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Around The Rinks: Anchorage Wolverines get swept in NAHL semis, but they savored a sweet season nonetheless

by | May 18, 2024 | Cover Story, Hockey

Photo by Stephanie Burgoon/Alaska Sports Report

The end of the line is never easy – only one hockey club gets to hoist hardware and rejoice – but the Anchorage Wolverines, once the sting of elimination wears off, can savor a strong season.

The Lone Star Brahmas, the North American Hockey League’s top team in the regular season, beat the Wolverines 2-0 in Blaine, Minn., on Saturday to sweep the best-of-3 semifinals in the 32-team circuit and send Anchorage home.

The Brahmas did to the Wolverines what they did to opponents throughout the season – strangle them. Deivs Rolous snuffed all 37 shots he faced, one day after Jack Wiencke denied 34 of 36 shots in Lone Star’s series-opening 8-2 win Friday.

No surprise there – the Brahmas were the circuit’s stingiest club in the regular season. And in these playoffs, they have permitted just 13 goals in 10 games.

In this two-game series, Lone Stars goaltenders combined to smother 71 of 73 shots – a .973 save percentage drives a team toward the promised land.

Saturday’s game was scoreless more than halfway through before Ivan Zadvernyuk racked his seventh goal of the postseason to spur Lone Star to a 1-0 lead. Justin Kerr added an insurance goal off a Jacob McDonald assist deep into the third period. McDonald went 2-2—4 in the series.

Anchorage goalie Liam Beerman, who was Anchorage’s rock throughout the regular season and postseason before getting chased in the series opener, was back to his usual form Saturday. He stopped 32 of 34 shots to give his team a legitimate chance to force Game 3.

Saturday’s loss was no doubt hard to digest for the Wolverines, but they shouldn’t forget – nor should their fans – their remarkable late-season run to capture the Midwest Division crown, the franchise’s first in its three seasons of existence.

The Wolverines did these things:

  • Set a club record for wins in the regular season with 39.
  • Set a club record for points in the regular season with 85.
  • Set a club record with their 12-game winning streak.
  • Set a club record with their 19-game (17-0-2) point streak.

Anchorage’s consecutive losses in the semis marked the first time they lost two consecutive games in regulation in more than three months, since getting swept at Wisconsin on Feb. 2-3. Before the semis opened, the Wolverines were 23-2-3 in a 28-game run.

First-year coach Nick Walters of Eagle River clearly knew which buttons to push, and when to push them.

That’s all likely not enough salve to sooth the disappointment the Wolverines felt when they peeled off their gear Saturday for the last time this season.

Only one team gets to savor season’s end. But the Wolverines accomplished plenty to make them proud.

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