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Wolverines win ugly, take Robertson Cup series lead vs. Norsemen

It took nearly 50 saves by an Anchorage native to put the expansion Wolverines one win from a trip to the NAHL title game after they survived a first-round battle with St. Cloud.

Anchorage vs St. Cloud; Game 1
Anchorage Wolverines goalie Raythan Robbins made one of 48 saves he had in a 2-1 overtime win versus the St. Cloud Norsemen in Game 1 of the Robertson Cup Playoffs on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

BLAINE, Minn. -- “It doesn’t always have to be pretty, right?” joked Anchorage Wolveries coach Mike Aikens after his team survived their Robertson Cup opener with the St. Cloud Norsemen.

Wolverines goalie Raythan Robbins stopped 48 shots, and held the Alaskans in long enough for Jackson Reineke to complete a 2-on-1 rush to the net in overtime, capping an improbable 2-1 win by the expansion team.

Perhaps the prettiest thing about the Wolverines effort was Robbins, an Anchorage native who refused to get rattled despite wave after wave of Norsemen attackers sending pucks his way.

“Obviously the Norsemen outplayed us, outshot us. We hung around and found a way to win. We got some key saves, obviously, from our goalie,” Aikens said after his team improved to 3-0 in overtime in the playoffs. “One of the keys was our penalty kill was good against a very good power play.”

The Wolverines (40-20-4-4) will play St. Cloud again on Saturday with a chance to win the best-of-three series and advance to the league title game. Colton Friesen scored in the first peiord to give them a short-lived lead.

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The Norsemen (47-19-3-1) got a goal from Blake Perbix and 19 saves from starter Tomas Bolo, playing a style of game that kept the Wolverines from getting many pucks to the net. But the Norsemen power play, which was a strength in the regular season, was ineffective on Friday, going 0-for-4 in the loss.

“Our power play has been struggling since the playoffs started,” said St. Cloud coach Corey Millen. “We were pretty good all year long and it’s been hurting us a lot. I’m kind of confused at what we have to do at this point. Some guys have got to figure it out, simplify and dig into their identity a little bit.”

Anchorage vs St. Cloud; Game 1
St. Cloud Noresemen right winger Blake Perbix scored his team's only goal in a 2-1 overtime loss to the Anchorage Wolverines in game one of the Robertson Cup Playoffs on Friday, May 20, 2022 at Fogarty Arena in Blaine, Minn.
Jeff Lawler / Courtesy NAHL

With St. Cloud playing a defensive style that kept the Wolverines offense on the perimeter, early shots for Anchorage were few. But they got on the board first via a rising shot by Colton Friesen that fooled Bolo up high.

The Wolverines lead lasted barely a minute, as Perbix got a shot on Robbins that the goalie stopped, then fumbled and saw the puck tickle into the net. The Norsemen were offensively dominant in the opening 20 minutes but Robbins held strong for a 1-1 tie after a period.

From there, it became the Robbins show, as the Norsemen defense limited the Anchorage offense, and the Wolverines goalie kicked out everything that came his way for the next 40 minutes. St. Cloud dominated the third with a dozen shots to just three for the Wolverines, but the game headed to overtime still knotted and one each.

“It’s go out and win a period, win a game. Same attitude going into OT,” Aikens said. “We found a way to make a play and scored a really nice goal on a 2-on-1.”

During a rare odd-man rush, Hunter Schmitz carried into the zone and passed to Reineke who slipped a low shot past the St. Cloud goalie’s left leg pad.

The teams will play again on Saturday afternoon in Blaine.

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Anchorage 2, St. Cloud 1, OT

St. Cloud 1-0-0-0—01

Anchorage 1-0-0-1—2

First period — 1. AN, Colton Friesen 12 (Cameron Morris), 10:17. 2. SC, Blake Perbix 32 (Cade Peterson), 11:18. Penalties — None.

Second period — No scoring. Penalties — Hunter Schmitz, AN (hooking), 8:39; Nik Hong, SC (tripping), 18:46.

Third period — No scoring. Penalties — Matt Johnson, AN (hooking), 5:00; Blake Mesenburg, SC (hooking) 7:36.

Overtime — 3. AN, Jackson Reineke 10 (Schmitz, Collin Pederson), 8:53. Penalties — Danny Reis, AN (tripping), 0:18; Andy Ramsey, AN (slashing) 4:52.

Shots on goal — SC 15-17-15-2—49; AN 7-7-5-2—21. Goalies — Tomas Bolo, SC (21 shots-19 saves); Raythan Robbins, AN (49-48). Power plays — SC 0-of-4, AN 0-of-2. Referees — Chazz Knoche, Ryan Siegel. Linesmen — Jacob Paugh, Tyler Willie. Att. — NA.

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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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