Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Been Quite a Year

I honestly really hate that I haven't had a chance to put anything up here at all in nearly a year. So much of my time has been wrapped up in fundraising efforts with the Face Off Club (throwback jerseys, anyone?), work, travel, and helping out my wife while she finishes graduate school. Here's to hoping that her Master's degree becomes my meal ticket and she can be my sugar momma and I can study and write about hockey all day long. And watch hockey. Maybe that seems a bit like a pipe dream...

But here we are, heading into the final week of the regular season. The Nanooks finish off their showing at home with a less than stellar 5-8-1-0 season record. The LSSU series was an interesting one. Tempers flared in the first game, ending with 115 penalty minutes being assessed after a skirmish broke out during the handshake line, infamously highlighted by the Nanooks 3rd string goalie Niko DellaMaggiore earning a game DQ for facemasking, and LSSU equipment manager Paul Prucha crossing the line and shoving Nanooks' captain Brandon Morley. Neither of which should have happened, but the latter being completely inexcusable.

Nevertheless, four out of a possible six points to close out the home schedule isn't a bad run, neither is going 2-1-1 this season against LSSU when the conference point standings are coming down to the wire and LSSU finishing their season at home against Ferris State.

Speaking of conference standings, lets take a peak at what those look like entering the final weekend.

  PTSW-L-T GPGF-GA
1Bemidji State6119-5-2 2668-41
2Michigan Tech5114-6-6 2674-52
3Minnesota State4814-8-4 2686-65
4Ferris State3811-12-3 2671-69
 Bowling Green3812-13-1 2670-65
6Alaska349-13-4 2661-80
7Lake Superior328-12-6 2673-80
8Northern Michigan319-14-3 2662-69
9Alabama-Huntsville309-14-3 2668-86
10Alaska-Anchorage266-14-6 2648-74
Courtesy of CollegeHockeyNews.com

Nobody can catch Bemidji, they've already wrapped up the MacNaughton Cup. Michigan Tech closes out with a home-and-home against Northern Michigan, and can fend off Mankato if they're able to muster at least 4 points due to Mankato owning a 2-1-1 head to head advantage. But MTU or the Mavericks will end up hosting the first round in either 2nd or 3rd place. The last playoff spot rides on Ferris State, Bowling Green, or the Nanooks. Bowling Green hosts a desperate UAH team, and Ferris goes on the road to the Lakers, which has about the highest seeding implications among all of the series this weekend.

The Nanooks have statistically the most favorable match-up against the last-place Seawolves. I think we all know that we can toss the records out the window here, but ACC can finish no better than 8th place with 32 points - and that's wholly dependent on Northern Michigan getting 0 points and UAH getting only 1 this weekend as the Seawolves lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both teams, including LSSU, who already sits at 32 points.

The Nanooks sit in a much better spot. With a potential six point weekend, and a Bulldog and Falcon meltdown, the Nanooks could host a first round playoff series in fourth place. Regardless of how things shake out here, the Nanooks are 1-0-1 against FSU, so the tiebreaker here comes to conference wins. Should the Nanooks sweep, and Ferris get swept both teams would end up with 11 conference wins and the Nanooks would win the tie breaker due to the head to head matchup. The only way the Nanooks can leap BG is a  sweep against Anchorage, the rest of that fate lies in the hands of the UAH Chargers.

Most of this what-if-nonsense is best/worst case figures. All of the variance and splits introduce a whole other world of probability that I'll leave to Geof Morris to help figure out. Of course numbers mean very little after the puck is dropped...

On that note, a lot of eyes will be watching these games this weekend. The Nanooks have hoisted the Governor's cup seven consecutive times now. Just to put that into perspective, Nanook rookies Troy Van Tetering and Tristan Thompson were still in the 7th grade the last time that trophy lived in Anchorage. Broadening that out, the Nanooks have won 12 of the last 15.

The Nanooks don't have much of a scoring threat to worry about except for Mason Mitchell (who I will attest for being a stellar human being, he really is. Despite his school choice). A few guys have a few more points than he does, but he is the team's lone 10 goal scorer, double that of the next closest guy. Matt Anholt has broken the 20 point mark, which bests any Nanook player thus far. But beyond the top four Seawolf scorers, the stats take a bit of a dive to 9 points. The Nanooks have 10 players with 10 or more points to their credit, which will be needed to crack Mantha, assuming he starts.

The Nanooks have been playing quite well since their eye-opening weekend in South Bend. Despite running into Tolvanen in the middle of his hot streak, our guys were making all of the right plays to get in scoring position. This weekend is going to be about controlling the transition game and limiting Anchorage's offensive zone possession time.

I have no doubt that Nanook fans will show up in droves this weekend to the Sullivan. There will be a bus load of students, and I've heard "See you in Anchorage" countless times since Saturday. This should be a fun one.

Go 'Nooks! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Impact of a Player

Before I get this going, I have to get something off my chest...

WOOOOOO!!!!! 7 IN A ROW BABY! 3-0-1 AGAINST ACC CONSTITUTES A WINNING SEASON IN MY BOOK!

...

OK, on to some analysis.


On the last road trip, the Nanooks faced a tough Michigan Tech team just after splitting with an equally talented Bowling Green team at home. The Nanooks found themselves in a hole early by 4 goals. Enter Davis Jones... The Nanooks responded, and with a vengeance. With the game tied 5-5 late in the 3rd, the game ended in the final minute with Michigan Tech netting the game winner. Next night, the Nanooks weathered quite a few storms, which might be an understatement. Davis Jones was on fire, and came up with 48 saves on 51 shots, with the last shot being the OT game winner for MTU.

But the Nanooks had some offensive success. With 10 goals in 4 games, the Nanooks 2.5 goals per game average was the highest it has been since just after the winter break. A time when I had hoped the Nanooks offense would get them over the hump and get the season turned around.


Then Tyler Morley gets hurt.

The teams leader, leading scorer, and a guy who simply makes others around him better goes down, and the team's struggles continue. Now I'm not saying the team struggled without him in the lineup. Sure, losing your leading goal scorer hurts, but there's 24 other guys active on the roster to get the job done.

And in those 4 games, the Nanooks put on their best showing, despite a 1-3-0 record to show for it.

And then Captain Morley returns for the Nanooks in resounding fashion in a win-and-in playoff situation coupled with an opportunity against the arch rival Seawolves to not only retain the Governor's Cup for a 7th straight year. But to also keep them out of the playoffs in the process.

And with a 4 point weekend, Captain Morley said ACC would not put their fingers on the cup, nor even get a sniff at the playoffs for a second straight year. With the Nanooks season extended, the boys head to Houghton this week for a rematch amidst a really familiar set of circumstances.

2013...one week before the playoffs, the Nanooks sweep Michigan State. Sparty comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3.

2014...one week before the playoffs, the Nanooks split with Anchorage (including that 7-2 Seawolf beatdown). ACC comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3.

2016...two weeks before the playoffs Tech sweeps in Houghton (not to mention swept the 'Nooks in Fairbanks back in November), and look where we are headed.

They say the past shapes the future. With 4 games already under the belt this season against each other, there's not much different circumstantially than last week. The Huskies have won 14 of the last 15, and amassing 27 goals in the last 5 games, including 9 goals in the final game they played at Bemidji the week before the series against the 'Nooks. Last weekend during the rivalry series in a home and home with Northern Michigan, the Huskies dispatched the Wildcats soundly with a cumulative 9-1 tally. 

Beating the Huskies isn't going to be an easy task. But with Davis Jones playing lights out, and the return of Tyler Morley and John Mullally will make this weekend even more interesting. And if the Nanooks can play with the grit they showed against Anchorage, expect some great hockey.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Long Road Home

A bit of a lapse in posts for a while, I know. Things have been pretty crazy, but I did get a couple of videos up over at the YouTube channel. I need to invest some time getting all of the graphics and stuff done for the channel to make it look better, but for now its a good spot to throw videos and embed remotely here.

Obviously, not a great run the Nanooks are on right now. Sitting solidly in 9th place out of a playoff spot, but the standings are very tight through the middle. Not a lot of points separate the Nanooks and the rest of the field which is sort of the saving grace right now.

Check out the interview in the video embedded here.


 


There's a lot we could discuss about what the Nanooks really need to do, but getting down to it: It's finishing plays, and playing with poise. The Nanooks are losing games by inches. Coach Ferguson touches on it in the interview, but in the game with Wisconsin, momentum was a huge key the Nanooks couldn't capitalize on. After scoring a goal, they couldn't hold the Badgers off and it was either tied again, or they took the lead back. One of those series where the final score really didn't indicate the type of games that were played.

Ferris State is quite a familiar opponent. A lot of time has passed since the last time the Nanooks squared off with them, but their game hasn't really changed. But getting the Bulldogs on the big ice of the Carlson Center is always a big advantage for the Nanooks.

I will be out of town this weekend and won't be able to watch the games. Raleigh Johnson of the Ice Dogs fame will be manning the PA from the ice in my stead. Hoping to enjoy a fun trip out to Arizona for a week.

Also a big shout out and well wishes for Donald Dunlop over at the UAA Fan Blog. He's run into some unfortunate health issues and is having to leave the state to get himself taken care of. We've often poked fun at one another, but this is just a friendly rivalry. Nothing but the best wishes from me as he gets through this. Cheers, buddy.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Time To Ring in 2016 With Offense

The Nanooks closed out 2015 with a bang. Hell of a good weekend for the boys down in Anchorage ending a seven game winless skid and culled any momentum ACC had coming off their sweep in Houghton.

The Nanooks need to get some momentum going of their own here after the holidays and get some offense going. Getting guys like Marcus Basara and Alec Hajdukovich back on the score sheets just before Christmas was big. Alec had either been a healthy scratch or on the 4th line for a few weeks, and Marcus had not scored a point in the previous 6 games.

The Nanooks took down Anchorage with defense and a stellar weekend from Jesse Jenks, who has likely cemented himself in the starting role. The kid has the calm nerves of Chad Johnson, its unreal. But the last series the Nanooks faced with the Beavers in Bemidji saw a 1-1 split with a total of 16 goals scored on the weekend.

The first series after the break has gone very much in the Nanooks' favor though in recent years. Swept Ferris State last season at home, split with Mankato to start off 2014 at the Carlson Center, and swept Michigan at Yost the first series of 2013 in the last season of the CCHA before going on to sweep Notre Dame in South Bend. I'm sure John Keeney remembers that road trip very well.

Coach Ferguson had the players back in town on the 26th and held the first practice that night. The guys have had some time to get things going in practice without the burden of school on their minds. Hopefully they can rally and start to separate themselves from the bottom of the standings with a much needed 4 points here at home this weekend before playing 6 straight on the road.