Sunday, October 28, 2012

'Nooks Grind Out Victory in 3rd Period

Sorry for the delay in getting this up and out there. Shortly after the end of the hockey game, I elected to go watch the Nanooks volleyball team narrowly lose to UAA in a very close 5 set match. But I suppose that's not a valid excuse, is it? Anyway, I was really proud of the way the 'Nooks rallied to come back against Ferris State in the second game. They responded well to Friday and kept pressing in the 3rd period to get the win. And for Tyler Morley to get that goal in the final minute was great, not just for the goal but more for Morley to get rewarded for his hard work last night was good to see.

I think I speak for a lot of people when I say how fun its going to be to watch him develop over the next few years. I go back to an email from a gentlemen in British Colombia who told me that Morley was worth the price of admission alone. And that statement gains more and more truth every week.

Personally, I think the cost of the internet stream yesterday was justified listening to Ferris State's play-by-play guy drop the F-bomb during a break in the first period. But that's just me...

But anyway, Morley didn't win it alone last night. I thought the offense did a great job getting their scoring chances. CJ Motte is a great goaltender for Ferris, whom I think is a little underrated. He faced 82 shots this weekend and allowed 6 goals for a .927 save percentage. He's big, and he's mobile with a quick glove. It's not an easy task to beat goalies like that, and to get 6 goals in says a lot. He stood on his head for a while there last night, and even a bit on Friday to keep the Bulldogs ahead.

I still think goaltending is still a bit questionable on our side, but all three of these guys will improve and get better as they get more game experience. Wylie Rogers has been around with the team, and helping to coach and mentor these guys and share his experiences. Most of the issues at the moment just seem to be nerves. At the start of the game Friday, Thompson just had the looks like he was just shaky. Cahill had some questionable moments too but on the other side of the coin, he made some fantastic saves to keep the game close. It's certainly going to be a battle between the three of them. I'd like to see Keeney get worked into the lineup as well after having been hung out to dry back in Anchorage during the Kendall tournament. I was pretty excited to see him coming in this season, as he's got some great potential too.

As coach Ferguson said, you want to win your games at home and split on the road, and so far, the 3-2-1 Nanooks are doing just that. Next weekend, the Lakers from LSSU come to town off of a home split versus Michigan State. Should be an interesting series, but I'll be missing the Saturday game unfortunately due to travel. I'll do my best to keep everyone apprised though.




Friday, October 26, 2012

Four Unanswered Goals Propel Ferris State

My oh my how a game can change. The 'Nooks started off with a great first period, going up 2-0 in relatively quick fashion as they seemed pick up right from where they left off after sweeping the tournament last weekend. Striking first, Trevor Campbell set up a beautiful play chipping the puck off of the half-wall on the entry after getting tied up on the blue line. Skating the puck down low behind the net, Campbell surveyed the ice and caught Odegard streaking in from the bench to the high slot. Kaare ripped it and drove the puck through traffic into the back of the net for the early lead just 1:17 into the 1st period.

Colton Beck followed up a bit later with a gritty goal in front of the net, as strong puck control and great movement around the ice had Ferris chasing. Beck was left alone on the side of the crease with nobody in sight, and some quick dangles had CJ Motte in desperation mode who got a pad on Beck's first shot. But the Nanooks cycled the puck well down low and Beck got it back and buried it into an open net.

But later on, a quick score followed sharply by a power play allowed FSU to tie it with two goals less than 60 seconds apart. A clutch goal in the final 30 seconds of the 1st period by Andy Taranto batting one out of the air would be the last time the 'Nooks ever would light the lamp.

But for Ferris State, they just got started as they rallied off four unanswered goals in a complete shift from the first period. I don't know what happened, but the Nanooks did not look the same after coming out of the locker room to start the second period. It was just a different team in the same Nanooks sweaters for the last 40 minutes. Especially after Ferris State officially took the lead, the 'Nooks just started throwing pucks on net, not really generating a lot of scoring chances.

Was Steve Thompson to blame for allowing 6 goals? Sort of. Once the Bulldogs sniffed blood, they had no trouble scoring on him upstairs. But the defense also fell short on their end of the deal and left Thompson alone at times. Granted, the 5th goal by Alexander was about 20 feet offsides, but I don't think they can review that anyway. That said, the Nanooks (yes, as a team) still allowed 6 goals. Does that mean we will see Cahill in net tomorrow? Probably, but there are more issues than just the goaltender.

The Nanooks had the Bulldogs on the ropes to start the game before they let the momentum shift away from them. Adjustments to be made, and tomorrow I'm hoping for a different result.

Go 'Nooks!

Nanooks Open CCHA Play Against Defending Champ FSU

Last week, the Nanooks took out a good Hockey East team, along with the number 2 team in the country from the WCHA, and now the Nanooks open CCHA conference play against last season's defending champions. After the sweep last weekend, I hope the 'Nooks are still hungry to go in for seconds!

Ferris State is always a tough place to play. The arena is small, the ceilings are really low, and the crowd makes it really loud. And the FSU players don't make it any easier to play their either. The Bulldogs were 15-4-2 at home last season, with one of those ties coming to the Nanooks this past January.

After Ferris State's big National Championship run last season, a lot of people wondered about their goaltending situation (sound familiar?) with the departure of senior Taylor Nelson. CJ Motte saw action in 12 games last year, with an impressive .925 save percentage and a 1.98GAA, but just barely over .500 at 5-5-2. Seems that the start of this season isn't much different for him as the Bulldogs have yet to really get going after a loss and a tie to RPI, and a win and a tie against Mercyhurst. 

The Bulldogs did lose two key players from last year to graduation, in Jordie Johnston team leader in goals and points (20-16-36). As well as Chad Billins, the big defensive leader who was no stranger to the stat sheet either with a 7-22-29 line. But now in his senior year, Kyle Bonis is picking right back up where he left off in a tie for first in scoring with 4 points.

The Nanooks really do have a lot going for them coming into this weekend. Not a lot of hype around the 'Nooks nationally despite the victory over North Dakota last weekend. Ferris State remains ranked at #18 with a 1-1-2 record (Nanooks are 2-1-1 & unranked). Steve Thompson will get his 3rd consecutive start this weekend, which he has rightly earned.

The interesting part though to the Nanooks goaltending... It's the Nanooks scoring. The top scorers currently on the Nanooks roster are two defensemen, Trevor Campbell and Josh Atkinson each are 1-3-4. Good for them, but I think that also tells that our forwards aren't getting on the scoreboard yet. And with Taranto and Beck still without a point, it could get interesting.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Nanooks Defeat #2 North Dakota 2-1

Efforts like we saw tonight show exactly what the Nanooks are capable of. Tonight they outskated, and  outworked a good North Dakota team. It's amazing the number of excuses that are out there online that the only reason that the Nanooks won was because of the suspensions to North Dakota players. My answer: those players made the choice to have the party, and getting caught was part of the risk and you have to live with those consequences. But that excuse can't be used to cope with the loss, nor take away anything from this victory for Alaska. The fact is UND was outplayed by the Nanooks tonight.

Critics aside, it was a great game all around from both sides. It was very defensive and exciting, and I couldn't be more excited for our guys to get this win tonight. Their hard work, and their effort out there tonight earned the victory and I'm proud of every one of them.

Especially for Steve Thompson, a guy that hasn't gotten any playing time coming into this weekend and after a good showing yesterday, he came up BIG tonight to keep a high powered North Dakota team to 1 goal out of 26 shots. That should serve as a huge boost to his confidence going forward. Great effort on the defense's part as well getting down and blocking shots. Trevor Campbell, Kaare Odegard, Michael Quinn, well... pretty much everybody other there really... but those three really put their bodies on the line out there and get into the shooting lanes and keep pucks out of Thompson's way.

Glad to see Chad Gehon getting rewarded and burying the puck tonight. He's one of those guys that you don't typically see on the scoresheet, but he constantly works hard and never takes a shift off. His last goal was the lone goal in the final 1-4 loss to Miami in last year's CCHA playoffs.

Atkinson also tallied his first career goal tonight on a nice shot from the point during a power play. Morley found him wide open at the point as he was sliding down to the high slot, and the defense just left him alone. Morley passed it, Atkinson slapped it and tied the game up.

Now the big question that came from everybody was why was the first goal from Cody Kunyk disallowed? The answer that I was given was there was an issue with the recording on instant replay, and the officials were unable to review the goal via video and were forced to stick with the call that was on the ice of a good goal. The way that I saw it, Kunyk took a shot that hit the left post and off of the back bar on the inside of the net and bounced straight back out. Some others seemed to agree, others thought that it just hit the post but the fact of it is (and Coach Schmidt summed it up beautifully) "because we didn't need it".

Truly a great win for the Nanooks tonight and they deserved it from their effort. I hope this is the team that we are going to see every weekend, and put forth the same effort because that's what it takes to win. Last year we saw the parity remarks more so than ever that what separates the top teams from the bottom teams is who wants it more. If I recall correctly, all that separated first place and sixth place in the conference was 12 points. Or four wins out of 28 conference games. Every weekend counts, and the Nanooks have to be ready for Ferris State next weekend, who had a 7-3 win and a 3-3 tie against the Mercyhurst Lakers this weekend.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Power Play Rolls as the Nanooks Take Down Merrimack 3-2

A great win tonight not just for the Nanooks, but also the CCHA as the Nanooks take down a very respectable Hockey East opponent. A very tough win that took 3 goals from the Nanooks' power play unit, but a solid 3-2 win puts day one of the 2012 Goal Rush to bed.

The Nanooks had some good momentum to start with in the first period tonight, but Merrimack answered with some momentum of their own. They struck first coming in on the rush as Brian Christie ripped it with a hard shot that went off Thompson's pad and stopped down low just in front of the crease, but Quinn Gould got the second chance that went in.

At the end of the first, Merrimack's Shawn Bates took a swing at Yaremchuk who was thrown to the ground after the final buzzer. Seemed like he would hit the showers early, but only two minutes went up on the board. I was a little shocked to tell you the truth.

After sure ending an early goal 2 seconds after Bates got out of the box, but that seemed to light a fire somewhere under the Nanooks...but with the help of 5 power plays, the Nanooks rattled off three goals. Tyler Morley put one up on the board first with a deflection on a shot by Josh Atkinson, which for Morley was sweet I'm sure (more on that later).

Trevor Campbell (1-1-2), who put up a stellar effort defensively tonight was certainly due for a goal having come up empty last season, and he got it in style. With Jarret Granberg controlling the puck and skating down towards the goal, he made a great feed back and across the ice to Campbell who was right there to put it in and erase the 2 goal deficit.

And Cody Kunyk notched the game-winner with Mike Collins in the box for tripping. With Beck down screening the goaltender, Kunyk unleashed a high wrister that found twine. A very good looking goal if I do say so myself. Of course, when you leave Kunyk alone in the slot with the puck, that's typically what happens.

It's tough to really assess how the Nanooks played 5 on 5 tonight considering there wasn't much of a chance to do that all things considered. But, the power play really sparked there in the 2nd period enough to strike three times on eight chances, the ninth coming in the 3rd. Certainly a physical game that I think the Nanooks controlled very well. I commented on it in the post-game social that turned into coach West disagreeing that Merrimack was taking it to the Nanooks physically. I didn't intend to word it that way (hey, I was tired), but Merrimack certainly turned up the intensity, and got very chippy. Including one incident early in the 3rd period where Adam Henderson was pulled into the bench as Rhett Bly allegedly got into it there on Merrimack's bench with Hendo. Not sure if it was really him or not, but I watched Merrimack's coach grab one of his players by the shoulder pads and just yanked him backwards to the bench.

Another one of those cases where I was certain in my head that someone was going to get thrown out of the game. Just a 2 minute roughing call though, but I don't think the officials actually saw the whole thing go down cleanly.

The interesting story of the night though was Tyler Morley, and how every opportunity that Merrimack got to put a hit on him, they took it. Turns out, according to the Eagle Tribune Tyler Morley originally committed to Merrimack in 2010 before decommitting and coming to play for the Nanooks. Certainly makes that goal much sweeter. Not really sure what his reasonings were for decommiting, but hopefully  tonight's outcome reaffirms that positive decision.

The Nanooks take on North Dakota tomorrow in the evening game after UND just pasted Anchorage 5-0. Jarret Granberg put it well after an adorable little girl asked what the team plans for to beat them, saying puck control is key against a team like that. And I couldn't agree more, but controlling the puck is one thing. Being disciplined with it, and making solid decisions is the other part as passing accuracy and scoring chances will be put to the test. North Dakota is a great team, but they're not invincible. And with an effort like the Nanooks had tonight, it's going to be a great game to watch.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Alaska Goal Rush - Nanooks vs. Merrimack Warriors

Game Central


Wow. So North Dakota just waxed the Seapups 5-0. I didn't expect anything different, but onto the game that matters tonight. Nanooks and the Warriors will hook up for the second game of the Brice Alaska Goal Rush. 

Glad to see Jarret Granberg back in the lineup tonight after missing the second game last week against Canisius. Steve Thompson also getting the start in net tonight.

I don't have a lot of time tonight, so here's the lines!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Look at the 2012 Goal Rush

I love tournament weekends, especially home tournaments. And the field for this years Goal Rush is pretty impressive. In the next two days, the Nanooks will take on two very impressive teams in the Merrimack Warriors, a Hockey East team that matches up very well with the Nanooks. As well as the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux who enter the 2012-13 season without their storied moniker, or a majority of their players after a wild drinking party resulted in emergency phone calls for help, which in turn yields four freshman receiving citations for minor consumption, and 11 suspensions handed out as the team is dressing the bare minimum of 16 players for tomorrow's game against Anchorage.

The interesting headline is North Dakota team assistant captain Danny Kristo, the team's second-leading scorer from a year ago, didn't even make the trip. Team captain Andrew MacWilliam, also suspended for the game against the Seapups. Only one of the team's regular four captains will wear a letter on Friday as Carter Rowney will also don the coat and tie serving a one game suspension. Just a crazy story if you ask me.

Speaking of crazy stories, if you haven't yet heard the tale of Pete Friesema, the WCHA official who is currently not allowed to leave the state of Alaska after cracking a joke at the Anchorage airport last week about a bomb being in his friends' bag. The ADN reported that the Alaska Airlines baggage attendant mistagged Pete's bag with his partner's, which shouldn't have been a big deal, and it probably wasn't with him since they were going to the same place. While I find the whole thing somewhat funny in that he said one of probably the most reveling words you can say in an airport, which after seeing Meet the Parents I think its something you should just know not to do. For what its worth, the WCHA has declined to make a comment on the issue, other than that they've suspended him until they have a chance to review it after he returns. When will he be able to leave the state? Who knows. He is out on bail, but to my knowledge is staying in a hotel.

Anyway, back on topic. Goon's World blog has a nice breakdown of who is and who isn't playing this week for NoDak:

This is the list of UND hockey players that will miss the game for UND against Anchorage Alaska.

1. Danny Kristo – Suspension
2. Corbin Knight – Suspension
3. Andrew MacWilliam – Suspension
4. Carter Rowney – Suspension
5. Brendan O'Donnell – Suspension
6. Michael Parks – Injury

This is the list of UND hockey players that will miss the game for UND against Alaska

1. Danny Kristo – Suspension
2. Connor Gaarder– Suspension
3. Andrew Panzarella– Suspension
4. Stephane Pattyn– Suspension
5. Michael Parks – Injury
North Dakota will have a very short bench, no doubt about that. But they played a lot of the late season last year with a shortened bench due to injuries. So it'll be interesting to see how this team responds in the early part of the season. Interestingly enough, 3 of NoDak's first 4 games, are against ACC...


Merrimack is kind of the unknown here, as I've never seen this team play. The Hockey East conference is no stranger to Dallas Ferguson, who was almost able to upset Hockey East champs Boston College's National Championship run three season's ago in the first round of the tournament in Worcester. As I said in the introduction, Merrimack matches up well with the Nanooks. With a lower tier offense and a top 10 defense last season, the Nanooks will be challenged to score, and challenged to keep the Warriors off of the board.

Josh Myers has been the breakout player so far with 2 goals against Union and an assist in the Northeastern game, who now has almost half of the point total in two games that he had all of last season. The top returning scorer for Merrimack this season is Mike Collins, who has yet to crack the stat sheet, save for one minor penalty.

Rasmus Tironnen, a Finnish goaltender in his sophomore season was tested last week vs. Northwestern allowing 3 goals on 33 shots. Sam Marotta, the junior goaltender for the Warriors started the season's first game against Union in a 4-1 win allowed one in 34 shots. But who will get the start this weekend isn't in stone.

Same goes for the Nanooks. Both Cahill and Keeney each allowed 3 goals against, but Keeney was kind of left hanging out to dry in the game against Cansius. And with Steve Thompson yet to skate in the crease this season so far, who knows what Dallas has in store for the tournament this weekend.

Go 'Nooks!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Photos From Game 3 of the Kendall Hockey Classic

Below are some of the photos from tonights 3-1 loss to Canisius in game 3 of the Kendall Hockey Classic. 

Nanooks Flat in 3-1 Loss to Canisius

The Nanooks looked flat tonight. They seemed uninspired, and thought they would play just enough to try and win, but they were seemingly run over by a Canisius team who came out ready to play. Missed passes, poor breakouts and entries, and failing to get any chances down low, while lapses in defensive coverage in their own zone were the nails in the Nanooks' coffin tonight.

In the first period, the Nanooks came out swinging, but Canisius had plans of their own, getting two early goals on freshman John Keeney, both of which resulted from a coverage mistake, leaving an unguarded forward right in front of the net. Torrey Lindsay caught a nice deflection, and Preston Shupe was left all alone as the Golden Griffins went up 2-0 in a hurry. Honestly, both of those goals Keeney should have had, but at the same time I can't blame the goaltender for a defensive mistake.

The Nanooks were not without pressure, but the 6' 5" Asmundson stood strong, but the Nanooks didn't really get that many quality chances in the 1st period. They got a lot of pressure, and a good cycle going, but not able to get any shots down low near the goaltender at all.

The second period was no different, as the Nanooks seemed to slow down and give up more plays. Including a free rush down the slot for Matthew Grazen who went unchallenged to the net for the 3rd. goal.

The 3rd period, the Nanooks seemed to be a bit more fired up, but still unable to penetrate the 6' 5" wall of Keegan Asmundson, try as they might. Until late in the period getting the shot in up high in a big net mouth scrum, which bounced right back out of the net. After a lengthy review, the goal counted as the Nanooks at least took away the shutout from Asmundson.

Overall, a lot of work to be done before two ranked teams in North Dakota and Merrimack pay the 'Nooks a visit next week.

Photos From Game 1 vs. Air Force

Thanks to Paul McCarthy for sending these my way!

Kendall Classic Round 2 - Nanooks vs Canisius

Game Day


Canisius Golden Griffins vs. Alaska Nanooks
4:07PM - Sullivan Arena

Play By Play Audio (Bruce Cech / KCBF)
Live Video (Stretch Internet - Free)
Live Stats (UAA Athletics)
Twitter (Your's truly, @NanookHockey)


Yesterday's game against Air Force wen't pretty well I thought. The guys played well, but I think Cahill just lacked the confidence you'd expect a goaltender to have. His nerves just got the better of him, which I think is leading to coach's decision to start John Keeney in net tonight. Keeney had a pretty strong outing in juniors before he got moved to Muskegon. A team that lacked in every area of defense looked to a star goaltender to solve all of their problems that I think hurt Keeney's projections. Honestly, he's an NHL draft-worthy goalie that I'm excited to see in action tonight.

Unfortunately, Jarret Granberg sustained an injury during last night's game and will sit out tonight. Fairbanks' own Alec Hajdukovich will see his first collegiate minutes on the fourth line with Friese and Dumond as some of the other lines see a bit of a shake-up.

Canisius and UAA last night left a lot to be desired. Just sloppy play overall gave the feeling of juniors game. A friend of mine texted me and asked if this was really a D-I hockey game, to which I responded "I don't know, I haven't seen this much icing since that episode of Cake Boss I watched last week." And not just by one team, but both ways. Not really much of a defensive battle as it was a lack-of-offense battle. Neither team got anything going in either zone and relegated a lot of the play through the neutral zone. Surprising, really. But Canisius' line of Law-McCrank-Wiseman really stood out in their play, and they worked hard every shift. I don't think its their top line, but they got a lot of minutes last night and they will be the line to watch for tonight.

I suspect coach Ferguson had a few screws to tighten in this morning's pre-skate, but all of the elements of a good hockey team were there. Cahill saved a few lapses in defense, but as I said, seemed to lack confidence in his play. For Keeney, I'm pretty confident that he's got the skills to compete at this level, but it might take him a little while to get settled in. I'm hoping the 'Nooks can get a goal early to help his mindset a bit. I think he'll play better with a lead. Seemingly less pressure that way.

Anyway, here are the lines for tonight...

Friday, October 12, 2012

Nanooks Tie and Win Shootout Against Air Force in Cahill's First Start

Congratulations to Sean Cahill for putting on a strong showing tonight in a 3-3 tie against Air Force. The numbers won't tell the whole story with 3 goals allowed and a 0.789 save percentage, but he made some pretty strong saves tonight. 1 of the goals was a tip in, another looked like a deflection down low, but not 100% sure on that one. And the other goal was a lost scramble effort in front of the net. Overall, he played well, but we'll see who goes tomorrow against Canisius. But on to the recap...

The first period saw some interesting action as the Nanooks got on the board first with Nik Yaremchuk putting it in right in front of the net, catching a feed from Jarret Granberg after Josh Atkinson got the puck down low. A well set up play that paid off, as they caught the Falcons playing the perimeter. Atkinson got some pressure up on the point and made a good read down low to find Granberg perched to the goaltenders right as Yaremchuk was sneaking down the slot. Feed. Bang. Beautiful. 1-0 Nanooks.

But the lead wouldn't last long as Air Force came right back to tie it just 48 seconds later, as the Falcons came back down the ice with a vengeance. Jason Fabian took a cycle to cover the point after the defenseman left his post, so Jason took a point shot of his own just above the right face-off circle over Cahill's glove as he allowed his first goal of the season.

A bit later, with Colton Parayko in the box for tripping, a big net mouth scramble in front of Cahill as he fell backwards resulted in a power play goal for the Falcons. With just two seconds left in Parayko's penalty, Adam McKenzie made a feed down to John Kruse, who took the initial shot. That one to me looked like it went in, but apparently McKenzie got a stick on it and they called it his goal with a secondary assist to Kyle DeLaurell, who brought the puck into the zone at the beginning of the play.

And just as I thought that nothing was going our way, Parayko made a BEAUTIFUL shot on the rush after the feed from Quinn to take it in. He couldn't have made that shot any prettier. Quinn caught him coming in to the zone as he was breaking coverage and Colton took it to the house for his first collegiate goal. Tape it up, mark it, and put it on the shelf! Maybe even consider bronzing it, I don't know...

The teams skated to the locker room at the end of the first tied 2-2, but the Falcons really had a lot of momentum as the 'Nooks couldn't get anything set up. They took 19 shots, but about 1/3rd of them were blocked, and a bunch went off target.

In the 2nd period, the Nanooks fared a lot better, outshooting the Falcons 11-4, and getting much more pressure down low and getting the offense going as Air Force elected to refresh their goaltender putting in Jason Torf, but that didn't seem to create the momentum that Air Force was hoping for. But they did hold pretty solid defensively. Until a key turnover in front of the net as Yaremchuk caught an outlet pass attempt right in perfect position. It couldn't have been placed any better, and Yaremchuk had no problems burying that golden beauty. And the Nanooks took over the lead with 11:35 remaining in the 2nd, and would hang on to the lead as they skated back to the locker room.

In the 3rd, the Falcons came out pretty fast, and I think they caught the Nanooks sleeping a little bit. A few turnovers at the start of the Nanooks breakout and zone entry sent the puck going the other direction. On one unfortunate occassion, the Falcons got in an odd man rush, going 3 on 2 with the Nanooks. And a good feed from Scott Holm across the net mouth to Demers to even things up at 3 a side.

Into OT, neither team really got any breaks early and couldn't really set up, until the Nanooks really got some late pressure. A few chances then started to break for the Falcons, but Cahill stood strong.  But with no team actually putting goals on the board, the game officially goes in the books as a tie. But in the sense of tie breakers, we went to a shootout. And the Nanooks are no strangers in that department. Both Beck and Taranto put pucks in, as De Laurell's goal for Air Force just wasn't enough.

Kendall Classic Game 1: Nanooks vs Air Force

Game Day


Air Force Falcons vs. Alaska Nanooks
5:07PM - Sullivan Arena


Play By Play Audio (Bruce Cech / KCBF)
Live Video (Stretch Internet - Free)
Live Stats (UAA Athletics)
Twitter (Your's truly, @NanookHockey)

Pretty nice day in Anchorage! Right at 40ยบ, sunny, and we're inside getting ready to watch a hockey game. Should be an interesting game tonight between the Nanooks and the Air Force Falcons. I'm also pretty excited to stick around and check out Canisius and get a better look at how they operate.

But, as predicted, the two Nanook lines I mentioned this morning are intact. However, it looks like Sean Cahill will get his first collegiate start tonight between the pipes. And I know he's pumped!

Anyway, as always you can follow me during the game on Twitter (@NanookHockey) for live updates and commentary. It's a bit different seeing the game from up top versus in the announcers booth... It's been a while!

But without further ado...

Headin' South - Nanooks Look for Another Kendall Title


Well, with the ACC Fan Blog no longer in production, I suppose its up to me to break down the Canisius Golden Griffins, and the Air Force Falcons. If Seapups fans want to read this, feel free. I can't stop you. But it's not going to help your team any...

Anyway, this weekend's action should be pretty exciting. Both of the visitors to the Kendall are Atlantic Hockey members, and the Falcons have pretty much owned that league for the past five years or so. Of course, Air Force is no rookie to the Alaska tournaments. Cansius is the newcomer to the tournament, and the first game between these two teams in over 20 years.

Each of these teams come in to Anchorage fresh off of two punishing losses to Canadian teams: Canisius falling 2-5 at the hands of Ottawa, and Air Force dropping one 2-4 to British Columbia. Air Force's game was not without its fair share of excitement though. 

With a little over a minute remaining and down 2-1, Air Force pulled their goaltender, only to have an unassisted empty netter scored just seconds later. Not giving up on the game though, Air Force kept their goaltender out and kept pressing with the extra attacker and Cole Gunner scored with 22 seconds left on the clock. Of course, still not losing hope, the Falcons still with the extra attacker was able to win a few battles, but eventually allowed the 4th goal with 7 seconds left on the clock, and no netminder to stop it…

Air Force is returning a LOT of of their scoring for a year ago, boosted by a strong senior class this year to help. Kyle De Laurell and John Kruse are both top returning seniors this year having lead the team in scoring a year ago. And the 8 sophomores who contributed well last year for the Falcons all return to the team more experienced. The interesting part is that a few of the Falcons players have ties to Alaska, including George Michalke who played with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in his junior career. A number of other Falcons have also played with other Alaskan NAHL teams as well. 

Canisius took a 2-1 lead to the locker room at the end of the second period, but a defensive collapse, and a rookie goaltender in Adam Harris allowed 3 goals in the final period (plus an empty netter) to take the 5-2 gut check. Canisius really seems to like a collapsing style defense, with all 5 skaters pitching in allows them to take some more risks and chances, but their system isn't very polished. From the film I've seen, an efficient cycle will bait the defenders into chasing the puck, which create passing and shooting lanes. We'll see how the Nanooks prepared this past week and see if the passes get any more crisp. 

On the offensive side, the Golden Griffins return a large part of their scoring from a year ago. Their top 4 were all sophomores last season, and return to the lineup for their junior year. Both Tyler Gibbons and Taylor Law were about as identical in stats as you can get, both putting up 11-15-26 scoring lines, but with Law having 3 more games played last season. Truth be told, I haven't reviewed any of their scoring plays but I've been told they can be pretty dynamic offensively. They didn't put too many goals in the back of the net last season, but it sounds like head coach and Ohio State alumnus Dave Smith allows his forwards to be free and creative in the attacking zone.

I would expect that these teams will at least challenge the Nanooks a bit. I've been talking a bit about these teams returning a lot of their scoring personnel, but if you calculate it out, the Nanooks are returning 95.6% of their scoring from last season. Hopefully, the Nanooks will be adding a bit more in that category as well, but time will certainly tell. Huysmans and Morley were two players that coach Ferguson was particularly impressed with, and so was I. But headed into the NCAA season this weekend, we'll see how these guys react to a stronger and faster team.

That's really what this weekend is all about, getting two solid games under the belt and make some adjustments before North Dakota comes to Fairbanks next week to give the 'Nooks the best chance to win.  Two wins would really bolster the confidence of the team, which is a big thing too.

As far as the Nanooks roster goes, I would expect Steve Thompson to start the first game coming off of his one-game suspension against Regina last week for a violation of department rules. But don't be surprised if Keeney or Cahill make their presence known this weekend as well. The Beck-Kunyk-Huysmans line seemed to click quite a bit, so I'd envision them to stay together. Also Morley-Granberg-Taranto were in good stride, and keeping them together as well makes sense. Defensive pairings may be shaken up as well, but we'll see what Coach Ferguson has in store for us this weekend when I get the roster sheet tonight. I'm actually writing all of this on the flight down to Anchorage this morning. Should be a fun weekend for hockey!

Go 'Nooks!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

'Nooks Trample Regina 6-0

Tonight, the Nanooks got off to a good start, albeit some minor misfires in the way of offsides calls, missed passes, and a couple of bench minors for too many men on the ice rounded it out. But in terms of actual play and cycling and such, I thought the 'Nooks did a good job. They got good cycles going at times, but the Cougars played solid defensively. The lone goal in the first came when on a shorthanded chance as the skate of the Cougars' defender got stuck in a small gap between the ice and the boards, which created a two-on-one rush as Kaare Odegard got the puck up to Matt Friese who was shoulder to shoulder with Yaremchuk. Matt made a great pass to Nik and the net was wide open for the score.

But not so much in the 2nd period as the Nanooks kicked it up a notch, tallying 4 goals to kick it up to 5-0. Josh Atkinson benefitted from a funky bounce on a shot from the point after it went over the goaltender Lucas Gore's left pad on the power play. Less than a minute later, Michael Quinn found twine from his position on the blue line. But one of two of my favorite goals on the night came from Colton Beck during a penalty kill as he rushed to a free puck against the boards and was able to chip the puck up and jump past the defenseman to get a breakaway chance. The other defenseman for Regina caught up to Beck, but Kunyk came into the play so the D-man was forced to play the pass. But at that point, Mitch Kilgore was no match for Beck's shot.

But my favorite goal was the first of two from Cody Kunyk on the evening as rookie Nolan Huysmans won a battle along the boards and popped the puck out to Colton Beck inside the faceoff circle who found Kunyk left alone on the other side who fired and scored. With the puck on his stick, the defense collapsed on Beck very quickly, but patience and a quick stick found Kunyk and the two connect again. Great board play by Huysmans to set it all up too. These three skated together on the same line most of the night, and could be a dangerous mix for opposing teams as they continue to jive.

And the offensive outpouring continued through the 3rd, as Kunyk strikes again with helpers from Quinn and Beck through the slot. The goose egg held too for  Cahill and Keeney. Although they weren't really tested, the guys made all of the stops they should have made. In the postgame, new assistant coach and former player Corbin Schmidt told everyone that they're in no real rush to name anyone the starting goaltender, but they'll keep evaluating and help improve the goaltenders.

Next week, the 'Nooks head south for the Kendall Classic to take on Air Force and Canisius in the Sully as the ice has apparently been repaired. That should be an interesting tournament... Thanks to Jaime Schwartzwald for the killer video.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Game Day - Nanooks vs Cougars

Game Day

Regina Cougars vs. Alaska Nanooks
6:15PM - Carlson Center

Play By Play Audio (Bruce Cech / KCBF)
Live Video (AmericaOne.com - $7)
Live Stats (Sidearm Stats via AlaskaNanooks.com)
Live Blog (CoverItLive via AlaskaNanooks.com)
Twitter (Your's truly, @NanookHockey)

Today is an exciting day as we all get set to embark on another season of Alaska Nanooks hockey. If you're fond of the whole preseason polls thing, the Nanooks are not expected to finish anywhere near the top of anything. The CCHA coaches and the media picked the Nanooks to finish 10th and 11th, respectively. And for the first time since Dallas Ferguson took over as head coach, the Nanooks did not even receive a single vote in the USCHO's pre-season top 20. But at this moment, that means exactly nothing. The season hasn't even really started yet, and some sites have already decided our fate.

Hopefully that drives the motivation for this talented group of guys to step up and prove everyone wrong. The 'Nooks lost a lot of very close games last year, and were a few bounces away from a much different record. 

This week, coach Ferguson named senior forward Adam Henderson the team captain for this season, with Colton Beck, Kaare Odegard, and Andy Taranto along side of him. From what I've seen, this group should be good leaders for the rest of the team to look up to and for consistency. Each of these guys are great at their positions and will be there to help bring the team up and improve over the course of the season. 

On the Cougars side, it's still pretty early in their season as well, coming off of a home series loss and a shootout win against the University of British Colombia. Their leading goaltender in Andrew Hayes leads the way with a 3.43GAA and a .902 save percentage facing 41 shots in his lone game of the season, stopping all 8 shootout attempts in last Saturday's win. 6' 1" 210lb forward Troy Hunter comes in off of a good 5 point weekend, netting two goals and three assists. Matt Strueby and rookie Tyler Henry are close behind with 3 points each, Henry with 2 goals, and Strueby with 1. 

This should be a good tune up game for the 'Nooks as they look to find their stride before the Kendall Classic next weekend in Anchorage. Will also be a good chance to see the freshman fit in to some special team roles in a true game setting under the lights at the Carlson Center.

Note that the game starts at 6:15PM tonight, so a bit earlier than the usual 7:05 start time due to the Ice Dogs game. So come early, get some good seats and get pumped up for some Nanooks Hockey!

Lines

Alaska Nanooks

F1 26 Chad Gehon - 14 Adam Henderson (C) - 7 Nik Yaremchuk
F2 36 Colton Beck (A) - 37 Cody Kunyk - 24 Nolan Huysmans
F3 27 Tyler Morley - 17 Jarret Granberg - 29 Andy Taranto (A)
F4 9 Maxime Dumond - 20 Matt Friese - 11 Alec Hajdukovich

D1 13 Kaare Odegard (A) - 18 Trevor Campbell
D2 6 Michael Quinn - 4 Colton Parayko
D3 22 Josh Atkinson - 2 Justin Tateson

G1 38 Sean Cahill
G2 39 John Keeney

XF 25 Nolan Youngmun
XD 23 Nolan Kaiser

----------------------------

Regina Cougars

F1 29 Matt Strueby - 10 Tyler Henry - 22 Troy Hunter
F2 24 Ward Szucki - 14 Craig Cuthbert - 17 Carter Selinger
F3 16 Brayden Nargang - 15 Tyler Murray - 19 Sanfred King
F4 12 Liam Brennan - 21 Skyler Hladun - 11 Tanner Lange

D1 7 Mark Schneider - 4 John Sonntag
D2 13 Brock Appleyard - 5 Jordan Reeve
D3 6 Matt Sawa - 2 Ryan Dech

G1 30 Andrew Hayes
G2 Mitch Kilgore

Monday, October 1, 2012

A Look at the 2012-2013 Nanooks - Blue Wins 2-1

Credit: UAF Memes
Well, nothing like a 3 month vacation I suppose. Sorry for not getting anything up in recent history. I have said time and time again to myself among others that I was going to get something up and online, but life has a tendency to get in the way. I started a new job recently, and while still teaching a class at UAF, my life remains crazy but hockey is my release from it all.

 Anyway, I think the big question on the board for the Nanooks this offseason was goaltending. The loss of Scott Greenham leaves some big skates to fill, and the few looks at Steve Thompson last year had a lot of fans wondering if he was the right guy. While I don't know that this question has been completely answered tonight, it may have became a bit clearer. Honestly, if it was my decision Sean Cahill would get the start. And that's in no offense to Steve Thompson whatsoever, but overall I was more impressed with Cahill's presence in the net. He's a smaller guy, a bit like Wylie Rogers was so he's got more space to fill in the net. But I liked him. Typically those type of goaltenders have to go into desperation mode to make some saves earlier, and thus are out of position to make those second or third saves. And while Cahill had those situations a couple of times, but a combination of poise and the defense in front of him resulted in no goals allowed tonight. Thompson still looked good, but allowed two goals on one of the best shooters in the CCHA.

John Keeney also looked pretty good too for his first look in net. Really, what we have is a set of three solid goaltenders that are going to push each other each week to get better. I'm not sure if Coach Ferguson is willing to go to a committee-style goaltending situation, as he's historically went with a consistent goaltender week to week. I think it helps with the confidence of the goaltender, but a lot of other factors to consider when the starter is officially ironed out.

Elsewhere, I enjoyed the plays that each offensive team were setting up. They were easily countered by the defense, but that's not saying a whole lot considering they all know the plays that the other is running. That being said, plays only get you so far; line chemistry accounts for a great percentage of scoring throughout the season. You can defend and coach against designed plays, but its very hard to account for a line that knows exactly where the other is going to be at any given time. And Beck and Kunyk have not lost a step in that area. The freshmen seemed to jive pretty well in the systems that are running. Only one power play during the game, but the power play nearly connected.

As far as the freshmen individually go, we've got a pretty stout class this year. I think a lot of these guys are underrated, and didn't get a lot of hype as they probably should have. Colton Parayko being the exception, as he got the hype especially through the draft. But guys like Nolan Huysmans, Tyler Morley, and Josh Atkinson were the three freshmen that particularly caught my eye. I really like the fact that they aren't scared. All too often you see freshmen (on any college team) that have the size and strength, but don't have the courage to either take a hit, or make a hit and try to tip toe around defenders. I don't see that being a problem with these guys. I saw Huysmans skate right at Kaare Odegard with the puck and wasn't afraid to get his clock cleaned. Granted, it's a scrimmage, you just don't try to kill your teammates. Fortunately Kaare allowed Nolan to stay in one piece. But with some coaching and time, we'll see that effort turn into more quality scoring chances throughout the season.

Morley was another surprise. I didn't see a lot out on the web in terms of highlights or anything like that, but I did receive an email from a fan of the Surrey Eagles, the BCHL team he played with in juniors who said he was all over the ice. And if the scrimmage is any indication, he wasn't lying. He's got some wheels. However, he does have a bit of work to do to reign some of that in a bit to stay in coverage. But he's definitely going to be a bit of a playmaker.

And for everyone of the readers who keep telling me the team has never been the same since Joe Sova left, the offensive defenseman you've been yearning for has been signed, sealed, and delivered. Colton Parayko is going to be a great addition to our lineup, and I'm excited for this guy's career. He's a big guy (6' 5"), with phenomenal stick skills and great vision. I see him being used to run a lot of plays and allow him to direct the flow from the point to create lanes and get more pucks on net. Keep in mind, Sova's last year with the Nanooks he led the team in shots taken. I wouldn't be surprised if the same held true for Parayko this season.

I still can't believe I saw Tateson and Kaiser fire 100MPH shots down range during the hardest shot competition. The Nanook record (at least that I have recorded) was Kelly Czuy at 101MPH back in 2005. And the only other mark on the board in triple digits was Kyle Greentree, also at 100MPH. In other words when you see these guys wind up... Look out.

Still no word yet on captains for this season. I understand its a big team decision, so things will come out in their own time. I'll have the info here when it comes out, possibly before the Regina game this Friday! More to come later this week.