Hot Anchorage Cools Off Hot Gophers
CHN Staff Report
MINNEAPOLIS Coming into the playoffs playing its best hockey of the season, Minnesota missed out on a golden opportunity to make up ground in the NCAA race, and set back a month of hard work.
With Dartmouth and Western Michigan among the Game 1 losers Friday night, the Gophers came out tentative and fell behind 3-0 to Alaska-Anchorage. It made a gallant comeback, but exhausted their energy doing so, and UAA got a late game winner to take Game 1 of the Best-of-3 quarterfinal series at Mariucci Arena.
“It’s disappointing," Minnesota coach Don Lucia said. "I thought some of the young guys looked nervous to start the game. I thought we got better as the game went on, but the bottom line is you can’t give up four goals this time of the year and win in the playoffs.”
Jake Hansen, whose penalty shot goal in the second period kick-started the Minnesota rally, was at a loss to explain the tough start.
“I don’t know what it was, but our team didn’t come out," Hansen said. "It was just really unacceptable for the fans, for our coaches, for everything. We just didn’t play a hockey game the full 60 minutes, which is what you need to do in playoffs. Alaska’s been playing some good hockey. Their goalie’s been pretty good lately.”
That goalie is Chris Kamal, who is indeed on a good roll since usurping the No. 1 goaltender role. Kamal started out his freshman season poorly, allowing 21 goals in his first five starts, and was relegated to the backup job behind fellow freshman Rob Gunderson. But Gunderson didn't excel either, and Kamal was given another chance. He's been stellar since.
“We shouldn’t have had a slow start," Minnesota's Jacob Cepis said. "Maybe we weren’t prepared. We should’ve known that they were going to come out hard. I guess it’s a just a slip-up. You’ve got to know during playoffs. Especially this team. They’ve been hot in our league. They were coming out with a purpose.”
Anchorage's win was the 15th of the season, which is the most for the program since 1999-2000 under Dean Talafous — and is tied for the most since the Seawolves moved to the WCHA.
Anchorage scoerd goals late in the first and early in the second to take a 2-0 lead. It extended that to 3-0, before the Gophers rallied all the way back. It started with Hansen's goal, which was followed just 16 seconds later with a goal from Aaron Ness. With all the momentum, Minnesota tied the game in the third, only to see Mitch Bruijsten pot the game winner for the Seawolves with 6:32 remaining.
“Yeah, they did a good job of blocked shots," Lucia said of the Seawolves. "They obviously played very well. … We had a lot of shots blocked. We missed the net a lot, and our chance hit the crossbar there with 10 seconds to go, but the way they played, they probably deserved to win the game.
“We’ve been in this situation a few years back where we lost the first but came back and won the next two. It’s all about tomorrow now. You’ve got to win one game. If you don’t win one game, the season’s over. We have to have a good start to our game. We also have to understand it’s going to be a hard-fought game.”