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.
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.
“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.
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
St. Cloud 1-1-0—2
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.