Just two minutes into the game Friday night, the parade to the penalty box started for the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves as Nils Backstrom sat two minutes for holding. This was exactly what the Michigan Tech Huskies needed as they scored two power play goals en route to a 3-2 win over the Seawolves.
The Huskies couldnâ€™t connect during the two minute power play, but just as Backstrom left the box Alex Gagne put one past the goaltender to give the home team a 1-0 lead. Gagne put the goal in with assists from Brett Olson and Geoff Kinrade. Both Kinrade and Olson would finish the game with two assists, their first two on the season.
The Seawolves saw another penalty in the first 10 minutes, and for the second straight time they were able to move the puck around the perimeter and find a spot in the middle. Eric Kattelus made the pass across the middle to John Kivisto who wasted no time putting the puck in the top corner to put the Huskies lead at 2-0.
However, the Seawolves werenâ€™t done and put the pressure onto the Huskies with several excellent opportunities in the first period including a breakaway attempt for senior defensemen Jeremy Smith.
The momentum from a good second half of the first period carried right into the second period where the Seawolves took advantage of an early power play. It was a beautiful feed from Brian Bales to Tommy Grant that put the Seawolves within one. Kane Lafranchise earned the second assist on the goal.
Momentum was just what the Seawolves needed as they continued to play excellent defense, allowing the Huskies only one shot during the first 11 minutes of the period. The strong play in their own end led to sustained pressure in the Huskies zone and eventually an odd bounce off the backboards came right to Grantâ€™s stick and he put away his second goal of the game.
Grant had only seven points last season in 31 games, but this season he already has eight points in seven games. It was Grantâ€™s third multi-point game of the year and first career two-goal game. â€œThe puck just seems to go in this year,â€ said Grant after the game.
Grant has done a lot to improve his game this season, but puts all the credit to his linemates.
â€œEveryone wants to contribute, and hopefully we can keep it going as a line, Crowder is doing well, same with Moir, a freshman this year,â€ added Grant.
The Seawolves spent much of the rest of the period on the penalty kill. They killed four penalties, highlighted by over a minute of 5-on-3 action. However, the momentum was lost as they gave the Huskies 11 shots in the last eight and a half minutes of the period.
The third period started the way more than 2,000 Michigan Tech wanted it to with the Huskies moving the puck around well on the power play. Eventually sophomore Deron Cousens snapped a shot from the point over Jon Olthuisâ€™s shoulder to give the Huskies a 3-2 lead.
With a one goal lead Michigan Tech played smart defensive hockey for the rest of the game, allowing the Seawolves limited opportunities for good shots. The Seawolves leading scorer and captain Paul Crowder pulled an excellent move to get around the Huskies defense with 16 minutes remaining in the period, causing the Huskies to take a penalty, then just seconds later another Husky found his way to the box giving the Seawolves a 5-on-3 chance of their own.
Solid positioning and opportunistic efforts by the Huskies killed the chance, and also gave Kattelus and Kivisto a 2-on-1 opportunity during the kill.
The Huskies disciplined play limited the Seawolves to just seven shots in the third period. The Seawolves called a timeout with 1:41 left on the clock and pulled Olthuis to give them a lengthy opportunity. However, the Huskies clogged the middle and eventually cleared the puck out of the zone. With 11 ticks of the clock left Malcolm Gwilliam iced the game with an empty netter.
The Huskies finished 2-9 on the power play, but the first goal was scored as the Seawolvesâ€™ player got back on the ice. There was no doubt the game was defined by special teams.
â€œThey won the special teams battle, they got three power play goals,â€ said Alaska-Anchorageâ€™s Head Coach Dave Shyiak. Shyiak felt the team put in a good effort, but cited the teams nine penalty kills as an energy killed, something they were just short on at the end of the game.
The Seawolves were only 1-5 on the power play on the night, in large part due to the youngsters at Michigan Tech stepping up their game. Without Captain John Schwartz and several forwards the Huskies are playing with only 11 forwards. â€œIf youâ€™re healthy, youâ€™re in the lineupâ€ said Coach Russel, â€œweâ€™re shorthanded now, and itâ€™s elevated everyone on our depth chart.â€
However seniors Geoff Kinrade and Rob Nolan have stepped it up for the Huskies. Nolan earned a big win for the team, his third straight solid game since giving up five goals on nine shots in the season-opener. Kinrade had two assists on the game, his first two points of the season.
Nolan stopped 24 of 26 shots, while earning a win for the Huskies. Olthuis stopped 24 of the 27 shots he faced in the game. The loss was the first WCHA loss of the season for the Seawolves, while it was the first conference win for the Huskies.