FAIRBANKS — It was a bittersweet ending Saturday night to the Alaska Nanooks’ Central Collegiate Hockey Association series against Northern Michigan Wildcats in Marquette, Mich.
Part of the night was positive. Alaska and Northern Michigan tied 2-2 in overtime before the Wildcats won 2-0 in a shootout, but the Nanooks assured themselves of earning at least a point in the standings in every CCHA series so far this season.
The Nanooks, with first-period goals Saturday from sophomore defenseman Nolan Kaiser and freshman center Tyler Morley and 29 saves from freshman goaltender John Keeney, have played five league series this season.
Saturday’s single point in the standings, because of the tie, was tough for Alaska to obtain.
The Nanooks lost senior center and team captain Adam Henderson to a checking-from-behind major and game misconduct during a scoreless second period, and a seemingly game-winning goal by Andy Taranto early in overtime was waived off. The senior right wing was vying for his 100th career point.
“I told the guys that whether it’s the call on the ice or the things off the ice, don’t let that deter you from the things we need to do,” Alaska head coach Dallas Ferguson said from Marquette. “I thought we battled hard tonight and we blocked a lot of shots. We lost Adam Henderson and he was having a good game, but the guys stayed with it.”
Saturday’s outcome also kept intact Alaska’s winless streak in Marquette.
Alaska is 1-16-7 all-time there and its only win at the Berry Events Center was a 2-1 decision on Feb. 5, 2005. Since then, the Nanooks are 0-7-5 in the city on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The Nanooks remained in fifth place in the standings — 4-4-2-0 CCHA and 5-6-3 overall — after consecutive overtime games against the Wildcats. Alaska lost 4-3 Friday after leading 2-0 in the first period.
Northern Michigan, with Saturday’s tie and shootout win, collected two points in the standings. The Wildcats improved to 2-5-3-1 CCHA and 6-6-2 overall, moving iinto a ninth-place tie with Michigan State after entering the weekend on a five-game winless streak and in last place in the 11-team conference.
“It’s huge for us,” Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle said from Marquette. “We’ve got a cloud over our heads because we’re missing so many guys right now. We needed good luck this weekend and good things to happen, and we’re starting to get that.”
The Wildcats got regulation goals from linemates Stephan Vigier (junior center) and Reed Seckel (sophomore left wing) and shootout conversions from junior defenseman Mitch Jones and freshman left wing Ryan Aynsley. Jared Coreau, a 6-foot-4 and 208-pound junior goaltender, registered 34 saves, including denying several Nanooks scoring chances off of takeaways.
“I think Jared Coreau’s one of the best goalies in the league,” Kyle said. “He’s playing in front of a team that’s not been very responsible defensively, and I don’t think his numbers indicate how good he’s played for us.”
Vigier, a junior, provided the game’s first goal on a power play at 6:09 of the first period. The Nanooks responded 48 seconds later with Kaiser’s goal during an odd-man rush and went ahead 2-1 at 12:35 with Morley slipping the puck past Coreau amid a scramble in front of the crease during a power play.
“It was a great goal and we had just won the faceoff,” Ferguson said.
Northern Michigan’s game-tying goal at 11:27 of the third also developed from a faceoff. Erik Higby won the draw against Alaska’s Jarret Granberg and drew the puck back to Jones at a point where he fired a shot that Seckel redirected by Keeney from the low slot.
Taranto drove to the net at 22 seconds into overtime and seemingly scored the game-winner. The officials had a nearly five-minute video review of the play before it was ruled Taranto made contact with Coreau before the puck crossed the goal line.
“I certainly don’t agree with the call and I’m waiting to hear from Steve Piotrowski (CCHA officiating director) for a clarification,” Ferguson said. “I’m looking at the same thing (video) the refs were looking at and I don’t agree with them.”
In the shootout, Coreau made glove saves on attempts by junior left wing Colton Beck and Morley, while Jones converted a backhand and Aynsley put a shot past Keeney’s blocker side.
The Nanooks play host to back-to-back CCHA series at the Carlson Center, starting against the league-leading Miami (Ohio) RedHawks at 7:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday. The Bowling Green State Falcons, also of Ohio, visit on Dec. 7-8.