Sea Wolf Run, Sea Wolf Lose

Governor’s Cup stays home ‘where it belongs’

Rebecca Coleman / Sun Star Reporter
March 1, 2011

Once upon a time, 143 games ago back in 1979, the University of Alaska Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey rivalry began.  At the time, neither UAA nor UAF was a part of an NCAA conference, so they played each other as often as eight times per season due to a lack of opponents.  In 1993, UAA became a member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, and UAF joined the Central Collegiate Hockey Association.  Being members of different leagues posed a problem for the rivalry: both teams had very full schedules and were allowed few non-conference games.  But it would be unheard of for Alaska’s only college hockey teams to not face off throughout the year; thus, the Governor’s Cup was born.

Nanook #17 Jarret Granberg and Seawolf #19 Nick Haddad square off in the second period of the final game of Gov. Cup. Feb. 25, 2011. Dillon Ball/Sun Star

The inaugural series took place during the 1993-94 season, with one game played at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks and the other at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. The UAA Seawolves won game one in Fairbanks, but the Nanooks would take game two, led by the opening goal of then-sophomore Dallas Ferguson, UAF’s current head coach. The series would be determined by a shootout, which UAF won.

“The Governor’s Cup games are some of the greatest memories I have had in college hockey,” Ferguson said.  “The competition it brings and being part of a game that means so much to our university and community is very special.

Fast forward to 1999.  The coaches of UAA and UAF determined that there was room in both of their schedules to play each other four times instead of just two.  The 1999-2000 season’s Governor’s Cup would be determined by a weekend played in Fairbanks in October, followed by a weekend played in Anchorage in March.  UAA would take the cup the first year of this change, but UAF would soon outshine their domestic enemies, earning a five-year winning streak.  Two years ago, the series went back to being the best out of two games instead of four.

This brings us to today. Throughout the 17-year course of Governor’s Cup history, UAA has won the cup eight times to UAF’s nine.  The weekend of Feb. 25 and 26, both teams were determined to take the cup.  UAF was the current owner, having won the cup last season, but the Seawolves had owned it for three years prior to last and wanted it back on their campus.

“It’s exciting because it is a big event for both communities,” said captain senior Kevin Petovello.  “It’s such a rivalry, and the fans show a lot of passion.”

“Everyone knows how important it is,” said assistant captain senior Derek Klassen.  “It’s a weekend of pride, so we want to put our best foot forward.”

“This is our biggest rivalry,” said UAA head coach Dave Shyiak.  “We’re playing for bragging rights.”

“Let’s beat the Seawolves!” said assistant captain senior Bryant Molle.

Friday night was Senior Night for the Nanooks, so the night began with senior introductions and a starting lineup comprised of mostly seniors.  UAA made a quick effort to thwart the positivity of the Nanooks by scoring a goal only 25 seconds into the first period.  It took the Nanooks a little while to get into the groove of the game, but they came back in the second period with lots of scoring opportunities.  Just when it seemed that all of Alaska’s efforts were for not, “Captain Kevin” saved the day by putting the Nanooks on the board after a pass from junior Carlo Finucci.

In the third period, Alaska faced a 5-on-3 penalty kill for two minutes, but successfully held the Seawolves at bay.  Petovello said this was the “turning point” of the game.  Not long after the penalty kill, freshman Colton Beck put the puck behind UAA goalie Rob Gunderson.  Seconds later, sophomore Andy Taranto picked up another goal.  With more than six minutes left on the clock, the Seawolves pulled Gunderson to have a six-man advantage, but the only advantage was to the Nanooks.  Taranto and freshman Cody Kunyk wrangled the puck away from the Seawolves and gave it to Beck, who easily skated to the empty Seawolf net, flipping the puck in with gusto for his second goal of the game. To close out the night, after receiving a pass from sophomore Jarret Granberg, Petovello fired the puck into the net for his second goal of the game, giving Alaska a 5-1 victory.

UAF’s #27 Derek Klassen and UAA’s #11 Mitch Bruijsten duke it out for the puck in the Sullivan Arena during the second game of the Governor’s Cup Saturday Night. Feb. 25, 2011. Dillon Ball/Sun Star

Hundreds of Fairbanks students made the pilgrimage to Anchorage for Saturday’s game and were given many warnings from building security not to pound on the glass.  This didn’t affect the mood or cheers of the loyal Nanook crowd, even when the game opened with a three-goal first period for the Seawolves.

“It was a lot of little mistakes on our part,” said junior Joe Sova.  “They were capitalizing on every shot.”

UAA picked up another goal in the second period, giving them a 4-0 lead.  Kunyk took advantage of a power-play opportunity in the third period to put the Nanooks on the board, preventing a shutout for UAA goalie Chris Kamal.  At the end of the night, the Seawolves claimed a 4-1 win.

“The 4-1 loss was a downer,” said goalie junior Scott Greenham.  “But we knew we still had a chance to win [the Governor’s Cup] with the shootout.”  The shootout is the standard tie-breaker of the Governor’s Cup in the event that each team wins a game.

Each team picked three shooters.  Beck was up first of the Nanooks, and he made his shot with ease.  Jordan Kwas made an attempt for UAA, but was shut down by Greenham.  Petovello’s shot was turned away by Kamal, but Greenham blocked UAA’s Tommy Grant’s shot, keeping the Nanooks ahead.  Taranto took the final shot for Alaska and bested Kamal, giving the Nanooks the shootout win and continued ownership of the Governor’s Cup.

“It was a great feeling to get that shootout and having our name on the cup for the second year in a row,” Molle said.

“Now we’ll bring it back to Fairbanks where it belongs, and we’ll celebrate,” Sova said.

Next up for the Nanooks is the first round of the CCHA playoffs against Michigan State on March 4 and 5 at the Carlson Center.

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