Man, do not sleep on the UAF Nanooks, who despite lacking a conference affiliation, are on the brink of qualifying for the NCAA Division I men’s hockey tournament.
The Nanooks (20-10-2) delivered a pair of 4-2 victories at Arizona State over the weekend to run their winning streak to four games and earn them a 9-1-0 run in their last 10 games. All that has landed them in the No. 12 spot in the Pairwise Rankings.
That position is significant because the Pairwise mimics, with almost absurd accuracy, the formula the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee uses to fill out the 10 at-large berths for the 16-team tournament. The other six spots are filled by automatic bids that go to the winners of the six conference tournaments.
Naturally, future results elsewhere – namely, out of UAF’s control – help shape its ranking in the Pairwise. But with two regular-season games remaining, this coming weekend at home against fellow independent Lindenwood, the Nanooks, provided they run the table, have set themselves up nicely.
Speaking of D-I independents from the 49th state, UAA came off nearly one month between games to fall 4-3 in overtime at UConn on Thursday. The Seawolves battled back from 2-0 and 3-1 deficits. UAA then won 4-0 at Long Island University on Saturday before LIU turned the tables for a 6-2 win Sunday. Seawolves forward Max Helgeson had four assists in the three games to give him 4-10—14 totals in 23 games. Also, defenseman Max Osborne of Anchorage earned his first career point, a helper, in the 4-0 win. That bagel came courtesy of Joey Lamoreaux’s 37 saves.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in men’s Division I, Alaskans have helped their teams seize conference regular-season titles.
Minnesota State-Mankato (21-12-1) earned its sixth straight MacNaughton Cup on Saturday with a last-minute 3-2 win over Michigan Tech to win the Central Collegiate Hockey Association title. The Mavericks include sophomore forwards Zach Krajnik of Eagle River (2-6—8 totals in 29 games) and Tanner Edwards of Anchorage (1-1—2 in 10 games). The Mavericks sit 15th in the Pairwise.
RIT (22-11-1) is the Atlantic Hockey regular-season champ. It includes senior forward Caleb Moretz of Fairbanks (5-9—14 in 26 games) and senior defenseman Calvon Boots of Fairbanks (5-1—6 n 23 games), who had an assist in a 5-2 win over Air Force on Saturday’s Senior Night for RIT.
And defending national champion Denver (26-8-0), which sits third in the Pairwise, is the National Collegiate Hockey Conference champ. The Pioneers are coached by David Carle of Anchorage, whose assistants are former UAF head coaches Tavis MacMillan and Dallas Ferguson, who were also star players for the Nanooks.
Also in D-I, sophomore forward Sullivan Mack of Anchorage helped Cornell (18-9-2) to a 5-0 win at Brown on Friday by scoring twice in a span of 2 minutes, 27 seconds of the third period. That’s his second two-goal game this season and gives him 6-4—10 totals in 25 games for a team that sits tied for 13th in the Pairwise.
Notre Dame sophomore center Hunter Strand of Anchorage (4-8—12 totals in 34 games) assisted on the game-winning goal in overtime to spark a 2-1 win Saturday at No. 4 Michigan. The Fighting Irish are tied for 13th in the Pairwise.
In women’s Division I, Long Island University (18-13-3) pocketed the regular-season title in the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance. The Sharks feature senior forward Mikayla Lantto of Wasilla, whose 9-8—17 totals in 32 games tie her for third on the team in goals and leave her solo fifth in points. Sophomore forward Journey Miller of Soldotna owns 1-2—3 totals in 20 games for LIU.
Bemidji State junior goaltender Hannah Hogenson, unfortunately the poster child for lack of goal support, made certain the Beavers’ agonizing season (5-30-1) came to a close with a fight. The Beavers were swept from the Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs at No. 1 Ohio State. But Hogenson stopped 41 of 44 shots in Friday’s 4-1 loss for her fourth game of 40 or more saves this season and the 11th such performance of her career. She snuffed 28 of 30 shots in Saturday’s 2-1 season-ending loss.
So, with 69 saves on 74 shots (.932 save percentage), Hogenson closed strong.
In the NEWHA tournament, seventh-seeded St. Michael’s (2-26-4) nearly pulled off a massive upset of second-seeded St. Anselm in extending the best-of-3 series to a decisive game. St. Michael’s won 4-3 on Friday to snap a 28-game winless streak (0-24-4) that dated back to Sept. 30. Former Alaska resident Angelina Ruiz scored a power-play goal off a sweet cross-slot assist from Grace Canterbury of Eagle River. St. Anselm rebounded for an 8-0 win Saturday but needed OT to secure a 3-2 win in Sunday’s Game 3.
Ruiz, a sophomore forward with 8-2—10 totals in 32 games, led the team in goals and tied for third in points. Canterbury, a sophomore forward, tied for first on the team in helpers with 1-8—9 totals in 32 games.
In men’s Division III, the end of the line this season for a few Alaskans in the SUNYAC came in tournament play Wednesday.
Fredonia (7-18-0) fell 3-0 at No. 11 Genesco. Fredonia sophomore forward Ryan Bailey of Anchorage finished first on the team in goals, points and shots on goal with 11-6—17 totals and 72 shots in 25 games. Freshman forward Ethan Pitzman of Homer tied for first on the team in assists and tied for fifth in points with 1-7—8 totals in 25 games.
The season also ended for Cortland (16-9-1) and junior forward Cameron Knowles of Kenai with a 3-2 loss to visiting Buffalo State, despite putting up a 41-15 advantage in shots. Knowles finished fourth in goals and points on the team, and fifth in assists, with 9-11—20 totals in 26 games.
If you’re wondering, “Hey, what about Alaska women in D-III?’’ we’ll cover all that in a separate story coming soon.