Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nanooks Claim 9th Governor's Cup Victory, Complete Sweep of Seawolves 3-2

The Nanooks Celebrate With Their Latest Accolade

Well, that was interesting. during my time in Fairbanks, I've never seen a coach throw things on the ice, much less while the puck is in play, and subsequently jump over the boards on to the ice and get into a rage over a call that shouldn't have been made in the first place.

Yes, I know why Shyiak went off. He wanted a penalty shot much like one that was awarded in a similar play the night before to Brandon Knelsen after he was rung down on a hooking call by Sean Wiles. Why was no penalty called? Because no penalty was committed. I was standing no more than 15 feet behind the goal, and had as good of an angle at the play as the referee did. Tommy Grant did not make a shooting attempt, and Sova made a play for the puck, rather than solely roping down Grant for the sake of stopping the shot like Wiles had done.

The big event that led to Shyiak's little tantrum spawned from a penalty shot that could have easily been called, but just could have easily not been called when Bryant Molle knocked down Kevin Clark. Interesting penalty was called for holding, that at least I thought would have been called interference. I suppose if it was interference, a penalty shot might have been automatic. But regardless, both were headed for each other, a collision was going to happen, and the referees could have called it a couple of different ways, including awarding the penalty shot to Clark.

Regardless of the issues that occur on the ice, your coach should express his emotions, but contain them enough so as to not get out of hand, which is exactly what happened. I would expect the WCHA to have a word or two on the subject, just as they have with the infamous Gwoz (Denver University head coach George Gwozedecky) twice this season for similar outbursts. I'll be interested to see what happens with this development.

As far as commentary goes, the saying goes that your team is an image of its coach. I can see exactly how that fits. Anchorage leads the nation with the most penalty minutes per game at 21 headed into this weekend. If the coach can't keep his own emotions in check, how can anyone expect the team to maintain discipline. As a player, Dave Shyiak had 80 minutes in penalties in 36 games played in his final season with Northern Michigan in '91. Nothing substantially outrageous.If the now New York Ranger and ex-Nanook Aaron Voros didn't set the record for penalty minutes (132 in his final season with Alaska), I'd be surprised.

Some contrary attention should go to Coach Ferguson, who not only maintains his own composure when it counts, but leads his team to be the least penalized team in all of division 1 college hockey. The Nanooks have had our own share of bad calls at the hands of the consistently inconsistent officiating that has been made a well known appearance in college hockey. I didn't think the referees made any unfair calls (or no calls for that matter). It is kind of hard to see in the TV broadcast, but the referees called a fair game.

Not to be overshadowed, if anyone saw the hit Brad Gorham put on Justin Filzen at center ice knows a game disqualification will not be enough justice for putting a sizable gash on Justin's face. I specifically looked for Justin during the post-game conference and his face was certainly decorated. The hit was clearly blatent and intentional. Had Gorham not been thrown out of the game, I probably would have thrown my water bottle across the ice and jumped on thrown a tantrum...

On the same note, I also thought the checking from behind call laid on by Dustin Molle was rightful. That had to be called. I don't think Dustin intended for it to happen like that, but Dustin, easily being our biggest player had the size and strength advantage over Sean Wiles. Easy call for the refs to make. Both Hill and MacInchak had their arms up, and an easy 5:00 major. Very reminiscent to Bryant Molle's penalty from Joe Louis Arena last season in the CCHA championships, in the 3rd round against Michigan that sent him to the locker room early.

Anyhow, as far as the game goes, you could definitely tell the game was a different story Saturday. Much more defensive, much more opportunistic than Friday's match. 2 of the 3 Nanook goals were as the Nanooks forced UAA netminder Jon Olthuis to go side to side as Sova, Brandon Knelsen, and Dion Knelsen all scored for the 'Nooks.

Things got a little tight in the third period as you could tell. Shortly after UAA head coach Dave Shyiak was sent packing for a game misconduct and ultimately a 2 minute minor that gave the Nanooks a 5 on 3 power play that took all of 15 seconds for senior Dion Knelsen to capitalize off a rebound and took the score up to 3-1.

With just 2:35 remaining, Dustin Molle took a costly 5:00 major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. UAA got one goal in with the goalie pulled and netted their only power play goal on 6 chances, score now 3-2.


Now, game is tight, with UAA's goalie (and coach) pulled, the crowd rose to the occasion and nearly deafened me as the seconds rang down, and Dion Knelsen nearly got the cross ice empty netter that just went off the post. As the clock struck 0, the horn sounded, and the Nanooks are once again Governor's Cup champions.

This series has a few more implications than just the Governor's Cup. With the sweep, the Nanooks pick up a few more comparison wins and move up to 8th in the PairWise rankings, as teams like Denver and North Dakota merely split with the Seawolves. The Nanooks also become the first team in Alaska to sweep all 3 Alaska championship tournaments (UAA's Kendall Hockey Classic, UA's Brice Alaska Goal Rush, and the Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup) in the same season, earning the "Alaska Tournament Hat Trick", a term which I am coining.

The Nanooks now take a 9-8 advantage in the 17 year history of the Governor's Cup (which the Alaska Governor was absent from presenting....again). I suspect that this may begin another streak of Governor's Cup wins for the Nanooks.

But this win is only a spec on the goal for this years team. They are gunning for a CCHA championship, and potentially a deep run into the NCAA playoffs. The Nanooks now have the second longest unbeaten streak in Division I hockey at 8 games (6-0-2), outscoring opponents 29-12 in that span headed into the first round of playoff hockey. This coming weekend, the 5th place Nanooks will host 12th place Western Michigan in a best of 3 tournament for the first round of the CCHA playoffs at the Carlson Center.

Other notes: With a 5 point weekend, freshman forward Andy Taranto is now second among division 1 rookies with 1.15 Points per game. Goaltender Scott Greenham is now just 53 seconds shy of 2,000 minutes in net. The Nanooks have handed the Seawolves their 20th loss. The Nanooks 7 goal performance is the most since Alaska put up 8 against Air Force back in October of 2006. Despite having a smaller arena, and an even smaller town, the Carlson Center saw 4,459 fans (not quite an official sellout as there are 4,595 seats in the arena), compared to 4,362 fans seen in Anchorage, which by estimate, about 500-600 fans were Nanook fans, compared to about the 30-40 fans in Seawolf gear I spotted at the Carlson Center.

Dallas also made a different stride, breaking the mold and taking the entire team out to the post game conference after the win. If you didn't get a chance to listen over the radio broadcast, as I've been doing recently, you can download it here. Included is a little girl's confession of love for Dion, and another great song sang by Jack Townsend. This one is about 20 minutes long, so be ready.

Dion Knelsen was also featured in the CCHA's 10x3 feature. He's the 3rd Nanook player this season to be interviewed.

10 comments:

Thomas said...

I think the best part of last night was the post game "press conference". probably a few hundred fans went there just to see what the coaches and team would say, and it was basically, a big party! Everyone goes in and has a ton of fun, gets to know the team better (including that little girl that asked dion for a kiss), and everyone walks away happy.

It's something I believe to be unique to the alaska hockey program, and one of its best features. One of the most interesting things is that even when the team is having a run of bad luck, the postgame conference is never hostile.

Those of you that missed it should listen to brittons recording.

Amanda M said...

Britton how long have you been a Nanook fan? Just wondering, because this wasn't the first time the entire team has gone down to the press conference for one of the final games of the season.

Britton said...

@Thomas, very true. The Fairbanks community is behind this team, and I think a lot has to do with how much the team does for the community. That is seriously a large factor in my support for this team. I myself try to help out with various things, and often times I back out because I either am too busy between work and classes I'm taking or whatever that sometimes volunteering takes a backseat to everything else. Doing this blog makes me feel like I'm giving something back to the community. A community that I know loves and supports this team just as much as I do, and only benefits from having another source to gather information about this team.

@Amanda, I've been following the team for some time now, I wouldn't say forever. 4-5 years? I don't keep track of that stuff mainly. I got really interested the year Tavis left, and Doc came in. I was really surprised when Doc got the job over Dallas. Regardless of all of the crap that happened surrounding all of that, I'm glad that the right person is in there now. I know the whole team has been out there before, but it's not a normal thing. Bringing the whole team out was a surprise, but remarkably appropriate.

Anonymous said...

Britton,

Actually Gwozdecky was not suspended because of his tirade of going on the ice, he was suspended because after getting kicked out of the game, he went up to the press box where his assistant coaches were and was communicating with the team. That's why he was suspended.

Pioneer for life

Amanda M said...

Britton, Dion was named a finalist in the top 7 for the Hockey Humanitarian and him, Joe Sova and Andy Taranto are up for the Hobey Baker...I don't think people can vote for the Humanitarian but they can for Hobey so just letting you know if you wanted to make a post about getting people to vote for Dion, Andy or Joe for the Hobey! And just to let them be aware that he's a finalist for the Humanitarian..

website is www.hobeybaker.com/voting

pjwertz said...

Sorry Shyiak and UAA fans..maybe you should take a clue from Dion "It’s not about what happens to you, it’s how you respond to it" Maybe that's why we have a great program and your program sucks!

Anonymous said...

Let's slow down with the great program stuff. The guys are doing great but we still have a ways to go before we say UAF is a great program. The day we all get upset because we don't get invited to the NCAA tournament is the day we can say UAF has a great program.

pjwertz said...

Sorry Anony...but I've watched that team go from winning by flukes to the great program that it is today under Dallas...so yeah...it's a great program. When the day comes that we're upset because we don't get invited to the NCAA I will say that UAF has an exceptional program.

Anonymous said...

Good point pjwertz. My first year as a fan was when the guy before Dallas was coaching. I don't want to say his name on such a great site. I made a mistake when I thought great program was measured with wins. But you are right with the leadership in place and the off ice mentoring UAF is a great program. Dallas is doing a great job and I believe he is going to change the culture of the UAF program. The off ice success he is coaching will pay dividends on the ice.

pjwertz said...

One must go thru the valleys before reaching the mountains LOL! I have watched the program since it became part of the CCHA. I agree with you, we don't need to mention that name...it's the past and we are now looking at a bright future under Dallas's leadership. Hope we can carry it into playoffs.