Sunday, January 11, 2015

Third Period Struggles Give Alaska a 1 Point Road Trip

Tough road weekend for the Nanooks on the road at Bowling Green. Getting throttled in the final stanza of both games and return home getting just one point in the standings, despite a 3 goal lead going into the final period of Saturday's game. Friday was quite close, until the Falcons capitalized on a couple critical Nanook miscues. How did it all happen? Read on.

The Nanooks played two good periods of hockey on Friday, but towards the end of the second, the Falcons started to pull momentum away. Then in the 3rd period, it was all Bowling Green. Davis Jones and Kyle Froese misplayed the offensive play as Adam Berkle peeled around the net. Jones overcommitted as Froese backed off Berkle and left Brent Tate all alone coming down from the slot who had a wide open net to shoot it in.

Then Zach Frye with a critical rookie mistake, allowing Kevin Dufour to force the turnover deep in the defensive zone gives a golden chance to Mercier who hit the post, but Pohlkamp cashes in. Then a late goal to Adam Berkle sealed the Nanooks' fate Friday night.

Saturday night was just a roller coaster of epic proportions. The Falcons came out swinging, outshooting the Nanooks 10-1 early in the first period, but the Nanooks' second shot on goal, a beautiful showing of stick handling along the goal line to get away from two defenders, then going forehand to the backhand to beat Tomas Sholl 5-hole to get the Nanooks on the board first.

Then just four minutes later, Zach Frye catches a turnover caused by Hajdukovich and takes his chances wide open from the point and lays it on the left pad of Sholl, and bounces to the half wall to a perched Trevor Campbell who lays into the shot catching Sholl by surprise to give the Nanooks a 2-0 lead.

Then the penalty trouble starts to settle in for the Nanooks. Seemed like time after time from this point forward, the Nanooks would sit two minutes for this or that. It got old pretty quick. Most of it was warranted, but a lot of it was a lack of discipline. I understand the part of playing aggressive, but that was a bit excessive for me. Through this stretch, the Nanooks surrendered seven power plays before getting their first late in the second. Nanooks also gave up two extended 5 on 3 chances, the first of which in the first with the Morley brothers sitting for back to back infractions.

Sean Walker would capitalize on that chance on a shot from the low point to the top of the faceoff circle through some thick traffic to close the lead to one. But the Nanooks answered quickly as Tyler Morley picked off a clearing attempt by the Tomas Sholl at the half wall, whipped around and threw it to the net for his second goal of the night and regained the two goal lead... Or so we all thought...

Turns out Sholl got a little overanxious after he realized he had given the puck away and collided with the post. Thee net frame comes off the ice just enough for the puck to slide just inside the mooring under the frame before it went in the back of the net. The officials caught it, reviewed it, and quickly overturned it. Would have been huge with a 3-1 lead going into the locker room, but the Nanooks would stay at two.

Until just over four minutes into the 2nd as the quick stick of Shawn Hochhausen gets Friedman off the puck. Friedman tries holding Hawk up, but the sophomore center backhanded it through the 5-hole of Tommy Burke, who replaced Sholl late in the 1st. The Nanooks would go on to surrender another 5 on 3 power play to Bowling Green a bit later as Marcus Basara gets nabbed for high sticking, quickly followed by an interference call to Brandon Morley. But one of my favorite plays of the year ensues, as Tyler Morley forces a turnover right as Basara breaks free of the penalty box, comes in all alone. Basara gets the shot on goal, just doesn't get it quite high enough as he was late getting the shot off, but the puck hops up in the air off the pad, and Basara sticks with it right there to bat the puck in for the Nanooks first shorthanded goal of the season, and the Nanooks get a 4-1 lead. But despite an extended power play, the 4-1 score would stick through 40 minutes.

With a three goal lead, have to figure that the Nanooks have a pretty good bead on handing the Falcons their first loss at home since mid-November. But for the second straight night, the Nanooks surrender three goals in the 3rd period. The first one, Sean Walker's second goal of the game, sets everything in motion. At that point of the period (9:10 in, the Nanooks were outshooting the Falcons 7-1. After the goal was scored on their second shot of the period, the Falcons turned up the heat. Outshooting the A-Team 12-5 through the end of the frame.

But the last minute of the game was thrilling as a hockey fan, but immensely disappointing as a Nanooks' fan. Two goals given up in a span of 24 seconds to the same guy. Ben Murphy, the same guy that set up the game winning goal for the Falcons in their second game in Fairbanks back in early November. Both goals for Murphy came from pretty much the same place. The first one in all honesty could have been waved off with a BG forward in the crease. But it goes over the left shoulder of Jones from a shot he couldn't see. The second goal is one that may haunt Tyler Morley for at least the plane ride home. On an extended shift, the junior alternate captain attempted the clear the puck, but didn't get enough under it and Murphy was able to glove it down and beat Jones glove side to tie the game.

It's a rough weekend for the Nanooks on the road. I thought they played well enough to win Saturday despite all of the penalty trouble. But I didn't think the Tyler Morley line should have been on the ice after BG's 3rd goal was scored. They were clearly gassed. Can't say I've been disappointed in a tie before, but after leading 4-1 going into the 3rd period a tie was not what I was expecting... Give BG credit, they're not the 4th (now 5th) team in the country by the PairWise for nothing. They play very aggressive and swarm the puck carrier. They also can spread a defense out by creating passing lanes across the ice and connecting.

I did find it awesome though that the BGSU Pep Band would--after seemingly every big play for Alaska--would play the theme of the A-Team. Nice touch.

But with 1 point coming back to Fairbanks, the Nanooks will welcome the Seawolves to town for the first pair of games in the Governor's Cup series. The Seawolves come in with just one win in their last 13 games, and have not won a road game at all this season. The game against Air Force in the Kendall Classic is their lone win away from the confines of Sullivan Arena all season. Should be a good one.

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