The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team fell just shy of its first ever double series sweep of Western Collegiate Hockey Association opponent Michigan Tech when it lost 2-1 to the Huskies on Saturday at the Carlson Center.
Alaska won the first three of four games against Michigan Tech this season, going 2-0 on the Huskies’ home ice on Oct. 11 and 12 and earning a 4-3 come-from-behind win at the Carlson Center on Friday.
The loss extends the Nanooks’ series split streak to seven.
The Nanooks entered the series in a two-way tie for second place in the conference with Bemidji State with 18 points. Minnesota State held the top spot with 21 points.
After this weekend, Alaska remains in a two-way tie for second place, but now it shares the 21 point standing with Minnesota State who had a bye week. Bemidji State grabbed the top spot with a win and overtime loss against Lake Superior State to put them at 22 points.
“We just have to continue to work and get the full six,” UAF goaltender Anton Martinsson said, referring to the six points awarded for a two-game sweep.
“Every point matters throughout the season and we’re doing everything we can to finish top four.”
Eight teams from the 10-team WCHA qualify for the postseason conference tournament, with the top four earning home ice. The winner of the tournament earns an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.
Nanooks head coach Erik Largen said his team needs more consistency down the roster through the remainder of the regular season in order to stay in the top-four and generate postseason opportunities.
“We can’t have spurts where we dry up a little bit,” he said.
Michigan Tech scored first on Saturday. A boarding call against the Nanooks put the Huskies on the power play 9:33 into the first period. Fifty seconds later, Eric Gotz converted on a three-way passing play with Trenton Bliss and Seamus Donohue from the slot, firing a wrist shot past Martinsson.
The Nanooks had the third ranked penalty kill in the conference after their Nov. 8 and 9 series against Arizona State but have slipped to sixth over the last three series.
“Obviously we are doing everything we can to be perfect every night but sometimes it doesn’t go our way,” Martinsson said about Saturday’s penalty kill slip up. The Nanooks finished the night 3-for-4 on the penalty kill.
Steven Jandric tied the game 1:24 into the second period when he ripped a shot from the blue line past Husky goaltender Matt Jurusik. Markus Komuls and Chris Jandric were credited with assists.
Alex Smith scored the winning goal for the Huskies with 5:41 remaining in the second period. A shot from Raymond Brice rebounded off Martinsson’s left pad and Smith, waiting at the crease, tapped the puck in.
Alaska pulled Martinson with 2:40 remaining in the game and were on the power play for the last five second, but were unable to convert.
Martinsson made 20 saves on Saturday. Jurusik made 16.
“We didn’t play direct enough tonight, we played too slow, it was east to west and our defense wasn’t transitioning it quick to the forwards and when our forwards had time to skate or make plays they just didn’t do it,” UAF head coach Eric Largen said after the loss.
Prior to this season, the Huskies had won 16 straight games against the Nanooks.
Alaska next faces off against on the road against Bemidji State on Dec. 6 and 7.
“They’re suffocating defensively and that feeds into their offense so we just have to make sure we’re managing our game well,” Largen said about the top ranked Beavers.
The puck drops on Friday at 4:07 AKST and Saturday at 3:07 AKST.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.