OMAHA, Neb. — Sporting the number ’34′ on the backs of their helmets in support of teammate Aaron Voros, Alaska-Fairbanks came to Omaha and captured an emotional win Friday night.
Voros left the squad for his home in Vancouver on Tuesday after finding out he had a bone tumor in his leg. His number proved to be magic. UAF had exactly 34 shots on goal, to UNO’s 43, and Cory Rask scored in overtime to give the Nanooks a 4-3 win over Nebraska-Omaha.
“We rallied around him, and it was a huge win tonight. We’ve had talks about him,” said UAF coach Guy Gadowsky. “He’s a big, big part of our program and we can’t wait till he gets back with us.”
Jason Grinevitch scored first for the Nanooks just 2:51 into act one. But the Mavericks came back to score two goals on their first five shots. Andrew Wong scored his second of the year at 3:22 and David Brisson scored shorthanded 40 seconds later to put up a 2-1 lead.
Then UAF goalie Preston McKay turned a possible Chernobyl into a display of skill as he turned away 32 straight shots after the two goals, finishing with 40 saves.
“I was a little worried about him after the first period,” Gadowsky said. “I think the second was a bad goal, or at least an unfortunate goal. I thought he looked very shaky, but then he really settled down and ended up playing a fantastic game after that.”
Blaine Bablitz roofed a tough-angle wrister over Dan Ellis late in the first period to even the match, and Jared Sylverstre slid one under a sprawling Ellis to put Fairbanks up 3-2 with 1:08 left in act two.
UNO coach Mike Kemp said, “Its frustrating anytime you play a game and you give goals in the last two minutes of the periods. Those are costly goals. Those are difference makers.”
The Mavericks came out explosively in the third period and tied the game 1:20 into the frame. Scotty Turner played casino dweller and fed the slot where Joe Pereira struck gold and lit the lamp, tying the game at 3-3.
Fairbanks had a puck cross the crease behind Ellis midway through the third period, but it was cleared safely away and the game eventually saw overtime.
In free hockey, Rask was left with a gaping net after a rebound off a Cramer Hickey shot which the Maverick defense failed to clear. Rask struck just 1:02 into OT and gave UAF their first conference win of the season.
“That goal by Rask was the biggest goal we’ve scored this year,” Gadowsky said.
UNO successfully accomplished one of its team goals by registering 43 shots on net, but fell short of clinching the game, which disappointed Kemp.
“We kind of keep shooting ourselves in the foot. We play well for a while, then make a glaring error and get out of what’s gotten us competitive, and it comes back to bite you.”
This game was typical of recent UNO-UAF games. The two teams have played to two ties, four one-goal and two two-goal games in their last eight. The teams meet again tomorrow night at the Civic.
Gadowsky said, “Like every game we have ever had against UNO, it was a great hockey game to watch. There were chances, shots, great saves, hits, hit posts, overtime. What a great hockey game.”