Alaska got goals from junior forwards Cody Kunyk (Sherwood Park, Alberta/Business Administration) and Colton Beck (Langley, B.C./Business Administration) and John Keeney (Twin Peaks, Calif./Business Administration) made 24 saves in net as Alaska downed Northern Michigan 2-1 in Central Collegiate Hockey Association play on Friday night at the Carlson Center.
The Nanooks won for the fifth straight time and ended a 16-game winless streak (0-9-7-3) against the Wildcats and the visitors took a loss for the first time in seven games.
Kunyk was voted the Perani Cup first star with the game’s first goal, his seventh of the season, and an assist on Beck’s marker. Beck was voted the game’s second star after potting his fifth of the year, also a short-handed game-winner.
NMU got a 5-on-3 power-play goal from Matt Thurber and the ‘Cats’ goalie Jared Coreau turned aside 36 shots for third star honors.
Alaska wasted little time setting the tone early in the game, scoring in the first minute for the early advantage. NMU winger Reed Seckel attempted a cross-ice pass to his linemate Erik Higby on the right as they skated through the neutral zone but Alaska’s freshman defenseman Josh Atkinson (Spruce Grove, Alberta/Petroleum Engineering) stepped into the play and picked off the pass. He tapped the puck forward to senior Andy Taranto (Woodridge, Ill./Communication), who fed Kunyk at the left circle where he wristed the puck past Coreau to make it 1-0 just 48 seconds into the opening frame.
The Nanooks doubled their lead at 2:38 of the second stanza when, Beck forced a NMU turnover at the Nanooks blueline while on the penalty kill. He pushed it ahead to Kunyk and jumped in a two-on-one rush with his linemate, who placed a smart pass on his stick that he flung past Coreau to make it 2-0.
NMU ruined Keeney’s shutout bid with six minutes remaining, when Matt Thurber cut Alaska’s lead in half on a five-on-three power play. Thurber fired the puck from below the left faceoff circle towards the crease that bounced backwards off of Nanook defenseman Michael Quinn’s (Surrey, B.C./Geography) skate and slipped beneath Keeney’s pads to make it 2-1 at 14:00 of the second period.
With just over a minute remaining, the Wildcats pulled Coreau in favor of an extra attacker but the Nanooks and Keeney were able to fend off their attacks and held on for their first win over NMU since Nov. 30, 2007 and just the seventh in the all-time series history.
For the game the Nanooks outshot the Wildcats 38-25, were scoreless in five man-advantage opportunities and 2-for-3 on their penalty kill.
The teams meet again on Saturday night to play the series finale at 7:05 p.m.