The final home game of 2010 invites another team that we should beat, but its not that easy. Northern is the dark horse that our guys can never seem to cleanly beat. That needs to change this weekend...
The Wildcats lost their leading scorer from a year ago, Mark Olver, as well as top scoring defensemen Erik Gustafsson, to the pros. But notably returning are 30+ point scorers Gregor Hanson, Justin Florek. However, neither of these scoring machines have even topped 10 points this year. In fact, only one player on their roster is a point per game scorer. Tyler Gron scored 20 points all of last year, and he's over half way there to match that total with 11.
The most interesting aspect of the Wildcats that stands out is their penalty to points ratio. NMU's cumulative points total between all players is 75. 27 goals and 48 assists for 75 points. How many penalties? 77 penalties, for 220 minutes in 11 games, which averages out to 20.0 minutes per game, 2nd most in the country. So if statistics ring true, the Nanooks' power play units (3rd in the CCHA at 17.8%) should have plenty of chances to bury a few...
The Nanooks and Wildcats offense are tied for 7th in the CCHA at 2.25 goals per game, the difference is defense. Alaska has allowed just 2.25 goals per game (3rd) in the CCHA versus 3 goals against per game for Northern (9th). Taking advantage of that defensive lapse will be key. The 'Nooks history against Northern is not what anyone would consider "great", but Alaska is 3-0-0 against unranked opponents this year, and this is just the 3rd unranked opponent the Nanooks will face this year.
Be sure to check out the coach's luncheon tomorrow at the Carlson Center at noon in the Pioneer room. Coach Ferguson and coach Kyle will both speak over some good turkey.
Friday is also Skate with the 'Nooks. So for all the parents out there, get the skates out, lace 'em up, and bring them to the game on Friday. It really is a good time for the kids to get out there, hang out with the players and build lasting memories.
Since Saturday is the final home game before Christmas, its time for the annual teddy bear toss. This program is actually quite personal to me, and you can be sure I'll have a bear in hand to chuck over the glass.
Also, as a bit of unfortunate news, I won't be live tweeting the games as I have been all season. I'll be holding down PA duties this weekend, so if you're there, you'll get live scoring updates from me by using your ears instead of your phones! Don't forget to tune in to Bruce Cech calling the game on 91.5FM KSUA, or online at http://ksua.uaf.edu. You can also get live video of the games from AmericaOne (B2).
Predictions? Nanooks sweep. 3-1 Friday, 4-2 Saturday.