FAIRBANKS, Alaska - The Alaska Nanooks hockey team's comeback fell short on Saturday night, as the Nanooks fell 4-2 to the Northern Michigan Wildcats in a Western Collegiate Hockey Association contest at the Carlson Center. The loss drops Alaska's overall record to 4-14-2 and 4-9-1-1 in league play, while the Wildcats improve to 11-10-0 overall and 10-4-0 in conference contests.
"I really thought our play improved from last night, its unfortunate we couldn't pull out a win but we just needed a couple more bounces and sometimes that's just the way it goes," head coach Erik Largen said on Saturday. "I liked how we played in the offensive zone, I thought we moved the puck well and kept possession in their end. Our transition was much better from last night and I thought we got a lot more pucks on net. Obviously, we need to learn from tonight, keep getting better and get ready for Bemidji next weekend."
After a scoreless first period, Alaska Nanooks junior forward Troy Van Tetering opened up the scoring on Saturday night, netting his second goal of the season at the 7:54 mark of the second period. Fellow junior forward Tyler Cline shot the puck on net before Van Tetering was able to clean up the rebound to give the Nanooks a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats came out in the third and scored back-to-back-to-back power play goals courtesy of Phillip Beaulieu, who earned a natural hat trick against the Nanooks on Saturday. Beaulieu scored at the 6:10, the 8:54 and the 9:13 mark to give Northern Michigan a quick 3-1 lead.
At the 14:46 mark, Cline picked up a loose puck toward the top of the Nanooks' defensive zone, sending Alaska on a 3-on-1 rush in the opposite direction. Cline passed the puck to freshman forward Sam Ruffin, who was crashing the net, for a quick shot on goal but it was Van Tetering who batted home the rebound once again for his second of the night to pull the Nooks to within one.
Unfortunately, Alaska wasn't able to score with a 6-on-5 advantage at the end of the third period, as NMU's Denver Pierce scored an empty-net goal to seal the 4-2 victory and weekend sweep for the Wildcats.
Alaska's junior goaltender Anton Martinsson turned away 23 shots on Saturday, including 11 in the second period alone. On the other end of the ice, NMU's Atte Tolvanen made a game-high 32 saves against the Nanooks.
The Alaska Nanooks hockey team will hit the road next week, taking on the Bemidji State Beavers in a two-game WCHA Series at the Sanford Center on Friday, Jan. 11 and Saturday, Jan. 12. Friday's game is scheduled for 4:07pm AKST, while Saturday's afternoon game is set for 2:07pm AKST.