Senior goaltender and Hobey Baker Memorial Award candidate Pat Nagle (Bloomfield) recorded 31 saves and goals by sophomores Travis Ouellette (Windsor, Ontario) and Matthew Kirzinger (Leroy, Saskatchewan) helped lead the Ferris State University men's ice hockey team to a well-earned 2-1 victory over the Alaska Nanooks this Saturday (Feb. 5) evening in the weekend series opener at UA's Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska.
Something had to give as two of the nation's top defensive teams squared off led by their outstanding goaltenders in Pat Nagle for Ferris State and Scott Greenham for the host Nanooks. For the Bulldogs, scoring the contest's first two goals made all the difference.
The Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA) contest between the conference's fifth-place (Alaska) and sixth-place (Ferris State) teams going in was expected to be a low-scoring affair and the prognosticators were indeed correct in their prediction of the game's scoring output.
Ferris State, which improved to 13-12-4 overall and move into fifth place in the CCHA standings at 10-10-3-2, would score a goal apiece in the opening two periods and appeared well on its way of recording a shutout until the Nanooks were able to solve Nagle for the first and only time with 33.2 seconds remaining in the game after pulling its goaltender. Alaska would come out off a timeout with the extra man-advantage and had at least four opportunities to net the equalizer but was denied each time as the Bulldogs withstood the late rally in the final seconds. Senior right wing Todd Pococke (Saginaw) made one of the key plays of the game on the defensive end by blocking a Joe Sova shot in front of the Ferris goal as time expired to preserve the victory.
Pat Nagle (13-10-4) was outstanding throughtout the contest with a multitude of key stops in each period and ended up claiming first star honors by turning aside 31 of the 32 shots faced. Nagle's heroics overshadowed a solid performance from Alaska's Scott Greenham (12-11-4), who made 23 saves in suffering the setback.
Travis Ouellette gave Ferris State a 1-0 lead late in the first period by tallying his third goal of the season. The sophomore center tapped the puck into the Alaska net from the left side of the crease after senior left wing Mike Fillinger (Grand Ledge) had pushed the puck out away from the back boards. Sophomore right wing Eric Alexander (Kentwood) broke into the Nanook zone from the left side and proceeded to skate in on Greenham before firing a shot from the right side which went behind the net. Fillinger was able to gain puck possession from an Alaska counterpart and slid the puck out to Ouellette before Greenham could recover.
The all-important lamplighter would come in the enusing period when Matthew Kirzinger slipped in between two Nanooks and back-handed a shot from just inside the left circle near the slot into the upper right-hand corner of the Alaska net. Kirzinger chalked up his fifth of the season as his nifty shot sailed past Scott Greenham's glove side while senior left wing Mike Embach (Orland Park, Ill.) notched an assist.
Ferris State, which would get outshot 32-25 by the Nanooks, appeared to extend its margin to three goals with 12:59 left to be played but senior defenseman Zach Redmond's (Traverse City) tally was waved off by the referee as a result of a Bulldog teammate in the crease. Alaska would avoid the shutout with :33.2 seconds showing on the scoreboard clock as the Nanooks' Jarret Granberg scored five-hole through Nagle's pads midst heavy traffic outside of Ferris's crease area.
The victory not only vaulted Ferris State into fifth place in the CCHA with 35 league points, but also snapped a 10-game losing streak on the Nanooks' home ice. Alaska dips to 12-11-4 overall and 9-10-4-2 in CCHA play.
The Bulldogs will now look to sweep this weekend's series at Alaska as the two teams meet for the fourth and final time this regular season on Sunday (Feb. 6) in Fairbanks. The puck will drop at 11:05 p.m. (EST). The last time Ferris State swept a road series from the Nanooks was in the record-setting 2002-03 season (Nov. 1-2), winning 5-0 and 5-1.
Notes: Pat Nagle has posted at least 30 saves in game seven times to date this season . . . Prior to tonight's triumph, the last time Ferris State was victorious at Alaska was in the 2002-03 campaign (Nov. 2) with a 5-1 decision . . . Pat Nagle moved into fifth place with 2,191 career saves among the program's all-time leaders . . . Matthew Kirzinger has compiled seven points (3-4=7) in 14 road outings this season . . . The Bulldogs have allowed one goal or less in a game on 12 occasions this campaign . . . Eric Alexander has equalled his career season high in points with seven (3-4=7) in 23 outings after garnering an assist . . . Travis Ouellette is now one point (3-7=10) shy of matching his season-best 11 points (7-4=11) set in 34 games a season ago . . . Pat Nagle earned his 13th win this season (13-10-4 record) in 27 encounters, which marks a personal career single-season high. His previous best was 12 victories (12-10-3 record) established in 26 appearances last season.