FAIRBANKS — Frustration and determination visited the Alaska Nanooks locker room after a double-overtime loss to Northern Michigan on Friday night in the first game of a Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff series in Marquette, Michigan.
The seventh-seeded Nanooks fell 5-4 after leading 1-0 in the first period and 4-2 in the second period in the opener of the best-of-three matchup against the second-seeded Wildcats in the Berry Events Center.
“It’s disappointing that the result was the way that it was, but I thought our guys played hard,” Nanooks head coach Erik Largen said by phone.
“We’re going to give ourselves a chance to win the series if we play the same way tomorrow (tonight) night.”
Freshman left wing Chase Ellingson’s first collegiate goal gave Alaska its last lead at 16:05 of the second period. Junior goaltender Anton Martinsson made 39 saves for the Nanooks, who meet the Wildcats again at 3:07 p.m. AKDT today.
If the Nanooks win today, the third and deciding game will be played at the same time Sunday.
Northern Michigan tied Friday’s game in the third period with a power-play goal and during an extra-attacker situation with less than 20 seconds left in regulation play.
The Wildcats gained a 1-0 lead in the series with center Joseph Nardi’s goal at 10:30 of the second overtime. Nardi, with his second goal of the night, was assisted by Griffin Loughran and Phillip Beaulieu on the game winner.
Despite the outcome, the game was somewhat of a confidence booster for the Nanooks.
“It is a little bit,” Largen said. “I think our guys know we can compete with anyone when we’re playing the right way.
“We played the right way tonight even though they got the extra bounce at the end of the game. I think our guys are confident.
“I think our guys are obviously disappointed; you lose the game and you’re down, your backs are against the wall and it’s a must win tomorrow (today). I feel our guys are confident, believe in each other and know that they can win the series.”
Based on the first two periods, it seemed the Nanooks were headed to a win in game 1.
Junior left wing Tyler Cline, with help from senior right wing Chad Staley, gave Alaska a 1-0 lead at 16:38 of the first period.
Nardi, with helpers from Loughran and Ty Readman, tied the score at 2:09 of the second period. Wildcats right wing Vincent de Mey put the hosts ahead 2-1 at 3:31, courtesy of assists from Connor Frantti and Mitchell Slattery.
The Nanooks, 12-20-3 overall, responded with three goals in less than six minutes to take the lead in the middle period.
Junior right wing Kyle Marino capitalized on an assist by junior defenseman James LaDouce at 10:30. Sophomore left wing Steven Jandric, set up by sophomores Max Newton (center) and Justin Young (right wing), found the back of the net at 12:46.
Ellingson scored with help from junior right wing Kylar Hope at 16:05 of the second.
“It was a good play by Hope and (junior center Colton) Leiter,” Largen said. “Hope stops in the right spot and pokes the puck, and Leiter chips the puck. Then, all of a sudden, Elli has an opportunity with some open ice to make a play on a 2-on-1, and he made a nice finish on the goal for his first.
“I thought he played a good game. I thought he had been playing very good hockey down the stretch here for us.”
Northern Michigan (20-14-2) cut Alaska’s lead to 4-3 with Loughran’s goal at 5:41 with assists from Nardi and Readman.
Wildcats netminder Atte Tolvanen (38 saves) was pulled for an extra attacker. Adam Rockwood, aided by Darien Craighead and Beaulieu, forced overtime with his goal with 14 seconds left in the third period.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.