FAIRBANKS — The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team wasn’t ready for what hit them.
Although the Nanooks played inspired hockey during the second and third periods, their resurgence wasn’t enough against Western Collegiate Hockey Association rival North Michigan University, which beat them 5-3 on Friday at the Carlson Center.
The visiting Wildcats, who entered this weekend’s two-game series ranked 20th in the College Hockey Online poll of NCAA Division I teams, dominated the first period. They held a 15-4 advantage in shots on goal, and went to the locker room with a 2-1 lead after 20 minutes of action.
Alaska recovered at the start of the second period, however, NMU responded with three straight goals on its way to a victory.
“We didn’t come out ready to play in the first period,” Nanooks interim head coach Lance West said. “It’s frustrating and disappointing. I thought we watched the game for the first 20 minutes as a team, and that was extremely disappointing to me. Moral victories and battling don’t mean anything to me right now.
“You have to show up and play 60 minutes of hockey and we didn’t do that tonight.”
The Wildcats (7-4 overall, 5-2 WCHA) were led by senior co-captain Robbie Payne. The defenseman from Gaylord, Michigan, finished with three goals, though it was his second of the night that sparked an NMU scoring spree.
Only 38 seconds after Alaska (3-8-2 overall, 1-4-1-1 WCHA) sophomore Ross Heidt tied the game at 2 at the 4:46 mark of the second period, Payne answered by beating UAF sophomore goaltender Anton Martinsson for a second time.
With a 3-2 lead, the Wildcats kept the pressure on as sophomore Darien Craighead found the back of the net 8:30 into the second period before Payne tallied his hat trick with a power-play goal at 11:55.
“He just scores big goals for us,” NMU head coach…