DENVER, Colo. – The Alaska Nanooks pulled off a major upset of the top-ranked team in the USCHO.com Poll, the Denver Pioneers. Denver entered the night ranked No. 1 in the USCHO.com Poll and No. 2 in the USA Hockey Poll.
The 'Nooks used a pair of power-play goals and a late empty-net goal to secure the 3-1 at Magness Arena, their first win on the road in Denver in program history. It wasn't until the second period for either side to get on the board after skating to a 0-0 tie in the first period. 3:21 into the second, Justin Lee was whistled for a five-minute major boarding call following a hit along the boards on Cade Neilson. The 'Nooks went on their first power play of the night and they made the most of it.
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Jonny Sorenson broke the 0-0 tie 3:58 into the second with a snipe from the high-slot, just outside the faceoff circle, making it 1-0. T.J. Lloyd and Brady Risk were credited with the assists on the first goal. "We had a great plan coming into the weekend with how to attack their penalty kill and Lloyd did a great job of getting the puck over to me and I was able to get a shot through." Said Sorenson after the game. It took only 2:32 later for the Nanooks to tally another. This time it was Brady Risk redirecting a shot from Lloyd in front of the net to make it 2-0 giving Lloyd his second assist and point of the game as well as Sorenson his second point of the game as the secondary assist.
Massimo Rizzo got one back for Denver on the power play with 3:07 remaining in the second. Mike Benning and Aidan Thompson found Rizzo for a one-timer that beat Matt Radomsky through the body, making it 2-1.
In the third, Radomsky stopped all five shots Denver put on goal and kept them off the board including a save on a 2-on-1 opportunity by the Pioneers with a blocker save. 19:14.1 into the third, Garrett Pyke played the puck off a faceoff win and found the back of the empty net from about 150 away, closing the door on a Denver comeback and making it a 3-1 Nanooks victory. Radomsky ended the night with 19 saves on 20 shots, posting a .950 save percentage.
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Head coach Erik Largen had this to say following the win at Denver, "The guys played really well tonight. I'm proud of their effort and competitiveness. The challenge will be to replicate the same effort tomorrow against a very good team."
This is the first win over a top-ranked opponent since Alaska beat Minnesota State on Feb. 13, 2015 (1-0).
These two teams meet up one more time tomorrow night at 4:00 p.m. in Denver, Colo.