HOUGHTON, Mich. — Watching Alaska from the opening faceoff on Friday night, one would never know that the Nanooks were the team coming off a bye week.
The Nanooks outskated Michigan Tech almost from before the drop of the puck and the visitors struck four times in the middle frame to skate away with a 7-3 victory at the MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve won on Friday night on the road,” said Nanooks’ coach Dallas Ferguson. “I liked the way our team played. I liked the way they came to the rink tonight and worked together as a unit.”
Cody Kunyk went to work late in the second period, striking twice in 20 seconds to extend the Nanooks’ lead to three. The first, which would stand as the game-winner, came on the power play when he beat Pheonix Copley with a rebound off a previous rebound attempt by Colton Parayko at 16:19.
The Huskies looked good at the start of the game and took the first shot on goal just 11 seconds in as a three-on-two off the opening faceoff saw Reid Sturos fire a long shot that Nanooks’ goalie Sean Cahill was able to grab.
Less than a minute later, the 2,588 Huskies’ faithful got the first glimpse of how well the Nanooks were going to play as they had their first good scoring chance when Kunyk took a pass on the back door, but his one-timer was gobbled up by Copley.
“Right from the get go, they were the better team,” MTU coach Mel Pearson said. “You could tell that they are a desperate team. This game was decided before the puck was dropped, unfortunately.”
Copley was tested again four minutes later when Jared Linnell took a pass on the back door, but Copley was again equal to the task.
The Nanooks (13-12-4 overall, 10-11-2 WCHA) struck first on their first power play of the night when a shot from Michael Quinn proved difficult for Copley to handle. Both captain Colton Beck and Nolan Huysmans had chances off the rebound with the latter putting the puck in the net at 15:33.
The Huskies (12-15-6 overall, 10-9-4 WCHA) answered back with a goal from David Johnstone at 16:25.
With Brandon Morley off for holding, the Huskies went to work. Johnstone got the puck from Alex Petan, skated it to the high slot and beat Cahill with a shot along the ice through traffic. Shane Hanna also assisted on the goal.
The Nanooks took their second lead of the night when Morley fired a long wrister from the blue line past Copley just 1:23 into the middle period. Tyler Morley assisted on the goal.
Josh Erickson extended the lead to two when he got a pass from Nolan Youngmun in front of Copley. His first shot was stopped, but he got his own rebound and lifted it over Copley at 8:06.
The Huskies cut into that lead when Sturos found Tanner Kero skating down the left side of the ice. Kero took a look and found Blake Hietala cutting in on the right side and fed him for the one-time goal at 14:04.
Kunyk’s second goal of the night came off a pass from Beck that was misplayed by Huskies’ co-captain Brad Stebner. Kunyk picked up the pass, skated in and beat Copley clean.
“I think right from the beginning, they came out really flying and outcompeted and outskated us,” said Stebner. “I think that is what happened throughout the game.”
Jamie Phillips took over for Copley to start the third period. Unfortunately, the change did little to spark the Huskies for the final 20 minutes.
Larson gave the Nanooks a four-goal lead 5:49 in when he redirected a pass from Huysmans past Phillips.
A little over three minutes later, Tyler Morley took a pass on the back door from Garrick Perry and beat Phillips at 9:08.
Jacob Johnstone cut the Nanooks’ lead to four less than 30 seconds later when he crashed the net. The pass from Walker Hyland hit Johnstone before sneaking past Cahill (24 saves) at 9:34.