The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team is 0-2 on the season after recording its second loss at the Carlson Center on Sunday, a 3-0 shutout at the hands of No. 2 University of Denver.
The game was scoreless until late in the second period, when Denver’s Ian Mitchell scored a short-handed goal with an assist from Liam Finlay and Jake Durflinger. Just over six minutes into the third period, Pioneer forward Griffin Mendel found the net on a wrist shot to make the score 2-0.
“You give up the short-handed goal late in the second and that’s deflating for the group. And obviously they’re able to get the next one there in the third and that’s kind of the end of the game,” UAF head coach Erik Largen said after the game.
The Nanooks played with an empty net the last two minutes of the game, allowing Denver’s Ryan Barrow to easily score after receiving a pass from Tyler Ward.
The Pioneers outshot the Nanooks 12 to four in the first period but roles reversed in the second with the Nanooks making 14 shots compared to the Pioneers eight. Neither team converted on a power play opportunity through three periods.
Freshman forward Eriks Zohovs and senior forward Tyler Cline led UAF in shots. Nanook goaltender Gustavs Grigals made 28 saves.
Sunday’s loss follows Saturday’s 4-3 loss to Denver. The Nanooks led the season opener 2-1 going into the second period, but the Pioneers clinched the win after a Nanooks turnover turned into a game-winning goal for the Pioneers.
“I just didn’t think we had the same jam as we did yesterday,” Largen said Sunday. “We skated with them for a lot of it, but just the one-on-one battles and the little things that we needed to do to be able to beat as good of a team as Denver, we just didn’t have that tonight.”
Going forward Largen hopes increasing the intensity of play during practice will lead to gametime improvements.
“You can see how hard it is to get to the front of the nets and ... if you’re not willing to battle your teammates to elevate their game to be prepared for that, then you’re going to fall a little bit short on Sunday night in that second game,” the second-year head coach explained.
The Nanooks begin Western Collegiate Hockey Association conference play next weekend when they travel to take on Michigan Technological University in Houghton, Michigan, at the Macinnes Student Ice Arena.
The Nanooks have lost the past 16 matchups against the Huskies and will be looking for their first win against the conference competitor since a 7-2 win in 2014.
The Huskies are 2-0 on the season after defeating Robert Morris University 2-1 in overtime Saturday and 7-0 on Sunday.
Game one against Michigan Tech is scheduled for 3:07 p.m. AKDT Friday. Game two begins at 2:07 p.m. AKDT Saturday.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports