FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Special teams ended up being the difference-maker in the Alaska Nanooks hockey team's Western Collegiate Hockey Association matchup against the Lake Superior State Lakers on Friday night, as the Nooks fell 4-1 at the Carlson Center. The loss drops Alaska's overall record to 4-11-2 and 4-6-1-1 in conference play, while the Lakers improve to 8-6-1 overall and 5-5-1-0 in league contests.
Lake Superior walks away from Friday's game with three conference points, while the Nooks were awarded zero. At the time of article, LSSU jumps to fifth place in the league rankings with 16 points, tying them with Bemidji. The Nanooks drop down to seventh place in the WCHA standings with 13 points.
Lake Superior State scored a power play goal, a shorthanded goal and an empty-netter to defeat the Nanooks on their home ice. Alaska went 0-for-5 on the power play, while LSSU went 1-for-3.
"I thought we started the first part of the game okay and then we gave up a special teams goal on the penalty kill, then a bad turnover leads to a shorthanded goal against and it was a bit deflating," head coach Erik Largen said on Friday. "After that, I thought they took control of the game."
For the second-straight game, Alaska junior forward Kyle Marino opened up the scoring for the Nanooks, netting an even-strength tally at 4:52 of the first period. Sophomore forward Brennan Blaszczak won a battle against two Lakers defenseman, eventually walking out from behind the net and getting a shot on LSSU goaltender Nick Kossoff. Kossoff was able to make the initial save on Blaszczak's shot but gave up a rebound in the slot that Marino was able to clean up. The Niagara Falls, Ontario native's third goal of the season was assisted by Blaszczak and freshman forward Sam Ruffin.
Not long afterward, LSSU's Diego Cuglietta scored back-to-back goals to give the Lakers a 2-1 lead heading into the first intermission. Cuglietta tallied a power play goal at 9:40 of the first before scoring a shorthanded goal at the 12:22 mark. Lake Superior State's Colin Saccoman and Anthony Nellis earned assists on Cuglietta's power play tally, while his shorthanded goal was unassisted.
After a scoreless second period, Saccoman netted one of his own with an even-strength goal at the 12:22 mark of the third. Nellis sealed Lake Superior's victory at the 19:28 mark with an empty-net goal for his ninth goal of the season.
"Second period, we came out flat and got caught on some rushes after making some bad decisions," Largen continued. "Third period, we had a little push but it just wasn't enough. We have to be a lot better, we have to be a harder working team and a much better team overall tomorrow in order to get some points against a good Lake State team."
Alaska was outshot by the opponent 9-7 in the first period and 15-3 in the second, but pushed back in the third, outshooting the Lakers 13-7. In total, Lake Superior registered 31 shots on net to the Nanooks' 23.
In net for the Nooks, freshman goaltender Gustavs Grigals earned 27 saves against the Lakers, including 15 in the second period alone. On the other end of the ice, LSSU's Kossoff collected 22 saves.
The Alaska Nanooks will close out the first half of the season tomorrow (Saturday, Dec. 8), hosting Lake Superior State again at the Carlson Center at 7:07pm AKST.
Starting at 6pm AKST, there will be coloring and poster making with Santa Claus when doors open at the Carlson Center prior to puck-drop. All kids eighth grade and under will receive free admission once again tomorrow, with a limit of two kids per one adult. And don't forget your skates! As there is a Skate with the Nanooks and cookie social directly following the game tomorrow.