ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Alaska coach Doc DelCastillo was pleased with 54 minutes of his team’s game at Michigan’s Yost Arena Friday night.
The Nanooks allowed just one goal against, leaving them just a shot away from tying the second-ranked team in the nation.
At the end of the night however, three quick Wolverines’ goals left the Nanooks to think about what could have been, instead of the reality: a 4-0 shutout. The victory extended Michigan’s win streak to seven games, tying last season’s best run. Alaska fell to 0-5 on the season.
“They basically turned one goal into three goals real quick, and it’s 4-0,” DelCastillo said. “You come unraveled in a place like this and it’s going to be a long night.”
Quick they were. With Nanook goaltender Chad Johnson spread-eagled on the ice, Travis Turnbull banged away at his own rebound to double Michigan’s lead with six minutes left in the third.
“I think that second goal by Turnbull was a backbreaker,” Michigan coach Red Berenson said. “That had to hurt them and it gave us a spark because the game was on the line. Let’s face it; they were one shot away from tying the game.”
A minute later, Matt Rust attempted a wraparound on Johnson. He missed, but the loose puck found Max Pacioretty’s stick and then the top corner behind the Alaska netminder.
Kevin Porter, the nation’s leading scorer, iced the game with a breakaway tally less than four minutes later.
Those last six minutes gave the illusion that Alaska was never in the game, but for Michigan, who had been averaging over four goals a game during their win streak, the Nanook defense was suffocating for almost the entire game.
“We couldn’t get much attack on the net,” Berenson said. “We didn’t get very many scoring chances in the game. It came down to the third period.”
Alaska even kept the Michigan power play at bay, which had been clicking at almost 30 percent efficiency over the win streak. However, much as the Nanooks limited the Wolverines’ chances, Alaska couldn’t even get a sniff at Michigan goaltender Billy Sauer, who recorded his first shutout since Jan. 9, 2007 against Bowling Green.
Sauer made only 15 saves in the shutout, but continues his hot streak after stopping 53 of 58 shots in last weekend’s series against Nebraska-Omaha. Just prior to the Wolverines’ outburst, Sauer, while sitting on the ice, thwarted Nanook Landon Novotney cutting across the crease.
“It was a tough game for Billy Sauer to play, not getting a lot of shots and then, all of a sudden, having a flurry of good opportunities,” Berenson said. “It was a tough game to play.”
Alaska had a chance to tie the game early in the third, when the Wolverines’ Brian Lebler took a five-minute checking-from-behind major, but Nanooks’ Adam Naglich was forced to hook Pacioretty on a breakaway, erasing two minutes of power play time for Alaska. The Nanooks only registered one shot with the man advantage, and the Wolverines took over for good.
“I think it was 1-0 and I was freaking out a little bit, but our PK really just did a great job,” Sauer said.
Michigan looks to extend its win streak to nine tomorrow against the Nanooks. With the win, the 12-freshmen squad would have its best start since 1999-2000 (9-1-0).