The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team split its third consecutive series when the Arizona State Sun Devils shut out the Nanooks 4-0 at the Carlson Center Saturday.
The Sun Devils took a 2-0 lead in the first period and the Nanooks offense, still struggling this season to capitalize on power play opportunities, never recovered.
“The second period we didn’t have the desperation, we didn’t have the heaviness, we didn’t have the direct play to be able to capitalize,” UAF head coach Erik Largen said after the game. “It’s disappointing.”
Alaska began its slide late in the first period after a holding penalty on UAF’s Antti Virtanen put the Sun Devils on the power play with 4:11 left in the period.
With 35 seconds remaining in their power play, ASU forward Demetrios Koumontzis passed the puck to sophomore defenseman Josh Maniscalco, who hit a one timer through Nanooks goaltender Gustavs Grigals legs.
Forty-five seconds later with the Nanooks back at full strength, the Sun Devils made the score 2-0 after ASU’s Connor Stuart found the puck off a rebound and passed to Willie Knierim who connected with Tyler Busch who found the net.
The Nanooks had a shot at a comeback 13:56 into the second period with a 5-on-3 opportunity. But a double faceoff violation put Eriks Zohovs in the box, leaving the Nanooks with a 4-on-3 advantage.
Alaska has found little success on the power play converting on only three of 55 opportunities this season. Saturday was no exception. The Nanooks went 0-for-6.
“I think for us it’s a more simplified approach on it,” Largen said said about his team’s power play.
“You have to continue to win battles on the power play and it’s not like we don’t have our looks or our opportunities. ... I just didn’t think throughout the course of the night we earned it tonight. ... And give credit to them, they did.”
Koumontzis scored 4:10 into the third with an assist from James Sanchez and Maniscalco to put ASU up 3-0. Maniscalco added another point with 1:56 left in the game after burying an empty netter.
“You have to earn sweeps and we didn’t do that,” Largen said. The Nanook’s beat the Sun Devils in a 4-3 thriller on Friday.
“You can look at a hot goaltender, you can look at special teams, and that’s definitely a part of it, but at the end of the day we didn’t have that extra desire to capitalize and be able to win,” the second-year head coach added.
The game was Arizona State goaltender Evan DeBrouwer’s second career shutout. The sophomore holds a .916 save percentage and 2.41 goals allowed average.
Grigals played his sixth game of the season and made 13 saves Saturday.
The Nanooks face off next against Northern Michigan University on Friday at 3:07 p.m AKDT and Saturday at 2:07 p.m. AKDT at the Berry Events Center in Marquette, Michigan.
“It’s a big series. … We know what they’re like to play in their home rink,” senior defenseman Tristan Thompson said, referring to the Wildcats’ sweep of the Nanooks in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association Playoff last season.
The Nanooks (6-6-0 overall, 4-2-0-0 WCHA) and Wildcats (6-2-2 overall, 4-4-0-0 WCHA) are tied for second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Conference standings with 12 points each.
Northern Michigan is ranked first in the conference in scoring offense with 3.90 goals per game and first with a 27.1 power play percentage.
Alaska is ranked fourth in scoring defense, allowing 34 goals over 12 games for 2.83 goals per game, and third with an 87.9 penalty kill percentage.
“From now on we just have to play our hockey and show the WCHA what we can do,” Thompson said.
The Nanooks’ 11 remaining regular season series are against WCHA teams.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.