Gophers get swept aside

For the third consecutive year, there will be no NCAA tournament for the Gophers, who were ousted in two games by Alaska Anchorage.

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As two joyous Alaska Anchorage fans were leaving Mariucci Arena on Saturday night, one could not resist a final jab.

So all the Gophers pep band members nearby could hear her, she said loudly: "Nice try Gophers, maybe next year?"

A trash-talking Seawolves fan at Mariucci? Holy moly.

The Gophers' hockey season is, indeed, over.

Mickey Spencer, a fourth-line winger for Alaska Anchorage, broke a scoreless tie with a breakaway goal early in the third period. And that's all the Seawolves and Chris Kamal, their freshman goalie, really needed.

UAA scored once more, on another breakaway, to beat the Gophers 2-0 on Saturday in front of an announced crowd of 9,346. So their best-of-three, first-round WCHA series is over in two games. UAA won 4-3 on Friday.

That means the Gophers won't be advancing to the Final Five for the second year in a row and won't be in the NCAA tournament for the third consecutive year.

Instead, Alaska Anchorage (16-17-3) will take its five-game winning streak into its second Final Five in 18 years as a member of the WCHA. The Seawolves upset Wisconsin in a first-round series in 2004.

"For us, it is always disappointing when we are not playing next weekend" in the Final Five, Lucia said. "Being a few games over .500 isn't successful for us."

Gophers captain Jay Barriball was visibly upset afterward. "We couldn't get the job done," Barriball said. "We've had our ups and downs, but I didn't think it would end this way.

"We have been playing real well up until this weekend. Then we stopped playing to our strengths and gave them too many opportunities."

The Gophers (16-14-6) finished fifth in the WCHA and went into the conference playoffs on a 5-0-2 roll; Alaska Anchorage was the eighth seed.

"Our defense needed to stay patient," Lucia said. "Our defensemen got caught [up too far] twice in the third period. I felt it could be a 0-0 heading into overtime, but we got a little bit too antsy and it cost us."

Gophers defenseman Kevin Wehrs, trailing Spencer, tried to hook him on his breakaway but could not stop the 6-1, 190-pound sophomore. Spencer's 15-foot shot found the upper right corner at 2 minutes, 32 seconds of the third period. It was his first goal of the season in the 13 games he has played.

Kamal stopped 24 shots while his defensemen and forwards blocked 25 shots for the second night in a row. "Chris Kamal was the best player on the ice," UAA coach Dave Shyiak said.

This was Kamal's second shutout of the Gophers. The walk-on beat the Gophers 1-0 with 30 saves on Jan. 29.

Senior Tommy Grant, the Seawolves' leading scorer, got his 16th goal of the season for unneeded insurance with 6 1/2 minutes left.

Now the questions begin about Lucia's future. He has one year left on his contract. One media member started asking Lucia if he thought his job was in jeopardy.

Lucia, who has coached the Gophers for 12 seasons, stopped the reporter in mid-sentence. "I am not going to talk about that."


• Gophers freshman center Erik Haula played the series with a broken foot, Lucia said. ... The Gophers were 26-1 at Mariucci in first-round playoff games until this weekend.


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