High hopes for hockey fall flat

By Rebecca Coleman

UAF's #37 Cody Kunyk pulls the puck back away from the goal to make another attempt late in the second period of Saturday night's game. Feb. 05, 2011. Dillon Ball/Sun Star

Due to a Midwestern snowstorm, Ferris State was unable to get out of Michigan on time, so Friday’s hockey game was shifted to Sunday, Feb. 6.  The Nanooks opened their weekend on Saturday, Feb. 5.

Saturday was a battle between Alaska’s junior Scott Greenham and Ferris State’s Pat Nagle, two of the nation’s best goaltenders.  Greenham maintains a .927 saves percentage and a 1.98 goals-against average.  Nagle holds a .925 saves percentage and a 1.93 goals-against average.  The game would ultimately belong to Nagle, whose Bulldogs took a 2-1 win.

The Bulldogs weren’t going to give the Nanooks an easy night, and they played solidly and put strong pressure on both ends of the ice.  Alaska’s nationally ranked 6th place defense made Ferris State work for every shot, but shortly before the end of the period, the Bulldogs bested Greenham, giving them a 1-0 lead.

“We tried to get off to a good start, but we were a little flat,” said head coach Dallas Ferguson.  “It was not quite the tempo we wanted.”

At the beginning of the second period, the Nanooks came onto the ice with renewed energy and peppered Nagle with shots.  Unfortunately, they couldn’t get anything past him, as he caught, deflected, and blocked every one of the Nanooks’ attempts.  In the second half of the period, Ferris State sent the puck over Greenham’s shoulder, just out of reach of his glove, allowing them another goal.

Throughout the third period, the Nanooks had scoring opportunities, but Nagle stopped everything.  For the last two minutes of the game, Alaska pulled Greenham, hoping a 6-on-5 man advantage would bode well for the Nanooks.  With 33.2 seconds left on the clock, sophomore Jarret Granberg took advantage of a rebound from an attempt by senior Derek Klassen and tipped in a goal, voiding Nagle’s chance of a shutout.

“Going into the third period, we tried to get a goal sooner rather than later,” Ferguson said.  “We got desperate in the end.”

Ferris State's #30 Pat Nagle stop the puck as UAF's #29 Andy Taranto rushes the goal. Feb. 05, 2011. Dillon Ball/Sun Star

But “Granny (Granberg) was able to whack one in there,” said captain senior Kevin Petovello.

Throughout the game, Ferris State gave Alaska five power-play opportunities, but the Nanooks weren’t able to capitalize on any of them, even though they outshot the Bulldogs 32-25.

“We were able to get shots through, but Nagle is a big goalie and he played pretty well for them, and that was a task in itself,” Petovello said. “They just played well defensively, especially on our power play; we didn’t get as many chances as we wanted to.”

The weekend’s series was important – and next weekend’s will be, too – because standings in the CCHA are extremely close, and there are only a few more weeks of hockey left in the season. The Nanooks are vying for a top-five ranking, as that would allow for a bye, followed by a home-ice series for the playoffs in March.

“We need these points this weekend,” said junior Scott Enders.  “The team’s been playing really well, so we’ve got to keep it up.”

“We can’t be too relaxed,” said sophomore Nik Yaremchuk.  “And we can’t lay back.”

Next up for the Nanooks is a set of road games against Lake Superior State on Feb. 11 and 12.

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