I sit here with less than 2 hours left in Florida, and I'm writing this preview. With about every ounce of effort and research I could pour into it, I couldn't muster a way to get to Worcester in time to make it for the game for less than $2,000. Unfortunate. I will watch the game from home.
The Nanooks ended CCHA post-season play broken hearted with two back to back losses to Northern Michigan, the first time the 'Nooks have dropped two consecutive games this season. For those that are here looking to find out about what Alaska is all about, they battle. Stout defense and an opportunistic and skilled offense is the name of the game. I tracked down some video from the Northern Michigan games online, and the Nanooks nearly had the first game, outshooting the Wildcats 31-20, but again, that first period came back to bite them. Marquette has never been a place where the Nanooks have been able to win. Something like 1-20-3 now there all time now, not a very bright past. "The Black Hole" might be appropriate...
Anyhow, the NCAA, in conjunction with the US Government, has opened Eagle season for one day only. Here's to hoping the 'Nooks can take advantage.
Andy Taranto was a little banged up in the last game. No word has made it to me yet on exactly what his condition is or if he will play this weekend. He skated a few times after he got injured, but he didn't appear to be very effective. Played very safe, very passive. Hopefully the extra week off helped him rehabilitate and get his game back, if he's healthy, he's definitely a key to victory alongside his center linemate, senior Dion Knelsen.
The BC Eagles aren't without their fair share of firepower. Forwards Cam Atkinson and Brian Gibbons are their pair or 40+ point getters, with Atkinson as their leading goal scorer with 24. Brian Gibbons is not exactly a stranger to the ice as he is to the penalty box, as his 100 penalty minutes nearly doubles our most penalized player.
The question for BC is who they will start in net. Like Miami, the Eagles have a one-two punch with their goaltenders. The freshman, Parker Milner, leads the nation in winning percentage among all goaltenders with a 10-2-1 record for a .808 winning percentage. Junior John Muse is right behind with a 15-8-2 and a .640 win percentage.
They say defense wins championships, and you can debate that all you want, but the Nanooks will have to find a way to stifle the 3rd best team in the nation in terms of scoring offense. Boston College averages 3.87 goals per game, far higher than our 36th ranked 2.82 goals per game average. Alaska is 9th in the nation in terms of scoring defense, average just 2.37 goals per game. BC doesn't fall far behind though at 2.5 goals allowed per game.
But, as the saying goes, games aren't played on paper. Boston College is, like us, a smaller team in average height. They are a very fast team that generate a lot of chances from the slot, as well as from the blue line. They get shots down low, and force the goaltender into a mistake to get the goal. Scottie will have to be sharp, and not give a lot of rebounds and keep us in the game. The difference will not only come down to defense, but likely on special teams, as well as, obviously, raw offense. I think the Nanooks can take control of this game, especially if they can stay aggressive.
I'd like to hope that the 'Nooks don't get star struck by the national tournament bid. Since this is the first in program history, I'd hate to see that be a factor in the game. This is a great team and these guys deserve to be there, even to the chagrin of a lot of media and fans of other teams that didn't make it in. How do you think it felt for Nanook fans last year when we beat Ohio State in the playoffs in the second round, went to the Joe, and didn't make the tournament, but Ohio State did? I'll save you the effort and tell you it left a sour taste in my mouth. Especially after how poorly OSU represented the CCHA and lost like 8-1 or something like that in the first game.
The Nanooks should already be in Worcester. They landed in Seattle last night at about 9PM, and traveled through the night to get to Worcester. So they'll have a few days to get acclimated and get ready.
I almost refuse to make a prediction, based on the strength of the opponent. Someone mentioned to me the other day that back in 1991, UAA took down Boston College in two games in a best of 3 in a huge upset. BC threw up something like 84 shots on goal and got just 4 in over the course of the two games. I'm unsure of the outcomes other than UAA won both. I think Alaska has that same potential. But, notice how I said almost?
Alaska wins 5-3.