FAIRBANKS — Penalties weren’t the only reason that the Alaska Nanooks were shut out 4-0 by the fourth-ranked and conference-leading Miami RedHawks in Saturday’s finale of their Central Collegiate Hockey Association series in the Carlson Center.
However, seven infractions for 14 minutes didn’t help the Nanooks avoid their first loss of the season by a shutout and not gain at least a point in the CCHA standings for the first time this season. The Nanooks were coming off of a 5-2 loss Friday.
Alaska, with 23 saves Saturday from freshman goaltender John Keeney, slipped from fifth place into sixth place at 4-6-2-0 CCHA and 6-7-3 overall.
Freshman Ryan McKay denied 26 shots for his second career shutout for the RedHawks, who got two goals from senior right wing and graduate student Marc Hagel, and two points apiece from sophomore left wing Jimmy Mullin (goal and assist) and sophomore center Austin Czarnik (two assists).
“It’s great but it’s a team effort. Guys scored big goals at big times,” McKay said of his shutout.
The expression on head coach Dallas Ferguson’s face during the postgame media conference in the Pioneer Room told the story of his frustration with his team’s visits to the penalty box. For the weekend, the Nanooks had 16 infractions for 43 minutes and went 0 for 15 on the power play — including 0 for 7 Saturday — when the RedHawks occupied the penalty box.
“You’re not going to have success taking penalties. I’m at a point that I’m not sure what a penalty is anymore, honestly,” Ferguson said.
“But I’m not the guy that’s going to stand on the bench and yell and scream because that doesn’t ever seem to help anything,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said the Nanooks need to stay out of the penalty box. Saturday’s contest featured the two penalized teams in the CCHA — Miami, averaging 15.1 minutes per game, and Alaska (14.7). Miami was 16 for 32 in penalties for the series and 2 for 14 on the power play.
“We’ve got to find a way to stay out of the box, whether it’s totally staying away from guys, or whatever,” Ferguson said. “They’re no fancy way to say it but they’re (penalties) not going to help you be successful.”
Among the positives Saturday for Alaska was a deep forecheck in a scoreless first period that gave the hosts a 12-5 advantage in shots and forced Miami into quick shots.
“Our first guy touched the puck well and we were physical,” said Nanooks senior defenseman Kaare Odegard said. “That forced their d-man to take a second look and maybe slow up, and that allowed our second guy on the forecheck to get some reads and get the puck in their end.”
The RedHawks of Oxford, Ohio, adjusted well enough for the next two periods to help them improve to 6-2-2-2 CCHA and 9-2-3 overalll.
“We weren’t ready for their intensity. So it was more of our guys getting focused and getting ready to go and moving the puck,” said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi, whose progam also is in its last seven games this season (5-0-2) and is likewise in its last eight appearances (7-0-1) in the Carlson Center.
Sophomore right wing Alex Wideman, after having one goal waived off, scored the game’s first goal during a two-man advantage for Miami at 2:26 into the second period. Czarnik, with his third point of the weekend, zipped a pass from the left circle to Wideman, who stuffed in the puck inside the right post.
The RedHawks gained the 5-on-3 power play, and their second man-advantage tally of the series, after Alaska senior right wing Andy Taranto was penalized for roughing after the whistle at 45 seconds into the period and freshman defenseman Josh Atkinson went to the penalty box with a checking- from-behind minor at 1:46.
Wideman coast-to-coast wrist shot seemed to go in off of the crossbar at 15:20 of the first period, but a video review by the referee revealed that the puck didn’t cross the goal line.
Hagel made it 2-0 at 8:24 into the third, sliding across the front of the crease to collected Blake Coleman’s rebound and lift it over a prone Keeney after the Nanooks skaters didn’t clear out the puck.
“I was floating out front and I saw it was there, and I put it home,” Hagel said.
Miami’s defense contributed to its third goal at 11:20 of the final period. The RedHawks packed the low shot on a Nanooks shot and Czarnik cleared the rebound to a streaking Mullin, who got behind two Nanooks and Josh Atkinson to send the puck through Keeney’s pads.
Keeney, though, made a stellar sprawling save on Curtis McKenzie’s backhand at the left edge of the crease at 16:24 of the third.
The Nanooks pulled Keeney twice for an extra attacker during their seventh power play, courtesy of Joe Hartman’s tripping minor at 17:14.
Hagel took advantage with an empty-net deposit at 19:12 for the second of the night for the former Princeton Tiger. Guy Gadowsky, who currently is Penn State’s head coach and guided the Nanooks from 1999-2004, was Hagel’s coach at Princeton for his first three seasons of college hockey.
The Nanooks are back in the Carlson Center Friday and Saturday for a CCHA series against another Ohio team, the Bowling Green State Falcons. Each game starts at 7:05 p.m.