Tech suffers Carnival crash

HOUGHTON – Alaska Anchorage had been involved in 13 one-goal games this year, but hadn’t won any of them entering this weekend’s Winter Carnival series against Michigan Tech. Friday night was No. 14, and despite trailing 4-1 early in the second period, the Seawolves stunned the Huskies with four unanswered goals – two in the final three minutes – and a 5-4 win.

“We’ve been in a rough patch with all these ties and one-goal games. Just to come back, on the road, and win the way we did, it just says a lot about our guys,” UAA coach Dave Shyiak said. “That was probably the ugliest comeback I’ve ever seen, but I’ll take it, our guys feel happy about it.”

UAA’s Blake Tatchell scored a soft goal against Tech netminder Pheonix Copley with 2:09 to play to tie the game at 4-4, and Jordan Kwas netted his second goal of the third period with 45 seconds left to silence the 3,542 fans at MacInnes Student Ice Arena.

It was the Seawolves’ first Western Collegiate Hockey Association road win of the year, and it drops the Huskies to 1-6-2 in the last nine home games.

“We played well enough to win for most of the game, but it’s a 60-minute game. It’s a tough one,” said Tech coach Mel Pearson, who had predicted close games heading into the weekend. “Great crowd, we had a good game for the most part, but you have to learn how to finish strong. … It’s a disappointing loss.”

Tech started the game as well as UAA finished it, though.

Aaron Pietila fired an innocent-looking turnaround shot on net from the right halfwall that somehow found its way past goaltender Chris Kamal 4:28 into the game. Just 1:04 later Ryan Furne scored his third goal in his last six games, a wraparound that brought a wrap to Kamal’s night and forced Shyiak to burn his timeout. Rob Gunderson replaced Kamal and ended up saving 36 of the 38 shots Tech peppered him with the rest of the way.

“They were up 2-0 when I pulled the goalie early, and (Gunderson) made probably three or four point-blank saves. It probably coud have been four or five to nothing, so he gave us a chance to get back in the game and win a hockey game,” Shyiak said. “He was probably our best player tonight.”

He denied David and Jacob Johnstone with highlight-reel saves about a minute apart midway through the first period, and finally UAA scored its first goal when Matt Bailey split Tech’s D, made a beautiful left-to-right move and buried the puck in the top left corner at 10:42.

While Gunderson played well, Tech’s offensive onslaught reaped rewards in the form of a Steven Seigo seeing-eye power play point shot with 1:30 left in the first, and a Milos Gordic tipped goal on a Tanner Kero shot two minutes into the second.

“We got off to a good start. We were ready to play. … We had some great opportunities, even when it was 4-1, but we let them hang around,” Pearson said.

With 2:35 left in the second period, UAA’s Daniel Naslund cut the deficit to 4-2 with a power play goal, but the Huskies were still outshooting the Seawolves 34-15 after 40 minutes. The teams combined to go 4-for-4 on the power play in the game.

Only a combined three penalties had been called through the first two periods, but six minutes into the third Tech had three of its top five point producers in the box, two with matching roughing calls with two UAA players, and Tanner Kero for a potential goal-saving slash at 5:43.

Kwas made Tech pay at 6:58 on a pretty power play setup, but UAA continued to generate chances even during 5 on 5 play. The visitors outshot Tech 13-10 in the final 20 minutes.

“We’ve been (down in games) countless number of times this year … so guys are just trying to keep their head,” Kwas said. “We battled back and got some bounces, which hasn’t been our thing this year.”

It may have been the most innocent shot of all by Tatchell that tied the game at 4. Almost identical to Pietila’s first-period tally but from the left halfwall, Tatchell put the puck toward the net and it slipped under Copley’s right pad.

Tech took its timeout with 1:13 left, but UAA kept the momentum and sucked all life out of the building with Kwas’s second tally. The Huskies generated several grade-A chances in the last 30 seconds alone but couldn’t get the equalizer.

“There’s a certain way we need to play in the third period, and what we did did not cut it. We turned the puck over, didn’t get pucks deep, we made bad decisions and we got outworked,” Furne said. “It sucks not winning tonight, but the only thing we can do is put it behind us and go into (Saturday) night’s game with more jump in our step.”

Faceoff for today’s Winter Carnival series finale between Tech (8-14-4, 5-12-4 WCHA) and Alaska Anchorage (4-16-7, 2-15-6 WCHA) is slated for 5:07 p.m., after a Tech basketball doubleheader at 1 and 3 against Grand Valley State.