Nanooks one point away from Gov Cup title

By Laura Stickells | February 29, 2020

The University of Alaska Fairbanks is one point away from hanging a new Governor’s Cup banner from the Carlson Center rafters after overcoming its third consecutive multi-goal deficit, with the help of a third period hat trick from Steven Jandric, to defeat the University of Alaska Anchorage 5-2 in the third game of the four-game series.

The two teams entered the second half of the series tied 3-3 after splitting the first two games in Anchorage in October. Friday’s win at the Carlson Center puts the Nanooks ahead 6-3.

University of Alaska Fairbanks forward Steven Jandric (top) skates with the puck during the second period of Friday's game between UAF and University of Alaska Anchorage. Photo by Laura Stickells.

The conference victory also keeps the Nanooks (15-13-5 overall, 13-9-5-2 WCHA) tied for fourth place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association standings with fellow 46-point team Bowling Green State. Third place Northern Michigan has 47 points and sixth place Michigan Tech has 44.

The four teams are jockeying for first-round home ice in the conference’s eight-team postseason tournament. The top four WCHA teams at the end of the regular season earn the advantage.

Despite losing Friday’s game, the Seawolves clinched the last spot in the conference tournament, as ninth place Ferris State trails by four points with one game left to play.

Anchorage (4-22-7, 4-17-6-3 WCHA) grabbed a 1-0 lead with a power play goal 12:06 into the first period Friday when the Seawolves’ Tomi Hiekkavirta fired a shot off a rebound and sent it low stick side past UAF goaltender Anton Martinsson 52 seconds into the power play.

Midway through the middle period, the Seawolves tacked on another after Luc Brown intercepted the puck as the Nanooks were transitioning from their defensive zone, giving Brown a clear look at the net. Martinsson overplayed the situation and Brown squeezed the puck glove side behind Martinsson for the 2-0 lead.

The Nanooks responded 2:25 later. Colton Leiter spun 270 degrees with the puck in the left faceoff circle, avoiding a defender and opening up a lane for a clear shot past UAA goaltender Brandon Perrone.

As the Nanooks headed to the locker room at the second intermission behind 2-1, Leiter got word Bowling Green won its Friday game at Alabama Huntsville.

While the Nanooks had overcome a two-goal and three-goal deficit to earn ties in their most recent series against Bowling Green, Friday’s game against the Seawolves suddenly felt like a must-win.

“In the second intermission there one of the guys was telling me about that so I kind of went in the room and carried that message on to some of the seniors just to get the boys going and it definitely put a little pressure on us,” said Leiter at the postgame press conference.

University of Alaska Fairbanks senior goaltender Steven Jandric makes a save during the final seconds of Friday's game. Photo by Laura Stickells.

“We came from behind on a few games so we’re good with dealing with pressure right now… It just kind of gave us that extra push,” he added.

The Nanooks opened the floodgates with the game-tying goal 4:05 into the final period, followed up by three goals in less than five minutes from junior forward Jandric, for his first career hat trick.

Justin Young skated down the left wing and passed the puck across the ice to Tyler Cline. Cline’s shortside shot found the net and popped Perrone’s water bottle to knot the game at 2-2.

Jandric got the go ahead goal 3:32 later when Kylar Hope skated up the right wing and passed across the slot to Jandric, who sent the puck low stick side into the net.

Just over three minutes later, with the Nanooks on a power play, Jandric added on another, helped by his younger brother, Chris Jandric, and Cline. Cline handled the puck at the right point and passed to Chris at center ice who faked a shot before sending it on to his brother at the bottom of the left faceoff circle. Steven hesitated before firing a wrist shot through traffic, into the net.

Jandric completed the hat trick less than five minutes after scoring his first goal, shoveling the puck around Perrone after a pileup in the crease left the goalie just out of the net.

“I wouldn’t be able to do it without my linemates like Max (Newton) and Kylar there,” said Jandric after the game, with true hockey modesty.

“They both work so hard and I was just there on the doorstep for two of those and with Chris making those solid passes there, it’s a full team effort.”

The Nanooks also locked down in the defensive zone in the final 20 minutes. After getting outshot 25-18 through the first two periods, UAF held the Seawolves to just six shots in the third frame, despite being on the penalty kill with an empty UAA net for the final three minutes.

Martinsson made 29 saves in the net for the Nanooks, including an impressive stop in the first period to keep it a 1-0 game. The goalie dropped nearly into a full center splits to stop a UAA fastbreak.

The Nanooks and Seawolves wrap up the Governor’s Cup and regular season today at 7:07 p.m. in the Carlson Center.