Whereâ€™s the one place that you can find the Pope, Abe Lincoln, and a Care Bear together?
At a Halloween night hockey game between the Miami RedHawks and the Alaska Nanooks. In a battle of the CCHAâ€™s top defense and one of the conferenceâ€™s top offensive squads, the RedHawks came up short against Alaska in the teamâ€™s second home game of the season.
Miami had been playing like an unstoppable force, scoring 21 goals in just six games and only losing once (not including shootouts) at Vermont. Coming off of a sweep of conference rival Notre Dame, the RedHawks knew they were facing a tough team in Alaska.
â€œYouâ€™ve got to give credit to Alaska,â€ said Miami head coach Enrico Blasi. â€œThey came out and they took it to us, and we didnâ€™t have an answer, especially early. They deserved to win the game and thereâ€™s not much to say about that.â€
The Nanooks have been playing like an immovable object all season long, having allowed just five goals in their six games leading up to Friday nightâ€™s showdown. The goaltending tandem of senior Chad Johnson and freshman Scott Greenham have blanked opponents three times, and Greenham hasnâ€™t allowed a goal all season long.
The netminding was on par the entire game and the Nanooks were able to strike first with a goal at the 10:55 mark. Junior Dion Knelsen scored the Alaska goal. Knelsenâ€™s goal was unassisted.
Knelsen is one of Alaskaâ€™s top offensive players. The young junior, born in January of 1989, was the teamâ€™s number-two scorer last year and has been making plays all season long, having three goals and four assists in seven games. Heâ€™s considered to be Alaskaâ€™s top offensive player.
The nightâ€™s rowdy Halloween crowd was no help for the RedHawks. Although they were ready to go the second the puck was dropped at the start of the game, Alaska was able to overpower the Red and White, outplaying them for the majority of the game.
Fans had lined up for as long as three hours before game time to get a seat to the Nanooks first game at the Steve Cady Arena at the Goggin Ice Center since their stunning upset of then No. 1 Miami last season. Once again though Miami fans were disappointed as their seventh-ranked Miami squad was upset once again by the visiting Nanooks 2-1.
â€œOur performance today wasnâ€™t very good,â€ said Blasi, â€œAlaskaâ€™s was; they deserved to win.â€
A bizarre event occurred at the end of the first period. With almost two minutes left in the frame the glass at the Zamboni entrance shattered after a player hit it at an odd angle. Both teams entered the first intermission early and the officials played the remaining minute and 46 seconds before having a two minute break before the start of the second period.
Knelsen was able to score again and give the Nanooks a two goal lead, silencing the crowd at the Goggin. Knelsenâ€™s second goal was a team effort as Knelsen took an assist from his brother Brandon Knelsen.
With under 10 minutes left in the second period, it looked as if Gary Steffes had brought Miami within a single goal of Alaska when his shot ricocheted off the inside of the post behind Johnson. After allowing play to continue through the next stoppage, the referees decided to review the play. After taking a second look the officials concluded that their initial call was indeed correct and the Nanooks remained up by two.
One thing that stood out in the game was Alaskaâ€™s ability to keep the RedHawks from scoring on the power play. All year Miami has capitalized on power play opportunities and they are the best team in the CCHA in regards to special teams play. Alaska didnâ€™t commit many penalties, and when they did were excellent on the power play and only allowed the RedHawks one power-play goal on six tries.
After a surprisingly calm second period, in which the Nanooks maintained their lead over the RedHawks. A dominant defensive performance topped the bill through two periods as the tough Nanooks were playing their hearts out against a heavily favored Miami.
The RedHawks were finally able to get on the board under a minute into the first period. Jarod Palmer put in the power play goal off of assists by freshman Chris Wideman and sophomore Carter Camper. Unfortunately it was not enough. With a minute left to play the RedHawks pulled their goalie in an act of desperation, but even with the extra man on the ice, coach Dallas Fergusonâ€™s squad proved to be too much for the RedHawks.
â€œOne thing we take pride in is our ability in our own zone,â€ said Ferguson. â€œ We worked them from our end to the other end. We did a good job of doing the things we wanted to do both defensively and in the offensive zone. I wish we had been more aggressive, but when Miamiâ€™s puck was in our zone we did a good job of keeping them away from rebounds and getting rebounds ourselves.â€
The RedHawks will certainly be looking to come out stronger on Saturday in game two of this weekend clash in Oxford.