BOWLING GREEN - Alaska Fairbanks made the longest road trip in America for last night's hockey game at the Bowling Green State University Ice Arena. And the Nanooks did not cover that 2,973 miles for nothing - they came to play.
Fairbanks scored two goals in the first 13 seconds of its Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoff game against the Falcons, and rolled to a 6-3 win in the first game of a best-of-three series.
"There's no question that's not the ideal way to start a hockey game," Bowling Green coach Scott Paluch said. "I think the first 15 seconds really had a lot to do with the tempo of the game. Fairbanks really built on that start."
The puck jumped into the BG zone on the opening faceoff and Ryan McLeod tracked it down and flipped a back-handed shot past BG goalie Jordan Sigalet just five seconds into the game. It was the fastest goal in CCHA playoff history.
Eight seconds later, Bowling Green got crossed up in front of its own net as the puck came off the boards, and McLeod angled across in front of Sigalet and knocked in another goal for a 2-0 lead.
"There wasn't any time to actually do anything in terms of making a play," Paluch said. "It was two loose pucks that turned into goals."
Sigalet had held Fairbanks to just three goals in two games when the Nanooks visited the Ice Arena in January - both BG wins. The Nanooks kept the pressure on this time, and made it 3-0 just over three minutes into the game when Kelly Czuy led a rush out of the Bowling Green end and chased down the puck, then faked once before flipping it past Sigalet.
"I liked our start, and that was my biggest concern," Fairbanks coach Tavis MacMillan said. "The last time we were down here, BG really took it to us."
Alex Foster got Bowling Green's first goal about seven minutes into the game when the puck came out of contact near center ice, and he had the momentum to beat the Fairbanks defensemen, and then poke it by goalie Wylie Rogers.
The Nanooks added two goals in the second period to stretch the lead to 5-1, and Paluch said it was apparent Fairbanks was playing with a lot of confidence.
"They made some great plays early, they were really quick on pucks, they were extra physical, and they were winning a lot of puck battles," Paluch said. "We created some offense and had a few chances, but we just never sustained the offense we needed to get our entire game going."
Fairbanks' Curtis Fraser made it a 6-1 game with a power-play goal early in the third period, and the Falcons got goals from Jonathan Matsumoto and Ben Geelan before it ended.
Bowling Green, playing its first home playoff series in 10 years, has not won this tournament since the 1987-88 season, Paluch's senior year with the Falcons as a player. In the best-of-three format, the Falcons are clearly out of options and must win tonight's game to force a series finale tomorrow afternoon.
"In the big picture, this is just one game," Alaska Fairbanks coach MacMillan said. "It's just so far from over. The next game is going to be so much harder than this one."
Sigalet had 24 saves for BG in the first two periods, while Jon Horrell added eight and played the final period. Fairbanks goalie Wylie had 28 saves.
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