Alaska Nanooks sweep Governor’s Cup Rivalry Series

Nanooks complete third period comeback to win in OT
Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 9:59 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks hockey team was one win away from sweeping the six game Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup Rivalry series with Alaska Anchorage. Friday, puck luck was on the Nooks side. They scored an empty net goal to force overtime, and Payton Matsui completed the comeback.

Saturday night, the two teams took the ice at the Carlson Center. Anchorage had nothing to lose. The cup was already going to be in the hands of the Nanooks at the end of the game. Alaska was looking to go a perfect, 6-0-0.

Anchorage opened the scoring thanks to Matt Johnson. Then special teams took over. The Nanooks got their first powerplay opportunity of the night, and Chase Dubois tied the game at ones three minutes after Johnson opened the scoring.

The second period was quiet. No goals were scored, and fans were anticipating an intense third period. Twenty more minutes left in regulation, and the Nanooks started the third on the penalty kill. Karl Falk still serving 51 seconds of a roughing minor as the second expired.

With twelve seconds left on the powerplay, Anchorage regained their lead. William Gilson getting his second point of the night. Karl Falk got the gate again. This time a tripping minor, and UAA was back on the powerplay. It took 30 seconds, and Connor Marritt doubled the Seawolves lead with 13:35 left in regulation.

As time bled out on the clock, the energy from the crowd started to dwindle. The arena became silent and cheers weren’t as frequent and boisterous as they were at the start of the game. Everyone probably had a similar thought: “Will the Nanooks lose the final game on trophy presentation night?”.

Seven minutes went by, and Alaska caught the break they were desparately waiting for. Jarred White, went to the box for a kneeing major. The Nanooks had five minutes on the man advantage to score.

Payton Matsui threw a shot on net that Jared Whale struggled to corral cleanly, and Chase Dubois was there to clean up the rebound for his second goal of the night. Nanooks were within one, and the crowd regained life.

Back in the offensive zone, Anton Rubtsov collided with an Anchorage player. The Seawolf lost his stick, and Rubtsov popped right back in to the play. Dubois found Matsui on the near-side circle. Matsui went cross-ice back to Rubtsov for the one-timer. All of a sudden, the game was tied, and the Carlson Center erupted.

Two goals was all the Nanooks would get on their major powerplay. All things considered, two goals on one powerplay is huge. No more goals were scored. Overtime was looming for consecutive nights.

A broken play in the Nanooks defensive zone sent Harrison Israels and Brady Risk on a two-on-one opportunity. Israels sent a pass across the slot to Risk, and the puck ended up in the back of the net. The Alaska Nanooks completed the comeback once again, ending the 2022-23 in-state rivalry series a perfect, 6-0-0.

“I’m not even sure if I scored or not,” admitted Risk. “I think it might have gone off their defense, but I saw Harrison with the break there. I just tried to crash (the net) hard. Luckily it went in. It doesn’t really matter who scored, we’re just happy to get the win. It just shows how resilient this group is. Doing it in front of a packed house tonight just gives me chills.”

With the sweep, the Nanooks celebrated their twelfth straight rivalry win. The team hoisted the Governor’s Cup, parading it around the ice for the fans to see. With the win, Alaska improved to 13-9-2 on the year. Ten games remain in the regular season. The team still has big, national goals in mind, but no matter how the season plays out, fans will have the Governor’s Cup memory to last a lifetime.

“I mean, I can’t imagine leaving the rink and not having a smile on your face or enjoying the game,” smiled head coach, Erik Largen. “Whether you’re a Nanook or Seawolves fan, it was an exciting game and finish, and hopefully we cultivated some new hockey fans.”