FAIRBANKS - Entering Saturday's regular-season finale, Alaska was the one playoff team that could not move up or down in terms of seeding for the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs but they had the coveted Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup to play for.
Two first-period goals and a 30-save performance by Rob Gunderson gave way for Alaska Anchorage to walk out of Saturday's final WCHA series with a 3-1 triumph over Alaska in front of a sold-out crowd of 4,595 at the Carlson Center. Unfortunately for UAA's goaltender, he only made one save in the shootout that was needed to break the 2-2 season series tie and determine the 2014 Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup champion.
In the best-of-three shootout following regulation time, senior left wing Colton Beck (Langley, British Columbia/Business Administration) put the Nanooks (17-13-4, 14-12-2 WCHA) up 1-0 in the first round but Matt Bailey squared things at 1-1 in the second round.
Sophomore defenseman Colton Parayko (St. Albert, Alberta/Business Administration), who won the Brice Alaska Goal Rush over Western Michigan back in October with a third-round shootout score, answered the call again as he lit the lamp to give Alaska a 2-1 edge.
At the other end, junior goaltender Sean Cahill (Calgary, Alberta/Business Administration) made the biggest save of the evening, denying Blake Tatchell and lifting the 'Nooks to a fifth consecutive Governor's Cup crown.
The victory in regulation for the Seawolves (16-14-4, 12-12-4 WCHA) secured them the No. 6 seed and the right to come right back to Fairbanks next week to battle the Nanooks in the first round of the WCHA postseason. The games are scheduled for March 13-15 with the puck dropping at 7:07 p.m. each night. The victor in each of the four first-round match-ups will advance to compete in the WCHA Final Five in Grand Rapids, Mich., March 21-22, at Van Andel Arena.
UAA brought to an end Alaska's seven game win streak and first defeat since Jan. 25, 2014 - a 4-0 loss to Bemidji State. It was the first win for it in Fairbanks in seven attempts with the previous victory at the Carlson Center coming back on Feb. 27, 2009.
Bailey and Scott Allen both scored one goal with one assist each while Brett Cameron provided the team's third goal which would prove to be cushion enough to earn the road win. Gunderson improved to 8-6-2 on the year after allowing just one goal, making 30 stops, including 13 in the final period.
Alaska's lone goal came from junior left wing Garrick Perry (Apple Valley, Minn./Communication) and Cahill fell to 9-4-1, snapping a seven-start win streak, after allowing three scores with 28 saves.
Shots were even at 31-31 but the Nanooks controlled the face-off circle by a 33-23 margin. Sophomore left wing Brandon Morley (Burnaby, British Columbia/Business Administration) was moved to center due to his brother, Tyler, being unavailable for the game and he dominated face-offs, 10-1 while fellow rookie Shawn Hochhausen (Kelowna, British Columbia/Petroleum Engineering) was 8-3 in the circle.
The Seawolves struck twice in the opening 20 after outshooting the Nanooks 13-9. UAA went up 1-0 with a tally 2:37 into the game as Cahill made an initial save on a shot by Austin Coldwell but Matt Bailey was there to collect the rebound and he beat the Alaska goalie over the glove hand.
UAA doubled the lead to 2-0 due to a mishandle of the puck in the Alaska defensive zone. Bailey dished the puck off to Allen and the first-line left wing lifted the puck over Cahill's stick hand for the eventual game winner at 14:09 of the first.
Perry put the Nanooks on the board with the team's one goal, which came at the 5:41 mark of the second. Sophomore defenseman Josh Atkinson (Spruce Grove, Alberta/Business Administration) fired a shot from the left point and Perry was able to redirect it out in front on the far side of Gunderson's glove side.
UAA responded just over 10 minutes later with the game's final goal at 15:57 of the second. Allen picked off a pass in the offensive zone from freshman defender Justin Woods (Fairbanks, Alaska/Justice) and he passed the puck across the front of the crease and Cameron finished the play off to make it a 3-1 game where it would stand at the end of 60 minutes.
Prior to the start of Saturday's game, Alaska's three seniors, Beck, Cody Kunyk (Sherwood Park, Alberta/Business Administration) and Michael Quinn (Surrey, British Columbia/Geography) were honored as it was the final regular-season home game of their respective careers. After videos of each senior was played, they one-by-one skated through the Nanook bear and did a lap around the Carlson Center rink, saluting the crowd.
Next up for both the Nanooks and Seawolves is a rematch next week with a trip to Grand Rapids on the line. Tickets go on sale to the public on Tuesday.