ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Luckily for Alaska-Fairbanks, history repeats itself.
For the second straight season. Alaska-Fairbanks split a series with Michigan at Yost Ice Arena. The Nanooks were blown out, 7-0, by Michigan on Friday, but rebounded with a 3-1 victory Saturday night
Last season, Alaska-Fairbanks lost 8-0 but won 5-2 the following day.
“The outcome of last night’s game was probably handled better by their team,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “I wish it was 1-0 or 2-0. We expected the game (tonight) to be easier than it was.”
The Nanooks spent a, whole week in Ann Arbor after taking three of four points at Miami. They didn’t have classes and it was cheaper and less stressful to stay in town. Now, Alaska-Fairbanks will return from a week in Michigan with more than just a dumb T-shirt.
“I thought the guys responded very well (after Friday night),” Alaska-Fairbanks assistant coach Tavis MacMillan said.
Both goaltenders played well Saturday. Nanooks goaltender Lance Mayes (31 saves) now has wins over Michigan State and Michigan to his credit. Berenson said Josh Blackburn (25 saves) “gave us a chance to win” with his stellar saves throughout for the second straight evening.
But in the end, the Wolverines (13-7-4 overall, 10-4-3 CCHA) blew a chance at taking control of first place from the Spartans. Michigan State lost 2-0 to Western Michigan Saturday, meaning that Michigan and MSU are tied at 23 points apiece. Alaska-Fairbanks (13-8-1, 9-8-1) has 19.
The Wolverines and Spartans play next Saturday at Yost.
After its offensive stormed out of the gates Friday, Michigan looked flat for most of the game the next night.
“Our passing was horrible,” Berenson said. “We gave the puck away so many times.”
Michigan got on the board early with a goal from its fourth line. Senior Craig Murray scored, taking it end-to-end, to give the Wolverines a 1-0 lead. Berenson rewarded the line for their efforts by keeping them out for another shift.
But 46 seconds later, a tired Murray twice missed chances to clear the puck out of the Alaska-Fairbanks zone and sophomore Tom Herman scored off a rebound to tie the game a at a goal apiece.
“Maybe we should have changed lines,” Berenson said. “It’s too bad because (Murray) scored a great goal.”
The Nanooks made it 2-0 in the second period as Bobby Andrews tapped in a rebound that trickled right in front of Michigan goaltender Josh Blackburn.
Michigan still looked flat until about four minutes left in the third period. That’s when the announcer at Yost blared the final score of the MSU game. The Wolverines heard of the Spartans’ loss and immediately stepped up their play.
Berenson switched up his line chart and used a powerful line of Mike Cammalleri, John Shouneyia and Jed Ortmeyer to stir things up, partly due to the fact that Eric Nystrom and Dwight Helminen struggled in their first weekend back after World Juniors play.
The Wolverines’ last hope was to try and gain an extra man by pulling Blackburn, but Michigan couldn’t clear the zone until 43 seconds left.
But the chances for Michigan to score late didn’t look good after Blackburn tripped while trying to add the extra attacker.
Once Blackburn reached the bench, Michigan tripped again at center ice. Herman stole the puck and tapped it towards the net from center ice for an empty netter to seal the victory.
Referee Duke Shegos kept his whistle away from his mouth for most of the night. The Wolverines, the second best power play team in the CCHA had just two power plays against the Nanooks, who are the least penalized team in the CCHA. Michigan went 0 for 2.
Alaska-Fairbanks also didn’t retaliate when Michigan got a little chippy.
On one play, Michigan defenseman Mike Komisarek ripped the helmet off Alaska-Fairbanks forward Aaron Voros. Nystrom, Michigan’s freshman forward scooped up the helmet with his stick, and, just as he was ready to give it to Voros, he rudely dropped it on the ice. Voros kept his poise.
“A few years ago we used to take a lot of penalties — now it says a lot about our discipline,” MacMillan said. “There were no retaliations. We wanted to win.”
Mark Francescutti is a freelance writer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.