Sunday, January 31, 2010

Nanooks Bring In Two More - Recruiting Update

Two more individuals will be suiting up in Blue and Gold in the future. Adam Henderson, a transfer from Michigan State will don a new jersey next season, and Nolan Kaiser from Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL will be coming to Fairbanks in 2011.

Henderson, a sophomore doesn't appear on any resources for any of Michigan State's rosters out online for this season. Last season, Adam netted a goal and notched an assist in 27 games for the Spartans. I'm not sure if he got cut, or anything else, but he's 6' 2" and 192 lbs, so he can definitely be a force to be reckoned with. I'd like to know where he was this season. Supposedly, he hasn't left Michigan State, but he's not on their roster for this season. Not sure where he went, but I'm looking forward to seeing him come in next year and see how he skates.


Kaiser appears promising. He joins teammate Erik Slemp in He's a '92 birth year, and -he's the leading scoring defenseman for Camrose, and he is 7th in the AJHL among scoring defenseman with an 8-24-32 scoring line in 48 games played. He also has 73 penalty minutes on the season, averaging less than a penalty per game. Another good looking recruit that Dallas' crew rung in. Nolan won't be joining the Nanooks until the 2011 season, which will be most of our current defense's senior years, so he will still skate with the likes of Joe Sova and Aaron Gens.

As always, kudos to Chris Heisenberg for doing all of the heavy lifting.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Alaska Nanooks 2, Northern Michigan 3

The first period couldn't have gone as well as one would have hoped. The Nanooks really had problems keeping the pucks on their sticks. Northern got the early lead with a blistering shot that eeked under the crossbar. Referee behind the net waved no goal, video review said otherwise. Then defensive breakdowns storied NMU's next two goals, including a back-door type play that had our defensemen nowhere to be found. Mark Olver found himself with a lucky bounce as Greenham initially had him shut down, he tried the centering pass and it bounced right back to him with the empty net.

2nd period went MUCH better. Had some turnovers in the beginning of the period, but a much better period defensively. Yaremchuk connected with Meyers after he spun away from his defender and centered it to Ronnie who was tied up, but had a beautiful tip in, as Ronnie was able to put that puck on the top shelf. The Nanooks were able to come back and retake the shooting lead, but Stewart able to stop all but one of them.

3rd period began very balanced, but the Nanooks had the momentum going their way. It was back and forth for much of the period, but when it came down to the final minutes, coach Ferguson pulled Greenham and it was a flurry of shots from the Nanooks and Dion Knelsen netted his 100th career point with just seconds left. With Greenham still out of the net, the Nanooks poured on the pressure and came VERY close to tying it up in the final seconds.

After the Nanooks fell over in the first period (quite literally, in some cases), Northern Michigan lit the lamp 3 times in a short span, which woke up the Nanooks. Sadly, a 3 goal hole was too deep for UA to dig out of. Sadly, the lack of points caused us to not catch idle Lake State, who had a week off. Instead of moving back into 4th, the Nanooks fell back to 6th.

The situation just gets tougher and tougher for the Nanooks, who are having a tough time getting goals and standings points in the second half of the season. Granted, we still have garnered a point in every series so far this season, but that doesn't mean a whole lot unless we start taking more than one point, which is exactly what we have earned each weekend for the last 2 series, and got just two points in a series against Michigan, 3 against UNO. So out of 8 games, and a possible 24 points, the Nanooks have earned just 7.

The second half of the season is notably more difficult, but in order to succeed, you have to win, not tie, not lose. Win. Big series against Michigan State back in Fairbanks next weekend, and the Nanooks need to get some points in the standings.

Horrible first period negated a great effort in the second and third periods. Had the first 20 minutes gone a little differently, UA might be in a different position right now. But, that's the way the puck bounces.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Nanooks Reputation - A Showing of Character

I know I'm a little late getting to this, but I haven't been able to hold my head very high, and had to force myself to write that previous game recap.

"Renowned" Fairbanks News-Miner blogger Dermot Cole, the virtually-identical brother of well known UA history professor Terrence Cole, had a letter passed to him from Chancellor Rogers writte by a gracious Michigan fan who had nothing but great things to say about the players' conduct when they visited Ann Arbor a couple weeks back.

To whom it may concern: 
I just wanted to let you know how impressed I am with the conduct of your hockey players.
 I took my wife and two sons, ages 8 and 4, to Ann Arbor this weekend to watch our favorite college, Michigan play hockey and basketball. 
As we pulled into our hotel to check in I noticed some young men wearing suits with Alaska hats.  I asked a young man if he played for Alaska.  He did and he took time out to go with me to my car and exchange some friendly banter with my son who was wearing a Michigan hockey jersey.
Saturday we had breakfast in the hotel and there were a few tables with your players surrounding us
Michigan had won 6-0 on Friday evening but your kids were nothing but positive towards my kids and answered several questions they had for them.
I just want you to know that I hope one day my kids will be as nice to strangers as your hockey players were to my family.
Although Michigan will always be our school, the Alaska Nanooks have gained 4 new fans.  You should be proud of your hockey team and the way they conduct themselves on and off the ice.

Just after the first home game of the season, a shoot out loss against Miami, Dallas announced that the team has posted its highest (read, probably its highest ever) cumulative GPA in recent history of a 3.57.

Just goes to show how much character the players on the team have and how much emphasis Dallas puts on the education aspect of the team. The Alaska Nanooks athletics in general put a very high strain on athletes when it comes to their schooling, with 127 athletes last semester, just 3 were declared academically ineligible. Sure, certain skaters excel more than others, but overall, the Nanook hockey team earn high marks on and off the ice.

Nanooks Blanked By No. 2 Miami, 5-0

I think the comic above is clearly reminiscent of Dallas's comments after Saturday's game. I posted in my Twitter feed how I had lost some respect for Miami, but the delay of this post is entirely based on the disappointment I have felt in the Nanook skaters in the way they conducted themselves on the ice Saturday.

There were several penalties taken on each side. During the course of the game, I thought Miami was unnecessarily rough with the Nanook players, but the video of the game is pretty indicative that the Nanooks instigated a lot of it. Coach Ferguson said during the post game conference “I understand that there can be a sense of frustration, but I told the guys if you’ve got that type of emotion and intensity, and you use it in the right way, we might not be sitting here feeling the way we do.”

Danny Martin had a conversation in the stands after the game with Andy Taranto, who mentioned that they were basically outworked in every facet of the game. If the score wasn't indication enough, here's a little example.

Although the Nanooks won the majority of the faceoffs that fateful night, puck possession was at a premium, and in Miami's case, if UA had possession, they were going to pay a premium price. The game was about as smash mouth as it gets, especially towards the end. I think the referees let a lot of hits and hooks and trips go for the first two periods, but it got way out of hand at the end, to the point of being ridiculous.

I think Miami is an exemplary team, and they really proved it on Saturday. Our guys have the ability to skate right with them, but Miami simply out played UA in every facet of the game.

I really hate writing about these losses, but I think the fact that Dallas came out to Saturday's post-game conference sans players, that really speaks to a shared level of frustration. He mentioned in his comments that Thompson would get a start next week, and like Dallas mentioned, I think he deserves it. I think Greenham needs a break. I think a lot of Greenham's mistakes come as a result of fatigue, but at the same time, it is Greenham's responsibility to tell the coaches how he is feeling physically. And if he isn't up to the task, he owes it to the team to sit one out.

This next series against Northern Michigan will tell us more about how and where we stand as a team, and if we can get some offense moving. Just 9 points separate the teams between 4th and 10th. Northern Michigan is 7 points behind us in 10th place. Every point, as if it wasn't before, is precious now. There are 8 games and 24 points left to be had in CCHA series. We are two points behind Lake State for 4th place, and we have another series against them in the Carlson Center the last week of the season...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nanooks Seal a 1-1 Tie, Fall in the Shoot Out to #2 Miami

Gotta hand it to both teams tonight. Some seriously great hockey was played here in Fairbanks tonight. There was some moments greater than others, but neither team allowed an even strength goal. Definitely a tight game, but the Nanooks and the Red Hawks skated a great game. There wasn't a lot of shots, and it was a defensive oriented game.

Not sure if any highlights are going to go up, but Aaron Gens power play goal off of his rear end was pretty slick. He got jammed up by Miami's D, fell over and swept the shot past Reichard. Not the prettiest goal in the planet, but thats what was there, and most importantly, it went into the net. And the Nanooks went up 1-0 with very little time left in the first period.

Pat Cannone had a very sharp angled shot get through to the net on the power play. Again, that was the only shot there. There wasn't a myriad of scoring chances on either side, really. The game was very solid, very tight, just a great defensive game of hockey.

One thing I thought Alaska did extremely well that I think they had struggled with in the past is maintaining puck possession in the offensive zone. Once the Nanooks got into the offensive zone, they did a great job cycling the puck down and keeping it away from the pressure. Doing that set up a few chances that the Nanooks almost capitalized on.

Miami and Alaska were very strongly able to neutralize the others rush. There were a few odd man rushes in Alaska's favor, but I can't recall a rush that was in Miami's favor. The Red Hawks got a few shots on Greenham, but the Nanook defense stepped up, got in the shooting lanes, and forced Miami to take low percentage shots

On a similar note, Alaska did a superb job keeping pucks to the outside in the defensive zone. Coach Ferguson alluded to this in the post-game conference as well, but seeing it done, again forces the opposition to take low percentage shots, and Greenham was up to the task all night.

The crowd really got into it towards the end though. The Nanooks were ramping up the pressure, and a goal seemed imminent while Miami was a man down. The Red Hawks, however, stood tall in front of their goaltender and kept pucks away from him.

Again, it was a great game of hockey tonight. Both teams played very very well, and Miami skated away with the extra point tonight. Keeping our season scoring streak alive (scoring at least one point every series). Tomorrow, should see a bit of a different game, as the Nanooks look to get all three points and hopefully take sole possession back of fourth place (tied currently).

Other worthy notes: Coach Ferguson and his staff have historically put an emphasis on the educational aspect of college hockey, and the team has really responded to that. This past fall semester, the Nanook Hockey program has posted its highest cumulative GPA in memorable history of 3.57, an average number derived from the entire roster for the fall semester of 2009. A very deserving applause burst from the crowd when Coach Ferguson made that announcement in support of the players' efforts in the classroom. Great job guys.

See everyone at the Carlson Center tomorrow.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

More on the Nanooks 2009-10 Intro Video

Well, the video has now gone viral, just as the last one has.

G4 picked up tabs on the last one, and it made the #1 video on Attack of the Show's Around the Net segment. This year's will likely do the same.

Check out the interview that Motionographer, a popular film and art community site, posted yesterday with producer and former Fairbanks resident Mike Martinez, along with the hired guns from HiFi3D.

And, for your viewing pleasure, see the video for yourself...

RedHawks Come to Town. Here Are a Few Things You Should Know About Miami

Miami is set to leave the confines of the Steve Cady arena sometime this week and head north to the Carlson Center. I honestly think that Miami has the nicest arena in the CCHA, but fortunately, they come to our barn to take on the Nanooks.

The series record isn't exactly something I'm willing to post here, but in football, the phrase "Any given Sunday..." definitely applies here. I think Alaska overall is a much different team than I have seen in quite some time, and we have proven thus far that we can skate with anybody.

I think our team knows what is at stake going into the second half. They have fallen out of fourth place this past week, and are walking the plank of the NCAA at large tournament bids in the PWR and RPI. The Nanooks need to get in gear for this weekend and show the country what we're made of.

Both teams have some pretty strong scoring depth, having at least one goal scored by 16 different players, compared to Miami's 17. What scares me about them though, is they have 6 players with 15 or more points on the season, and 4 with more than 20. The Nanooks defense will have to bring their A-game though to shut these big scorers down.

Miami's captain, Tommy Wingels leads the team in scoring, and he's going to be the RedHawk's key player for Alaska to keep tabs on. Carter Camper and Jarod Palmer are not far behind their junior captain though, and are just as much of a scoring threat.

Last year, the Nanooks travelled to Oxford and left with a split. Two years ago, they came here and the Nanooks were swept. Although, this season, Miami has had some consistency problems coming out of their holiday break. Although, they are coming off a sweep against a Ferris State team that hadn't lost a single game since we swept them back in October.

Historically, we always play Miami very well. It will be interesting to see how the 'Nooks respond after the wake up call they got in Michigan. They obviously played game two much better, so hopefully we can ride that into this weekend and emerge victorious.

Friday - 3-3 T UA wins shootout
Saturday - 2-1 W

The games, as it looks now, won't be airing on Fox 7 (even tape delayed...). I guess that leaves you with B2, and the always faithful Bruce Cech calling the game on KSUA.

B2 Networks Nanooks' page - $7

KSUA Webcast - Free

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Tuesday News Day

The Nanooks have fell off of the polls entirely. UA is still receiving votes for the USCHO poll, but that may not last. Only poll that really matters is the PairWise rankings, and that doesn't matter until March. But, they're hanging in there in 21st in the PWR, so there is some catching up to do to assure a tournament spot...

Former Nanook blue-liner Tyler Eckford is suiting up for the Canadian side of the AHL All-Stars game tonight. Eckford has five goals, 16 assists and is +12 in 30 games played for the Lowell Devils this season. The league's All-Star format has two teams, one of Canadian-, and the other of USA-born players.

AHL All Stars Canadian Roster

Nanook senior forward Dion Knelsen chats up with the Inside the CCHA Radio Folks. Check out his interview.

January 19th, inside the CCHA

Monday, January 18, 2010

AJHL Rookie Forward Sam Lawson Commits to Alaska for 2012 Season

The Nanooks coaching staff, who have an undoubted keen eye for hockey talent, have gotten a commitment out of 16 year old rookie forward Sam Lawson from the Drumheller Dragons, joining the ways with his alternate captain, 6' 3" defenseman Justin Tateson, who committed to the Nanooks back in September for the 2011 season.

Not a whole lot to go off of at the moment for Mr. Lawson. He currently has played in 42 games and has netted a total of 13 points. He's only 16 at the moment, and he's got a few years before he steps up into the college ranks to develop.

Hopefully, I'll have some time coming up to develop a piece soon on our rookies coming in for next year. There are some good things to hope for looking at our team's future.

Nanooks Rebound, Nets 2 Points in Shoot Out Win in Ann Arbor 4-3

Much better effort. Michigan put the brakes on the Nanooks Friday, but UA made a stand Saturday, and executed.

The forecheck was aggressive when it counted, but didn't put on too much pressure to get on the wrong side of the play. I have got to give props to Kevin Petovello, as the two captains hooked up to get Kevin his first goal (also, his first point) of the season. Peto was out injured for the better part of the first half of the season, and its great to see him come back and nab a pretty good looking goal against a very solid goaltender in Bryan Hogan.

Dion kept things rolling, walking right into the crease area on the power play and backhanded one in uncontested. A tip for Michigan though, if you let someone, like Dion, skate in front of the net without so much as a hand check,  chances are, Hogan isn't going to be able to stop him. Granted, UM had 2 guys in the box, but that should be even more of a reason to keep the puck to the outside. But, that's how the Nanooks regained the lead, 2-1.

Carlo Finucci, just 29 seconds later with a man advantage, extended the lead to 3 being in the right place after Brandon Knelsen's shot gleaned off of Hogan's pads and gave Carlo an empty net to shoot at. He buried it to end the Nanooks' scoring for regulation.

But the Nanooks have had a bit of a bad spell this season, gaining considerable leads and letting the opponents creep back up on the doorstep. After netting those two power play goals, going up 3-1, they stopped attacking, and let the Wolverines keep the puck, and cycle it around. Now, the Nanooks play good defense, but you can't expect a desperate team like Michigan to take a beating without fighting back. If they can cycle it around for long enough, eventually, their skilled shooters will find a way to score, and that is precisely what happened.

Going into OT with a 3-3 tie, sitting on the couch watching, I had great confidence in the guys to pull it off. Having gone all season, with 6 overtime appearances to date, none of which have ended in losses. A few have ended up in ties and wound up in the shootouts, but Greenham and our wealth of shooting talent have maintained an undefeated shoot out record this season. Sure enough, the Nanooks clamped down defensively and didn't allow any good scoring chances. The Wolverines put up 6 shots on Greenham compared to the Nanooks' 1 on Hogan, but keeping the Wolverines out of the net is a mini victory for our defense, especially Greenham. Scottie got a trophy for this as well, but I'll get to this in a second.

Greenham played big in the shoot out as well, stonewalling all 3 Wolverine shooters. But the story here, was the Nanooks' incarnation of Pavel Datsyuk, Dion Knelsen, dangling the puck and beating Hogan on the backhand.

Breaking down the shot, if you watch the replay below, you'll see Dion sell the fake and drag the puck on the toe of the blade over to the backhand after Hogan over committed, and lift the puck over the pads. Hopefully, I didn't ruin this shot from making an appearance in the future, but it's such a pretty shot, I couldn't resist. Check out the video to see for yourself.

My cohort, Danny Martin over at the News-Miner wrote up that after the game, an overzealous fan threw a shoe at Scott Greenham after the shootout. I hope he caught it in his glove. Pucks nor shoes will be scored on him. I hope Scottie didn't throw that thing back either. Keep it as a personal testament to his future relations with his loving Wolverine fans...

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nanooks Take a Beating, Get Shut Out 6-0 by Michigan

If you recall the Kendall Classic, Michigan scored at will against ACC, and last night, in the Nanooks' best Seawolves impression, was no different. The Nanooks weren't going to stop Michigan, and nobody stepped up to change that.

I was fooled for about the first 15 minutes of the first period that the Nanooks were in control of the flow of the game. Then all of a sudden, 3 goals in about 90 seconds from Michigan on Greenham sealed the deal.

Michigan solved Greenham by making him quickly move side to side. How does a team adjust to that? STAY IN THE CENTER. Plug the passing lanes and shut the back door. Defensive break downs were the tale behind the tape, and adding to the frustration...penalties.

The least penalized team in the country, averaging 8.6 PIMs before last night, have averaged 14.667 penalty minutes in the first 3 games after the holiday break, with 22 last night... Taranto has been getting himself in to trouble lately, last night he had 3 minors and along with Dustin Molle (who spent 4 minutes in the box last night), is the most penalized player on the team.

Penalties aside, the Nanooks allowed 4 even strength, pitiful goals, to the boys from Ann Arbor.

To say the least, last night was a game they'd better forget. They need to get their heads back in the game, and put out a much better effort than we saw last night. Hopefully they're a little angry too, and they can use it to their advantage.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Nanooks Set Up Shop in Ann Arbor

Once the shop is set up, its time to take care of business. That's what the Blue and Gold (yeah, not that Maize crap) need to do this weekend. We're in 4th place, and Lake State and we've only got a 3 point advantage over the next guy, whoever that is.

Talking over this series with some friends, it never struck me before how pissed off Michigan fans get when you don't say "gold and blue". You know what grinds my gears? If you blatantly refuse to use the "Maize" term, Michigan fans get REALLY mad. A guy literally used three expletives when he corrected my "misuse of an accurate color description". Laughing at him only made it worse. But as he got more and more enraged, it became more and more funny. But I digress.

This series is yet another big one for the 'Nooks. The points race is tight. That first round bye and home ice for the second round hangs in the balance. They haven't had a sweep since Ferris took beating from us back in October (yeah, that's right, those two losses the 'Pups have came at the hands of UA), and this weekend is going to be a different story.

Greenham's first test as a starter came against this crippled Wolverine team, who have struggled to find their legs after Aaron Palushaj jumped ship during the offseason, and number 35 stonewalled the Nanooks to a shutout, despite being outshot 2:1. Let's see if he can do it again. Scottie's a notch above UM's Bryan Hogan as far as stats are concerned, but Hogan has had some pretty stellar games this season... just not against us. Greenham played unexplainably well in Omaha and rolling into Ann Arbor, he's gotta be feeling good about this weekend. Especially since it's much warmer there, than it is here...

The one player I'm worried about for them is Louie Caporusso. He has this knack for finding twine, but he's been off and on so far this season, but if he gets on, there could be trouble afoot.Carl Hagelin has been on a bit of a scoring streak and presents a scoring threat.

I'll re-assert that the Nanooks are the least penalized team in the country, averaging 8.9 penalty minutes a game, an average of two less penalty minutes per game than the next guy. While ACC is proud to be number one in at least one category, the Nanooks know you can't win in the penalty box. How many penalty minutes did the Seawolves have in the Denver series? Oh yeah, 85...

If last weekend didn't point it out, the much more difficult second half of the season starts now. Points are harder to come by, and every point counts. Sitting a stones throw out from a seat in the NCAA tournament, every win matters.

Paula Weston predictably picked a UM sweep (big surprise). I'll assert that Dallas Ferguson has yet to be swept by UM. In fact, the only team that has pulled off a sweep against him, was then-No. 1 ranked Notre Dame last season in South Bend. I can honestly say, the Nanooks don't have a very strong history in Yost, but this year, more-so than any, a UA sweep can be had.

Friday:     Nanooks 2-1
Saturday: Nanooks 5-3

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nanooks Edged Out in Omaha, 1-2

Before I get into this, the box score from Friday's game was corrected for Yaremchuk's goal. The assists were credited to Andy Taranto and Dion Knelsen, and yanked a point away from Joe Sova. Just thought I'd mention that.

This game didn't really seem to kick into gear for the Nanooks until about the middle of the second period. We were asleep for over 20 minutes, spilling into the second period. Not sure what was going on there, but we were losing face offs, not retaining the puck, failed to generate a single scoring chance, and only managed to put up 2 shots on goal in 20 minutes, compared to UNO's 17 shots on goal with 1 score going into the break. They just failed to handle the puck. Chasing a puck for 20 minutes with out actually generating any offensive pressure is disappointing. Fortunately, they only scored one goal. If it wasn't for Greenham, it might have been a little different.

2nd period took a while, but the Nanooks shifted the momentum and the tables turned, but not until after UNO scored goal number 2. Once that Hudson guy...whoever he is...scored again, the Nanooks woke up, and sensed a bit of urgency with about 35 minutes left in the game. After that, they started generating shots, just keeping the puck in the offensive zone, and generating scoring chances.

I gotta say though, Taranto disappointed tonight. He played well, don't get me wrong. UNO did a good job containing him, and I think UNO's coach kind of exploited him a little bit and got under his skin. Andy just didn't maintain his discipline. He showed some signs of that last night, but with 3 consecutive penalties, come on man, that's not playing good hockey. Coach Ferguson benched him for a while, and I think that did him some good. He came back out and played a little stronger. You can tell that UNO keyed on him quite a bit and kept their best D-men on the ice when Andy's out there.

Coach Ferguson deserves some more praise for shaking up the lines. The matchups out there were a little uneven through the lines. Usually, it works out with Andy, Dion and Nik on that first line, but Nik was a little outmatched, getting knocked around quite bit, but throwing Chad Gehon/Derek Klassen/Brandon Knelsen in the mix really helped balance things out.

These line shake ups paid off as it was Ron Meyers hooking up with Carlo Finucci pulling the Nanooks to within one and a clutch goal to at least give the Nanooks a chance at a come back. It was a scoring drought that seemed to last forever, but alas, the two got it done. Finucci nearly had goal number two just about a minute later, but he rang the post. Almost tied it up, but missed the mark by just inches.

"We didn't lose, we simply ran out of time."

An applicable quote, but we might have had more time had the first period gone a little differently. The outcome of the game might have been different too, who knows.

Next weekend, I'm hoping for a better outing against a rebounding Michigan team who has yet to score a goal on Scott Greenham, after he shut them out in the Kendall Classic at the beginning of the season. Both games of that series will also be televised by Fox on channel 7 here in Fairbanks. No word on GCI yet, but count on KSUA or B2 for those outside the Fairbanks area.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Chad Johnson, Stellar in His First Start as a Pro

Chad Johnson pays homage to his collegiate team 
in his first start as a professional goaltender.

Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Well, I've made a few posts about him already, but I can't ignore this.

Chad "Dos Nueve" Johnson was absolutely stellar in net for the Rangers, as the Chad ran away with the chance and proved to the team that he is going to be their backup goaltender for the foreseeable future.

I'm not going to heavily post on this. Everyone who watched him play as a Nanook knew this was bound to happen. Here are a few recaps and highlights for you to digest.

"He was solid," New York coach John Tortorella said. "He made some great saves without any type of panic in his game. He was there. The puck hit him and he looked very confident. That's a very good sign for a guy starting his first game."

Chad Johnson has played before bigger crowds than this, but he's never had a start on a bigger stage. So what was going through his mind when the game was placed on his shoulders in a shootout?
"Oh, nothing, really," Johnson said. "Try to win the game. That's all I was thinking about."
--New York Daily News

But with Stephen Valiquette doing his best Rick Dipietro impression there was no goalie that Torts could lean on to help out Lundqvist. And after Valiquette was waived Torts seemed less than thrilled to start the 23 year-old rookie in any situation. Hopefully that changed after last night.
--Blueshirt Banter

And my personal favorite...
Meanwhile, here was Chad Johnson’s reaction to his 31-save performance.
“I’m disappointed right now,” he said. “When I let everything settle in and realize that was my first start, I think I played pretty strong. I’ll go over the tape with Benny (goalie coach Benoit Allaire) and analyze how he thought I played. I think it was just a solid game but I would have liked the two points.”
Allaire’s advice to Johnson was to treat his first start like his second.
“The first five minutes I got out there I was a little nervous,” Johnson said. “But it’s just hockey like any other level, obviously a llot quicker. My job is the same, it doesn’t matter what level. I think I settled down after the first five minutes.”
While his diving stick save on Nick Peverely will no doubt wind up on all the highlight shows, Johnson was less impressed with that play.
“It was just desperation,” Johnson said. “When Benny goes over it he’ll be disappointed, he doesn’t like anybody to sprawl. I went down too soon on the first shot and committed on him. I didn’t see the guy back door off the bench.”
--Ranger Rants

Yeah, that save was in desperation, but it was wicked, check it out...

Here's a few of NHL highlights as well for good measure.

Congrats Chad! Nice helmet!

Nanooks Take Game One, 3 - 1

I think Scott Greenham had a little inspiration from his former peer Chad Johnson, who had a pretty similar performance against the Atlanta Thrashers in his first start as a professional goaltender for the New York Rangers.

It's basically been a full month since the Nanooks last took the ice, and though there were some signs of some rust, they sure got the job done. Shots were definitely not even, but the defense stood strong in front of Greenham and didn't give the Mavericks (a term that until recently, was far overused in the Last Frontier) much to shoot at. In fact, UNO's only goal was nothing but sheer luck, taking a light bounce off of Greenham's right shoulder, and trickled over him and into the goal.

Greenham, who made 41 saves on 42 shots, was rock solid. I'm surprised he didn't get the shut out, but the powers that be didn't make that happen. He was very good in his positioning, didn't get phased by the fakes. In the 5-3 loss against UNO in December, Greenham bit into some fake shots that game that must have stuck with him over the break, because he wasn't going to budge. He didn't over-commit, he was very sharp and very outstanding the entire game.

I didn't like the 12:00 in penalties we took though. Some of them were more blatent then others, but for the least penalized team in the country, not a great outing. Kind of interesting that the least and pretty much the most penalized teams in the NCAA are both from Alaska, though.

But anyway, there are three players I want to spotlight in this recap though: Derek Klassen, Ronnie Meyers, and Dion Knelsen. Derek and Dion were absolutely stellar on the penalty kill. Dion did what he does best... Dangle. Instead of trying for the short handed goal, Dion ducked behind the goal and danced with the puck as his teammates did a full change. When 3 defenders crowd you and jab at the puck, sure, you're gonna lose it, but he killed about 15-18 seconds of valuable penalty time...single-handed.

Derek and Ronnie were killing the Mavericks on the forecheck tonight, causing turnovers and pressuring the puck, which gave the 'Nooks a chance to change. Though neither names will be in the scoring columns, 27 and 12 helped create those chances. One of Klassen's forays in forechecking university created that chance for Dion. After Derek came off the ice, Dion, while backchecking, knocked the puck up ice and beat Faulkner for the unassisted tally.

Although that was only one of two unassisted marks in the game. The first one coming much earlier. Just after the Nanooks first possession of the game, and just as the Mavericks thought the puck was going the other way, Andy Taranto picks one off just past the Maverick blue line and went top shelf for the first score of the night, just 51 seconds in. It's been a month... and he hasn't scored in a while...

Nik Yaremchuk got in the action to, snapping in a rebound that came his way while on the power play. Good awareness, and strength on his part too as the shot gleaned off Faulker's pads. A defender had him pretty tied up, but the little guy had other plans, scoring his fourth goal of the season.

I mentioned some rust the players were exhibiting up the page a bit, and that comes from passing and turnovers. We've had some troubles with passing a bit towards the end of the first half of the season, and although we showed that tonight, I don't believe they're related. I think the first half kind of wore us out a bit. Like I've said before, we've had some injuries and I think a lot of it had to do with that. Tonight was our first game back from being off for nearly a month, and although the boys have been in Omaha for nearly a week practicing, that time off showed in the form of turnovers. A lot of the players, some of the starters included, had some puck handling issues that UNO, who played last week, were happy to take the puck off their hands.

I'm one to believe that with the refreshed team, these won't be issues for long.

I spoke to a couple of guys yesterday who are involved with the Carlson Center, talking about the plans for the rink upgrade. If you don't follow the blog closely, the Carlson Center is [over]due for an upgrade to the boards and glass surrounding the olympic-sized ice. The treasure in this conversation comes with the fact that we are getting seamless glass!

As it exists today, the Carlson Center is surrounded by very aged plexiglas, supported by metal supports at each seam between the glass. The new surround, made of tempered glass, due to its strength, will not require supports that go along the seams. The glass is held together by caps at the top, which are also made of glass.

The benefit is, you no longer have an obstructed view of play. The fact that its real glass, being a stronger material, will make scratches and scruffs a rarity and make them last longer.

Searching for an example to prove my point, led me to a forum post from a discussion about the same type of upgrade for the NHL's Carolina Hurricanes. Take a look at the difference...

Once you see it in real life, it will make life at the Carlson Center much more tolerable.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mid-Season Report Card

A subjective review based entirely on my opinions that ultimately took too long to write. Feel free to sound off in the comments section if you disagree. All of my criticisms are entirely constructive. As much as I would like to say that our team can beat the Detroit Red Wings, and everyone can drop out and play in the NHL tomorrow, realistically I can't, but without further ado, here we go.

Derek Bradish: B
It's hard to dock this guy at all, coming on as a walk on from the Ice Dogs and making the roster. Granted, he hasn't gotten any ice time, but for someone to come on with no interest in the next level to make the roster says something, says that he can work hard and get where he needs to be. If he works harder, some ice time may be in his future. But respect is deserved for keeping himself ready, should he need to play.

Adam Cardwell: B-
As a healthy scratch, Adam's been out of action for the last 9 games. He has skated pretty well, and plays pretty well in the defensive zone (I love players that play 2-way hockey), but apparently Coach thinks that he has some things to work on. He hasn't made a dent on the score sheet much, but has a goal on the season. Coach Ferguson, in his closing statements from the Nanooks' only Saturday loss to UNO stated [paraphrased] that a lot of the guys that haven't had a lot of ice time will see some more opportunities as the season goes on. Perhaps he has plans for Adam in the second half?

Justin Filzen: A
Justin's knee injury is a bit of a blow to the team, and has kept him out of action for the last six games. His .614 faceoff winning percentage is the highest on the team with a minimum 100 attempts, and his absence can definitely be felt there. When he came to the team, I thought he would be a stout forward, and I was right. He's the Tomas Holmstrom of the Nanooks, screening the goalie with his heels right on the lines of the crease. Coming from the Green Bay Gamblers, he played right across the street from my beloved Green Bay Packers' home stadium, Lambeau Field. Not that it really matters that much, but another reason to like him. Hopefully the knee injury doesn't keep him off the ice much longer, though. He may have just 3 points on the season, but he's on the plus side in plus/minus at +3, meaning the other side doesn't score much either when he's on the ice.

Carlo Finnuci: A+
I am really impressed with Carlo's improvement this year. He's been pairing up with Dustin Sather, and they've been knocking pucks in when it counts. Last season, Carlo played in just 16 games, and had a 1-2-3 scoring line. This year, he's played in 17 games, and has a 3-9-12 scoring line. At least I think that's a big improvement. He's got great wheels, and best of all, great vision. He can see Dustin get open on the other side of the ice, and gets the puck to him for the score. Same goes the other way, he can see a play developing and get into position to make a play. Carlo's line has got some great chemistry going, hopefully they can keep it going well into the second half.

Chad Gehon: A+
This kid has far exceeded my expectations for him this year, and he has got some serious wheels. He's got great hands, and he's really stepped up in the face-off circle, winning over 65% of faceoffs, taking over in the absence of Justin Filzen. Chad has done a great job stepping up. As a freshman, he's got some great potential ahead of him as he develops. He plays great on both sides of the red line, and hes only going to get better from here.

Jarret Granberg: A
If I had to pick one thing to say about Jarret, it's his discipline. In his final season in the AJHL, in 60 games played, he finished with just 42 penalty minutes, an average of about 40 seconds per game. In 17 games so far this season? 0... That's right, no penalties called on "Granny" so far this season. Though hes gotten away with a few, but he has yet to find his way to the sin bin this season. He has 5 goals on 38 shots, putting him among the highest in the team in shooting percentage (13.2%) and an even 0 in plus/minus, with a 5-3-8 scoring line. Definitely another rookie with a promising future.

Ryan Hohl: A-
Every team has a guy that's just fun to watch on the ice. It was disappointing to not see his final series against BGSU in Fairbanks, but you could see the hostility on TV. After spending two seasons on Bowling Green's bench without playing in a single game, Dallas got him to transfer over last year and he's been doing pretty well for the Blue and Gold. Granted, he's got a lot of penalty minutes, and he's not a standout on the score sheet, but he gets the job done. He's taken the first shot in all of our shoot outs this year, and he's got some good dangling tricks, but he's only notched one shoot out goal thus far.

Derek Klassen: A
The definition of a two-way hockey player. Derek has established himself as a star on our team. He causes turnovers, he intercepts passes, he wins over 55% of faceoffs, he's got 4 goals on the season, which ties the amount he had all of last season. He's an outstanding hockey player in every sense. He's got a great mind for the game, and it shows in every shift. I'm glad he's only a junior, and I'm looking forward to the rest of this season, and into next season to watch him lead the team. If only he can crack the scoring column a little more often...

Brandon Knelsen: A
After spending a few games on the bench with an injury, Brandon hasn't gotten back in his groove yet, which leads me to believe he's still playing through a bit of a nagging injury, something coach Ferguson touched on in the last post game conference. Although his younger brother kind of steals the spotlight, Brandon is a worthy contributor to the team in his own right. I like what coach Ferguson is doing with Brandon and the power play unit. If you watch, occasionally, you'll see coach sub out a defenseman with either Brandon, or Carlo Finnuci, leaving four forwards and a lone defenseman. It's a good balance, considering both Carlo and Brandon are quite skilled, defensively. 2 of Brandon's 3 assists came from that power play line. Although not as apparent now due to the injury, but Brandon is also a very skilled skater. Very mobile, very quick feet, and extremely well balanced. Hopefully this nice long break we get this year gives him a chance to rest and rehabilitate and get back into the groove.

Dion Knelsen: A+
Dion leads the team in goals, and is the second leading scorer, right behind Andy Taranto. Dion's been the consistent scorer for the team for the past few years, and its sad to say that this will be his last year in the NCAA. He's a very valuable player, especially on the penalty kill. The kid can dangle, and when he gets the puck shorthanded, he can hang on to it and keeps it away from opposing skaters. I think Dion is an extremely valuable player on both sides of the puck, and on special teams. He's an all around complete player that will be missed. Seriously, there is too many things to say about Dion to cram into a single paragraph. Check out my previous article, recapping the RPI game from October, and watch the embedded video of Dion's shoot out goal against Allen York. That would be Dion's impression of Pavel Datsyuk... Glorious. On another note, Dion needs just 6 more points to crack 100 in his career for the Nanooks to enshrine him in the Nanooks Century Club. Okay, so there isn't exactly a shrine, but that's a pretty great milestone for him to be hit, among the ranks of some of the best in Nanook hockey history.

Ron Meyers: A+
Ronnie has made a name for himself as a play maker as of late. It all started last season in the final game of the 3 game home playoff series against Ohio State. Deadlocked at zero, with the clock winding down, the Cowboy knocked the games only goal in off of the goalie's own pads with just under a minute left on the clock in the 3rd period to take the Nanooks to The Joe. In similar fashion this season, in the overtime win against Ferris State, it was Ronnie who pick-pocketted the Ferris defenseman (who shall go unnamed) and ripped one top shelf for the OT winner. It was a thing of beauty. But when he's not scoring game winning goals, he's tears it up on the forecheck. For a forward, he's also got a great sense of defense, getting down, blocking shots, but he also spends a lot of time on the penalty kill unit, and rightfully so with his coverage skills.

Kevin Petovello: A
Kevin had a bad run of luck with an injury for the majority of the first half of the season. Quite unfortunate, and he's just now getting back into it. Hopefully he can rest a bit over the break and get back up to speed. He's looked pretty good in the few games I saw him play in at the end of the first half, but it looked like he was playing a bit conservative, which likely means he's playing through a nagging injury. Rest will only benefit him coming into the second half. He's a great player, and will likely live up to that in the second half.

Cody Rymut: A
Cody hasn't played a single game outside of the Blue/Gold game to kick off the season. Therefore, his grade isn't about hockey, its about his academics. On the ice, he's got some serious wheels, but off the ice, he's got serious brains. As a senior, he's nearing graduation with a degree in petroleum engineering. Now, that's not exactly a cake walk degree either. I've seen the degree requirements, and I've met a few petroleum engineering majors myself, and it takes a lot. And for Cody to take 21 credits of it in one semester, hard to believe he can play a sport with that kind of load. And he does it all while remaining academically eligible to play when he is needed. Bravo.

Dustin Sather: A+
In Dustin's junior career, he was a scoring machine, and he had a good rookie season, scoring 23 points for the Nanooks, 4th highest on the team. He kind of lost his groove last season, and only amassed 9 points in 34 games. Well, he's found his groove so far this season, already surpassing last years point total with 10 points currently, and he's got some good chemistry going with his current line-mate, Carlo Finucci. Both Carlo and Dustin have really stepped up this year and have added considerable scoring depth for the Blue and Gold.

Andy Taranto: A+
I really had high hopes for Andy coming into this season, and he didn't disappoint. The guy is a monster. 22 points already this season? Dion finished the season with a team high 22 points last year. You can tell that other teams are very aware that the NCAA's leading rookie scorer is on the ice when they play us, because they've always got two guys in his vicinity that clamp down on him when he gets the puck. UNO covered him the best they could in both games, but in the final goal of the series, he still found twine. Andy's an amazing skater that can do some sick things with that stick of his. He brings some serious scoring and has definitely help coach Ferguson re-charge the Alaska offense, which averaged under two goals per game last season, and has been vamped up to three goals per game thus far this season.

Nik Yaremchuk: A
Starting this season, when I was looking at our recruits, I didn't know where this kid would fit into the team, standing at just 5' 9".Well he's found his spot alright, right on the Nanooks first line, and has had a great first half. He's third on the team in scoring, and it's pretty obvious why. Well, Nik isn't very big, but he can skate past most of his foes and with his fast moves and good awareness, he pressures the puck very well, causing turnovers, and leads the forecheck. It's a toss up between Nik and Gehon as to which rookie has surprised me the most, but Nik has had an outstanding first half, and if he carries it throughout the rest of the season, he's going to set himself up for success throughout the rest of his career here.


Cody Butcher: A-
With just six games played, and three points, with an average of .5 points per game says the limited ice time he's had, he's made count. With the fastest shot on the team (93mph!), he can be dangerous from the point. If he doesn't hit twine, he'll make someone sorry they tried to block him. He's got some good accuracy to go with that shot as well. With just two shots on goal, he has one goal, while the other hit the upper part of the right post. He's got some good talent, but with limited ice time, it's hard to show that, but he's done what he can with what he's had. But he's definitely an offensive defenseman that has a tendency to get pulled into the play at inopportune times, which can lead to bad opportunities going the other way, and ultimately resulted in the minus grade.

Justin Daigle: B
A good rookie that has good potential. With the limited time he's seen, he has shown that he can skate right up with anyone. Going back to the Blue/Gold game, watching him skate against Dion showed just that. He does a good job getting his stick down and getting in the passing lanes, but he needs to improve on his positioning. At -4 thus far, some minor changes, he can be a good candidate for a full-time line spot if not late this year, next year.

Scott Enders: A-
I really like watching Scott play, I think he is a very solid defenseman. Great positioning, great in transition, and not afraid to make the check. He sets up shop in front of Greenham and locks out the slot and the crease area, and doesn't let the puck get through. He's got a lot of penalty minutes though, a few of which I have notes of bad calls, but regardless its pretty unfortunate to see that. Unfortunately, the score sheet doesn't really prove his worth on the ice, either. At -4, he's a lot better than his plus/minus shows.

Aaron Gens: A
A perennial first line defenseman has put up 10 points so far in the first half of the season, matching the mark he put up in 32 games last season. You gotta love how he gets down in the shooting lanes, blocks shots, disrupts the passing lanes, and puts on the pressure, and forces shots. In the offensive zone, he plays smart, gets involved when he needs to, but he follows the puck and stays in position to make a play. Another one of our many sophomores that has nothing but a great future ahead. Going from wearing number 2 last year, to number 5 this year, I wonder if that was the difference maker? Maybe...

Bryant Molle: A+
Bryant is definitely putting up his best year, and is looking really good. He has vastly improved his game this season, and has stepped up quite a bit. He registered his first collegiate goal this season and is a "multi-tool" on defense. Bryant has a big frame and helps in coverage not only by getting in the passing and shooting lanes, but coming in tight, he disrupts the opponent's vision. Kind of hard making a blind pass or shot... He wore the roaming 'A', rightfully identifying him as an alternate captain for a few games this season just shortly after he registered his first goal, an overtime game winner against Lake Superior State.

Dustin Molle: A
Dustin is playing a very high level game and has gotten noticeably faster than he was last year. Dustin is another big guy, probably the biggest on the team, and he uses his size to his advantage. I like what Dustin brings to the table, he's an excellent coverage guy, and his passing is great. He plays safe most of the time, but isn't afraid to take a penalty (he's taken 8 minors thus far this season). For some reason though, USCHO's stats are a bit off, saying that he didn't have any penalties...ever. A stat that I'm sure anyone wouldn't mind being true...

Kaare Odegard: A
If you want to go entirely off the score sheet, Kaare is our most valuable player at +7. Pretty crazy thus far in the season. He's another rookie I've been impressed with. He's great in transition, helps out on the forecheck, gets some pressure and disrupts the passing on the backcheck, and overall, he's quite solid defensively. He's gotten some good ice time in a position where we have considerable depth, which means coach Ferguson has some trust in him as a rookie. He's not a very big guy, either. At just 5' 11" 184lb, he's got a slight disadvantage in that department. But that doesn't seem to phase him very much...

Joe Sova: A+
Joe is an amazing player. He's got outstanding positioning, and he'll dive in front of a shot to take away a scoring chance before the puck even gets to Greenham. He's 4th among scoring defensemen in the CCHA, and leads all CCHA defenseman in goals scored with 4, tied with Eddie Del Grosso, a familiar blue-liner from UNO. When it comes to coverage, it doesn't get much better than this. Joe has a huge amount of blocked shots, 42 to be exact, which is about 10% of the amount that Scott Greenham has in terms of saves. Last year, as a freshman, he skated in all 39 games, and massed a total of 10 points. Well, he's already got 10 points half way through, so if he keeps doubling his scores, his senior year could be an 80 point season! Okay, maybe not very realistic, but he really is a hell of a player. But beware, when he's on the ice, opposing players better keep their head on a swivel...

Scott Greenham: B+
The Nanooks were pretty spoiled last year in net with Chad Johnson. A sad offensive front, a stout defense, and an absolute brick wall in net got fans used to a goalie that stopped everything sent his way, and now they kind of expect it. Sure, there were some goals that he should have kept out. Every goalie lets a few by that they would like to have back, but you can't blame the guy. He only had 5 starts last year, and he's still got a winning record, and among the top 25 goaltenders in the country. He's only going to get better with time. The more he plays, the better he will get. Fortunately, our offense has found some life, and are scoring upwards of 3 goals a game, something which takes a little bit of stress off of your goaltender.

Steve Thompson/Collin Rundell: A
In college, professors have the ability to give what are called "No Basis" grades, which are basically reserved for people who forgot to drop the class. These guys show up to practice, and they learn. From what I've heard, the morale is high, and its been a fun battle between the two for the number two spot to back up Greenham. When the team travels, the team can only take one goaltender for fiscal purposes, so the two backups have been battling for that second spot for a weekend getaway, and Collin Rundell edged out Thompson a little later in the first half and got on the plane and went to Western Michigan for a series. I thought the two net-minders were pretty close in skill after watching the Blue/Gold game, and I guess I was right. We may get a chance to see one, maybe both of these guys in a game in the second half, should the right circumstances present themselves.

Overall Team: A
I think the Nanooks have been playing some very high level hockey this season. In just his second year, Coach Ferguson is on another roll with a winning season. Last year, we had a defense that was very...well...anal to say the least, and had one of the top defenses in terms of goals allowed per game in the country. But, we had some trouble scoring, and this year, that's all changed. We've opened up a bit in the way of defense, but its our forwards that have been putting up the numbers. Coach Ferguson made some great comments during the post game conference of our first Saturday loss mentioning that the crowd has been disappointed with the splits, and spoke of how good the break would be for the team's health. I can definitely agree with both.

Sure, we're taking points from each series, and we haven't been swept. Great, but at the same time, we're dropping points to, statistically, weak teams that we need to sweep. We are 22nd at the current moment in PairWise rankings, 6 spots removed from a spot in the NCAA tournament. And in the CCHA standings, we are in 4th place with Lake Superior kicking at our heels. I hate to be critical here, but the reality is, we're going to need some 6 point weekends to move up and get into the tournaments. Now, the Nanooks have a great shot at making a run at both the NCAA and CCHA tournaments, probably the best shot they are going to have for a while with some very valuable seniors leaving the lineup next season. But, it's going to take some hard work to get there. Now, anyone that knows me, and I've mentioned it here before as well, but I'm a huge football fan too, and undeniably the greatest coach in NFL history, whose name appears on the leagues most coveted trophy, said the following: "Dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you're willing to pay the price." Extremely applicable in the Nanooks' situation down the stretch.

But I believe that injuries have attributed to our shortcomings. A lot of our players have had an injury in some form or another, some minor, some a bit more severe. But the break came at our advantage and a lot of our guys should get a well deserved and much needed rest to mend off the nagging injuries that a lot of our guys have been faced with.

In terms of performance, I think the Nanooks have played some very good hockey this season. It's been a good run thus far. A little disappointing sometimes not getting the big saves, or coming up short on a good scoring chance, but that's how the game goes. The team has yet to allow a goal in overtime, and are undefeated in shootouts, which definitely helps us in terms of CCHA standings points (keep in mind, the NCAA standings still count it as a tie). The Nanooks have a considerably more difficult second half coming up and points may be hard to come by, but our opponents aren't going to get points away from us easily, if at all.

The second half of the season starts this week end with a rematch against UNO at the Qwest Center in Omaha. Preview to come...

Congratulations are in order for UNO's coach Dean Blais for leading Team USA to the gold medal in the World Junior Hockey Championships, defeating Team Canada today in a 6-5 upset. I hope this weekend was fun for coach Blais, because the Nanooks are comin' to town to take care of business.