Nanooks defeat Seawolves, reclaim Governor’s Cup
By Tom Hewitt
Sun Star Reporter
For the Nanooks, redemption came in the form of a golden bowl a foot across.
Alaska captured the Governor’s Cup Saturday night at the Carlson Center, beating Anchorage 3-2 in a wild finish to the state’s most intense hockey rivalry. The win returned the Cup to Fairbanks after three long years of UAA ownership.
The win was particularly sweet for the team’s seniors, Dion and Brandon Knelsen, Cody Rymut, and Dustin Molle, none of whom had ever held the cup before.
“I’m really happy the guys came out and put their best effort out there. I’m really proud to be a member of this team,” Molle said after Saturday’s win. Molle’s path to the win was unique among the seniors, as he grew up in Anchorage and played as a Seawolf for the 2005-2006 season – the last year UAF won the cup – before transferring to Fairbanks.
The series got off to a high-powered start Friday, as the Nanooks rocked UAA goaltender Bryce Christianson for seven goals at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage. Usually stingy UAF goalie Scott Greenham let in four goals, but the abundance of Nanook offensive opportunities ensured the 7-4 Fairbanks win.
The Anchorage game was not without its drama for Fairbanks, however, as the Seawolves scored twice before the Nanooks answered back. “When they got those two goals early, we really needed to bounce back and bounce back quick,” said freshman wing Andy Taranto. “It was really important for us to get that next goal and with that, we were just kind of feeding off of our energy and kept making smart plays.”
The Nanooks were in control for much of Saturday’s game, but their offensive pressure didn’t translate into a big goal advantage as it had on Friday. Seawolf Kane Lafranchise followed Joe Sova’s first-period goal closely with one of his own, establishing a 1-1 tie that held until late into the third period.
In the final frame the UAF offense’s hard work paid off. Fatigued Anchorage defenders incurred penalties midway through the third period, leading to a quick goal by Brandon Knelsen. The Seawolves’ frustration quickly spread to the bench, as Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak threw a water bottle and entered the rink in a disagreement with referees. Shyiak was ejected for his shenanigans, and Dion Knelsen made Shyiak’s team pay for the outburst a few seconds later, scoring on a 5-3 power play to give the Nanooks a 3-1 lead.
UAF suffered one final scare late in Saturday’s game when referees gave Molle a five-minute major penalty for checking from behind with three and a half minutes left to play, making the team play out the rest of the game a man short. UAA quickly capitalized, scoring less than a minute later to cut their deficit to one. “It was definitely a poor decision on my part,” Molle said afterward. “I should have just backed out. I was definitely worried.”
Molle’s teammates had his back, however, holding off the Seawolves’ attack for the remainder of the game. When the final buzzer sounded, both the Nanook bench and the near-capacity crowd at the Carlson Center erupted, and fans gave the team a standing ovation for several minutes.
With their intrastate business taken care of, the Nanooks can now focus on the CCHA playoffs. UAF will host a first-round series against last-place Western Michigan this weekend, and after last year’s trip to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA Super Six tournament, the team is looking to return to Detroit. “It’s not just about getting there now. It’s about getting there and winning,” Ferguson said.
The Nanooks will return to the ice for their first-round playoff series this Friday and Saturday against Western Michigan. Both games are at the Carlson Center, with puck drop scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Team boosters are planning a reprise of last year’s playoff “White Out,” and are encouraging fans to come to the games dressed in white.
Romancing the Stone
The Governor’s Cup wasn’t the only sacred relic to change hands Saturday night. The Tradition Stone, a 385-pound monolith commemorating the one-time banning of alcohol on the UAF campus, was stolen shortly after the completion of the game.
Stealing the stone has long been a part of the “tradition” for which the stone is named, and this theft involved a familiar cast of characters. In the fall, members of the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity stole the stone from its then-keepers, a loose coalition of engineering students. Saturday the engineers returned the favor, trapping the APO members and forcing them to hand the stone over per the unofficial rules of its keeping. After the engineers had secured the stone, a car chase ensued as fraternity members attempted to trail them and recover it. The engineers eventually shook their pursuers and made good their escape on the outskirts of town.
Though tempers ran high during the theft and subsequent chase, the fraternity members were philosophical about its loss. “Never again do I want to have any part of the stone,” said student Jessica Angelette, who prior to the theft was part of a group who rode around the arena with the stone. “It’s like the lottery… it’s cool until you win.”
UAF Alumna and former Sun Star Editor-in-Chief Kortnie Westfall contributed to this report.