COLUMBUS, Ohio — Alaska-Fairbanks had to wait a little longer than it expected for its first win of the season.
Riding a 3-2 lead into the closing seconds of the third period, the Nanooks seemed just moments away from putting Ohio State away when Dave Steckel poked one into the net between the legs of Lance Mayes to take the game into overtime.
“I don’t want to tell you what I was thinking [at that moment],” quipped UAF coach Guy Gadowsky.
But the tying goal was just a slight delay of the inevitable, as Felipe Larranaga gave the Nanooks a 4-3 win at 4:23 in overtime.
“It was quite a roller-coaster of a game, that’s for sure,” said Gadowsky, “but it’s great to end it that way.”
Pat Hallet, Cory Rask, and Daniel Carriere also scored for the Nanooks. Mayes had 29 saves in the win.
Nick Ganga tallied the first two goals for the Buckeyes. Mike Betz had 29 saves as well.
The Nanooks had the early lead on Hallett s power-play goal from Jim Lawrence at 7:31 in the first, a blast from the right point that beat Betz long.
Ohio State evened it up at 15:55, when Doug Andress sent a cross-slot pass to Ganga, who lifted it in for his fifth goal of the season.
Ganga gave the Buckeyes their only lead of the contest at 6:29 in the second on the power play, tipping in Jason Crain’s shot from the top of the circles, but the Nanooks came back hard early in the third, with goals by Rask 34 seconds into the stanza and Carriere at 5:42.
Efren Larranaga, who assisted on Carriere’s breakaway, go-ahead goal, said that after a shorthanded Buckeye opportunity, the Nanooks just “wound up with open ice.”
“Dan Carriere jumped up as well as Cam Keith, and we had a three-on-one … and it just ended up perfect that Carriere ended up finishing for us,” he said.
“We didn t deserve to win that game,” said Ohio State coach John Markell. “We got outplayed again in the first period. That’s showing our immaturity once again. It’s happened four out of [the last] five games right now. I’m at my wits end with it.
“I think they [UAF] set the pace in the first period, and I think Alaska outplayed us. They outplayed us five out of the six this weekend,” said Markell, adding, “those two points hurt us, hurt us bad.”
The Nanooks, who last season made an art out of losing close games, never felt discouraged on the bench, said sophomore Efren Larranaga.
“I think since we’ve been in so many close games, a lot of guys on the bench were positive [when Steckel scored], saying, ‘Come on, we’ve worked hard. Let’s finish this off, boys,’ ” he said. “Our experience and character from last season carried over and paid off for us.”
The game was another penalty-filed affair, again refereed by Mark Wilkins, and was not without controversy.
Early in the first period, Nanook Ryan Reinheller and Buckeye Ryan Smith were given game disqualifications for an altercation near the Buckeye net. At the end of a UAF power play, Betz covered the puck, an official blew the whistle, and Reinheller made a slash at Betz’s gloves. Smith stepped in to protect his goaltender, and both Reinheller and Smith wound up down on the ice seconds later, and no one had thrown a punch. No equipment was lost, no one was bloody, and it took no time to break it up.
In the end, what appeared to be some shoving from Smith and a cross-check from Reinheller turned into five-minute majors for fighting for each player and game DQs in addition to Reinheller’s initial slash.
Then, with four and change left in the third, Andre Signoretti’s apparent tying goal was waved off by officials. The ruling was that the net was dislodged before the puck went in.
Both coaches said they hoped the league would review the disqualifications.
“We are going to appeal it,” said Gadowsky. “I didn’t see any punches thrown. I saw a wrestling match. When [Reinheller] got up, I saw him with two hands on his stick. Now, when two guys tied up … it’s tough to tell what’s wrestling and what’s a punch, but I’m pretty confident that they didn’t deserve the DQ.
“I know what he [Wilkins] was trying to do. It was pretty intense right off the bat, and he got an opportunity to cool things down, but [because of] the severity of it … I hope that it’s taken a look at by the league.”
Markell was not only unhappy with the disallowed goal, but with the way the call was handled.
“I think you can use video replay in league play now, and he [Wilkins] came over and asked me about that. He said, ‘I think we can only use it in championship play.’
“I think if you have video replay capabilities you’re allowed to use them, but I’m going to check on that. It’s a heck of a time to be discussing it.”
As for the call on Smith, Markell said, “I’m not going to comment on the refereeing. I have my feelings about it, and that’s for me to write down.”
Controversy or no, the win makes for a better plane ride back to Fairbanks, said Efren Larranaga.
“Everybody’s going to be smiling,” he said. “It’s a long trip home, so that does make it a lot better.”
“I can’t think of a better way for a first win of the season, although it is three CCHA weekends in a row where we have gotten points,” said Gadowsky. “You have to feel good about that.”
With the win, the Nanooks are 1-5-2 (1-3-2 CCHA) and have next weekend off before returning to the Lower 48 to face Michigan on Nov. 17-18. The Buckeyes are 4-3-0 (2-2-0 CCHA) and head to Lake Superior State on Nov. 10-11.