Entering the arena, the energy in the air was apparent. With a new Nanooks team and a new season, everyone seemed anxious to hit the ground running. And nobody was about to let St. Cloud stand in the way of a 1-0 start. Except maybe St. Cloud...
In the first period, the Nanooks really started applying the body, and tried mightily to stamp the glass around the rink with the faces of the Huskies. I should have checked the glass after the game, but I'd say they did a pretty good job of that. No penalties out of any of that in the first 20 either, which is great and honestly quite surprising considering what followed. A lot of missed passes though as the period went on, but part of that can be accredited to good defense by St. Cloud, who did what they could to stifle the Nanooks' breakout. The other part was just a lack of familiarity and chemistry among line mates, something to be expected early on but somewhat excessive in my opinion.
In terms of scoring, St. Cloud capitalized on an opportunity after an extended Nanooks possession. It really was kind of a bummer after the Nanooks were taking it to St. Cloud in their zone. But their top line came back up the ice after a long shift and got bodies to the net, and Nic Dowd was able to get one off a rebound past Greenham, whose been quite sharp in the regular season opener. St. Cloud was able to get Greenham moving and occasionally out of position, but the D lines really helped him out.
The Nanooks were able to come right back and bury an answering goal a few minutes later, making the most of a power play chance as Nic Dowd sat two minutes for cross-checking. Aaron Gens is really they guy responsible for this one, carrying the puck into the offensive zone with authority and finding Cody Kunyk open on the wing. Aaron's puck possession here is really what sparked this play. He got close enough to the net to really get the defense drawn to him, and off of Cody who patiently waited open on the back door, waiting for a lane. Needless to say that once the pass came through, Cody had no problems finding the now-open net to tie the game.
The second period was quite a different dynamic as turnovers and penalties abounded the Nanooks. Fortunately, no power play goals were tallied, nor were their very many opportunities for St. Cloud to take advantage of on the power play. The problems came on the backcheck while the Nanooks were trying to transition. However, two key turnovers gave two skilled Husky forwards full access to Scott Greenham behind the D for a pair of scores. Very unfortunate that the bounces go that way, but the Nanooks look to turn things around to start the 3rd.
And they put the hammer down trying to get back, that's for sure. The Nanooks didn't allow a single shot on goal for the first 13 minutes of the 3rd period, even through three power play chances for St. Cloud, they weren't able to crack the Nanooks defense. Some stellar back checking by the 'Nooks gave them some prime chances to set up in the offensive zone and generate chances. But in the end, it was the Huskies netminder and the eventual player of the game Mike Lee that stifled the Nanooks offense tonight. Just as Scott Greenham reached the bench to start a 6 man cycle, the Huskies intercepted a pass and sent Drew LeBlanc rushing the other way and was able to bury the empty netter to make the final 4-1.
Overall, I wouldn't say it was a bad game for the team. Some unfortunate individual mistakes ended up costing 2 goals, and some interesting penalty calls both ways put more time on the ice for the special teams units than straight up 5 on 5. I'd like to see the guys rebound to night and come out ready to go against Clarkson. Starting the season 0-2 is not how I'd like this Anchorage trip to end.
After watching most of the Clarkson/UAA game last night, I was rather impressed with Clarkson's speed and determination. A lot of their players, especially number 12 Nick Trembley and 19 Julien Cayer will just flat out fly to the puck. It's actually quite an impressive thing to watch. Cayer is a draft pick of the Detroit Red Wings, and believe me, it was a good pick. Keeping an eye on these two tonight will be paramount. Cayer put a pair in past Gunderson and UAA last night. I'd like to not see that happen tonight...
Keys to the game: quite simple. Play mistake-free. Last night, the Nanooks succeeded in the possession battle, but weren't able to get any shots through. I was really impressed with the power play last night and the way that the guys were moving around. All of that movement can really pay off. With the Nanooks 1/4 on the power play last night, and hopefully they can further capitalize against a Clarkson team that gave Anchorage 7 chances with the man advantage.
That's all for now, make sure to check in a bit later for a game day post from Sullivan Arena. I'm going to finish my coffee here at quite possibly one of the best coffee shops in the state (Kaladi Brothers), and try to dig up some more video on Clarkson.
I've also been told that GCI is broadcasting our games on GCI channel 1 live statewide, and live online (ignore the "Next game against North Dakota" message, and click the red button to watch the game). The game is also being aired tape delayed on Fox 7 in Fairbanks due to baseball playoffs. I was told that there were some problems after the game got underway with the online radio feed last night for 820sports.com. Hopefully they can get things worked out and get that going for the game tonight.