Anchorage Goes Out With Heads High
by Timothy Boger/CHN Reporter
ST. PAUL, Minn. Alaska-Anchorage, one of the WCHA’s punching bags for quite some time, surprised the hockey world last weekend by punching its ticket to the Final Five with a sweep at Minnesota.
The Seawolves made it to the Final Five in St. Paul for just the second time in their 28 seasons in the WCHA, dating back to 1993-94. Their only other appearance was in 2003-04.
Thursday, they were eliminated by Colorado College, who scored a pair of goals in each of the first two periods to defeat the Seawolves 4-2. But it was a hard-fought battle full of bounces that could have gone either way.
Head coach Dave Shyiak chalked their fate up to “puck luck.” He was probably right – three of the Tigers’ goals went off defenders in front of goaltender Chris Kamal, who was pulled after allowing three goals.
“I thought we played like we had to play,” Shyiak said. “That’s just kind of the nature of the game. I can’t take anything away from the guys – it just wasn’t in the cards tonight.”
That the Seawolves (16-18-3) played well enough to win Thursday speaks volumes about the present and future value of this program that has just three NCAA tournament appearances in 32 years.
“It doesn’t sit well, it doesn’t feel right. The guys did everything we asked,” Shyiak said.
Anchorage graduates five seniors this season – Kane LaFranchise, Craig Parkinson, Tommy Grant, Nick Haddad and Luka Vidmar. Those five combined for 95 points this season, and set the tone for UAA in a breakout season.
“I thought our seniors were incredible this year," Shyiak said. "I think they built the foundation and the blueprint that our program needs to move forward and hopefully we can become a repeat participant down here. It was important to get here with this class because I think they’re a great class, and now everybody has the experience of getting here and what it takes to get here.”
It was a season of bests for the Seawolves. Their 16 wins was the most they had overall since joining the WCHA. They posted a 9-5-3 record – again, their best in the WCHA era – at their home at Sullivan Arena, too.
Getting to this stage, Shyiak said, was a great addition to those accomplishments.
“It’s a good step forward for our program, but we’re not just going to be happy we got here. We want to be somebody that’s here every single year and having a chance to play for a championship. I’m proud of the guys and proud of our accomplishments this year.”
Parkinson, an assistant captain, finished the season strong, scoring six points in the final six games. And while his career is done, he’s excited for his teammates and the program’s future.
“I wish I was coming back,” he said.
The future does indeed look bright for UAA, who rode the surprisingly solid play from their freshmen goaltender tandem of Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal. Before being pulled Thursday, Kamal had a five-game winning streak in which he notched two shutouts.
“He’s battled hard for us and he deserved a better fate [Thursday],” Parkinson said.
“They did a heck of a good job for us,” said Shyiak. “That’s been the biggest stabilizer for our program: we had teams that have been good, but we’ve been inconsistent in net. Now, we have two goaltenders that we’re going to have for four years. That puts us in a pretty good position going forward.”
Parkinson likes his teammates chances: “They got a good group there. I see them back here quite often.”