MADISON, Wis.—Alaska-Anchorage completed a stunning first-round upset of the Badgers courtesy of a 4-1 victory Sunday in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series at the Kohl Center. The win sends the Seawolves to the first WCHA Final Five in team history and sends Wisconsin home to contemplate its NCAA tournament future.
"It was definitely pretty sad to see the seniors go out like that," Badger sophomore forward Ryan MacMurchy said. "It's definitely something we're going to remember for the next few years. We're just hopeful that we're not done yet, but it was definitely not a good mood in the dressing room."
Seawolves sophomore forward Chris Fournier had two goals and an assist in the game, giving him five points for the series, while sophomore forward Curtis Glencross, the Seawolves' leading point-scorer and goal-scorer during the regular season, had two goals of his own. Freshman forward Andrew Joudrey scored the lone goal for the Badgers. Senior goaltender Chris King was huge for the Seawolves in net once again, recording 29 saves.
"Mr. King was a big part of the series for them," Wisconsin head coach Mike Eaves said. "He came in, he stole (game one), he played well again tonight, and we never quite figured him out."
"That's what you need in the playoffs: a goalie like that on their team," MacMurchy added. "I don't know what to say about him. He played really well this weekend."
Unlike the previous two nights, in which the Badgers outshot UAA 47-24 and 45-16, the Seawolves had a dominant first period and increased the pressure from the previous games, outshooting Wisconsin 9-7, although the Badgers outshot UAA 30-23 overall. The increased pressure led to the first goal of the game, a shot by Fournier from Badger junior goalie Bernd Bruckler's right side which skipped past the blocker on his left side. The goal gave Alaska-Anchorage a 1-0 lead after one period.
After two successful penalty kills early in the second period, the Seawolves went on a tear, thanks to power play success and sloppy Wisconsin puck handling. Eight minutes and 38 seconds into the second period, Fournier scored his second goal of the period when he stole the puck from Badger freshman forward Robbie Earl and lifted it over Bruckler for an unassisted goal. Four minutes later, Glencross scored his first goal of the game by redirecting Fournier's slapshot from the point on a Seawolf power play.
Glencross' second goal came with 1:30 left in the period when Badger sophomore forward Adam Burish gave the puck away right in front of his own net. Bruckler saved Glencross' initial shot, but he collected the rebound and flipped it over the goalie's pad for Alaska-Anchorage's fourth straight goal.
Wisconsin scored its only goal with 6:55 remaining in the game on the Seawolves' final penalty of the game. Joudrey redirected a shot from senior defenseman Dan Boeser, which bounced between King's pads and into the goal. The Badgers could not force any more late-game magic, however, and succumbed to Alaska-Anchorage by the final score of 4-1.
While the Seawolves advance to the WCHA Final Five, the Badgers must await their fate. Losing the series this weekend leaves Wisconsin's chances of getting in the NCAA championship tournament up in the air, but the Badgers are still hopeful that the selection committee will be generous to Wisconsin and give them a spot in the final tournament of the season. Sixteen teams reach the NCAA Tournament. As of Sunday evening, the Badgers were in a three-way tie for No. 10 in the PairWise rankings.
"There's hope," Eaves said. "We feel that we have a decent chance, because of the hard work we did during the regular season, that we can still continue to play."