Senior right wing Nik Yaremchuk scored a pair of goals to lead the Alaska Nanooks men’s hockey team as they tied the United States Air Force Academy Falcons 3-3 in the opening game of the Kendall Hockey Classic on Friday evening at Sullivan Arena.
Although the game was officially recorded as a tie for NCAA purposes, junior left wing Colton Beck and senior right wing Andy Taranto scored in the shootout to give the Nanooks the leg up in the tournament standings, as they prevailed 2-1.
Sophomore goalie Sean Cahill made 15 saves in his first collegiate start and one more in the shootout, while rookie defenseman Colton Parayko scored his first career goal for the Blue and Gold.
“It was a tough game for a goaltender but I thought Sean did a good job for us,” said head coach Dallas Ferguson. “He stayed composed even though it wasn’t the most orthodox game for a goalie.”
Yaremchuk opened the game’s scoring at 5:50 of the first period. He got a step on his defender and took a pass from senior forward Jarret Granberg in the right circle, where he fired a wrist shot that beat Air Force goalie David Bosner over his right shoulder to make it 1-0. Rookie defenseman Josh Atkinson started the play that began in the Nanooks’ zone as he moved the puck quickly up the ice to Granberg for the secondary assist on the first score of the season.
The Falcons responded 48 seconds later, when Jason Fabian floated a wrist shot from the point past a screened Cahill at 6:38 to tie the game at one goal apiece.
With rookie defenseman Colton Parayko serving a two-minute minor for tripping, AF made good on its man advantage at 10:12 to make it 2-1. Falcon defenseman Adam McKenzie fired the shot that beat Cahill to give the visitors the one-goal lead.
Parayko made up for his penalty before the period expired as he tied the game at 18:23, beating Bosner high on his stickside with a wrist shot from the right circle.
“Parayko and Atkinson had strong games,” Ferguson said. ” Josh moved the puck well and made a smart play and Colton stepped up and got his first goal off a nice shot. “They (the freshmen) did pretty good for their first game and there were a lot of positives to build on.”
Air Force relieved Bosner in favor of Jason Torf to start the second period, but the new netmider did not faze the Nanooks. Yaremchuk picked off a clearing pass in the slot at 11:35 of the middle frame and buried a wrist shot over Torf’s glove to make it 3-2. The lead would hold through the end of the second period as the teams skated to the locker rooms for the second intermission.
“I thought the (Adam) Henderson-(Chad) Gehon-Yaremchuk line was our best tonight,” said Ferguson. “Nik made a nice play on his first one and then he got a bit lucky and picked off the pass and finished with a nice shot on the second. I was really happy with their line.”
Coming back for the final frame, the Falcons did not relent. Chad Demers scored the equalizer just 1:18 in and the teams were deadlocked for the remainder of regulation and five minutes of overtime that ensued.
For the game, the Nanooks outshot the Falcons 26-18 and were 0-for-2 with the man advantage, while AF was 1-for-3. Cahill’s counterpart, Torf, made 16 saves in relief of Bosner, who had seven in the first period.
“For this time of year there’s a lot to look at and get better at, but I thought it was a good game and a good overall effort,” Ferguson said. “Now we will regroup and get ready to play Canisius tomorrow.”
Alaska returns to the Sullivan Arena on Saturday afternoon to faceoff against the Golden Griffins at 4:07 p.m. Tournament host Alaska Anchorage shutout the Gee-Gees 2-0 in the second game on Friday night.