What a gritty win over division rival and cluster mate, Ferris State. Several Nanooks stepped up in this series in the absence of senior captain Kevin Petovello, but Nik Yaremchuk took the spotlight on the score sheet on Saturday, notching two goals in the 4-3 OT victory. But it was a team victory overall, as the Nanooks once again had to fight back, despite getting the early lead.
Nik Yaremchuk would start it all off, getting on the board off of Ferris State's Justin DeMartino's minor for interference. The Nanooks were just 1/7 on power play chances the night before, and knocking one in the net on their second chance is certainly a momentum shifter.
And they would carry that momentum with them throughout the period. Ronnie Meyers and his usual antics took the puck the other way off the back check, used the odd man rush to their advantage. Although Ronnie's shot didn't get all the way through, Derek Klassen was right there to clean up the rebound in the crease to lock in a two goal lead heading into the locker room after the first 20 minutes.
That two goal lead was not as secure as one would have hoped. Ferris State came right out of the gates in the 2nd period firing. And it didn't take long before one of their shots beat Greenham, the first of which came from junior forward Aaron Schmit just 1:35 into the first period. And after a series of Nanooks penalties, Ferris got an equalizing power play goal of their own from sophomore center Travis Oulette at 16:13.
Ferris really roared back in the 2nd to tie it, out-shooting Alaska 14-3. But with the score tied at 2-2 through 40:00, its a brand new game for the 3rd period...
And what a game it was, certainly defensive. The 'Nooks got two penalties right out of the gate as Sova and Taranto served back to back minors, but the Nanooks' penalty kill stood tall. Nik Yaremchuk could have actually had a chance at a breakaway for a potential shorthanded goal and a hat trick, but opted to clear to allow him and his teammates to change. Nanooks netminder Scott Greenham had an epic save on a shot top shelf by Todd Pococke. Greenham said "no soup for you" with a vengeance as his sweeping glove caught it right out of mid-air to keep it tied.
With the Alaska penalties over, the Blue and Gold had a power play chance of their own as Ferris State senior winger Mike Fillinger was penalized for bulldozing Joe Sova into the boards with about 8:00 remaining in the 3rd. Sova was a bit slow getting up, likely seeing birds circling above his head. But Joe being Joe, it was 1:14 before his next shift and he didn't miss it.
Now with Fillinger in the box, the Nanooks had a golden opportunity before them to take control of the game. They were generating good scoring chances, and cycling the puck well in the zone, but Ferris forward Matthew Kirzinger picked off a pass just inside the blue line, took it back the other way with a streaking Mike Embach who netted his second shorty of the year from the backhand, the first shorthanded goal the Nanooks have allowed this season.
Now down by a goal, the Nanooks rallied to tie, using strong puck possession and clean passing to maintain pressure. And just 3:00 later, Nik Yaremchuk picked a wonderful time to score his second goal of the evening as Michael Quinn got the puck up to freshman forward Cody Kunyk, skating right with Nik on the rush. Cody took a shot from the right side, which gleaned off of Nagle's pad, but found it's way to Nik's stick, and then to the back of the net to tie the game at 3.
Nearing the end of the 3rd period, Aaron Gens did his part as a defenseman, helping out his goaltender who was sprawling to make a save. Gens made a play to prevent a Ferris player from tipping in a loose puck, but was ultimately called for interference with 87 seconds left in regulation.
Ferris State would call timeout, rally the troops, and try to come up to get a big sweep at home with the power play chance. However, the 'Nooks had something to say about that, limiting the Bulldogs to just two shots on goal before the clock struck 0:00.
With Gens still in the box for 28 seconds, the Nanooks played a good old fashioned game of keep away before it got back to 5 on 5. No shots for either team through the first 90 seconds, then Ferris made a crucial mistake in overtime as a bad line change right in front of the official earned the Bulldogs yet another 2:00 trip to the penalty box, this time for too many men on the ice.
The 'Nooks now with a power play of their own, trying to capitalize, building pressure, getting chances. Granberg shoots one over the goal. Loose puck comes back around, and Matthew Kirzinger cross-checks Andy Taranto out of harms way, but guess what, the official saw that too.
Now the Nanooks, with a 5 on 3 power play chance for 1:03, took a timeout to recompose. As the time ticks away on this golden opportunity, Jarret Granberg gets the puck back to Sova at the point, who blasted one through traffic. Nagle somehow came up with the save, but Taranto was idling in park in his reserved spot when the puck came in his direction. And the reigning CCHA rookie of the year knew exactly what to do with it, finding the back of the net for the overtime game winning goal.
A good game for both teams. The Nanooks clearly laid it all out on the line and truly found what they were made of in that 3rd period. After that shorthanded goal, most guys emotions would go crazy, a serious buzzkill, especially when the game was tied. But that didn't phase them. They kept the jets on, and kept attacking. Clearly not quitting on any shift. Fortunately, that work paid off with 3 crucial points in the CCHA standings, keeping the 'Nooks in fourth place.
The Nanooks now get to enjoy a bit of rest and some time off as they get ready for finals this week, as well as parting to be with family over the holidays. Fortunately, the Nanooks will get to open the series at home for the first time in what seems like forever. January 7th and 8th, Western Michigan will get to visit the frozen north before our guys head out on a two week road trip to Yost Ice Arena to face the Wolverines', as well as a visit to the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana for a two game series against the Hunchbacks from Notre Dame.
Stay tuned to the blog during the break for updates on the Nanooks' prospects as well.