ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Alaska salvaged a pair of important points in the CCHA standings and regained some lost momentum in a highly-contested 4-3 shootout win against Michigan Saturday night at Yost Arena.
Chad Langlais’ goal at 17:41 of the third period tied the contest 3-3 and sent the proceedings into the requisite five-minute overtime.
After the overtime period failed to produce a result, Nanooks’ senior forward Dion Knelsen deked Michigan goaltender Bryan Hogan, shifted the puck to his backhand and flipped it into the net for the only score of the shootout, securing two points for Alaska.
The shootout was Michigan’s first look at the format since its introduction prior to the 2008-2009 season.
The Alaska victory was only their fourth win at Yost in the all-time series between the two schools. All four of those victories have come 24 hours after the Nanooks had been shut out the previous night. True to form, the bounce-back Alaska squad suffered a 6-0 blanking Friday night against the Wolverines.
“To me, it was about the effort,” said Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson. “It was about the focus on executing the game plan. One of the things I was most happy about was that our competitiveness was back up where we needed it to be. We were winning a lot more battles. Michigan’s a top team in the country. That team plays with extreme octane. You can’t take a shift off.
“I thought it was a good team win. Everybody was contributing. Everybody had a hand in getting the tie. It was unfortunate to give up that goal late. At the end of the day, points are points on the road. We split in Omaha and we got a tie here, but also the extra point in the shootout. Getting points every weekend in this league is a must. I told the guys, you’ve got to have courage in times of adversity. We had lost two games in a row. Last night, the wheels fell off after they scored those three goals. I was real proud of how our team bounced back with a solid effort.
The game was a study in illogical results. Michigan was the dominant team through the first two periods, yet trailed by a goal, 3-2, after those two periods. Alaska gamely came out in the third period and used an aggressive forechecking strategy to hold an edge in play for the final 20 minutes, yet Michigan got the period’s only goal, Langlais’ game-tying effort
Penalties ultimately cost the Wolverines dearly, as the Nanooks used two power-play goals in 29 seconds early in the second period to force Michigan to play catch-up from a two-goal deficit..
“I didn’t like the penalties in the game and the way they dictated the momentum of the game,” said Michigan coach Red Berenson. “It definitely had an impact on where this game went in the second period. I like the way our team battled back. We were down 3-1 and we came back and tied the game. Arguably, we could have had the best of the chances to win it, but we didn’t win.”
Alaska netminder Scott Greenham made 35 saves and Wolverines’ netminder Bryan Hogan stopped 20 Alaska shots..
“Scotty Greenham was outstanding,” said Ferguson.
The two teams came out at the game’s outset with a clear sense of urgency, playing a fast-paced brand of hockey. Just as Michigan had secured a late first period lead the previous night, Alaska jumped to a 1-0 advantage after one period on a goal by Kevin Petovella at 18:45.
Alaska captain Derek Klassen intercepted Langlais’ blind pass at the blue line and found Petovello alone at the edge of the circle to Hogan’s left. Petovello found the back of the net with his first goal of the season.
Despite being outshot 10-to-four, the Nanooks escaped the first period with a one-goal lead.
Each team scored twice in a wild second period, with Alaska barely holding on to a 3-2 two-period lead.
At 2:15 of the second period on a power play, Chris Brown, standing at the edge of the Alaska crease, tipped Brandon Burlon’s shot from the right point by Greenham to pull Michigan even, 1-1.
The Wolverines promptly dug themselves a hole with a pair of minor penalties, setting up 1:53 of five-on-three advantage for the Nanooks.
Alaska didn’t take long to put that advantage to good use.
Knelsen put Alaska back out front at 4:12 with his 11th goal of the season with the five-on-three advantage. Just 29 seconds later, Carlo Finucci turned a slick individual effort into a 3-1 Nanooks’ lead with his fifth goal of the season.
At that point, the Wolverines faced a dilemma that has become very familiar to them this season, having outshot their opponent 14-10, but trailing by two goals.
Wolverines’ freshman Kevin Lynch took the first step toward solving that dilemma when he lobbed a shot off Matt Rust’s behind the net pass from close range over Greenham at 15:11.
Michigan eventually tied it up late on Langlais’ goal, but Knelsen’s shootout magic made the difference.
“It gave us some momentum there at the end,” said Rust. “Obviously, we thought we would get one in overtime and we had some chances.”
Alaska (10-7-5, 7-7-4-4 CCHA) ends their two-week road trip with a two-point night and travels home to take on CCHA-leading Miami in a two-game series next weekend. Michigan (13-10-1, 8-7-1-0 CCHA) hosts Ferris State next Friday night, then travels to Big Rapids to complete the weekend against the Bulldogs.