FAIRBANKS — Determination helped deny the Alaska Nanooks a sweep of a ninth-ranked Western Michigan squad in Saturday night’s finale of a Central Collegiate Hockey Association.
The Nanooks lost 3-2 after leading 2-0 through the first two periods, but the Broncos didn’t want to return home to Kalamazoo, Mich., with back-to-back losses in the Carlson Center, especially after Alaska won 6-1 Friday.
“We kind of took it upon ourselves to challenge ourselves after two (periods),” said Broncos junior left wing and game-winning scorer Mike Cichy.
“We were down 2-0 and a sweep would not be good. We had the caliber of players in the lockerroom to get it done, and we did.”
The Nanooks had some high-caliber players, too, as Alaska registered 40 or more shots for the fourth time this season and gained points through their first four CCHA series.
Centers Tyler Morley (freshman) and Cody Kunyk (junior) scored and freshman goaltender John Keeney registered 26 saves for Alaska, which outshot Western Michigan 42-29 but missed moving into a first-place tie with Miami (Ohio). The Nanooks, at 4-3-1-0 CCHA and 6-4-2 overall, moved to fourth place after sharing second place Friday with Miami.
“I liked the way our team played this weekend. They played hard and I think they did a lot of good things” Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson said in the postgame media conference in the Pioneer Room.
“Certainly give Western Michigan credit, they stayed with it,” Ferguson added.
Cichy, during the Broncos’ sixth power play stayed in the slot to collect a wild pass from Garrett Haar and scorch a line-drive shot over Keeney’s glove-side shoulder at 17:16 of the third.
“I honestly don’t know how it got there,” Cichy, who also had an assist, said. “I kind of looked up and the puck was coming to me, and I grabbed it and shot it.”
Sixth-place Western Michigan
(3-2-1-1, 6-3-1) got its other goals from Haar, a sophomore defenseman, and junior left wing Shane Berschbach, and sophomore goalie Frank Slubowski stopped 40 shots.
Morley delivered the night’s first goal just two seconds after the Broncos killed two power plays, including a two-man advantage.
Nolan Huysmans fired the puck from the left side of the crease and Morley rushed in to tap in the rebound at the right edge of the crease at 14:41 of the first period.
At 10:20 of a penalty-filled second period, Kunyk rifled in a power-play wrist shot from the top of the slot for a 2-0 lead. Keeney assisted Kunyk’s 70th career point for the netminder’s first career point and junior left wing Colton Beck helped, too, with his 49th career point.
“We were focused on winning each period, and it was the same mentality going into the third. Unfortunately we didn’t get a couple of bounces go our way,” said Nanooks senior center and team captain Adam Henderson.
The teams combined in the second period for six power plays — three apiece — and eight penalties worth 16 minutes. Each team was assessed four minors.
Western Michigan avoided the shutout and evened the score at 2 in a 57-second span early in the third period.
Haar creeped to the top of the slot, collected Dane Walters’ centering pass from the right circle and beat Keeney through a screen at 3:34. Berschbach scored from the right edge of the crease at 4:31 with a bouncing rebound of Cichy’s shot.
The Nanooks finished the game two players short after freshmen Garrick Perry (right wing) and Colton Parayko (defenseman) sustained injuries in the first period.
“There were minutes to be covered there, and I liked the way some guys stepped up tonight,” Ferguson said.
The Nanooks head to Marquette, Mich., for a CCHA series Friday and Saturday against Northern Michigan. Alaska plays host to Miami at 7:05 p.m. Nov. 30 and Dec. 1.