FAIRBANKS, Alaska - A game-tying goal by sophomore Anthony Nellis with 3:11 remaining in regulation finished a two-goal third period comeback by Lake Superior State on Saturday night at Alaska in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series finale. After the sides played the mandated NCAA five-on-five overtime, freshman Luke Morgan scored unassisted with 2:31 remaining in the WCHA three-on-three overtime to give LSSU the extra point in the league standings.
The Lakers (11-15-6, 8-12-5 WCHA) trailed by two goals midway through the first period after a pair of early strikes by Alaska. Josh Erikson opened the scoring 3:12 into play with a wrist shot that beat Gordon Defiel over the glove, off the crossbar and into the net for a 1-0 lead. The Nanooks (10-18-4, 9-13-4 WCHA) claimed a 2-0 lead just over five minutes later on a goal by Justin Woods, assisted by Kylar Hope.
Less than two minutes after the second Nanooks goal, junior forward J.T. Henke answered back with a goal for the Lakers to cut the deficit in half, 2-1. Henke's tally, his 10th of the season, at 10:17 of the first period was assisted by junior Aidan Wright and Morgan.
Five minutes after Henke's goal, the Nanooks struck again with a tally by Tyler Cline to regain a two-goal lead. Cline's goal, assisted by Zach Frye and Chad Staley, put UAF ahead 3-1 with 4:37 remaining in the first period.
LSSU held an 11-8 advantage in shots on goal after the first period and went unsuccessful in one power-play opportunity during the opening 20 minutes.
The second period featured two penalties from each team and the Lakers, again, claimed the lead in total shots on goal. After two periods, the Lakers still trailed 3-1 but took 1:19 of power-play time into the final frame.
Shortly after the penalty time from Brandon Morley's second-period infraction had expired, freshman Max Humitz scored to draw the Lakers back to within a goal of the Nanooks. Freshman Collin Saccoman registered an assist for the second consecutive game and Henke logged his second point of the night with the helping hands on the goal by Humitz.
Moments later with the Lakers on a power play, a dangerous hit from behind by Erikson on Wright resulted in a five-minute major and game misconduct for the Nanooks goal scorer. The penalty to Ericson set up a 5-on-3 advantage for LSSU, but that was quickly negated with a quick whistle 32 seconds later on Matt McArdle. No goals were scored during the five minutes of penalty time to Erikson and the Nanooks continued to lead 3-2 with under five minutes left in regulation.
With 3:11 remaining, an offensive zone faceoff to the right of UAF netminder Davis Jones was won by Henke back to Nellis. The sophomore forward caught Jones off guard with a quick wrist shot and tied the game at three goals apiece.
The sides played through the rest of the third period and the NCAA overtime period scoreless for the official tie, despite LSSU claiming a 42-27 advantage in shots on goal.
Morgan quickly ended things with an unassisted goal in the three-on-three overtime period with a goal, 2:31 into the five-minute period. On the play, Morgan bumped his man off the puck at the blue line, kept the offensive-zone possession and wheeled back into the center of the ice. After dipping past one defender, Morgan let fly a backhand shot that beat Jones to give the Lakers two points in the conference table.
The goal by Morgan does not count towards official statistics, however, the Brighton, Michigan native finished the night with an assist for his 11th point in the last eight games for the Lakers.
Henke led the Lakers in total points with three after scoring a goal and adding two assists. With three points on the night, Henke now leads the Lakers with 30 points on 10 goals and 20 assists in 32 games this season.
Defiel backstopped the Lakers with 24 saves on the night while Jones made 39 saves for the Nanooks.
With two points in the conference standings, the Lakers jumped ahead to sole possession of seventh place, a point behind Alaska in sixth and two points ahead of eighth-place Northern Michigan.
The Lakers conclude the regular season next Friday and Saturday (Feb. 24-25) at home against Ferris State. The Bulldogs enter the final weekend of the season five points ahead of the Lakers in a tie with Bowling Green for fourth place.