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Hockey: Nanooks trouble goaltenders

Observer Staff Report | Sunday, January 29, 2012

A tale of two games unfolded for the Irish in the far Northwest this weekend as No. 4 Notre Dame split a pair of games with Alaska. Notre Dame fell 6-3 on Friday night before coming from behind to take Saturday’s contest 4-2.

The Irish (15-10-3, 10-7-3-0 CCHA) and the Nanooks (9-13-4, 6-12-4-2 CCHA) opened the series with a tentative first period in the Friday night contest. The two teams struggled to put shots on net before Alaska forward Jarret Granberg opened the scoring 14 minutes into the contest with an unassisted goal off Irish sophomore goalkeeper Steven Summerhays’ glove. The Irish responded just three minutes with the help of three freshmen as defenseman Robbie Russo and center Garrett Peterson fed winger Austin Wuthrich, who equalized the score from the right face-off spot.

The two teams traded goals into the second period before the Nanooks took the game over with three unassisted goals on the spectacular play of sophomore forward Cody Kunyk.

Kunyk scored a power-play goal five minutes into the period and assisted a goal three minutes later to make the score 4-2 and chase the Alaksa native Summerhays from the contest. Junior netminder Mike Johnson entered, but surrendered another goal to Kunyk on the second shot he saw in the period to make the score 5-2. Though senior forward and captain Billy Maday added a third goal for the Irish on a five-on-three power play, the offensive outburst from Kunyk was too much to handle, and the Irish fell 6-3.

The next night, with Johnson in goal, the Irish turned around a two-game losing streak by holding Alaska to 17 shots and winning a 4-2 decision. Notre Dame gave up two goals on the first two Nanook shots of the day but had four goals from four separate goal-scorers to earn a crucial three points in the CCHA.

Junior winger Nick Larson scored the game’s opener early in the first period on a power play, but the Nanooks answered quickly with two goals to take a 2-1 lead. Goals from sophomore center T.J. Tynan, sophomore defenseman Stephen Johns and junior center Riley Sheahan answered the Nanook lead and separated the Irish for good on a night where temperatures outside the arena reached 50-below zero.

With the weekend split, the Irish sit in sixth place in the CCHA with 33 points, just four points behind first-place Ferris State. Of the five teams ahead of Notre Dame, three —Ohio State, Lake Superior State and Miami (OH) — have played two more games.

Irish coach Jeff Jackson and his squad will be back underway next weekend with a golden opportunity to pick up points in a home series with bottom-dwelling Bowling Green, a team that has only won three games in CCHA play.