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Upstart Wolverines score early and late to advance, end St. Cloud Norsemen season

Anchorage Wolverines coach Mike Aikens will take an expansion team into the Robertson Cup title game on Tuesday after his team beat the St. Cloud Norsemen Saturday to win their NAHL semifinal series.

St. Cloud vs Anchorage
Right winger Talon Sigurdson (24) was congratulated by his Anchorage Wolverines teammates after his goal late in the first period of their Roberston Cup semifinal game versus the St. Cloud Norsemen at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn., on Saturday, May 21, 2022.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

BLAINE, Minn. -- Bringing an expansion team to the Robertson Cup semifinals to face a 47-win St. Cloud Norsemen team, Anchorage Wolverines coach Mike Aikens talked up his first-year squad as an underdog.

That feel-good storyline lasted exactly two games.

On Saturday, the Wolverines blasted past the Norsemen 6-2 to win their best-of-three semifinal series 2-0 and advance to the Robertson Cup title game on Tuesday. Hunter Bischoff had a pair of goals as the Wolverines never trailed in their two games.

“We worked hard, we battled, we competed, and that’s just kind of what we are,” said Aikens. “We found a way. It wasn’t always pretty tonight … but just really proud of our effort and how we did it as a group.”

And as it had been in Friday’s dramatic 2-1 overtime win by the Alaskans, goalie Raythan Robbins kept St. Cloud frustrated much of the night, finishing with 34 saves in the win.

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“You’ve got to give them credit, their goalie was fabulous,” said Norsemen coach Corey Millen. “You run into a guy like that, it’s tough. We chased the game for two nights.”

After an early power play goal gave the Wolverines a first-period lead, the teams traded goals, then Anchorage star Talon Sigurdson scored what proved to be the game-winner in the final seconds of the opening. Millen admitted that was a back-breaker.

The Norsemen got goals from Brandon LaJoie and Broten Sabo, but once again struggled on the power play, going 0-for-2 in the game and 0-for-6 in the series. St. Cloud goalie Tomas Bolo had 20 saves in the loss.

St. Cloud vs Anchorage
St. Cloud Norsemen defenseman Broten Sabo tapped a puck behind Anchorage Wolverines goalie Raythan Robbins for a goal in the second period of their Robertson Cup playoff game on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

For the Wolverines, the win means a day off, a big meal on Sunday and a chance to bring the Robertson Cup back to Alaska for the first time since the Fairbanks Ice Dogs claimed NAHL titles in 2014 and 2016. Even after putting up six goals – two of them into an empty net – Aikens stressed defense and goaltending as the difference-makers for his team.

“I did think we kept them to the perimeter for the most part, and Ray was just so solid,” Aikens said.

Leading 3-2 and playing solid defense in the third period, the Wolverines got a 4-on-2 rush that ended with future Minnesota State Mankato defenseman Campbell Cichosz found a tiny gap over Bolo's shoulder for a 4-2 lead.

The Wolverines will take a 41-20-4-4 record into Tuesday’s title game versus either New Jersey or New Mexico.

Anchorage 6, St. Cloud 2

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St. Cloud 1-1-0—2

Anchorage 3-0-3—6

First period — 1. AN, Hunter Bischoff 4 (Hayden Hennen, Matt Johnson), 5:44, (pp). 2. AN, Colton Friesen 6 (Cameron Morris), 16:04. 3. SC, Brandon LaJoie 4 (Gramm McCormack, Peyton Hanson), 16:21. 4. AN, Talon Sigurdson 4 (Danny Reis, Aiden Westin), 19:45. Penalties — Leo Gruba, SC (hooking), 4:08.

Second period — 5. SC, Broten Sabo 5 (Kade Peterson), 6:44. Penalties — Friesen, AN (hooking), 4:40; Gunnar Johnson, SC (roughing), 9:29; Jackson Reineke, AN (roughing), 9:29; Kory DiPonio, AN (4-high sticking) 17:29; Blake Mesenburg, SC (tripping), 18:01.

Third period — 6. AN, Campbell Cichosz 1 (Jackson Krock, Johnson), 10:23. 7. AN, Bischoff 5 (unassisted), 17:08, (en). 8. AN, Krock 1 (Bohdan Panasenko, Cichosz), 19:03, (en). Penalties — None.

Shots on goal — SC 15-8-13—36; AN 11-8-7—26. Goalies — Tomas Bolo, SC (26 shots-20 saves); Raythan Robbins, AN (36-34). Power plays — SC 0-of-2, AN 1-of-3. Referees — Connor Harrington, Luke Gagnon. Linesmen — Grant Hendrich, Ben Gawlik. Att. — 1,198.

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Jess Myers covers college hockey, as well as outdoors, general sports and travel, for The Rink Live and the Forum Communications family of publications. He came to FCC in 2018 after three decades of covering sports as a freelancer for a variety of publications, while working full time in politics and media relations. A native of Warroad, Minn. (the real Hockeytown USA), Myers has a degree in journalism/communications from the University of Minnesota Duluth. He lives in the Twin Cities. Contact Jess via email at jrmyers@forumcomm.com, or find him on Twitter via @JessRMyers. English speaker.
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