Friday, November 6, 2009

Alaska Nanooks 2, Notre Dame Hunchbacks 3

Notre Dame became the first team this season to score more than 2 goals on the Nanooks, and thus the first to defeat the Blue and Gold.

Despite having the 9-7 shot advantage in the first period, Notre Dame came out of the first period with the lone goal. Notre Dame senior Christiaan Minella caught the Nanook defense sleeping and capitalized on a turnover in the Nanook end and blasted it past Greenham to net the first goal of the game. Not a whole lot of chances on either side in the first as it was a great showing of defense.

The second period started and the Nanooks came out strong, getting into the Notre Dame zone quickly and setting up camp. Some good cycles by Alaska kept it close to the goal but it was Dion Knelsen's name in the goal column as he knotted the game up at 1-1 off assists from Taranto and Yaremchuk. A lot of bodies in front of the net for this one as Dion tried to get the puck across the crease back to Taranto, but it hit one of the defenders skates and sneaks past Irish netminder Mike Johnson. A bit of a trash goal, sure, but we'll take it.

Riding the energy of the goal, Nanook forward Dustin Sather gets whistled for hooking. And a few moments later Bryant Molle is sent to the box for tripping (a very questionable tripping call, mind you), which gives the Irish a 5-on-3 power play chance for just over 1:30. UA had some great efforts killing this penalty, with a glamorous pick and clear by Klassen sends the Irish to chase down the puck. Coming back on the rush, Notre Dame senior captain Ryan Thang puts his name on the score sheet, scoring a power play goal. Now, technically, the goal was scored on the second that Sather's penalty was up, but Dustin didn't even get his stick on the ice before Thang scored. But in terms of technicality, ND scored with just a one man advantage. But anyway, 2-1 now for the hunchbacks from Notre Dame.

A few good opportunities, scoring chances, and some poor officiating later, Nanooks fight back off of a dump into the Notre Dame zone by Ronnie Meyers, he chases it down behind the net, gets it to Filzen, and somehow in the midst of all 10 skaters jammed together, freshman forward Chad Gehon discovers the puck and squirts it through Johnson's legs. A bit of another high traffic goal that Alaska converted on. But hey, it's 2-2 in the second period.

Now here is another prime example of why CCHA officiating has gone downhill. About a minute and half after Gehon's goal, Scott Enders is defending a player in front of him, and got a decent poke in, but he gets flagged for hooking? Seriously? The crowd definitely agreed with me on that one. Enders sat in the box, and Notre Dame notched their second power play goal of the night from the stick of Kyle Lawson, which ends the scoring for the second period. As irritated as this makes me as I am writing this, I'll get to the officiating crew here again in a bit when I get to my comments.

The third period, the Nanooks came out with fire. They upped the pressure and kept the puck in the Hunchback zone for 15:31 of the 20:00 period, generating a total of 16 shots, compared to Notre Dame's 1. With about 1:10 left on the clock, Greenham comes off of the ice to give UA the extra skater. The Nanooks had some good looks and a few chances to knot the game at 3 in the closing seconds that came up just short. Captain Derek Klassen had a great chance just outside of the right face off circle that went just wide (which, Derek made a pretty funny comment about in the post-game conference in response to Danny Martin's question asking him about the play), and Joe Sova had a great chance in front of the crease at about the 10 second mark that was ultimately deflected wide.

UA really threw everything they had at the Hunchbacks in the closing period, but came away empty handed. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow with the same energy that we had in the 3rd period. If we can, the Hunchbacks of Notre Dame will head back to their bell towers with a series split in Fairbanks.

Shots 37-15 in Alaska's favor.

Greenham 12/15 (.800 save percentage) 3 GA
UA defense allows 2 power play goals of 3 chances.

I thought we did some things pretty well tonight, some other things not so much. For one, we really ground it out in the offensive zone tonight. Both of our goals tonight came with high traffic in front of the net, as a result of lots of good work in the offensive zone. Notre Dame wasn't giving much to shoot at for the better part of the game, and with some offensive grinding, UA came out with two even strength goals.

Our defensive effort was great, but wasn't without fault. Towards the end of the first period, Minella picked a UA defenseman in transition (I didn't catch who exactly) that lead to Notre Dame's only even strength goal. Playing a team like Notre Dame means you've got to be on top of your game for all 60 minutes, or you'll get burned, like the Nanooks did there. Secondly is the penalty kill. Granted, if it wasn't for the jackals in zebra stripes calling the game, this wouldn't have been much of an issue tonight. But you work with what you get. The Nanooks finished just 33% on the PK, allowing 2 goals from ND.

But, the two legged zebras really screwed the pooch tonight. Apparently, offsides rules are subjective, penalties are only called when the officials feel like the timing is right, and corrective lenses are not to be worn when necessary. I guess earning your paycheck is not a sentiment used by the CCHA officiating crews these days. I always hate blaming officials for game outcomes, regardless of a win or a loss, especially in the case of this game where it really can go either way, but the officials tilt it the other way. The game really was mostly clean by both teams. There were some calls not made on both teams, but the calls that were made on Molle and Enders were marginal at best. Had those calls not been made, the game could have had an entirely different outcome (say 2-1 UA), but alas, the Hunchbacks get the favor in this one.

Look for Coach Ferguson to tighten up some bolts and get back on the ice tomorrow night and come away with a series split and send the Hunchbacks home to their towers in South Bend.

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