there and just executed, and that’s what happens when we play our style of hockey,” he said.

UAF tried to cut their deficit back to just one goal with a furious rally attempt at the end of the third period that was otherwise dominated by the home team. With a collaborative team effort that saw several UAA players diving left and right, they were able to successfully prevent a flurry of shots in the final minute.

That wasn’t the only example of superb defense that the Seawolves showed in this game as they were perfect on their three penalty kill opportunities when the Nanooks had the numbers advantage on the ice for periods of time.

“You want to win the special teams battles because it’s the only way you’re going to beat those guys,” Shasby said. “We had almost power play goals but our power kill was great all night and allowed us to get that win.”

After a nearly scoreless first 10 minutes of the third period, UAF was able to cut into the lead and make it a one-goal game with 10:50 left to play but UAA would tighten back up on defense and not allow them to tie the game.

Desperate and with time ticking off the clock inside the final two minutes, the Nanooks pulled Charleson in an attempt to gain a numbers advantage to mount an offensive assault. Not only did their plan not work but it completely backfired, resulting in UAA junior Porter Schachle of Wasilla scoring an uncontested and unassisted goal into an empty net.

“Schachle has had his battle with these guys all year and it was great for him get the closer,” Shasby said.

Tempers flared throughout the game, and hostilities didn’t stop even after the final buzzer sounded as junior forward Max Helgeson got into an altercation that resulted in one of the glass walls around the rink getting shattered. The incident incited a larger melee in which both benches were on the ice and had to be broken up but the crowd absolutely loved it.

“We’ve had two months off from home and to come back here and to get one to start the second half, we have six more home games and that’s a great way to start it,” Shasby said. “Hopefully we can keep rolling.”

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Josh Reed

Josh Reed is a sports reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. He's a graduate of West High School and the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.