March 16, 2009

FAIRBANKS, AK - For the third time in program history, the Alaska Nanooks are going to the Joe. With a season-high 43-save performance from senior net-minder and Hobey Baker candidate Chad Johnson and a timely goal from rookie winger Ron Meyers, the Nanooks punched their tickets to Motor City next weekend with a 1-0 shutout of Ohio State to clinch the best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series.

In a do-or-die situation for both Alaska and OSU, the two opponents went toe-to-toe in a tightly contested and hard fought battle. The Buckeyes came out gunning and outshot the Nanooks 17-7 in the first period but both Johnson and Dustin Carlson were sharp turning aside all attacks. The teams finished the first 20 minutes of play without a score or a penalty.

The second period saw much of the same as OSU continued to lay on the throttle offensively pouring 16 more shots on Johnson to the Nanooks eight against Carlson. Alaska's Ryan Hohl assessed the first infraction of the game at 8:19, but the Nanooks and their netminder held strong.

Heading into the third period with a pair of zeros on the scoreboard, the Nanooks managed to turn it up a notch offensively. They outshot the Buckeyes 11-10 in the final frame and saw their hard work finally pay off with just 50 seconds remaining in the game. A pass from below OSU's goal line from Ron Meyers that was intended for a pair of his linemates streaking towards the goal hit the back of Carlson's left pad and found its way between his legs where it trickled past him. The red light signaled the deciding tally and sent the "Whiteout" garbed and towel-clad fans into an uproar. Meyers' classmate Joe Sova assisted on the game-winning goal.

With a final act of desperation, OSU pulled Carlson for the remainder of the contest, but they could not solve the country's top defensive unit nor Johnson.

The Blue and Gold will face the Michigan Wolverines Friday night at 8:05 p.m. Eastern Time at Joe Louis Arena in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association semifinals. They last played in the home of the Red Wings in the 2005 Super Six, when they beat Northern Michigan, lost to Michigan and then topped Michigan State for third place. Their only previous trip to the Joe was in 2002 when they lost to the Buckeyes 6-5 in overtime.

As a part of the CCHA Championships weekend, the Nanooks will also attend the conference's Grammy-style awards banquet Thursday night at Detroit's Fox Theatre, where Johnson, Trevor Hyatt and first-year head coach Dallas Ferguson are all up for several league honors.