Nanooks hockey picks up 20th win following sweep of ASU

Currently 12th in PairWise ranking
Published: Feb. 27, 2023 at 9:36 PM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - The Alaska Nanooks rematched with the Arizona State Sun Devils in their final road series of the season. The Nanooks swept ASU at the Carlson Center February 3 and 4.

Friday night, Payton Matsui opened the scoring putting away a rebound out in front four minutes into the first period. Defenseman, Garrett Pyke scored a powerplay goal that was later disallowed (ruled offsides). Before the first period ended however, Pyke would nab a powerplay goal that would count.

ASU got one goal back on a 5-on-3 powerplay from Josh Doan. The Nanooks still had to kill off the rest of Matt Koethe’s major penalty, but Matsui had some more magic in him. Braden Birnie broke up the play in the d-zone, that was chipped ahead by Matsui. Payton won the race, and beat T.J. Semptimphelter underneath the pads to regain the two-goal lead.

The second period was scoreless, and the Sun Devils got back into the game with a goal by Jack Judson with 10:11 left to play in regulation. ASU was never able to find the equalizer, but Payton Matsui did finish the hat trick with an empty net goal. This was Matsui’s first career NCAA hat trick.

Nanooks opened the series with a 4-2 win over ASU. Jonny Sorenson was the only other multi-point scorer for Alaska Friday, recording two assists, and Matt Radomsky made 33 saves.

“As cliché as it sounds, having a complete effort where we finish in that last twenty minutes,” head coach, Erik Largen admitted to completing the season sweep of the Sun Devils ahead of Saturday’s game. “We know a team like that, they don’t want to get swept at home. You know they’re going to bring their best effort, and we have to be ready for that.”

Game two did not start as planned for Alaska. ASU managed two powerplay goals (Koumontzis, Doan) to open the scoring. One goal through one, and the second goal came 61 seconds into the second period.

Good things happen when you put the puck on net, and that was the case for Garrett Pyke who put the puck on goal from the near-side half-wall that snuck through the legs of Semptimphelter. Right before the second intermission, Chase Dubois got a nice feed from Arvils Bergmanis. With Semptimphelter out of position, Dubois tied the game 2-2 before the break.

The third period was all Simon Falk. The Swedish sophomore, cleaned up a rebound to give the Nanooks their first lead of the night, and added another nearly five minutes later. Falk and Anton Rubtsov executed clean, give-and-go passing allowing Alaska to extend their lead to two.

With four unanswered goals, Alaska got another 4-2 victory over the Sun Devils. Alaska has now won seven of the last eight meetings with Arizona State. Also with the sweep, the Alaska Nanooks are 12th in the PairWise rankings (a mathematical equation used to aid fielding the NCAA tournament teams).

Two games remain in the Nanooks regular season. Alaska hosts Lindenwood University, Friday and Saturday at the Carlson Center. Coach Largen and his team are looking to put together a case for the NCAA Tournament committee to give the Nanooks an at-large bid.

Puck drop Friday and Saturday will be 7:07 p.m. at the Carlson Center.