Thursday, February 23, 2012

Governor's Cup Rivalry Renewed

Governor's Cup History
Photo courtesy of MMF

This week precisely 32 years ago, the United States men's hockey team pulled of one of history's greatest upsets in Olympic history, upsetting the heavily favored team from the Soviet Union to win the gold medal; the first time in 20 years since the US had earned the top spot on the podium. 

Exactly 32 hours from this writing, the puck will drop in the 2012 Alaska Governor's Cup, quite possibly the greatest rivalry in all of college hockey. This series will be hard nosed, and filled with emotion as the Nanooks celebrate senior night on Saturday as their last home game in a Nanooks sweater. 

I'll reserve my thanks and farewells to the seniors after the conclusion of the season, as business still lies ahead. The Nanooks team took off this morning for Anchorage to prepare for the first game. For the Nanooks, its business as usual. This Alaska team has shown character, strength, and perseverance throughout this roller-coaster season; the players have gone unphased with the challenges that have been thrown their way. Neither injury, nor illness will cause a single member of this team to back down from the challenge that lies ahead.

The target this week is an Anchorage team who has largely struggled with the same rigorous schedule, some of the hardest strengths of schedules in all of college hockey has been played by both of these teams; of which has caused them to fall under .500 for the season.

Some of those frustrations have cause rifts in the Seawolves team. Earlier this season, both leading scorer (at the time) Mickey Spencer, and one of their better younger defensemen Wes McLeod left the team for undisclosed reasons. Instability in the locker room can really drain the emotion from any team, and looking at the numbers you have to assume that could have been the case here.

But the Pups to the south have seemingly received a breath of offensive fresh air in Eric Scheid, who leads the rookies on the team with 13 points in 24 games. Junior forward Mitch Bruijsten leads the team in points with 16, and shares the lead in goals with 8. The guy I've repeatedly pointed out as a bit of a goon Brad Gorham (who is fortunately a senior) still leads the team in penalty minutes. He has to be on pace to set some kind of record at this point, but I refuse to look. 

Goaltending and scoring defense leaves much to be desired for ACC fans, but therein lies the seemingly vulnerable target the Nanooks will look to exploit. Both Chris Kamal and Rob Gunderson share the basement in save percentage, and a few spots from the bottom in goals against average in the country. But watching the SCSU series, they seem very uncomfortable defending in their own zone. They over pursue, and they get of of position very easily with good passing. A vulnerability that got the best of them in Saturday's game after the Huskies figured things out, and ran away with the game, scoring 4 goals in the final 10 minutes of the game for the 8-3 win. All of which were on good sequences created from the cycle, and the defensemen just get mesmerized by the puck carrier and lose the open guy on the back door. After surrendering the 8th goal, Gunderson came to the bench. Rumor has it, not because his coach told him to, but because he gave up, he didn't want to be out there anymore. Honestly, they weren't his fault. The 6th goal he may want back, but you can credit them all to defensive errors.

But like the Nanooks, you can't count out this team from any game. They are seemingly better than their 8-20-2 record shows. They have a few weaknesses that the Nanooks will look to capitalize on, but this is a rivalry game. Honestly records, stats, and previous games mean nothing. Looking at stats, the Nanooks should run away with this, but its always a hard fought series and anything goes.

Both games will air on TV tape delayed on Fox 7 in Fairbanks. The game will be aired live on GCI channel 1 statewide outside of the Anchorage area on Friday, and live again on Saturday statewide outside of the Fairbanks area. You can listen to Bruce Cech call the plays live on, and stream the game live from for free on Friday, and from for the Saturday game live here at the Carlson Center. I'll be flying down myself tomorrow morning, so you can catch my tweets live during the game! I'll be posting pictures and such to the blog as well.

UA students have pulled off a pretty amazing feat as well, arming themselves with two full tour bus loads of students and energy drinks delivered to the front door of the Sullivan Arena. There will likely be more Blue and Gold than any other color at the Sullivan Arena tomorrow, so this home and home thing will be pretty much moot. The last few years, only one bus was used, and our student section butchered the rest of the entire crowd. That will be doubled this week, and ACC's efforts to increase student interest in this rivalry will be a point of humor for Nanooks fans in the stands on Friday. Over 4,000 tickets have already been sold for Saturday's game in Fairbanks, so expect a sellout-plus crowd at the Carlson. 

Buckle your seat belt, Dorothy, because Kansas is going bye-bye.


Amanda M said...

Glad you will be going down! I know there will by myself and two, maybe three, will be in attendance at the Sully as well. I really do hope people try to make it down as much as it sucks that it will be a fairly quick trip. Granted I try to stay in Anchorage as little as possible anyways.

Amanda M said...

I am dumb. I didn't read the last part of your post.

Britton said...

It's ok, consider yourself much more privelaged than the majority of ACC fans and students, of which few have the ability to read at all...

Anonymous said...

The Anchorage Daily Pamphlet couldn't be bothered to preview the Governor's Cup this year. What a pathetic showing from "Alaska's Newspaper".