FAIRBANKS - It was one hard-earned point in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association standings for the Alaska Nanooks on Friday night in Columbus, Ohio.
The single point, which occurred with a 1-1 tie and ensuing 2-1 shootout loss against the Ohio State Buckeyes, required some agonizing, plenty of offensive aggressiveness and stellar penalty killing from Alaska in the series opener at the Value City Arena.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson said from Columbus. “They’re a good team, it’s their home opener and they’ve got some talented players. I thought our guys responded well.”
Freshman center Tyler Morley had the only shootout conversion among six Alaska participants, surprising Buckeyes goaltender Brady Hjelle with a backhand in the second round. Nanooks freshman goaltender John Keeney got beat by center Riley Simpson on Ohio State’s first attempt and then denied four Buckeyes in a row before right wing Ryan Dzingel produced the game-winner in the sixth round.
Alaska, at 2-2-1-0 CCHA and 4-3-2 overall, moved from a five-way tie for second place in the CCHA to sole possession of fifth place. Ohio State, with one point from the tie in regulation and overtime and another point from the shootout win, improved to 1-0-2-1 and 2-2-3, respectively, moving into a four-way tie for sixth place after sharing ninth place with Northern Michigan.
Freshmen were mostly responsible Friday for assuring Alaska would gain at least one point in the CCHA for the third straight weekend.
Defenseman Colton Parayko scored the game’s first goal during a two-man power play at 5:05 of the second period, assisted by Nanooks juniors Colton Beck (left wing) and Michael Quinn (defenseman).
“He ran the roll up top, and then he made a nice play backdoor and buried it (puck) real nice,” Ferguson said.
Keeney, in the second start of his career, stopped 33 shots and backstopped eight straight penalty kills, including four-minute and five-minute sessions in the third period.
“I thought he responded well for it being his first time on the road,” Ferguson said. “He stayed square to the shots and he gave our team a good chance tonight.”
Buckeyes leading scorer and sophomore left wing Max McCormick tied the game at 15 seconds into the third period with an odd-man rush following a Nanooks turnover at the blue line.
“They quickly transitioned to a 2-on-1 and he made a tough shot on the short side that went up top,” Ferguson said.
Alaska added to Ohio State’s power-play misery this season, as the Buckeyes were 1 for 25 entering the series.
Alaska withstood a fourminute power play that arose because of senior right wing Andy Taranto’s double minor for slashing and tripping at 4:35 of the third. The Nanooks survived a five-minute power play that lingered into overtime, as senior left wing Chad Gehon was assessed a major and game misconduct at 15:03 of the third for a checkingfrom- behind infraction.
“Our penalty kill was 8 for 8 but we shouldn’t be killing nine minutes of penalties in the third period,” Ferguson said. “We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box if we want to have a chance to get more points here.”
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.