Playoff hockey does have a very different atmosphere, and believe me, with the Lake State student body on Spring Break, it was a very open and empty Taffy Abel arena. 1,121 was the official attendance recorded and it looked almost like the Sullivan Arena tonight. With a few Nanook fans in the crowd too, it almost could have felt like a home game out there.
The Nanooks got off to a great start, and caught a bounce early, as Chad Gehon gained the zone and appeared to intend to dump the puck in to the far corner, but Adam Henderson jumped up and gloved the puck down to his stick in the slot and went 1 on 1 with Kapalka, a battle that Henderson won seemingly easy to put the Nanooks up 1-0 as he dangled around Kapalka's pad. Hendo has 3 goals now in the last 3 consecutive games, picking up a nice little scoring streak into the postseason.
Now with the momentum, the Nanooks were working the puck in front of the net when Nolan Youngmun accidently collided with referee Brian Aaron at the side of the net. Both were keeping an eye on the puck, and Younger and Aaron just came together next the net. No bad intentions, just an unfortunate coincidence as Brian was a little shaken up after the collision.
Then with Adam Henderson going to the box on a cross-checking call, the Lakers and their number one power play in the CCHA went to work. The Nanooks contended well to keep the chances minimized, but they eventually broke through with Monardo all alone just outside the slot as he took a pass from Kyle Jean behind the net and buried the puck low glove side on Greenham.
Then with about 40 seconds remaining, defenseman Zach Trotman accepted the puck into the faceoff circle as Kyle Jean found him trailing from the corner. With tons of traffic in front, he buried the shot high blocker side on Greenham from damn near the same place as Monardo scored, as he puts the Lakers up 2-1 late in the 1st.
Into the 2nd, the Nanooks ran into a bit of penalty trouble with Trevor Campbell and Nolan Youngmun, two of our freshmen skaters taking minors less than 4 minutes apart to give the Nanooks shorthanded units additional chances to test their might against the CCHA-leading power play Lakers. Fortunately the Nanooks killed the penalties and gave them a bit of jump in their step.
Ben Power directs the puck toward the net from the goal line, and Greenham clearly had the puck frozen, but the referee didn't blow the play dead. Buddy Robinson just started slapping away at the puck and eventually got the puck in the back of the net, but Greenham pleaded his case and they eventually reviewed the goal. It stood, but I'm not completely sure why.
Quick whistles for Kapalka, delayed whistles for Greenham seemed to be the story for the game.
With the Lakers leading 3-1, the Nanooks had a plan to get back in it, and they executed right off of the opening faceoff in the 3rd period, as Cody Kunyk won it to Colton Beck, he got it ahead to Taranto who who sniped it past Kapalka's glove just 14 seconds into the 3rd period.
But 46 seconds later, with the play wide open, Kellan Lain gets a goal on the rush after a good set up on the entry by Perfetto. Lain got the first shot, and Greenham came out about 8 feet in front of his crease to challenge, which he made the first save, but stumbled a bit on the fresh ice sheet and couldn't get back into position to make the second save as the rebound came right back onto Lain's stick who had plenty of net to shoot at, and he would restore the two-goal lead with 19 minutes left in the 3rd for the Nanooks to play catchup.
And from that point on, they had plenty of get up and go, as the 'Nooks started controlling play and picking up the shot totals. Chances abounded, and the Nanook forwards swarmed the net but the Lakers did a good job taking sticks down low, which included a blatent slash on Ronnie Meyers down low, who had a golden chance in front of the net cancelled out by the foul. But with no call from the official, the play continued the other way. But a good interception by Trevor Campbell at the blueline put the 'Nooks back on the offensive attack, racking up shot after shot.
With 2:17 left in the game, the Nanooks pulled Greenham, and 4 seconds later, the Lakers Kevin Czuczman took an interference call as he kept Cody Kunyk from setting up for a chance. The Nanooks would then head to a power play, but with Greenham on the bench it would become a 6 on 4 power play chance that Colton Beck cashed in on from Kapalka's left just inside the circle just 27 seconds into the power play at 18:13. Beck's 13th of the season was a highlight reel shot from about 10 feet in front of the net. Henderson made a great effort to get the pass over with about 3 guys hanging on him, which landed right on Beck's blade for the quick goal over the glove of Kapalka.
Coach Ferguson would temporarily return Greenham to the crease, but once the guys gained the zone, they had a couple of quick fire chances, one for Henderson closing on. Granberg had a quick chance from the slot that hit a defenders skate and went wide. Colton Beck had another glorious chance as he was rushing in, but just went wide as his stick was lifted at the last second.
Alaska would fall 4-3 in the end, but the Nanooks outshot and outworked the Lakers in the 3rd period, outshooting them 18-9, and a 39-30 total advantage for the game. If Robinson's goal was waived, and Greenham had Lain's goal back, it could have just as easily have been a 3-2 victory. But its back to square one tonight as the Nanooks need a win tomorrow and again on Sunday to extend their season beyond this weekend. They played quite well tonight, but will need all 3 periods tomorrow full of the effort shown during tonight's 3rd period, and the Lakers won't have much of a chance.
They say hockey is a game of bounces. I just hope more of them come our way tomorrow. The Lakers have to get another win, and with the Nanooks playing like they did late in tonight's game, I wouldn't bet against the series getting to an even 1-1 tie tomorrow forcing a game on Sunday. But only time will tell. See you back tomorrow for game 2. Go 'Nooks!