Come here after the games for analysis and insights from CHN Staff members.
Michigan State suffered through a rough regular season, but despite traveling to Fairbanks for the second time in three weeks, managed to dig down and find a way to win this series in three games. Alaska scored twice in the final two and a half minutes of the game, but couldn't come all the way back. It's a disappointing end for the Nanooks, who were certainly eliminated from NCAA tournament contention now.
UAF outshot the Spartans 37-14 on Friday, but lost 1-0, as Will Yanakeff picked up the shutout. But the Nanooks responded Saturday. But not before Yanakeff came up with another 15 saves in the first period. At that point, Alaska was getting frustrated, evidenced by Andy Taranto's penalty for roughing the goalie late in the first period. But Michael Quinn and Taranto were finally able to break through in the second. And later, Taranto scored the game winner with 1:03 left in regulation, on a power play, UAF's third PPG in 5 chances. The win locked up the six spot for Alaska, which wrapped up its final CCHA games this weekend, and it means it will likely face last-place Michigan State again in the first round of the CCHA tournament in two weeks. Fairbanks also sits at No. 18 in the Pairwise.
"It was disappointing to take that late penalty -- at the end of what had been probably our best period of the weekend," MSU coach Tom Anastos said. "We gave up three power-play goals against tonight, and that's just not good enough. Special teams were critical in this game -- its frustrating, and in games like this, you need your special teams to step up. We couldn't do that on the power play (0-for-7), and we couldn't do it on the PK. Will Yanakeff was absolutely outstanding -- I wish he would have gotten a win out of it tonight, but it was good to see him play as well as he did, and hopefully he can gain some confidence out of that."
Following six straight wins, Alaska has now lost 5 of 6 to stop back into the middle of the pack in the CCHA.
Miami is in first place in the CCHA, and has quietly moved up to No. 3 in the Pairwise. It's pretty remarkable given the key losses the team has faced in the last couple of years. Most people expected a year or two to re-tool. But Miami is doing it thanks to contributions from the whole lineup on a nightly basis, and the continued success of its freshman goaltending tandem. ... The two losses this weekend cools off Alaska, which had won six in a row.
Fellow freshmen Riley Barber and Kevin Morris each scored twice for Miami.
Western Michigan earned a sweep of reeling Michigan for the first time since 1986. That's almost as long as it's been since Michigan missed the NCAAs, and that seems all but certain now, barring a miracle turnaround. The wins kept WMU one point ahead of Miami for first place in the CCHA, and up to No. 8 in the Pairwise. The Broncos finished 5-1-2 in January, with Colton Hargrove scoring twice in the weekend finale. His second, early in the third period, chased Michigan goalie Adam Janecyk from the game. The Michigan goaltending has been a big problem this season, but the problems are all over.
Alaska jumped to fifth this weekend with a huge sweep in South Bend, which followed two wins last week at Michigan. The team did not go home in between. In the ever-tightening CCHA race, Notre Dame clings to a first-place tie now with WMU, while Alaska is just five points back. Friday, the Nanooks won the game with just three seconds left in regulation, with Jarret Granberg scoring his second goal of the period to cap a wild back-and-forth affair. Things were much tighter Saturday, with the teams combining for just 37 shots. But the Nanooks took advantage of a five-minute major power play, getting both of their goals on it, from Nik Yaremchuk and Tyler Morley -- after Thomas DiPauli was ejected for a hit from behind. That was late in the first period and it stayed that way the rest of the way.
The four-game skid is the longest for Notre Dame since a five-game streak from Feb. 4 to Feb. 18 last season. The Irish are now 1-5-0 in January and have now finished their run of six games in the last 12 days since Jan. 8. Notre Dame must be having nightmares right now of last year's second half swoon, when it fell from high in the Pairwise in January to out of the NCAAs by selection time. Who knows if there's any correlation between the two, and there's still plenty of time here to snap out of this funk, but it's still hard not to be reminded of it. But the Irish have some guys banged up, and plenty to still be confident about. “We’ll have a day off tomorrow (Sunday) and then a good week of practice,” Notre Dame coach Jeff Jackson said. "Rest and back into a normal routine with school and practice. Then we just have to wait to get some guys healthy and hopefully we can get that chemistry back. That’s what I am expecting.”
Is this rock bottom for Michigan? Not even the return of Jon Merrill and Jacob Trouba to the backline has snapped the Wolverines out of their woes. They've struggled all year, but now it's four straight, including an exhibition loss to the Under-18 team, one to Bowling Green, and two this weekend to the Nanooks. And the team is dealing with injuries all over the place, to go along with sloppiness and an inability to finish whatever good plays it makes. At 6-13, Michigan would need a small miracle now to extend its streak of 22 straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
Fairabanks got five points on the weekend, following up the shootout win from Friday. After Nolan Youngman was given a 5-minute major in the third period, Fairbanks was not only able to kill off the penalty, but score a shorthanded goal in the process that sealed the game. Ohio State lost despite 42 saves from freshman goalie Collin Olson. "It was very high tempo," OSU coach Mark Osiecki said about the game. "They're a fast team. The power plays were going both ways, which made it a pretty interesting game."
Said Dallas Ferguson, Alaska head coach: “We always want to be playing quick when we can. One of our major focal points is getting a lot of pucks at the net, and you have to play quick to do that. The difference this year is we’re generating a lot more quality looks out of that quantity. ... You always come into the game with a plan for what you want to do, but a lot of times you just have to be able to adapt. We teach our players to have a short memory and not get too high or too low throughout the game when adjusting to the referees, penalties or goals.”
Ohio State has been struggling offensively so far this season, scoring just one goal in five of its last six games.
Both teams opened the CCHA schedule with a split of the weekend. Alaska allowed four unanswered goals Friday in a 6-3 loss, but bounced back Saturday to hold down the Bulldogs. Alaska outshot Ferris 17-5 in the third period, and got a goal with 50 seconds remaining in regulation from Tyler Morley to win it.
©2013 College Hockey News.