Anchorage Trying to Stem the Tide
by Taylor Hall/CHN Reporter
ANCHORAGE, Alaska How quickly the tides can change when you're a young team in the college hockey world.
Case in point: Alaska-Anchorage.
By mid-October, the youthful Seawolves were 3-0-1 on the season and had two tournament titles under their belts. With wins over programs like Nebraska-Omaha, St. Cloud State and Mercyhurst, UAA was getting serious looks from local and national platforms and were being billed as the sleeper team in the WCHA.
The team was riding a wave of momentum and looked like they were navigating the stormy college hockey waters with ease.
Then late-October rolled around and WCHA league games began.
Two league series in, and the Seawolves are now 3-4-1. Four straight losses — a pair in Omaha on Oct. 21 and 22 and two more at home to Minnesota last weekend — 15 goals allowed and only three goals for has led to the Seawolves finding themselves in the cellar of the WCHA standings.
That wave of momentum that once had Anchorage riding high now has UAA caught in the undertow and searching for answers.
"We now know what it's like to lose, and it's leaving a bitter taste in our mouths," said UAA sophomore defenseman Wes McLeod.
The slide has an all-too-similar feeling to last season.
UAA faced an early-season stretch where it lost five straight games, three of which were conference games.
With that in mind, the parallel here may be a young team who is trying to find their way.
"We felt the same thing last year but it wasn't maybe quite this bad," said Rob Gunderson, a sophomore goalie. "It's definitely growing pains though."
Gunderson's play as of late may be one of the few bright spots. Despite a 0-2-0 start, the Lethbridge, Alberta, native has posted a .912 save percentage and 2.54 goals against average in league play. His play has kept the Seawolves in the game despite coming out on the losing end.
"That's pretty much my job right there," Gunderson said. "I try and keep the team in games and, if I can, steal a win."
His team may have caught a bit of a break this past week as they got an early season bye week that gave them some time off from game action. The break allowed some players to heal from ailing injuries. Others got a chance to work out the kinks in their game on the ice.
But for the whole, it's a chance to step back and dust themselves off and find their bearings.
"I think this off week allows the guys to regroup a bit and reflect on the last four games," said UAA assistant coach T.J. Jindra. "Hopefully, this next week when we get going again and prepare for UMD, our focus will be better and we’ll take a step in the right direction."
After touching up their first four opponents with 17 goals (4.25 goals per game), UAA has only managed three goals during its four-game skid.
As the players and coaches all know, going to the hard areas and causing havoc around the paint are going to be key in breaking their scoring woes.
"It's just about getting pucks to the net," Jindra said. "(We have to) get bodies to the net and look for those garbage goals.
"They don't have to look good to count."