Sunday, November 29, 2009

Wildcats tie No. 12 Alaska twice

By Susannah Nichols/ Northern Michigan Beat Writer

Despite banner weekends from Ray Kaunisto and Gregor Hanson, the Northern Michigan Wildcats couldn't get out of Fairbanks with more than two ties against the Alaska Nanooks - 3-3 on Friday and 4-4 on Saturday. Alaska won the shootout both nights.

The Nanooks' power play proved difficult for the Wildcats to manage. After Kaunisto got the Wildcats on the board in Friday's game (Hanson and Erik Spady earned assists on the play), Alaska responded three minutes later with their first power-play goal of the night.

Hanson and Chad Pietila helped Kaunisto take back the lead, but Alaska retaliated with two more power-play goals. The Nanooks outshot the Wildcats, 16-6, during the second period and didn't let up their offensive energy in the final period.

Brian Stewart turned away the 12 shots Alaska fired at him, and the Wildcats finally earned a power-play goal of their own. Justin Florek and Jared Brown set up Hanson to tie the score at 3-all.

In the shootout, Alaska notched three goals to the Wildcats' one.

Stewart had 38 saves in Friday's game.

Alaska jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Saturday's game before Kaunisto set up Hanson to get the 'Cats on the board. Alaska responded with another goal at 18:02, but Mark Olver took advantage of a late-period penalty on Alaska to light the lamp in the last second of the first period. Hanson and Erik Gustafsson assisted on his goal.

In the second period, Alaska scored an early goal to widen their lead to 4-2, and Reid Ellingson took over for Stewart in Northern's net.

Hanson and Gustafsson combined again in the third period, this time to set up Brown on the power play. The Wildcats killed several penalties before Gustafsson could set up Tyler Gron to tie up the game.

After holding off two more Alaska power plays in the overtime period, Northern headed to the shootout. After eight players failed to convert, Gustafsson succeeded, as did Alaska's Carlo Finucci. But Northern missed their next two chances, and Alaska snuck one past Ellingson.

Stewart had 13 saves in Saturday's game, while Ellingson had 16.

Northern Michigan's record now stands at 5-5-4, 4-3-3-0 in CCHA play. They return home to face Michigan State next weekend.

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