A great effort by the Alaska Nanooks wasn't quite enough to get past the overall 4th ranked Boston College Eagles. Alaska did a great job sticking to their systems, and working the puck around. Boston College had several scoring chances, but Scott Greenham played a tight game and didn't give many second chances, and made some big saves. Boston College netminder John Muse was equally stubborn, stopping 28 of 29 shots and robbing several of our players of quality scoring chances.
But when you are a newcomer, coming into the NCAA national tournament, against a team who has practically been in the running every year for the past 10 years, including a national championship or two, one can expect a very tough fight. The Nanooks started that fight uphill, as Boston College got out to the early lead in the first period, when senior forward Matt Lombardi forced a turnover at the blue line, and Nanook defensemen Aaron Gens was a bit slower to react than Lombardi was and it was a race to the other net, but Lombardi got there first and put it 5-hole on Greenham to get the 1-0 lead. This goal, a shorthanded goal, was the first of its kind the Nanooks have allowed all season.
Shortly after that goal, the Nanooks fell into a lull with some penalties to end the first period, and into the start of the second period, as Filzen, Dustin Molle, and Dustin Sather all paid a visit to the sin bin for various reasons. The Nanooks penalty killing unit was also on its game against the 8th best power play unit in the country in Boston College. Spanning all 10 penalty minutes, the Nanooks allowed just 8 shots on goal through Boston College's 5 power play attempts, not allowing a single goal.
Towards the end of the second period, Boston College got a little stirred and fell into their own slum of penalties. After a brief 5 on 3, and a few failed clearing attempts by Boston College, the Nanooks took it to the Eagles and cycled the puck very well in the offensive zone. As the Eagles wore down, Alaska took advantage. Sophomore defenseman Joe Sova rang the puck down behind the net for Dion Knelsen. With Andy Taranto creeping on to the doorstep, Dion threw the puck on net and the rebound came right to Taranto who buried it to make it 1-1. Taranto had a few similar opportunities moments earlier, but a wide shot, and two great saves by John Muse kept the Nanooks off the board. Not this time. Taranto made a great, quick handed play that Muse didn't have a chance of getting to. The Eagle defensemen left Taranto alone at that point, and Andy made them pay.
That goal clearly sparked the Eagles play, they had a bit of jump in their strides and a few scoring chances went each way, in a back and forth fashion. Some pucks trickled by outside the net, a few hit the post, and a few were great saves by each goaltender. But with about 16:24 left in the 3rd period, Boston College forward Pat Mullane redirected a shot made by Patch Alber in front of the net that bounced in off of the goal post on Greenham's blocker side to make it 2-1. It wasn't a pretty goal, but it got the job done for Boston College who made some interesting offensive adjustments to get that goal, parking two forwards in front of Scott Greenham with a forward, and two offensive defensemen around the perimeter taking shots.
After this, you can clearly tell that the Nanooks were on a mission to get back in this game. Just after that last goal, that far into the period, the Nanooks were being outshot 6-1. Alaska really stepped up and rallied and tried to square up the game but with a few shots off the mark, one of them hitting the post, it came down to the final minute. Greenham skated off and the extra attacker came on, and with a few good chances to put one home, a deflected shot trickled out to center ice as Boston College senior Matt Price picked up the puck and headed down the ice for the empty net with Nanook defensemen Joe Sova in tail. Sova made some desperate moves to stop Price, but not without a price (no pun intended). Sova brought Price down from behind in a breakaway situation, which normally, would have been a penalty shot situation, but since the net was empty, an automatic goal was awarded.
In terms of my views of the game, I think the Nanooks played very well, very strong and kept one of the top teams in the country in check. An inspirational football coach once said "We didn't lose, we simply ran out of time", and how true is that here, as the Nanooks were right at the door to break through with a goal as the clock ticked down. We saw a similar game against the Miami RedHawks up here in Fairbanks back in February where the Nanooks skated with them to a 1-1 tie. A lot of media outlets, for example insidehockey.com and insidecollegehockey.com throw their opinion out there that Boston College played poorly and not up to their normal standards. That wasn't the case at all, and as Boston College coach Jerry York said in the postgame press conference, “I thought they matched us. I don’t think there’s any stage fright in their players. I thought they were very good. We feel very fortunate that we are moving on. It took a pretty good effort to get by Alaska.” Alaska matched Boston College very well, and it was one hell of a hockey game.
A few players that I think deserve a lot of credit, the obvious being Taranto, Dion, and Greenham, but a few that should get some spotlight are Jarret Granberg and Ronnie Meyers. Jarret was a force for the Nanooks and brought a lot of energy to the table. Granberg took 14 faceoffs and won 11 of them, which is extremely impressive and valuable. Ronnie Meyers was clearly as energetic as ever throughout all 3 zones. His forechecking was outstanding, getting to the dirty areas and getting into battles. Ronnie plays with a lot of energy and that fed to the team, and his play stood out to me and you could tell that he gave it everything he had.
Everybody on the team gave it their all. A lot of people recognized that, and had the game gone the other direction, a lot of teams would have been worried to play us. This tweet comes from a North Dakota blogger, awaiting the UND/Yale game that was about to follow, "S***, I might be more afraid of Alaska than I am of BC. They look good..." The commentators for ESPNU echoed similar thoughts, saying they thought originally this game was going to be a lot more one-sided.
A lot of people in the college hockey community didn't know about Alaska, their strength, or their skill as a hockey team. A lot of opposition came from various places when they found out the Nanooks were in the NCAA tournament, saying they didn't deserve to be there. The Nanooks gave everything Boston College could handle, and it took a valiant effort on their part to get by Alaska. If they didn't know about the Alaska Nanooks then, they sure know about them now.