Seawolves snatch victory over Governor’s Cup weekend

Ryker Leer # 23 fending off 3 Seawolves. Leer scored first goal of the game on Friday to narrow the Seawolves’ 3 point head. As a sophomore, Leer made 3 game-winning goals for UAF.

It was a brutal weekend on the ice for the Alaska Nanooks. The previous Governor’s Cup champions suffered two consecutive losses to the UAA Seawolves Friday (5-3) and Saturday (3-2).

At the start of Friday’s game, the Carlson Center crowd of students, alumni, and families gave out roaring booms of “UAF” over the rink. These hopeful chants were snubbed by the Seawolves’ gaining two points within the first 9 minutes with scores made by Austin Azurdia and Nicolas Erb-Ekholm respectively.

The pattern of a weak defensive strategy for the Nanooks started to show. Despite attempts by the Nanooks’ offense to break into UAA’s goal, they were hardly able to keep it on their side of the ice. The first period ended with a third goal by Seawolves’ Jarrett Brown.

At the start of the second period it was clear that the Nanooks upped their offensive game, with Justin Woods making several attempts to advance on the net. Even so, Seawolves were able to land another point 6 minutes in. At this point in the match, the crowd started cheering “UAA.”

Nanooks player Austin Vieth # 23 as he tries to manuever the puck past Seawolves defensman. Vieth was one of the seniors present at the post game panel where he expressed immense gratitude for having been given the opportunity to fulfill his dream of playing Division 1 hockey with UAF.

With Nanooks’ chances getting slimmer, their offensive went overtime to try to break through UAA’s goalie. Finally, the first blow for UAF was given by Ryker Leer, but UAA quickly responded back with another goal to close out the second period.

The last period was UAA’s attempt to maintain their lead. There were fewer attempts on the goal. This release of pressure on UAF allowed for them to concentrate on catching up. The push on Seawolves’ Olivier Mantha allowed for Justin Woods to finally score for UAF, followed up by Nanook Ross Heidt’s goal a minute later.

After the game, Coach Lance West came in concerned but determined.

“We got selfish,” West said.

“We tried to play 3 on 1 in rushes, we played 4 on 2,” continued West as he drove the point home that players were lacking team strategy. West ended the panel hopeful that the team would show proper representation the next day.

Kyle Marino # 36 breaking to keep the puck away from a Seawolf on his tail. Marino began playing for the Nanooks his sophomore year.

Saturday’s game started out with a feeling of deja vu when Nicolas Erb-Ekholm and Austin Azurdia placing the advantage on Seawolves’ territory once again. UAF played hard defensively to keep UAA out of their ice for the rest of the period. Nanooks meandered in UAA territory, hesitating to make a move on the net even with ample time to decide on a course of action which resulted in UAA stealing the puck.

Second period played out with a devastating third score for UAA. Offensive for UAF began taking shot after shot at the goalie but with no results. Seawolves goalie Olivier Mantha had 41 saves in total compared to Nanook Niko DellaMaggiore’s 23. Ross Heidt made plenty of bold attempts on the net but none of them landed. Offense proved to be noticeably better and gave room for Zach Frye to score UAF’s first goal of the night at the end of the period.

Still, the dire outcome of the game became clear as the final period wore on. UAA played to keep the odds on their side, doubling down on defense for the remaining period. Even so, Zach Frye scored another point for UAF, but it was too little too late. The shot was delivered 17 minutes into the period, leaving very little room for a tie.

Kylar Hope # 28 preparing for a pass as two UAA players move in. Justin Wood # 8 is in the back. Hope played 30 games as a rookie and had 43 shots on goal.

The atmosphere from the coach and players was far more somber following the loss. The Nanooks are in danger of losing their play-off spot in the WCHA conference, leaving only one game left to determine whether they’ll play. Emotions were high, leaving many senior players teary-eyed, worried over whether their next game will be their last this season.

“It’s unacceptable the way we came out tonight,” Defenseman Nikolas Koberstein said. “That late push isn’t going to cut it in this league. We have to move forward. Tomorrow’s a new day, we’ll come out and start the right way tomorrow.”

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