SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — The Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks took advantage of strong defensive play and several acrobatic saves by freshman Wylie Rogers to avenge Friday night’s loss with a 2-0 victory over Lake Superior State on Saturday.
“Of all the games that we’ve won, this is the happiest I’ve been this year,” said UAF skipper Tavis MacMillan.
The game-winning goal came just eight seconds into the third period. After Lucas Burnett won the faceoff for UAF, Cramer Hickey dumped the puck in on net. Jeff Jakaitis made the save, but Laker defenseman Mark Adamek didn’t see the long rebound and Burnett put the puck in the far side of the net for his first goal of the year.
Jordan Emmerson added an empty-net goal, his second goal of the season, with two seconds left in the game to seal the victory.
“I’m really surprised that [Jakaitis] gave up that rebound,” said MacMillan. “Usually he eats it up or kicks it to the corner.”
After a poor showing during Friday night’s 6-2 defeat, the Nanooks defense came out strong and took away most of Lake Superior’s passing lanes and didn’t give them any easy shots on goal. MacMillan said the difference between Friday and Saturday could be said in “one word: competing. Our guys competed way harder tonight than last night.”
Having forward Kelly Czuy — who was given a game misconduct on Friday — for the entire game made a big difference in the Nanook defense.
“I thought Kelly had an awesome game,” said MacMillan. “He didn’t show up on the score sheet, but him, Fraser and Greentree did everything we asked them to do. They were opportunistic and physical, and they didn’t take any penalties.”
Rogers had a great game for the Nanooks, registering his second shutout of the season.
“What he lacks in age, he makes up for in athleticism,” commented MacMillan. “I’m scared to think of what he is going to be like when he gets stronger.
“I tend to think that he relies on [his athleticism] too much, but if he makes the saves, I don’t care.”
The Lakers had a couple of opportunities to tie the game in the third period. At 8:32, Laker forward Trent Campbell beat the Nanook defender and took the puck across the front of the net, but Rogers made a kick save from point blank range, and with only fourteen seconds left in the game, forward Derek R. Smith fired an open look on net from seven feet away, but Rogers swatted that one away as well.
LSSU head coach Frank Anzalone was very disappointed at his team’s inability to close out the series with a win.
“You can’t come out fifteen seconds into the period and give up that goal in your building and expect your coach and your fans to be happy,” he explained. “We have to sit here and give Alaska credit, but we just didn’t get it accomplished.
“In 19:45 left, we should have come back and said, ‘Screw that.’ But it didn’t happen.”
The two teams are clustered together in the CCHA schedule, and Lake Superior will travel to Fairbanks on January 18 to finish the season series. Alaska-Fairbanks (5-3-0 overall, 4-2-0 CCHA) has a week off before they travel to South Bend, Ind. to take on Notre Dame, while Lake Superior (2-6-0 overall, 2-4-0 CCHA) continue their homestand next weekend with a series against Ferris State.