FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Senior forward Ryker Leer's fifth goal of the season proved to be a crucial one, as it eventually became the game-winner to lift the Alaska Nanooks hockey team past in-state rival Alaska Anchorage 2-1 in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association contest at the Carlson Center on Saturday night. With Saturday's victory, Alaska improves to 9-17-2 overall and 9-12-1-1 in WCHA play, while the Seawolves drop to 3-23-2 on the season and 2-17-2-1 in league matchups.
Saturday's victory concludes the first, two-game series of the coveted Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup, with each team walking away with a 1-1-0 mark and three WCHA points following the weekend split. With a win on Saturday, Alaska remains in seventh place in the WCHA standings with 29 points, while UAA sits in 10th place with nine points.
"I thought the guys really responded well after last night's game," head coach Erik Largen said on Saturday. "We looked really good in the first period and were able to jump out to a 1-0 lead. After that goal-against in the second period, I didn't think we really responded that well for the rest of that period, so give credit to them. Ryker was able to find that second goal we needed and after that, I thought we really locked it down defensively. We need to have a good practice Monday and Tuesday before we hit the road to Bowling Green."
Junior forward Kyle Marino opened up the scoring on Saturday night, netting an even-strength tally at the 7:01 mark of the first period. Following a face-off, freshman forward Chase Ellingson fired the puck from the dot on UAA netminder Kristian Stead. Stead was able to make the initial save before Marino batted in the rebound for his fourth of the season. Senior defenseman Nikolas Koberstein was awarded the secondary assist on Marino's goal.
Only 58 seconds into the second period, UAA tied the game at 1-1 with a power play goal from Carmine Buono. Following a UAA face-off win from Nils Rygaard, Buono stepped in from the blueline to fire a slapshot that tied the game.
At the 2:50 mark of the third period, Alaska junior defenseman Tristan Thompson played the puck up-ice to sophomore forward Justin Young, who entered the UAA zone on a 3-on-2 offensive rush. Young dropped the puck to Leer, who was trailing, before the Red Deer, Alberta native sniped upstairs for the game-winner.
In net, UAA's Stead collected 25 saves against the Nanooks, while Alaska's freshman goaltender Gustavs Grigals amassed 16 saves against the Seawolves.
In the special teams race, Alaska went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage, while UAA went 1-for-2.
The Alaska Nanooks hockey team will hit the road next week, as they are set to take on the Bowling Green Falcons in a two-game WCHA series in Bowling Green, Ohio on Friday, Feb. 15 and Saturday, Feb. 16. Puck-drop both nights is scheduled for 3:07pm AKST.