ANN ARBOR, Mich. — When the final buzzer sounded in this 4-1 Alaska win over Michigan, the Nanooks had recorded program history.
With two goals each from forwards Cody Kunyk and Adam Henderson and 30 saves from John Keeney, the Nanooks beat the Wolverines for the second night in a row – for the first time. Ever.
“John Keeney was outstanding and the team played hard in front of him,” said Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson. “And it was a good weekend for us.”
A good weekend, indeed.
The Nanooks came into Yost Ice Arena having not played since Dec. 8, giving them a full five weeks of rust to lose against a team that has dominated them in this building. Prior to these games, Michigan was 22-3-1 against Alaska all-time in Ann Arbor.
“I thought that last night, we kind of willed our way to a win,” said Ferguson. “The guys dug in and were blocking shots. From last night to tonight – other than penalty-wise – we did a much better job positionally.”
The Nanooks took a two-goal lead into the second on power-play goals from Kunyk and Henderson. Kunyk intercepted an attempted Michigan clear and shot it back past UM goaltender Adam Janecyk at 4:07 and Henderson tipped in Josh Atkinson’s shot with 29 seconds to go in the first.
In the second, though, the Nanooks found themselves in the penalty box for 12 minutes, giving the Wolverines plenty of chances to get back into the game, but Michigan managed one power-play goal for all the time the Wolverines had with the man advantage – Jacob Trouba’s eighth tally of the season at 15:50.
“In the second period, they kind of had some push-back,” said Ferguson. “You know it’s coming and you’ve got to be ready for it. We got ourselves into some penalty trouble and Keeney was outstanding. We gave up one and I just stood up after the second period and said, ‘You know, it’s not about the last 40 minutes. It’s about the next 20 minutes, so let’s get refocused and get back to playing our game.’”
And that’s exactly what the Nanooks did.
The third period saw three penalties, all taken by the Wolverines, but the Nanooks scored their final two at even strength. Kunyk’s second of the night came at the nine-minute mark – a real snipe from the right circle – and Henderson’s second arrived at 11:44, a shot from the left circle that trickled in past Janecyk after the netminder got a bit of it with his glove.
“There was a little rhythm to the game [in the third],” said Ferguson. “Our guys started to get into it. When Kunyk scored that third goal, I thought that was huge. The fourth one was one they probably wanted back, but at the same time, we talked about shooting all weekend.”
When Kunyk scored that third goal, the Alaska bench erupted. The outcome of the game seemed inevitable at that point.
Michigan coach Red Berenson said that he thought the Wolverines were “playing harder and better” in the second period but couldn’t sustain any momentum.
“It was a one-goal game going into the third period, just like last night,” said Berenson, “and we give up that next goal.”
The series sweep was the first of the season for the Nanooks (8-8-4, 6-7-3-1 CCHA), and Friday’s 5-4 win snapped a seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) for Alaska. The Wolverines (7-13-2, 4-10-2-2 CCHA) have now dropped three NCAA games in a row and a fourth in exhibition to the U.S. Under-18 Team.
“We’re not putting our chances in and we’re giving up goals that we shouldn’t give up,” said Berenson. “I can’t make any more excuses. That’s the way it is.”