Tristan Thompson wasn’t part of a shift change for the University of Alaska Fairbanks late in the third period Friday night at the Carlson Center.
Nanooks head coach Erik Largen was glad Thompson didn’t come off the ice, because the senior defenseman ended up delivering the game-winning goal in a 4-3 victory over the Michigan Tech Huskies.
Thompson skated up the slot, pumped his stick and ripped a high shot past Huskies goaltender Matt Jurusik with 3:33 left in the third meeting of the season between the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivals.
“It was a good o-zone (offensive zone) sequence and we were able to outchange them,” Largen said in the postgame media conference in the Alaska Room.
“It was a good job; we possessed the puck, we were heavy down low against them. We moved our feet and we were able to get fresh guys on the ice, and four out of the five stayed off. I guess he (Thompson) was the right guy to stay on.
“I thought it was a really good clip and a good effort by the two (forward) lines that were out there.”
The Nanooks had trailed 2-0 in the second period and 3-2 early in the third.
“I liked their game tonight. It was good to see the response,” Largen said.
“A couple of mistakes there to make it 2-0 and we were able to rebound wirh a power-play goal. I liked their push in the third period and then we get down again. There was belief and no quit in the group tonight.”
UAF’s other goals came from left wings Didrik Henbrant (freshman) and Caleb Hite (sophomore) and junior center Max Newton. Sophomore goaltender Gustavs Grigals made 15 saves in the victory, which improved the Nanooks 9-8-0 overall and 7-4-0-0 WCHA for 21 points in the standings and a tie for first place with the Minnesota State Mavericks and Bemidji State Beavers.
It also was the first Friday-night victory for the Nanooks this season on their Olympic-size (200x100 feet) home ice.
“It’s nice to have the win but now you’ve got turn the page,” Largen said. “Another three points are on the line tomorrow (tonight).
“This (Michigan Tech) is a very tough team. Now we know we have to bring our best effort.”
A team in the WCHA receives three points in the standings for a regulation or overtime win.
Sophomore left wing Trenton Bliss and defensemen Chris Lipe (freshman) and Keegan Ford (senior) scored and Jurusik, a senior, recorded 24 saves Friday for the Huskies. Michigan Tech, at 7-7-0 overall and 5-6-0-0 WCHA for 15 points, shares fourth place with the Bowling Green State Falcons and Ferris State Bulldogs.
The Huskies, who entered Friday’s contest with a four-game winning streak, seized a 2-0 lead in a span of 1 minute, 5 seconds.
Bliss skated through the left circle, and despite Nanooks senior defenseman James LaDouce covering him tightly, managed to send a high shot over Grigals’ stick side at 37 seconds into the middle period.
The Huskies’ second goal began with the Nanooks losing the puck near the right point and seeing it flow into the neutral zone. Lipe and junior center Greyson Reitmeier pounced and generated a 2-on-0 rush, which Lipe finished at 1:05 for his first collegiate goal.
UAF got its first goal by on capitalizing on its second power play of the night.
Senior defenseman Tristan Thompson uncorked a shot from the top of the slot into a crowd in front of Jurusik. Henbrant was among the crowd and he collected a rebound of the shot and tapped it in at 7:44.
LaDouce also assisted on Henbrant’s first collegiate marker.
“We know we’re better than that,” Henbrant said of the Nanooks’ quick two-goal deficit. “We had to go out there and work hard, and do what we need to do to win the game.”
Newton, with junior left wing Steven Jandric’s help, tied the game at 2 at 2:03 of the third with the Nanooks’ second power-play goal in three chances Friday.
Ford gave Michigan Tech a 3-2 lead with a power-play deposit at 7:33 of the third. Sophomore defenseman Colin Swoyer assisted on the Huskies’ first goal in three power-play opportunities.
Hite, with his second career goal, knotted the score at 3 with senior right wing Kyle Marino’s help at 7:33 of the third.
The Nanooks lead the season series at 3-0 and each game was decided by one goal. UAF swept Michigan 3-2 and 2-1, respectively, on Oct. 11 and 12 at the John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena on the campus in Houghton, Michigan.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.