Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Blue/Gold Gives Glimpse of Things to Come

I have to say, the new media guy at the athletic department--Chris Caskey for those that don't know--is pretty stellar. I'm going to cut the corners of the recap and let him have those honors...

But what a scrimmage. Pretty close despite a 2-0 final score. All three goalies looked pretty good. Both goals were scored on Keeney, but he settled down afterwards and made some good saves. Both goals though were great individual efforts, but Keeney wanted the goal from Huysmans back... A bit of a breakaway, and a great shot to sneak it inside the right goal post over Keeney's shoulder--a shot from the opposite side.

But Nolan Huysmans came back to play. He's back with some serious speed and skill. You can tell he's put a lot of time in to boost his game... Same with Peter Krieger. I expected more from the USHL scoring stud last season, but he lacked some speed. Certainly has the skill, but now he's got some more speed to go with it. Early prediction - Peter Krieger-Tyler Morley-Nolan Huysmans is the top line going into the season. If Dallas sees this though, he might change it to spite me (or balance out other lines...), but those three together--even if just on the power play--could be scary good.

What a return for Justin Woods too. As soon as his name was announced, the Fairbanks native was greeted with a rousing ovation. Touching, really. Shows how much this community really cares for its own.

As far as the recruits go, John Mullally is the real deal. Truth be told, I haven't had a lot of time to dig into the research on these guys to see how they would play. And during the scrimmage with all that was going on for me in the box, note taking was at a minimum as well. But Mullally really stood out, not just because of his goal (which was a good shot from just inside the circle) but because of his presence. He has some of that Cody Kunyk-esque flair for seeing the ice. I made that comparison a couple of times throughout the evening. Ryker Leer also struck a few chords with grit and tenacity. Jesse Jenks looks quite good between the pipes too, but I think it's David Jones' job to lose at this point.

But I bet all three of the tendys will see some action this Sunday, athe boys get to beat up on someone other than themselves hopefully.

Mt. Royal University out of Calgary, Alberta is a very large school. Just shy of 40 thousand enrolled students, they've got some great resources as an educational institution. Working for UAF myself, I find that I take a lot of the things UAF has to offer for granted. Mt. Royal's Bisset School of Business is highly regarded, as is their aviation program. However, they do not offer any graduate level programs.

On the ice thus far, they're just coming off a two-game exhibition series against the familiar Northern Alberta Institute of Technology including a 5-4 OT win, and a 8-4 loss. From what I can tell, they play with speed and have some tenacity. Looks like defense is lacking a bit, but they can score goals.

The Cougars take on the Seapups in Soldotna (of all places) on Friday. Saturday, Mt Royal will spend all day on a bus to make it up here for Sunday. Should make for some fresh legs... Be sure to check for the game on the new I just got my subscription for the year, I'm pretty excited to see how it turns out.

I heard the video quality from the Blue/Gold game was good, but the audio feed was not. Trust me, even the crowd at the game couldn't even understand the PA for most of the night. Talking to Bruce Cech, they didn't have a direct line from him over to the media table either, so they relied on some short run FM transmitters to make it happen. It worked, but not incredibly well. The Carlson Center is of course much better equipped. I imagine it may take some time on Sunday to get things sorted out with the new provider, but the techies do a good job getting those kinks straightened.

I'm quite ready for the season though. Amped even. GO 'NOOKS

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Boys Are Back - Welcome to 2015-2016 Nanook Hockey

Well, that was a long hiatus. I hate coming here and not finding anything new to read. But I suppose that's my own fault. The good news is though, hockey is here and so is the blog! You may notice the new theme - while last years theme was nice and customizable for the readers, I felt it was too... blah. So new year, new design.

It's been a long time coming...

The summer was great, but the snow is here and its time to get things rolling. In fact, tonight is the annual Face Off Club Blue/Gold Scrimmage. Some big changes are afoot this year. First off, at the Carlson Center, the news spread like wildfire that the entire west side of the building--both upper and lower sections--will allow beer and wine in your seats. As the athletic department was in a renegotiation year with the Borough and SMG for its use of the Carlson Center for hockey, the topic came up and is actually going to end up saving the athletic department money. The department will not directly receive the revenue of the sale of alcohol--doing so would require a lot more paperwork--the Carlson Center will be deducting the nightly lease rate each weekend by the total volume in alcohol sales dollar-for-dollar. And this isn't going to be just your typical run-of-the-mill domestic beers and wines, the Carlson Center will feature microbrews from Alaska and other breweries around the country on a rotating basis, as well as select wines from popular vineyards including Bear Creek. The food situation is changing around this as a result too. There will be a "Beer and Brats" corner where the Nachos place was last year, the Nachos will move back to where they were. The former beer garden on ice level will become a bit of a food court for fans to get food when they come in the door before they go to their seats. Should improve a lot of the timing issues fans had last year.

There is also the addition of a box seat section on the north wall of the building below the alumni banners at ice level, which will offer full bar service, and a dedicated wait staff. Money raised from the box seat sales will go to the Nanook Hockey Alumni and their fundraising efforts for the team.

Also of major note, the WCHA as a league changed vendors for (THANK YOU!), going away from AmericaOne/Eversport and instead going with Stretch Internet. Having used Stretch before for some of the other Nanook sports, they're very stable and a good quality stream. I have not seen a High Definition feed through Stretch at this point yet, so I hope the quality there is up to snuff for what the league promised its members two years ago when the schools were required to purchase an exorbitant list of high dollar camera and production equipment. The best news about this though is the service is a bit cheaper. Not quite as cheap as NCHC, but you also get the ability two watch up to four games simultaneously. Along with seamless game switching and full on-demand. You can buy a single game for $7.99, or an all-day pass for all WCHA games for $9.99. There are season passes to follow your team for $89.99/year, or a league season pass for $129.99/year that covers all league games, as well as non-conference home games and postseason for all WCHA teams.

The Athletic Department will use Stretch for the Blue/Gold Scrimmage tonight for free from the Patty Ice Arena. Understand ahead of time that this will not be fully indicative of the quality as the equipment at the Patty is not on par by any stretch of the imagination to the equipment at the Carlson Center.

As for the Blue/Gold Game itself, it starts at 7:07PM, doors open at 6:00PM. $10 for adults, $5 for kids 12-under, or $30 for a family of 4 or more.

Image courtesy Chris Caskey,
There you have it, folks. This season's captains headed up by senior forward Tyler Morley. A guy that needs no introduction, but finished last season with a career high 37 points throughout the season, as well 33 points in WCHA action--second best in the league.

Alec Hajdukovich, also entering his senior season developed into a force to be reckoned with as the season progressed last year. The setup that Duke served to Josh Erickson last season for the game winning goal of the final game last season against Anchorage still counts as one of my favorite plays of the season. It wasn't intentional--a puck intelligently chipped from the boards to the front of the net find's the stick of Erickson for the goal. Plays like that are what it takes to win in this league.

J.D. Peterson has returned to the team this year as a ripped monster. Every year, Mike Curtin--perhaps better known as MC--puts the guys through a gauntlet of strength and conditioning tests at the beginning of each season. The final test is a group of three max lifts--bench press, power clean, and squat. All three must be done within two hours of the first. The score is the combined weight which determines the annual strong man award. In 2003, Kelly Czuy set the program record at 1,001 lbs. J.D. tied that record. He means business for his final year in a Nanook sweater.

The final alternate is the only  non-senior of the bunch. Sophomore Zach Frye returns this season with the hope to step up the offensive side of his game to help close the gap left by departing NHLer Colton Parayko (watch for him to make the Blues roster this season). Zach was the captain of the Lincoln Stars in his final year of USHL action before joining the Nanooks last season. His leadership role off the ice and in the classroom is apparent. Zach posted a 4.0 GPA his first semester and made the UAF Chancellor's honor list.

The team's first full practice this week was full of energy. The team had some jump in their step and fundamentals appeared a bit more solid than I remember from years past. Passing was pretty on point, and the coaching staff was already working the team through situational drills by the end of the first hour. I didn't stay for the whole duration, but all appeared to be running well. Notably absent though was Shawn Hochhausen. The would-be Junior skated in every game for the Nanooks last year. Not sure what prevented him from coming back this season. Also departing was Jared Linnell, & Matt Friese, who I had heard left on their own terms. Matt Friese got married this summer. But I haven't heard what Jared is up to.

The goaltending situation this season is bound to see some change. Last season, time was nearly evenly split between Sean Cahill and Davis Jones. Cahill posted the better numbers while Jones technically had a slightly better record. With Cahill graduating (with honors, mind you) that leaves some big time to fill. Jones looked like he was getting the starters reps in practice, although John Keeney looks sharp as well. Jesse Jenks, the incoming freshman the coaches have praised, has the size and poise to compete for the job as well. Will there be a perennial starter?

Look for the first real report tomorrow as we get to break down the teams first look at real "game action" in the scrimmage tonight. Of course I intend for all of you to attend or watch from home if you're out of town. Certainly comment here with how well the Stretch stream works. I hope it runs smoothly! Your's truly will be the on-ice PA announcer again this year. It's time for some fun!

Go 'Nooks!

2015-2016 Alaska Nanooks Roster
(by class)

Freshmen (8)
2 Jack Weiss, D (Rio Grande Valley-NAHL)
4 Jordan Burns, D (Salmon Arm-BCHL)
5 Nikolas Koberstein (MTL, 2014 5th Rd.), D (Bloominton-USHL)
18 John Mullally, LW (Whitecourt-AJHL)
23 Ryker Leer, LW (Camrose-AJHL)
25 Chad Staley, C (Prince George-BCHL)
26 Jasen Fernsler, C (Topeka-NAHL)
29 Jesse Jenks, G (Prince George-BCHL)

Sophomores (7)
6 (A) Zach Frye, D (Lincoln-USHL)
12 Nick Hinz, D (Fairbanks-NAHL)
13 Austin Vieth, C/LW (Waterloo-USHL)
16 Tayler Munson, C/RW (Fairbanks-NAHL)
17 Kyle Froese, D (Corpus Christi-NAHL)
20 Peter Krieger, C/LW (Waterloo-USHL)
28 Colton Sparrow, C/LW (Vernon-BCHL)

Juniors (5)
7 Josh Erickson, LW (Sioux City-USHL)
8 Justin Woods, D (Fairbanks-NAHL, Lincoln-USHL)
9 Marcus Basara, RW (West Kelowna-BCHL)
14 Brandon Morley, LW (Coquitlam-BCHL)
30 Davis Jones, G (Nipawin-SJHL)

Seniors (6)
10 (A) J.D. Peterson, D (Communication)
11 (A) Alec Hajdukovich, RW (Business Administration)
22 Josh Atkinson, D (Finance, Accounting)
24 Nolan Huysmans, RW (Business Administration)
27 (C) Tyler Morley, C (Business Administration)
39 John Keeney, G (Business Administration

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nanooks Sweep, Bring Home Governor's Cup for 6th Straight Time

What a weekend. So incredibly proud of the guys for overcoming adversity, coming into Anchorage down 2-0 in the series and getting a sweep in their barn and a shootout win to keep the hardware where it belongs. 

Game 2 was incredibly fun to watch tonight as the Nanooks dropped the hammer and set the tone in the 1st period, outshooting the Seawolves 20-5 in the first stanza. But with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, it remained a one shot game into the second period. 

Zach Frye was confined to the penalty box for the first 1:57 of the second due to a checking from behind minor in front of the Nanook net. A good penalty in my mind as the Seawolves would have had a 2 on 0 opportunity after forcing a turnover on the forecheck. The Nanooks were holding the Seawolves power play at bay when Brandon Morley made a great play to chip the puck out of the zone. He got the first read on it and made a B-Line (see what I did there...) to the offensive zone to retrieve it. He collected it behind the goal line and found Tayler Munson to break the scoreless tie whilst shorthanded.

Just over a minute later, Krieger won the draw over to Munson after he got waved out of the faceoff circle. Got the puck over to the far side point to Trevor Campbell who made a nice read of the traffic in front and sent the puck through which took a fortunate bounce off the skate of UAA forward Blake Lease before finding the twine. 

The 3rd Nanooks goal tonight is probably my favorite of the weekend. With about 5 and a half to play in the 2nd, Alec Hajdukovich goes on a forechecking rampage. He picked off an outlet pass on the breakout, and then forced another turnover before making a nice feed to Erickson who realizes he has time in the slot and rips it home top shelf, all they up by the Thin Mints.  Up 3-rip at this point, things were looking pretty good for the guys in blue. Cahill had some seriously good saves this weekend. Including a snaring glove on a desperation jump to close the back door on a chance by Cameron in the 2nd. 

But UAA would finally crack the scoreless draught 95 minutes and 43 seconds into this weekend series. Tad Kozun would be the benefactor of being in the right place at the right time, collecting a rebound off of an Austin Azurdia shot to put UAA on the board for the first time of the weekend. 

Then Azurdia would make things a bit interesting as he took a shot from the weirdest angle and find its way in. I didn't see the shot from about 140 feet away amidst all the bodies, but it definitely went in. 

The Seawolves tried to keep coming too, but the Nanooks stymied nearly every entry attempt, and picked off several passes in the latter stages of the 3rd period to not even give them a sniff at the goal as the clock expired. 

But the Governor's Cup is still to be determined by the ensuing shootout. A feat which has now occurred 7 times in the history of the trophy. The Seawolves used their advantage to shoot first, which Tad Kozun rang off the left goal post. Tyler Morley cashed in on a great deke past Mantha for ultimately the championship winner as Cahill came up big on the final two shooters, including senior Scott Allen who had to score to keep it going, which Cahill promptly denied as the festivities ensued. Including Colton Parayko charging his own goaltender. Feet came off the ice, by all accounts a 5 minute major. But instead he'll hoist the Governor's Cup for the 6th straight time. 

This weekend marks the first time the Nanooks have swept the Seawolves in Anchorage as far back as the history books online allow me to search, also yesterday was the first time in 10 years the Nanooks have shutout the Seawolves in their barn. 

To our seniors, thank you immensely for leading this team through the season. With the sanctions, it would have been very easy to write this season off with nothing to play for.  But you didn't. Through all of the ups and downs, you guys lead this team to an 8 game unbeaten streak, the longest in the entire country to close out the season and end your careers. Playoffs or not, you're leaving as champions. 

To Colton Parayko, please stay. If the Blues call and you head to the show, I won't be upset. But I can only imagine what next year holds with you still patrolling the 'Nooks blue line. 

And to my wife, thank you so much for this trip. Best birthday present a guy can ask for. 

I will post some of the amazing photos I've seen tomorrow, and will be taking a few weeks hiatus before my final write up of the season. 

From the runway in Fairbanks, GO 'NOOKS!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fox 7 and Alumni Game

For those that didn't see my Tweet last night, GCI is having some apparent issues in their broadcast studio in Anchorage. As a result, they are unable to feed the game live to Fairbanks so Fox 7 is tape delaying the game tonight at 10PM.

Also, the UAF/UAA Alumni game will be played today at 2PM at Sullivan Arena. Free to watch, free to park. Should be a fun time swing old faces play some puck. This game rotates every year, so next year the bout will return to Fairbanks. I don't recall who won last year, but I do recall broken glass and a shootout. So there's that.