Nanooks Hockey sweeps Arizona State

Alaska cracks into poll for first time since 2013
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 7:50 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks hockey team is on quite the run. Alaska has won ten of their last twelve game, and four straight after their 5-2 win over Arizona State Saturday night.

In the first period, the Sun Devils grabbed the first goal of the game. Teddy Lagerback capitalized on the powerplay. The Sun Devils lead did not last long. Brady Risk and Chase Dubois scored in a 2:14 span, and Alaska led by the first intermission.

The Nanooks would make it three unanswered goals. Braden Birnie scored his first NCAA goal (unassisted) while the Nanooks were short handed.

“I don’t even know how the puck got rimmed to me on the wall,” Birnie recalled. “I realized I was going to have a little bit of time... I just picked it up with pretty good speed, and we had a two-on-one developing. I looked at him (Payton Matsui) from the start, and told myself I was going to have to shoot this one. I threw it on net. It hit the back of the net, and then I blacked out a little bit. It felt pretty good.”

In the first three minutes of the third, Josh Doan brought Arizona State back within one, but just like in the first, Alaska responded with two more goals before the period’s end. Payton Matsui and Arvils Bergmanis split the defense, and a nice pass from Matsui to Bergmanis made it 4-2 Alaska.

“Obviously the first half of the season wasn’t the way I wanted it to go. I wanted to help the team,” stated Risk. “It’s just nice to see the pucks are starting to go in.”

Brady Risk tacked on the empty net goal, for his second of the night and ninth of the season. Braden Birnie and Payton Matsui each had multi-point nights as well in the 5-2 win. Matt Radomsky made 28 saves in his fifteenth win of the season.

“I thought we played much better as a group tonight,” said head coach, Erik Largen comparing Friday and Saturday. “Friday, I thought Rads (Matt Radomsky) really bailed us out, and Saturday I thought the team played well start to finish. We gave up that powerplay goal early, and I thought the guys just bounced back right away, generated a lot of chances, didn’t give them (ASU) a whole lot, and even when they made it 3-2, I thought the bench had a lot of confidence and found a way to finish off the game.”

Each Monday, releases their national rankings poll. For the first time since January 2013, the Nanooks are a ranked team in the country. They are tied 20th with Northeastern. The Nanooks are also the highest “receiving votes” team in the USA Today poll. As for the Pairwise, the Nanooks sit 20th as well. Eight games remain in the regular season, as Alaska builds their case for an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament. The Nanooks will hit the road this weekend for two games with Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York.