FAIRBANKS—It was one of those Central Collegiate Hockey Association games in which the Alaska Nanooks were rewarded for their efforts.
The Nanooks rolled to a 6-1 win over the ninth-ranked Western Michigan Broncos in Friday night’s opener of the conference series.
Five of the second-place Nanooks goals occurred during the last two periods.
“It’s a testament to the way we’ve been playing. We play like that every night, but we always don’t get the results we want,” Alaska assistant coach Corbin Schmidt said during the postgame media conference in the Pioneer Room.
“It’s nice to see the guys play the same way every night and get the results,” Schmidt added.
Freshman goaltender John Keeney’s 16-save effort was supported by two goals from freshman right wing Nolan Huysmans and single contributions from four seniors — right wing Andy Taranto, defenseman Kaare Odegard and left wings Chad Gehon and Jarret Granberg.
Junior center Chase Balisy scored on a second-period power play for the Broncos, who got 20 saves from sophomore starter Frank Slubowski and six from freshman reserve Lukas Hafner.
The Nanooks, 4-2-1-0 CCHA and 6-3-2 overall for a second-place tie with Miami (Ohio), benefitted from advantages in shots (32-17) and blocks (24-10), and adjusting to a tight forecheck by the Broncos (2-2-1-1, 5-3-1), who are tied for eighth with Michigan.
“The first couple of minutes, they were pressuring us pretty hard,” sophomore defenseman Nolan Kaiser said.
“Once we got back to pucks quick, got the chips and the movement along the boards,” Kaiser added, “it made it easier for our team to generate offense, get the puck in their zone and forecheck on them.”
The Nanooks answered a Broncos rally in the second period with two goals and a 14-3 barrage of shots.
Balisy tied the score at 1-1, taking advantage of the Nanooks giving up two power plays during the first three minutes of the second period.
The Broncos center collected Shane Berschbach’s centering pass in the right circle and drilled in the weekend’s first power play goal between the post and Keeney’s stick side at 4:02.
Taranto’s 98th career point snapped the tie at 10:28 of the second, as he moved in from the right corner to take advantage of a crowd in front of the crease and lift an unassisted backhand in off of the crossbar.
Odegard, at 14:19, took Nolan Youngmun’s crossing pass from the right cricle and sent a hard wrist shot that bounced off Slubowski’s pads and trickled in behind the Broncos netminder.
“Alaska’s got a really good team. They elevated their game in the second and we didn’t match them,” said Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray.
The Nanooks, wearing blue, white and gray camouflage jerseys as part of Military Appreciation Week, sealed the win in the first 36 seconds of the third period.
Gehon scored his second of the season from the right circle at 23 seconds into the third. Thirteen seconds later, Huysmans put in his second of the night through a crowd in front of Slubowski, who was replaced by Hafner.
Granberg surprised Hafner at 11:03 on a short 2-on-1 breakaway with Tyler Morley’s second assist in a row.
Huysmans produced his first career goal and the series’ first at 12:36 of the first period
Granberg blocked Broncos defenseman Dennis Brown’s attempt to trigger a 3-on-1. The senior left wing passed to Huysmans in the right circle and the freshman waited for Slubowski to slide over in the crease before sending in a high wrist shot.
It was Alaska’s third win of the season over a ranked opponent. The Nanooks defeated then No. 2 North Dakota 2-1 in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush on Oct. 20 and won 3-2 at 18th-ranked Ferris State in a CCHA game Oct. 18.
The Broncos and the Denver Pioneers will join the Nanooks and the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves in the sixth annual Brice Alaska Goal Rush next Oct. 18-19 at the Carlson Center.
Western Michigan and Denver will each be members of the new National Collegiate Hockey Conference while the Nanooks and Seawolves will be playing in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.