UAF Hockey's season ends in WCHA Quarterfinals
Alaska Nanooks hockey accomplished many of their goals they set out at the beginning of the year: capture the Governor's Cup against in-state rival Alaska Anchorage, secure home ice for the first round of the playoffs for the first time since 2014, and collect 16 wins on the season, the most for the program in five seasons. However, their run for more accomplishments came to an end over the weekend at the hands of a sweep by Bowling Green University in the WCHA Quarterfinals.
After four straight games of letting their opponent on the board first, the Nanooks took command of the game early on when Max Newton found an opening on the power play with less than two minutes to go in the first period, the first career playoff goal for the junior. About three game-minutes later, Bowling Green took the momentum back with a goal and the two teams were knotted at one heading into the third period. The Falcons took a 2-1 lead early in the frame, but 37 seconds later, James LaDouce got the Carlson Center rockin' with his game tying goal at 6:56 in the third. Special teams hindered UAF's chances, as back-to-back power play goals from the Falcons was too much for the Nooks to overcome, falling 4-2 in the WCHA Playoff Opener.
"t is definitely different, it is kind of a feeling out process, it is new for a lot of guys, we are a younger team," Captain Kylar Hope said of the playoffs. "Home ice is obviously new to all of us, but I think as the game went on we played better but like coach said, the penalties at the end hurt us. I am not worried either, it is a new day tomorrow, the sun is going to come up and we will have another opportunity to beat those guys."
Season on the line for the Nanooks Saturday night and senior Anton Martinsson stayed busy in net early on, saving 23 shots while letting one slip behind in the first two periods, and it was 1-0 Bowling Green heading into the final 20 minutes. Nanooks responded to adversity as they had all year, as former Fairbanks Ice Dog Caleb Hite punched in a goal in the third period to tie the game at one. The Nanooks were unable to keep the momentum very long, as Bowling Green netted back-to-back goals midway through the period, and all of a sudden it was 3-1 Falcons. On a power play opportunity, Max Newton kept the season's hopes alive with a crucial goal to cut the lead to 3-2 with less than 10 minutes to go. The 'Nooks did not help their cause ,with three third period penalties, none resulting in goals for the Falcons but it hindered UAF's chances on offense and they were unable to force OT or a game three. It was the final game in the Blue and Gold for 10 seniors.
"They've grown as young men here but I have so much respect for them as human beings," Assistant coach Joe Howe said of the graduating class. "They're unbelievable people and what they've accomplished, they won't realize it now, but it is something they can be proud of for a long time. Even though they didn't get the result you want or the trophy or this and that, but bigger, life things, they're unbelievable students and that kind of thing. It is something that we as a staff are very proud of them, but it doesn't really take the sting out of tonight."