MARQUETTE, Mich. — Keeping with their current trends, the Northern Michigan Wildcats topped the Alaska Nanooks 2-0 in tonights match-up. Alaska has now lost three consecutive games while Northern Michigan has enjoyed a 5-1 month of January, including a road sweep of perennial power Wisconsin.
Alaska worked very hard tonight, Wildcats coach Walt Kyle said. They had great speed and really great goaltending. . . . On [Billy] Smiths goal he had no chance. [Jared] Brown shot his from a high percentage area. They didnt give us many of those chances and when they did we took them I thought it was a real hard fought battle. It was everything I thought it would be.
At 2:25 in the second period the Wildcats Jared Brown put the puck past Nanook goalie Chad Johnson stick side on the rush. The goal was unassisted and was only Browns first point of the night.
We came out and played a great defensive effort, Wildcats Billy Smith said. They played very similar to us. They have a lot of big guys out there and they play with the body hard but I feel that if we get back behind the net and cycle well and move the puck, we can create chances.
We have to get shots through on a team like this. They have a great goaltender. Youre not going to get goals if you dont get the puck to the net. We were able to find a way to do that tonight and play sound in front of [Wildcat goalie Brian Stewart]. He kept us in the game. It could have gone either way. They had a few chances to capitalize on but Stewart played a sound game and kept the puck out.
Browns second point of the evening came at 8:58 in the third when he outmanned an Alaska defenseman near center ice. His play allowed Wildcats Nick Sirota to carry the puck up towards the net alongside Billy Smith for a 2-on-1. Sirota faked the shot, passed the puck across to Smith who buried it past Johnson.
The goal was important for us. It was important to Smith, Kyle said. I think Billy Smith is the one guy here that forces guys to play well. He makes the team compete, he makes them work. It was great to have him back in the lineup.
Smith had been out with an injury, missing the last 15 games.
Its nice to finally find the back of the net after being out for so much of the season, Smith said. The puck got chipped up to the wall towards Jared Brown. He made a nice play when another guy stepped up on him and he was able to get the puck by to Nick Sirota. Sirota basically sealed the door for me. He was able to fake a shot and slide the puck to me back door and it was just one of those plays that if I hadnt scored on it, I would have been hearing about it, so I had to do my best to put it in the back of the net.
It was great to get the win, said Brown. We knew we had to play our best because theyre so defensive and we had to be defensive as well. Their goalie is tough and we had to play great and we had two lucky goals. Its good to win. We couldnt mix in a win at all in the beginning of the season so its great to have some wins.
The Wildcats are in a three way tie for tenth and last place in the CCHA with a conference record of 4-10-3-2, 7-13-3 overall. The Nanooks (9-8-4-3, 11-9-5 overall) are tied for second place with the Miami RedHawks.
Though Northern Michigan holds the all-time mark (21-6-5) against Alaska, the No. 19 Nanooks were expected to win tonights game. Despite a solid effort, they came up short.