Goaltending and special teams.
University of Alaska Fairbanks head coach Erik Largen alluded to those aspects which aided a 2-0 victory over the Ferris State Bulldogs in Friday night’s opener of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series in Big Rapids, Michigan.
Nanooks senior goaltender Anton Martinsson denied 34 shots and backstopped four penalty kills in the Ewigleben Ice Arena for his second shutout this season and fifth of his career.
“He’s lights out,” Largen, by phone, said of Martinsson. “There’s no secret we have a little trouble scoring right now, and you need your goaltending to be really good.
“Anton saw the puck, he did a great job. He got us three points tonight.”
A win in regulation or overtime counts for three points in the WCHA standings.
It was the second shutout in two weeks for the Nanooks. Sophomore goaltender Gustavs Grigals earned his first career shutout in a 2-0 win over the visiting Lake Superior State Lakers on Jan. 10 at the Carlson Center.
Junior left wing Steven Jandric scored the game-winner Friday in Big Rapids on a power-play goal late in the second period. Senior left wing Tyler Cline planted the puck into an empty net late in the third to help the Nanooks improve to 12-12-1 overall and 10-8-1-0 WCHA, which moved them into sole possession of fourth place in the 10-team NCAA Division I conference.
The top eight teams in the WCHA at the end of the regular season advance to the conference. The first through fourth-place games get to host a best-of-three, quarterfinal series.
Jandric’s sixth goal of the season was assisted by his brother and sophomore defenseman Chris Jandric and Cline at 13:34 of the second period. The shot, which Steven Jandric sent through the pads of Bulldogs senior Austin Shaw (17 saves), was also helped by a screen from senior right wing Kylar Hope.
The goal also was a rare achievement this season for UAF in man-advantage sessions.
UAF ranks eighth in the WCHA and 57th among 60 Division I teams with 10 power-play conversions in 106 opportunities for a 9.4 % efficiency. The Nanooks were 1 for 4 with the extra skater on Friday night.
“It was big,” Largen said of UAF’s power play before a crowd of 1,138 in the 2,493-seat Ewigleben Ice Arena.
“It was the difference. Goaltending and special teams; as you get down the stretch, that becomes the difference. Our goaltender outplayed their goaltender, and our power play was able to capitalize and get one.”
Cline got the empty-netter, and his third goal of the season, with 17 seconds left in the contest.
The Nanooks also won Friday despite getting outshot 34-19, including 12-4 in the first period and 12-5 in the third. Each team had 10 shots in the second period.
UAF also kept the first period scoreless after collecting three penalties to Ferris State’s one.
The Nanooks and the eighth-place Bulldogs (6-16-2, 4-11-2-0 WCHA) face off at 2:07 p.m. AKDT today.
The game can be seen in Fairbanks at a watch party that starts at 1:45 p.m. downstairs in Fenders Restaurant, 636 28th Ave.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.