FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF)
The "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" type of weekends continue for the Alaska Nanooks, who have split six straight series. After falling to Ferris State on Friday 3-2, the Nanooks turned it around for a 3-1 victory on Saturday, continuing their struggles to put together a complete weekend. UAF now sits at 6-4 in the WCHA, tied for second with 18 points.
Pressure was not an issue Friday night, as the Nanooks spent much of the contest in the Bulldogs' zone. UAF outshot Ferris State 37-12, but could not get enough passed their goaltender, dropping the contest 3-2. Ferris State took advantage of a power play opportunity, scoring a special teams goal in the first, before catching the Nanooks slacking on the penalty kill, pocketing a shorthanded goal in the second to make it 2-0. The Jandric brothers made their best efforts to rally a comeback. Steven scored a power play goal to ignite the comeback effort (assists from Colton Leiter and Tyler Cline), just their fourth special teams goal this season. Chris drove one past the goaltender early in the third period to knot the game at two (assists from Leiter and Kyle Marino), but at 13:59 in the third, Brenden Rons scored the game winning goal to give the Bulldogs the victory. Aton Martinsson denied nine of 12 shots for the Nanooks in the loss.
UAF made effective adjustments for Saturday, taking the 3-1 victory at the Carlson Center. Max Newton anchored the 'Nooks offensively, scoring the first two goals of the game before assisting on the empty netter from Tyler Cline with 49 seconds remaining to close the door on the game. Special teams play improved over the weekend, as the Nanooks found two power play goals in the victory. Heading into the series, UAF was just 3 for 61 on the season on PP opportunities, the third worst percentage in Division I hockey.
"I think for us, it has been generating some chances, but there has been more of a shooter's mentality," Head Coach Erik Largen said of the power play. "You could even see it on the goal Max scored tonight, he was able to get a secondary opportunity and basically roll that puck into the net. It is not always going to be the pretty 'tic-tac-toe' ones, but it is going to be the ones that are going to be an effort-based thing and I think the guys have been working at it and it is only going to continue to see more and more improvement throughout the course of the season."
With a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, the Nanooks did not play conservative, firing off nine shots, the most in a period on Saturday.
"With the lead, we knew they were going to be pushing, but we didn't want to sit back. I think we did a good job of actually pushing the pace and we got scoring chances all throughout the third and we didn't give up too much which I think was key," Newton said. "When you sit back it can lead to them getting chances and that is when they get the bounces like we've seen before, but we kind of mitigated that."
Gustavs Grigals finished with 17 saves on Saturday for UAF, collecting his third victory of the season.
This weekend's series featured several former Ice Dogs at the Carlson Center, including Caleb Hite of the Nanooks, and Jake Willets, Hunter Wendt and Brenden MacLaren of Ferris State.
"Caleb and I were line mates for about 75 games, so it is always nice seeing him, weird playing against him though." Wednt said after the game about facing his former Junior Hockey teammate. "The atmosphere of the rink, I would say, it is one of the best places to play Junior Hockey, it was just an awesome experience." Wednt said reflecting on his days with the Ice Dogs. Wendt suited up for 137 total games for the Ice Dogs from 2016-18, racking up 41 goals and 69 assists in his career. Hite played the 2017-18 season with the Dogs, collecting 23 goals and 23 assists throughout the regular season and playoffs. MacLaren was traded to the Ice Dogs during the 2018-19 season, to help the Ice Dogs with their playoff push. In 28 games, he had 12 goals and 13 assists for 25 points.
"It was awesome; I got to see the old billet family, who are amazing. I love being here after playing against the Ice Dogs for a couple years and then I finally getting traded up here, it was one of the best experiences I have ever had," MacLaren said, who played in Fairbanks as a member of the NAHL's Janesville Jets and Fairbanks Ice Dogs. "One of the memories was after getting traded, my first flight in, just the whole Fairbanks experience, I loved it here, it is awesome. Shout out to the fans at the Dipper, there is no better place to play in Juniors." MacLaren added.
Willets was another former Ice Dogs lacing up the skate for Ferris State this weekend. The defenseman skated in 55 games for Fairbanks in 2017-18, generating six goals and seven assists.
The Nanooks will remain in Fairbanks to host Michigan Tech on 11/29 and 11/30. UAF swept Michigan Tech to open WCHA play on October 11 and 12, their first and only sweep of the season.
Copyright 2019 KTVF. All rights reserved.