MARQUETTE —- The Alaska Nanooks snapped a nine-year winless skid in Marquette, Mich. on Saturday by holding on for a 4-3 victory over the Northern Michigan Wildcats in WCHA play at the Berry Events Center.
It’s only the program’s second win ever on the Wildcats’ home ice, with the first coming Feb. 2, 2005, when the program still went by Alaska-Fairbanks.
That season, current coach Dallas Ferguson was an assistant for the Nanooks and two of his current assistant coaches —- Corbin Schmidt and Wylie Rogers —- were players.
Rogers made 27 saves as the first star in the 2005 win as a freshman goaltender and Schmidt got into a scrum after the whistle with former Wildcat and current Vancouver Canuck Mike Santorelli.
“It certainly didn’t start off well; I thought Northern had a fast start and were really taking it to us,” Ferguson said about the program’s second win in Marquette on Saturday.
“It got a little interesting there with the goal at the end, but it feels good. It’s been a while. It wouldn’t be fitting if it wasn’t a one-goal game with us either way. It’s certainly nice to get the two points.”
The Nanooks scored four unanswered goals over the course of the second and third period after falling behind 2-0 in the first.
Tyler Morley scored twice in the second period to tie the game at two with a power-play goal at 3:35 and an even-strength wrap-around goal nearly three minutes later.
Alaska’s Jared Larson notched the go-ahead goal on a two-on-one breakaway with Nolan Huysmans 9:37 into the third period.
Alaska’s Brandon Morley scored 20 seconds later to make it 4-2 when NMU goaltender Mathias Dahlstrom thought a delayed Nanooks penalty was coming for goaltender interference. The penalty never came, and Morley took advantage of an empty net for what turned out to be the deciding goal in the game.
“I made a save first on the right side there, and that guy pushed me way behind the net,” Dahlstrom said. “I got up and skated back to the net and saw the shot came. I thought I was interfered with, but at the same time, I should have found the puck again and got back into position, which I probably didn’t do in time.”
The Wildcats got two goals from Erik Higby plus a goal and two assists from John Siemer.
Siemer assisted Higby on a two-on-one breakaway 1:51 into the game, trading a trio of passes before Higby buried the puck into an open net.
Higby’s goal at 6:27 of the first period came after Siemer escaped from the NMU zone via a pass to himself off the boards. Siemer then dangled the puck around at least three Nanooks before setting up Higby from behind the net for a one-timer.
Siemer got a goal of his own to pull NMU within one with 1:27 to play in regulation by splitting two Nanooks defenders and forcing a hard shot past Alaska netminder John Keeney.
“I was really pleased with the first period; I thought the effort was really good,” NMU coach Walt Kyle said. “I thought attention to detail was really good. We did the things we wanted to do. I thought in the second period we got really sloppy.
“We certainly made some mistakes, but we were right there. We let 20 minutes get away from us in the second.”
Keeney and Dahlstrom both finished with 23 saves as the two teams split their weekend and season series.
Both teams travel to Alaska next weekend, with the Nanooks hosting Bemidji State and the Wildcats traveling to Alaska-Anchorage.