KALAMAZOO, MICH. — In front of 2,589 fans at Lawson Ice Arena, Sophomore Cam Keith tallied three points and freshman Jared Sylvestre had the game-winner, a shorthander, and an assist as Alaska-Fairbanks defeated Western Michigan 7-3.
UAF head coach Guy Gadowsky was very impressed with Keith’s performance. “Cam Keith was our best forechecker tonight. He’s 6-3, 225, he’s a big man and can really skate. He really played a great game. He’s a big strong man…and he certainly created a lot for us tonight.”
WMU starting goaltender Jeff Reynaert was pulled at 1:51 of the second period after letting in four goals on six shots, and was relieved by freshman goaltender Mike Mantua, who finished the game with 15 saves. Nanook junior goaltender Lance Mayes was solid, making 22 saves on the night. The UAF special teams were also solid on the evening, tallying two power-play goals and one shorthanded score.
The Broncos got on the board first at 7:03 in the opening stanza when Brent Rumble took a behind-the-net feed from Ben Gagnon and beat Mayes on the stick side from the top of the crease. The Nanooks answered quickly at 9:44, when Blaine Bablitz capitalized on a turnover in the WMU zone and beat Reynaert glove side to even the score at 1-1.
Fairbanks would score again less than a minute later when freshman Jason Grinevitch got by Reynaert with a slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle to give the Nanooks the lead at 2-1.
Western coach Jim Culhane was disappointed that the Broncos couldn’t build on the momentum of the game’s first goal.
“We felt we came out of the gate strong and played well in the first 12 minutes.”
After Rumble’s goal, Mayes stopped Bronco Jeff Campbell’s breakaway, stalling the Western offense.
UAF scored two more unanswered goals, including a power play goal by Dan Carriere and Sylvestre’s second-period tally, bumping the Nanooks ahead 4-1. Western shortened UAF lead to 4-2 when Pat Dwyer picked up his own third rebound midway through the second period.
Early in the third period, after UAF penalties by rookies Aaron Voros and Scott Vockeroth gave Western Michigan a five-on-three advantage, Bronco defender Dave Cousineau beat a sprawling Mayes to make it a 4-3 game. Anthony Battaglia then had a chance to tie things up for the Broncos on a Nanook defensive-zone turnover, but his rocket from the high slot was stopped by Mayes.
The Nanooks iced the game at 9:17 in the third period by capitalizing on another WMU defensive turnover. Ryan Lang took Tom Herman’s pass through the slot to beat Mantua and give UAF a 5-3 lead. UAF added Felipe Larranaga’s power-play goal and Sylvestre’s shorthander to make the final score 7-3.
Gadowsky didn’t feel that the final score was an accurate indication of how the game really went. “The puck was definitely bouncing our way tonight. We got a couple lucky bounces early and a couple lucky bounces late and that was definitely the difference in the game.”
Culhane expressed his frustration. “Once they got that fifth goal they were able to sustain it and we couldn’t generate anything. Hats off to them. They played a whale of a game and were able to take the energy out of us by getting those goals late.”
The Nanooks are now 3-0-0, while the Broncos begin the season 0-1-0. The teams meet again for the second game of the weekend set at 7:05 p.m. Saturday in Lawson Arena.