The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team fell 2-1 in double overtime to Lake Superior State on Saturday at the Carlson Center, for its first tie of the season.
While they missed out on the extra point, reaching 3-on-3 play felt like a small victory for the Nanooks, as it helped them collect more than three points in a home series.
The Nanooks finished the weekend with four points — one for the overtime tie and three for their 2-0 Friday win.
Prior to this weekend, UAF collected points on both days only in its road sweep of Michigan Tech in October.
However, despites struggling to break three points for the majority of the season, the Nanooks remain well positioned in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings.
Alaska (11-12-1 overall) was remarkably consistent from mid-October through December, splitting every series for three points. The team is now tied for fourth place in the WCHA with 28 points and a 9-8-1-0 conference record.
“It’s frustrating that you don’t get all six of them when you think maybe you could have an opportunity to do that, but at the end of the day… you’re still able to get some points,” said UAF head coach Erik Largen after the game.
Nanooks senior captain Kylar Hope shared the sentiment.
“I said to (the team) that one point might matter at the end of the year. If we don’t get that point it might cost us home ice.... It’s just up to us to find ways to finish it with six points not four.”
The top eight teams in the 10-team conference earn spots in the WCHA Playoffs. The top four are awarded home ice.
The winner of the conference’s postseason tournament receives an automatic NCAA tournament berth.
Alaska’s first line found the net first Saturday, 7:56 into the opening period. Hope fired a wrist shot from the slot glove side past Lakers goaltender Mareks Mitens. James LaDouce and Steven Jandric were credited with assists.
The Nanooks almost made it a two-goal game with just over a minute remaining in the first period when Colton Leiter got loose on a breakaway, but his shot ricocheted off the right pipe.
The Lakers (8-19-1, 5-11-2-2 WCHA) controlled the majority of the third frame, outshooting the Nanooks 12-5, and tied it up with 6:39 remaining in regulation after winning a faceoff in their offensive zone.
Ashton Calder collected the puck from Pete Veillette and shot it shortside past UAF goalie Gustavs Grigals from the bottom of the right circle to force the extra minutes.
Grigals made four overtime saves before he let through Veillete’s wrist shot from the slot, ending the game. Grigals made 32 saves on the night.
Alaska was unable to capitalize on three power play opportunities in the second period and finished regulation 0-for-5.
Entering the weekend, the Nanooks .096 power play percentage ranked 55th out of 60 NCAA teams.
“It starts with me. I gotta figure out a better plan,” Largen said about the lack of power play success. “We gotta find the right personnel to be able to do it and you know it’s not like the effort isn't there, but in terms of execution it just wasn’t.
“We had that many power plays you gotta find a way to get one and you get one that’s the game right there… It’s definitely going to be a focus this week.”
The Nanooks next play a two-game road series against the Ferris State Bulldogs on Jan. 17 and 18 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
The Bulldogs hold the eighth spot in the conference standings with a 4-10-2-0 record for 14 points.
Alaska, per the trend, split its November home series against Ferris.
The puck drops at 3:07 p.m. AKST Friday and 2:07 p.m. AKST Saturday.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.