Gophers help Anchorage to split

Tim Nichols

The Gophers men’s hockey team might have made a serious statement heading into the final leg of the play-off drive by beating Alaska-Anchorage on Sunday, after beating the Seawolves 5-1 on Saturday.
But Alaska-Anchorage instead took the opportunity to make a statement of their own by defeating Minnesota 4-2 Sunday.
“The issue was this team’s ability to compete,” Seawolves’ coach Dean Talafous said. “It’s hard to get to this level, a lot of teams never do. We were better in every phase of the game tonight. We took some very positive steps.”
The win increases the Seawolves’ (13-12-5 overall, 10-9-5 in the WCHA) stranglehold on third place, while the Gophers (10-16-6, 8-11-3) were all but eliminated from the top three spots in the WCHA.
It also seems that the split put a dent in Minnesota’s pride.
“Yesterday, we played a full 60 minutes,” junior Dave Spehar said. “But it was the little lapses tonight that hurt us. And we even talked about it.”
The lapses weren’t the only things that killed there Gophers — Minnesota killed Minnesota. Two of the Seawolves’ four goals went in off Gophers players.
All of this came of the heels of one of the Gophers’ more complete performances when they controlled the flow of Saturday’s game en route to the 5-1 victory.
So where did this inconsistency come from?
“All of the (own) goals, five seconds before they happened were 185 away,” coach Doug Woog said. “They should not be splitting our defense in the first place.”
Alaska-Anchorage ran its own defensive game to near-perfection Sunday, most notably exploiting the defensive pairing of freshmen Jordan Leopold and Nick Angell.
The speed of Seawolves’ freshmen Steve Cygan and Gregg Zaporzan, coupled with the experience and three-point effort of lone senior Chris Pont, were able to find the soft spot in the Gophers’ defensive scheme.
The Seawolves did basically the same thing Sunday that they did on Saturday — Talafous even admitted that he didn’t look at Saturday’s game tape before Sunday’s game — they just did every thing a little bit better than before.
“(After Saturday’s game) I reminded them that everyone expected them to do nothing this year,” Talafous said. “They raised their game tonight. This is a big step for our young kids.”
One big step forward for the Seawolves means one giant leap backward for the Gophers. And in a playoff race that might come down to goal differential — of which Woog was obviously aware when he pulled Hauser at 18:12 of the third period — setbacks will throw the Gophers on a plane to whomever is hosting the first round playoff series.
“Every game we need right now,” Woog said. “We didn’t meet the need today.”

SCORING SUMMARIES

Sunday
Alaska-Anchorage 2 2 0 — 4
Gophers 1 1 0 — 2
FIRST PERIOD: Minn — Pohl 5 (Leopold 12), 5:09. UAA — Pont 6 (Kaebel 4, Simon 3), 15:33. UAA — Douglas 12 (Carlson 11), 19:37.
SECOND PERIOD: Minn — Berg 12 (Smith 15, Spehar 15), 4:07. UAA — Scott 7 (unassisted), 8:32. UAA — Kaebel 7 (Pont 4), 16:06.
THIRD PERIOD: No scoring.

Saturday
Alaska-Anchorage 0 1 0 — 1
Gophers 2 1 2 — 5
FIRST PERIOD: Minn — Anderson 6 (Pagel 8), 6:01. Minn — Berg 11 (Smith 14), 11:10.
SECOND PERIOD: UAA — Pont 5 (unassisted), 13:20. Minn — Spehar 9 (Westrum 17, Berg 20), PPG, 19:15.
THIRD PERIOD: Minn — Smith 17 (unassisted), ENG, 19:16. Minn — Wendell 4 (Anderson 7, Pohl 6), 19:41.