ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Early, it seemed the second game between No. 7 Michigan and Alaska-Fairbanks was picking up right where last night’s contest ended – with a scrum.
On the first shift, players were pushing and shoving each other behind the Nanook net with four players being assessed roughing minors.
But instead of another fast start from Michigan, who beat the Nanooks 4-1 last night, it was Alaska-Fairbanks that took control of the game early and never looked back en route to a 4-2 victory over the Wolverines.
Left all alone in front of goaltender Billy Sauer on the power play, Jordan Emmerson scored just over a minute into the contest.
“The way this building is, if they get a lead, their fans are crazy,” Emmerson said. “Their fans were loud right after the first shift because of the scrum. And then we were able to go out right away and score and silence them.”
Kyle Jones put the Nanooks up by two less than a minute later. From the left faceoff dot, Emmerson slid the puck across to Jones, who beat Sauer moving left to right.
“You knew they would come out strong and try to get some revenge over last night’s game,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “We knew that, and we thought we were ready for that. But we weren’t.”
The Nanooks went up three goals just eight minutes into the game when Curtis Fraser converted on a five-on-three advantage. Adam Powell put another past Sauer midway through the second, pounding the net after a Kyle Greentree shot and eventually pushing the puck by the skate of Sauer.
But regardless of the four-goal lead, Michigan had ample opportunities to get back in the game, with Alaska-Fairbanks taking 24 minutes worth of penalties through the last two periods.
“Maybe we didn’t deserve to win this game when you get down three goals (early), but I thought we had a chance,” Berenson said.
The once top-ranked power play of the Wolverines has gone dry in the last four games, converting just twice in 31 chances. It went 0-for-12 tonight against the Nanooks.
“We’re a little out of sync with guys coming back,” Michigan captain Andrew Ebbett said. “You practice with a certain group, and then guys come back from the World Junior (Championships) and we split units up. It’s kind of obvious out there – passes are wobbling all over the place and not hitting the right sticks.”
Michigan had over 10 minutes of time on the power play in the second period alone, including 32 seconds of a five-on-three advantage, but missed all of its chances. On the doorstep, Andrew Cogliano missed a wide-open net. Kevin Porter also misfired on an open side, and Jack Johnson mishandled the puck in the slot on a perfect opportunity.
And when Michigan did hit the net, Johnson was there for the save. His biggest stops of the night came in sequence, stopping two point-blank opportunities from Travis Turnbull late in the second. The Nanooks haven’t allowed a power play goal against since their series with Michigan State in early December.
Michigan also had almost two minutes of power play time to open the third, but again failed to cut the score. The frustration seemed to get to the Wolverines, as Cogliano was whistled off for elbowing just a minute after the power play opportunity. In the penalty box, he threw his gloves down, hunched over and clutched his head with his hands.
“It’s harder for the power play to score when you’re pressing, when you’re down and you need to score,” Berenson said. “And that showed tonight.”
Chad Kolarik finally got the Wolverines on the board 24 seconds after the Nanooks took the four-goal lead in the second. On a breakaway, Kolarik soared down the ice and blasted the puck through Chad Johnson’s five hole.
Tim Miller cut the Nannook lead to two on a delayed penalty call midway through the third.
With the Nanook win, the two teams split series in both Ann Arbor and Fairbanks this season.