The Nanooks first series of the CCHA playoffs falls against Western Michigan. Sucks to be a Bronco. The Nanooks are coming off of a serious high, taking back the Governor's cup from Anchorage, and with an 8 game unbeaten streak, I'm not so sure Western has what it takes to down the 'Nooks.
The Broncos will be coming out with everything that they have. Their head coach, Jim Culhane, is out the door after this season, so his players will have some extra motivation to stick it to Alaska. Not to be sexist here, but Western's AD is female, she can change her mind...
Western has a hot goalie right now. Riley Gill has given this team a chance, and although they haven't actually won a game recently, they've had three back to back to back ties. Their last six, Western is 0-3-3. For not having a defense, goaltender Gill's numbers are quite astounding. He's been peppered with well over 900 shots, and allowed just 76 goals, with a .925 save percentage.
Greenham is no slouch either. He has been very strong in net these last few games. There may be a goal or two that he may like to have back, but where Greenham gives up on defense, the team responds more than two fold on offense.
These last 8 games the Nanooks have played, Alaska has outscored their opponents 29-12 in that span. Thats an average of 3.625 goals scored per game, with just 1.5 goals against per game.
Make no mistake, Western can surprise you. Just ask Notre Dame, who was swept by the Broncos in Kalamazoo by a combined score of 11-3 early February. Western probably should have taken all 6 points from us back in December, but a last second goal by Joe Sova on the power play took the game to overtime at 3 a piece. The Nanooks would end up winning that game in a shootout. But underestimating the Broncos is not an advisable idea. Sure, they may be last in the conference, but with 8 wins, they've beaten somebody, one of those wins was against us, even.
The difference maker is going to come down to defense and goaltending. The Nanooks offense is red hot right now, but the Broncos have an equally hot goaltender in Riley Gill. And with Western playing with perhaps a little extra motivation, Alaska will get at the very least a run for their money.
As far as predictions go, I'm going to stick with a Nanooks sweep in two games. Call me overly optimistic all you want, this is how it ends!
Friday, 3-1 W
Saturday, 2-0 W