FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Northern Michigan became the only road team to win its CCHA playoff Game 1 Friday night, getting 39 saves from backup netminder Tuomas Tarkki to hold off host Alaska-Fairbanks 3-1 before a crowd of 4,300.
“It is a long series and we are not going to get too high,” NMU head coach Walt Kyle said. “I would not tell you that we looked fresh.”
Patrick Murphy gave the Wildcats the early 1-0 lead at 13:01 of the opening period. Bobby Selden and Matt Hunter assisted.
NMU struck twice in the second period to take a step closer to double the edge. Jamie Milam made the score 2-0 with a goal at 12:50. Dirk Southern was given credit with the helper. David Bonk made it 3-0 with his third goal of the season at 15:34. Murphy and Hunter both picked up their second point on the night with the assist.
The Nanooks got on the board with a goal at 4:05 of the third period for the final margin, but could get no closer.
Tarkki, playing in place of Craig Kowalski, was the linchpin in nets for the Wildcats.
“This is my first playoff game,” Tarkki said. “It is always nice to get a win in a playoff game. Especially when you come to Fairbanks — the crowd is amazing.”
UAF’s Preston McKay had 23 saves for the game as the Nanooks outshot NMU 40-26. Neither team scored on the power play; the Wildcats were 0-2 and the Nanooks were 0-5.
The Wildcats (19-14-4) will play the Nanooks (16-18-1) again on Saturday night, where a NMU win would sent the Wildcats to the CCHA Super Six in Detroit.
“I was proud of our guys’ effort. We have to get better tomorrow and potentially on Sunday,” Kyle added.