A great win tonight not just for the Nanooks, but also the CCHA as the Nanooks take down a very respectable Hockey East opponent. A very tough win that took 3 goals from the Nanooks' power play unit, but a solid 3-2 win puts day one of the 2012 Goal Rush to bed.
The Nanooks had some good momentum to start with in the first period tonight, but Merrimack answered with some momentum of their own. They struck first coming in on the rush as Brian Christie ripped it with a hard shot that went off Thompson's pad and stopped down low just in front of the crease, but Quinn Gould got the second chance that went in.
At the end of the first, Merrimack's Shawn Bates took a swing at Yaremchuk who was thrown to the ground after the final buzzer. Seemed like he would hit the showers early, but only two minutes went up on the board. I was a little shocked to tell you the truth.
After sure ending an early goal 2 seconds after Bates got out of the box, but that seemed to light a fire somewhere under the Nanooks...but with the help of 5 power plays, the Nanooks rattled off three goals. Tyler Morley put one up on the board first with a deflection on a shot by Josh Atkinson, which for Morley was sweet I'm sure (more on that later).
Trevor Campbell (1-1-2), who put up a stellar effort defensively tonight was certainly due for a goal having come up empty last season, and he got it in style. With Jarret Granberg controlling the puck and skating down towards the goal, he made a great feed back and across the ice to Campbell who was right there to put it in and erase the 2 goal deficit.
And Cody Kunyk notched the game-winner with Mike Collins in the box for tripping. With Beck down screening the goaltender, Kunyk unleashed a high wrister that found twine. A very good looking goal if I do say so myself. Of course, when you leave Kunyk alone in the slot with the puck, that's typically what happens.
It's tough to really assess how the Nanooks played 5 on 5 tonight considering there wasn't much of a chance to do that all things considered. But, the power play really sparked there in the 2nd period enough to strike three times on eight chances, the ninth coming in the 3rd. Certainly a physical game that I think the Nanooks controlled very well. I commented on it in the post-game social that turned into coach West disagreeing that Merrimack was taking it to the Nanooks physically. I didn't intend to word it that way (hey, I was tired), but Merrimack certainly turned up the intensity, and got very chippy. Including one incident early in the 3rd period where Adam Henderson was pulled into the bench as Rhett Bly allegedly got into it there on Merrimack's bench with Hendo. Not sure if it was really him or not, but I watched Merrimack's coach grab one of his players by the shoulder pads and just yanked him backwards to the bench.
Another one of those cases where I was certain in my head that someone was going to get thrown out of the game. Just a 2 minute roughing call though, but I don't think the officials actually saw the whole thing go down cleanly.
The interesting story of the night though was Tyler Morley, and how every opportunity that Merrimack got to put a hit on him, they took it. Turns out, according to the Eagle Tribune Tyler Morley originally committed to Merrimack in 2010 before decommitting and coming to play for the Nanooks. Certainly makes that goal much sweeter. Not really sure what his reasonings were for decommiting, but hopefully tonight's outcome reaffirms that positive decision.
The Nanooks take on North Dakota tomorrow in the evening game after UND just pasted Anchorage 5-0. Jarret Granberg put it well after an adorable little girl asked what the team plans for to beat them, saying puck control is key against a team like that. And I couldn't agree more, but controlling the puck is one thing. Being disciplined with it, and making solid decisions is the other part as passing accuracy and scoring chances will be put to the test. North Dakota is a great team, but they're not invincible. And with an effort like the Nanooks had tonight, it's going to be a great game to watch.