EAST LANSING, Mich. — For teams picked to finish third and fourth in preseason CCHA polls, nothing could have been more fitting than tonight’s 1-1 tie to start league play for each squad, with Alaska earning the extra point by winning the shootout.
Nanook Scott Greenham made 30 saves, Spartan Drew Palmisano stopped 27 and both coaches were okay with the draw but wished for more offense.
“I think I’d like to see us getting skating a little bit more,” said UAF head coach Dallas Ferguson. “In the neutral zone, we were making one pass and that guy was stationary. We’ve got a lot more speed than we showed tonight.
“I think we’ve got to get the guys moving away from the puck and create some speed. I think we were a little bit too content just chipping pucks.”
“We’re thin offensively, which we know and we’ve just got to keep plugging away and hope for some people to grow,” said MSU’s Rick Comley. “Sometimes, you have to create goals. A team that’s that defensive isn’t going to give you much.”
Alaska’s Cody Kunyk gave the Nanooks a 1-0 lead after the first with his power-play goal at 10:33, picking up Colton Beck’s rebound and finding the short side of the net. Spartan Trevor Nill tied the game at 15:40 in the second on an innocent-looking play. Nill took the puck into the Alaska zone, spun at the left point and fired, beating Greenham high on the glove side.
UAF outshot MSU significantly in the third period, when Palmisano had to earn his keep–especially in the final minute of regulation, when the line of Nik Yaremchuk, Derek Klassen and Carlo Finucci got off a flurry of shots at the end of a final odd-man rush.
“We had breakaways and didn’t put anything away,” said Ferguson. “But we’re happy. We’ll take the tie and the extra point in the shootout and we’ve got to get better for tomorrow.”
The Nanooks earned that extra point when Beck and Ryan Hohl scored in the shootout while only Brett Perlini found the net for the Spartans.
After such an evenly matched and levelheaded game–the teams took four minor penalties each and there was very little extra-curricular activity–the shootout provided an unexpected spark for the home crowd. Spartan Dean Chelios shot first and found the back of the net but the goal was disallowed. Chelios skated down the right side and deked the puck a bit too much for referee Keith Sergott’s liking; the play was blown dead before the puck crossed the line, and the usually collected Comley was visibly angry on the MSU bench while the officials clarified the ruling.
In postgame, a more relaxed Comley did send a message to the officiating staff.
“[Sergott] said that in the process of stick-handling, he pulled the puck back and then that stops the play,” said Comley. “That was his interpretation. But, obviously, he hasn’t watched many shootouts.”
The teams meet again at 5:05 p.m. Saturday in Munn Ice Arena.