MADISON, Wis.—If the first three minutes of the game were any indication of what the final score would be, Wisconsin would have been in for an easy win Friday night. Unfortunately for the Badgers, the next 57 minutes did not go as well.
Alaska-Anchorage senior goaltender Chris King had 45 saves on 47 shots on goal as the eighth-seeded Seawolves upset the third-seeded Badgers 3-2 in the first round of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association tournament Friday night. The Seawolves, who had never won a WCHA tournament game before Friday night's contest, lead the best-of-three series 1-0 and will face the Badgers Saturday and possibly Sunday.
Even though King only earned two conference wins this year, he still placed second in the league with a .913 save percentage and was, according to Badger head coach Mike Eaves, the difference in the game.
"The x-factor tonight was the goaltending," Eaves said. "Forty-seven shots, two goals against. If they had to write a script, they wrote a perfect script tonight."
"Playoff hockey, it comes down to who wants it more. Tonight they came in here with nothing to lose, and, in my opinion, they outworked us," senior defenseman Dan Boeser added.
Sophomore forward Chris Fournier had a goal and an assist for the Seawolves while freshman forward Charlie Kronschnabel and senior forward Dallas Steward also tallied goals for Alaska-Anchorage. Freshman forwards Jake Dowell and Ross Carlson scored the only Badger goals in the contest. All five goals notched in the game were scored via the power play.
Wisconsin jumped out to the early lead thanks to a holding penalty by Kronschnabel just 1:48 into the game. On the ensuing penalty, Badger freshman forward Robbie Earl skated up ice, passed the puck between the defenders' legs to himself, and fired a shot on net that was stopped by King but knocked home by Dowell.
The Seawolves were not daunted, though. Steward redirected a power play shot from the point halfway into the first period to tie the game back up at 1-1. With just more than a minute left in the same period, Kronschnabel knocked home a rebound on another Seawolves power play and the first period ended with a one-goal lead for Alaska-Anchorage.
The second period belonged solely to the Badgers. Five-and-a-half minutes into the period, on Wisconsin's third power play, Carlson scored off of a rebound from sophomore defenseman Tom Gilbert's slap shot to knot the game back up at two. UW went on to outshoot the Seawolves 18-5 in the period, but the game remained tied after 40 minutes.
Six minutes into the third period, Alaska-Anchorage struck again. On Wisconsin's seventh penalty, Fournier fired a slap shot from the point that appeared to be redirected by Seawolves forward Justin Johnson. Fournier was credited with the goal and the Seawolves took a 3-2 lead.
"The third one was a tip. Bernd, I don't think, had a chance on that one," Eaves said.
Despite one more UW penalty, the Badgers kept the score within one goal and had a huge opportunity to tie the game late in the game. With 1:36 left in the game and 19 seconds remaining in an Alaska-Anchorage penalty, Coach Eaves pulled Badger goalie Bernd Brückler to give the Badgers a six-on-four advantage, but Wisconsin could not convert and the Seawolves went on to earn the victory.
The Badgers are fighting for a spot in the WCHA Final Five and will attempt to even the series tonight in game two of their series against the Seawolves tonight at 7:05 p.m.
"We've got two games left," Badger sophomore forward Adam Burish said. "Let's just refocus, come back tomorrow, watch a little bit of tape, have a light skate and change the story tomorrow."