The Nanooks are on the road in Marquette looking to take on the Northern Michigan Wildcats this weekend in an arena where history seems to permanently favor the home team, regardless of effort. It seems that everytime the 'Nooks venture to that area of Michigan's upper peninsula, something seems to happen. This time around, it appears that the flu has made its way through some of the players, who have been on the road now for about a week and a half.
The Nanooks are also preparing to face one of the hottest goaltenders in December in Jared Coreau. The sophomore went 3-1 and posted a 1.35 GAA and a .956 save percentage over the course of this past month. Conversely, Northern has their own problems to worry about, as Scott Greenham is just as good. In the final game of the first half, Greenham had a 42 save shutout brewing against the Michigan Wolverines going into overtime when a shot took a couple wacky bounces and ended up in the back of the net in a game that really could have gone the other way.
More interestingly, neither Greenham nor Dallas Ferguson (as a head coach) have ever earned a win against the Wildcats, and the Nanooks have just one win in Marquette...ever. While that would normally spell bad news, but with the extra time the team has taken on the road, and the level of hockey that they were playing at the close of the first half, I think the 'Nooks will fare just fine.
With more intriguing news, the extended time off has lifted the injury bug from some of the players, as Garrick Perry, Jarret Granberg, and Cody Butcher (!!!) will all dress and play tonight. Hard to say what their shift situation will be, but I would imagine that they're all good to go. This will be Butcher's second game of the season after taking that hard hit against St. Cloud the first game of the season down in Anchorage. I know he's been excited to get back into action, and he'll be skating tonight paired with Scott Enders. I suspect Coach Ferguson will change up a bit of the defensive pairings as he's been known to do throughout the game. Butcher was paired with Gens in game one, and I suspect that they will reunite presuming that Butcher is still up to speed.
I really want to see Justin Florek and Tyler Gron stifled. Their two top scorers are really good players on both sides of the puck and are really good about finding space to work with. I'd say Florek is the better defender and Gron the better forward, but with 15 and 17 points respectively either one is going to be a scoring threat. As I said before, Jared Coreau is probably the main worry for the Nanooks scorers. Northern's defenders are pretty conservative too, and play it safe more often than not. To neutralize this, the Nanooks need to pass the puck with precision and often to get the Wildcats out of position and create scoring angles off the cycle. Maintaining puck possession was a bit of a momentum killer against the Wolverines, but the Nanooks solid defense kept them in it, despite the difference in shots. Extended possessions against the Wildcats should earn wins. However, we'll find out the results in just a few hours.
The games are today and tomorrow at 3:30 from the Berry Events Center in Marquette, MI. You can catch video of the games on AmericaONE or stream audio of the games from 820sports.com (820AM in Fairbanks). You can also follow Live Stats or follow me on Twitter.