OMAHA, Neb. — It’s not very often, almost never, in fact, that a college hockey team comes away feeling pleased about dropping three points from a weekend series. In this instance, however, the Alaska Nanooks won’t mind too much.
Bouncing back from Friday night’s 2-1 shootout loss to No. 18 Nebraska-Omaha after completing a full 65 minutes of scoreless hockey, the No. 20 Nanooks made sure that they wouldn’t let a second bonus point fall by the wayside on Saturday, withstanding a bizarre third-period equalizer from the Mavericks before winning 2-1 in another shootout, this time sending the 5,826 fans at Qwest Center Omaha home disappointed. For official NCAA purposes, however, the game will be viewed as a 1-1 tie, the score line from when the overtime period expired.
It’s a strange way to pick up three points on a weekend, given that the CCHA will view Friday’s game as a Nanook loss, but Alaska (8-4-4, 6-3-2-2) were happy to take it.
“If (before the series) you would have just said, ‘Hey, here’s three points before we left, we would have said, ‘OK,’” UA coach Dallas Ferguson joked. “That would’ve saved us a lot of money.”
For the first forty minutes of Saturday’s game, it was more or less a carbon copy of the night before, with both teams canceling each other out for the first two periods before better scoring chances started to materialize on both ends. What was different on Saturday, though, was that unlike Fridays 0-0 tie after overtime, Saturday saw goals go in during regulation.
First to find the net on Saturday was Nanooks’ senior captain Adam Naglich, who combined on a short-handed two-on-one with linemate Braden Walls before putting a shot off of UNO goaltender Jerad Kaufmann’s pad. The shot’s inertia saw the puck bounce over the goal line at 12:09 of the third period.
Ferguson’s side looked set to shut the rest of the game down, but their lead evaporated 1:01 later when UNO defenseman Matt Smith took a long shot from just inside the center line that Johnson lost track of when the puck was in mid-flight before it bounced off of the keeper’s blocker and into the net.
It’s not very often that a goaltender at this level lets in a shot from 95 feet, let alone a goaltender like Johnson, who had just gone over 170 minutes of game time without letting in a goal during regulation and overtime. Luckily for Johnson and his teammates, though, the strange goal didn’t cost the Nanooks as much as it could have.
“It was a shot that I definitely should have had,” Johnson said. “He took a great shot, and I kind of lost it in the seats for about half a second, and I thought it was going higher than my blocker, but by the time I noticed where it was, it was going low blocker and inside my arm.
“It was a hard mistake to make and it was disappointing, but we got the two points, so we can sleep a little bit better tonight.”
In the shootout, neither net bulged until the fourth shooter, UA’s Ryan Hohl, beat Kaufmann high stick-side for the sophomore winger’s second shootout goal in as many nights. Dan Charleston restored parity for the Mavericks to start the third round, but it was all for naught as Nanooks forward Kevin Petovello finally ended the game with a forehand shot high over Kaufmann’s blocker.
UNO coach Mike Kemp thought that the result of the shootout proved a fair assessment of Saturday’s game.
“I thought that they came at us pretty hard, and I thought we withstood that, but I thought they came at us with some real jam,” he said.
“The benchmark of that team is their defense, and we’re a team that has generated a lot of offense over the course of the season, but they did a marvelous job of keeping us from getting any kind of really good, quality scoring chances.”
That will give the Mavericks (9-4-3, 5-4-2-3 CCHA) something to work on next week when they travel to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. for two games against Lake Superior State. The Nanooks, on the other hand, get a week off before hosting Western Michigan to round out the calendar year.