FAIRBANKS—Andy Taranto impressed the Alaska Nanooks coaches during the team’s shootout practices during the preseason. That impression put the Nanooks in contention on Friday night for the title in the regular season-opening Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage.
Taranto, a senior right wing, provided the winning attempt in a 2-1 shootout victory against the Air Force Academy after the Nanooks and the Falcons tied 3-3 in regulation and overtime of the opener of the four-team weekend tournament in Sullivan Arena.
Senior left wing Nik Yaremchuk scored twice in regulation while freshman defenseman Colton Parayko contributed first career goal. Sophomore goaltender Sean Cahill registered 15 saves in his first regular-season start for the Nanooks.
“I thought our guys competed hard,” Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson said from Anchorage. “That’s (Air Force) a good hockey team and they’ve got a veteran group there. They’ve got some guys who can make plays and if you’re not paying attention, the puck can end up in the back of the net.”
The outcome between the Nanooks of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and the Falcons of the Atlantic Hockey Association is recognized as a 3-3 tie by the NCAA, but it’s a victory for Alaska in determining the final placing in the Kendall.
Alaska will be vying for its third title in five tournament appearances when it faces the Canisius Golden Griffins at 4:07 p.m. today. The Nanooks celebrated Kendall titles in 2008 and 2009.
Canisius, also of Atlantic Hockey, lost 2-0 later Friday against the tournament host Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
The Nanooks and the Falcons combined for one shot apiece in overtime. Alaska began the shootout with left wing Colton Beck’s wrist shot between the pads of Falcons goaltender Jason Torf, who took over for starter David Bosner in the second period after the teams tied 2-2.
Falcons left wing Kyle De Laurell tied the shootout with his wrist shot. The shootout remained tied after Yaremchuk’s backhand was stopped by Torf and a shot by Falcons right wing John Kruse went high.
De Laurell and Kruse assisted on a power-play goal by Falcons defenseman Adam McKenzie in the first period.
Taranto produced the shootout winner by skating up the ice, slowing his pace and snapping the puck between Torf’s pads.
“Coach (Lance) West thought Andy had been doing well in the shootouts that we do every week in practice,” Ferguson said. “We were thinking of three to four guys before we decided on Andy, and he did a good job of finishing.”
Cahill secured the shootout win with a chest save of center Stephen Carew’s shot.
“Sean did a nice job of making that last save,” Ferguson said.
Yaremchuk put Alaska ahead 3-2 at 11:35 of the second period, scoring unassisted after stealing the puck in the low slot. Air Force answered with center Chad Demers’ first goal of the season at 1:18 into the third period.
Freshmen defensemen figured into both of Alaska’s goals in a deadlocked first period.
Josh Atkinson had the second assist on Yaremchuk’s first goal of the tournament at the 5:50 mark. Senior center Jarret Granberg accounted for the other assist.
Air Force center Jason Fabian tied the score at 6:38, and McKenzie’s power-play deposit put the Falcons ahead 2-1 at 10:12 of the first. Parayko, a third-round draft choice of the St. Louis Blues in last June’s National Hockey League Entry Draft, evened the score at 18:23, taking fellow defenseman Michael Quinn’s feed at 18:23 of the period and unleashing shot from inside the blue line past Bosner. Nanooks junior center Cody Kunyk also assisted for his 63rd career point.
Derek Docken and Scott Allen scored, and Chris Kamal gained his fourth career shutout for UAA with 14 saves against Canisius. ... Penn State, coached by former Nanooks head coach Guy Gadowsky (1999-2004), lost its inaugural regular-season game 3-2 in overtime against American International on Friday in State College, Pa.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.