The UAF Nanooks swept the UAA Seawolves, regaining the Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup.
The bid for a fourth-straight series win over the ‘Nooks came up short as the UAA Seawolves had to watch their rivals skate off with the cup. It tilts the overall Governor’s Cup series back into favor of UAF as they now hold a 9-8 series lead over the Seawolf.
The ‘Wolves didn’t start the series off the way they would’ve hoped as they hosted the first game in their own rink. The Nanooks came through Anchorage and bounced UAA 7-4 on Feb. 27.
It was the first win UAF had over the Seawolves dating back to Dec. 31, 2005. It snapped a streak of 10 straight victories the green and gold had enjoyed over their northern rivals.
Head Coach Dave Shyiak decided to go with junior goaltender Bryce Christianson in net for the series opener. This choice seemed surprising, as Christianson hadn’t got the nod for a start since back on Dec. 5 against St. Cloud State. However, Christianson was responsible for blanking the Nanooks in both games in last year’s series against UAF.
Things looked promising for the home team when senior forward Josh Lunden and junior forward Tommy Grant teamed up for a pair of power play strikes midway through the first period.
However, the ‘Nooks responded with three goals of their own to end the period on top of things 3-2. Tallying the goals for UAF were Andy Taranto, Ron Meyers and Derek Klassen.
The scoring spree continued when UAF was awarded a penalty shot at 5:57 of the second. Brandon Knelson converted the backhander and gave the ‘Nooks a 4-2 lead, much to the delight of the Fairbanks fans in attendance.
But senior forward Kevin Clark got the Anchorage crowd back in spirit when he got his first goal of the night at 8:02 of the second period.
The momentum seesawed back in favor of the Nanooks when Dustin Sather scored on the power play and gave Nanooks a two-goal lead headed to the intermission.
The third period began with the ‘Wolves continuing a
carry over power play and, yet again, their leading scorer stepped it up. Clark scored the third power-play goal on the night for the green and gold when he deflected home a shot from the point by junior defenseman Luka Vidmar.
Unfortunately, that was as close as the Seawolves got, as Taranto scored two goals within a 12-second span to put the game on ice. He earned himself the hat trick of the night finishing with four points (3-1) while line mate Dion Knelsen matched with four points (1-3) of his own.
Despite the 27-19 shot advantage UAA enjoyed, the teams still had to head north for the second game.
After the game, Clark, an assistant captain and leader for the team, knew that the Seawolves would have to regroup quickly in order to get back into the series.
“(We’ll) need to be a little more disciplined,” Clark said. “We (kind of) played into
their hands. We’re going to feel a lot better tomorrow.”
It proved to be a more tightly contested game on Feb. 27 when the teams met up again in Fairbanks.
The Seawolves turned back to senior Jon Olthuis to man the pipes while UAF, to no surprise, went back to Scott Greenham.
The game was much more defensive than the night before as both teams only managed one marker in the first. Joe Sova lit the lamp for the Nanooks, but was answered by a goal from junior defenseman Kane Lafranchise.
After a scoreless and uneventful second stanza, the teams played a stronger third period.
Knelsen put the ‘Nooks up 2-1 when he struck on the man advantage at 6:53 of the third.
Soon after that the wheels started to come off for UAA.
Twelve seconds after going down a goal, sophomore blueliner Brad Gorham received a five-minute major and game misconduct for contact to the head.
To make matters worse, Grant found himself with a short-handed breakaway soon after. It appeared that he was hauled down on an obvious goal-scoring opportunity, though there was no call on the play.
Shortly after, Shyiak was tagged with a game misconduct and unsportsmanlike penalty of his own when he threw a water bottle on the ice. This was part
of his obvious frustrations with the referees.
Now down two men, the Seawolves faced a big hill to climb out of. To have any chance, they had to hold strong on the penalty kill.
Insert Nanook sniper Knelson, who struck seconds later.
His goal was ultimately the nail in the coffin, as the Nanooks held on to win 3-2 and hoisted the cup in front of their home crowd.
Olthuis stood on his head most of the night and kept the ‘Wolves in it by stopping 27 of 30 shots he faced.
UAA will look to rebound back, and quickly, as they host Minnesota-Duluth Mar. 5-6 at the Sullivan Arena in their final conference series. It is the last chance the team will have to better their playoff seed before they begin the WCHA playoffs in two weeks.