The Nanooks are up in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan this weekend to open the first round of the CCHA playoffs in the Taffy Abel Ice Arena. The Lakers have not fared so well since their appearance here in Fairbanks, winning just 1 game of their last 5, including a sweep at the hands of their neighbors in Marquette.
Coming out of 2 tightly contested games against Anchorage, the Nanooks skated very well and obviously need to continue that success on the road; a feat which has not been accomplished thus far this season. This weekend's best of 3 series could change that though. Even if the 'Nooks drop one, I think the chances favor the 'Nooks in 3 games this weekend if it comes to that.
Against Western at home two weeks ago, they outshot the Broncos with a slight 26-25 edge, but lost the game 3-1 due to 2 costly power play goals for the Broncos early in the 2nd and 3rd periods. In the rematch on Saturday, Kevin Kapalka ran away with it and just robbed the Broncos, who seemingly outplayed the Lakers throughout the game. But a shorthanded goal by Perfetto, and 3 helpers from Cassiani really boosts momentum, especially with Western on the doorstep all night.
The ironic part here is Lake State's issues have not been in the goal scoring department. In fact they've been held to 1 goal just 3 times since the new year. The issue is keeping pucks out of their own net; obviously a pretty important strategy to have and execute well to win games. Against Northern last weekend, the Lakers were outscored 11-5 in the series. While Kapalka played both nights, he did not finish the 2nd game after getting pulled prior to the start of the 3rd period after allowing 5 goals on 18 shots. That's really been the story as of late for this Lakers team, it has been a roller coaster headed down hill. Started really high, even lead the CCHA for the better part of the first half of the season, but wins have been hard to come by for this team.
The Nanooks have been through their own sets of struggles but are starting to gain quite a bit of momentum coming into this weekend, especially riding high off of the Governor's Cup win. Not letting those emotions run too wild in their minds, will be an interesting thing to see. Earlier this year, the Nanooks had the Lakers where they wanted them, and were staged for a comeback, but a 3 on 5 power play goal at the hands of Kyle Haines was the buzzkill. Saturday, the Nanooks looked good in their CCHA regular season home finisher outshooting LSSU 40-27. Taranto had a steller night that night, not just on the stat sheet (1G 1A), but he was all over the ice blocking shots, creating turnovers, and creating havoc through the neutral zone on the back check.
Tempers were clearly running high though that weekend, and playoff hockey is a whole other type of atmosphere. You can bet both teams are going to be flying to keep their hockey seasons alive! It's going to be a good weekend of hockey, I wish I was there. I almost was there, but eventually decided that 60,000 air miles might be better spent if I can go next weekend to Ferris/Michigan, AND possibly Detroit the week after and get to the Joe. I can't wait, just have to get the guys to make it happen! Go Nooks!