FAIRBANKS—The Alaska Nanooks inspired themselves in the first period Saturday night by rallying to a tie against the Northern Michigan Wildcats.
Their coaches added to the inspiration during the first intermission, helping fuel a 4-2 victory in the Carlson Center that gave Alaska its sixth straight win this season in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association and its first sweep of the Wildcats in nine seasons.
The Nanooks poured on three goals in the second period and freshman defenseman Colton Parayko figured into all of them, finishing the night with a power-play goal and two assists.
“I think we had a good mindset coming in as a team,” Parayko said after the game. “We knew that we were coming off five straight (wins) and we wanted to keep the streak alive.”
Alaska, which got two goals from junior left wing Colton Beck and the go-ahead marker from freshman center Tyler Morley, is also unbeaten in its last seven games (6-0-1).
“We’re just having fun right now playing hockey, and when you’re winning, it’s always fun,” added Parayko, a third-round pick of the St. Louis Blues in the 2012 National Hockey League Entry Draft.
Senior right wing Andy Taranto contributed two assists and freshman goaltender John Keeney turned aside 24 shots for Alaska, which improved to 10-7-3-1 CCHA and 12-8-4 overall for fourth-place tie with Ferris State.
The Nanooks were in fifth place following a 2-1 win in Friday’s series opener.
Nanooks assistant coach Corbin Schmidit, during Saturday’s postgame media conference in the Pioneer Room, said Alaska’s coaching staff told the players to continue what they were doing that led to the tie in the first.
“Just kind of play the right way, do things right and keep pucks to the outside,” Schmidt said. “Obviously, Northern is a great hockey team and they’ve always have been. But if you give them chances to capitalize on your mistakes, they’re going to capitalize.”
Wildcats sophomore left wing Ryan Daugherty provided the game’s first goal at 1:34 of the opening period and Beck evened the score with Taranto’s help at 15:35 before the Carlson Center crowd of 3,131.
Parayko triggered the Nanooks’ sixth straight win by blocking a pass by Wildcats center Matt Thurber at the half boards. Parayko chipped the puck to Nik Yaremchuk, who got into a 2-on-1 with Morley and the rookie backhanded the puck by Northern Michigan junior netminder Jared Coreau at 5:06 of the second period.
The Wildcats had just killed a Nanooks power play, when Parayko centered a pass to a streaking Beck for a 3-1 lead at 10:20.
“He just called for it in the middle of the ice and I gave it to him,” Parayko said of Beck, who scored Friday’s game-winner on a short-handed play.
Parayko capitalized ona lengthy power play for the Nanooks, scoring from in front of the crease during a two-man advantage at 11:51 of the second.
The goal, aided by Nanooks junior center Cody Kunyk and junior defenseman Michael Quinn, also led to Coreau (15 saves) getting replaced by freshman Michael Doan (18 saves).
The Nanooks had gained the lengthy man-advantage session after Wildcats left wing Erik Higby received a major and a game-misconduct for elbowing at 10:41 and defenseman Wade Epp followed with a highsticking minor at 11:37.
The penalties were among a few things that frustrated Wildcats head coach Walt Kyle, whose squad came to Fairbanks riding a six-game unbeaten streak
(5-0-1). Northern Michigan remained in eighth place Saturday at 5-11-4-1 CCHA and 11-12-4 overall.
“They (Alaska) played great and forced us in turning pucks over. They did a great job against us,” Kyle said while watching video of Saturday’s game.
“We got outplayed all weekend and we took a ton of stupid penalties,” Kyle added. “We’ve got to be better disciplined than that, and we just have to look to see where we are.”
The Nanooks last swept the Wildcats by scores of 1-0 and 5-2, respectively, at home on Jan. 16-17, 2004.
Senior defenseman Scott Macaulay produced Saturday’s last goal short-handed, slipping the puck around Keeney’s stick-side stick at 13:44 of the second period after Thurber gained a long rebound during Alaska’s long power play.
The Nanooks visit the second-place Miami RedHawks on Friday and Saturday in Oxford, Ohio.