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As a fan of hockey, this series always piques the interest as the NMU series is always tough. Granted, the 'Nooks didn't have a lot of success with Northern over the years, but after sweeping the Wildcats at home a year ago I think the guys are getting over the realization that they're really not any different from other opponents.
But that being said, there is history to be written this weekend as the 'Nooks play their first ever WCHA conference games at home against a familiar CCHA rival. And while we got the better of Northern last year, they are a much different team this year. Hard to tell at this point if better or worse, but their defense returns a lot of experience in front of a net that leaves a big space to fill with Jared Coreau foregoing his senior season to sign a deal with the Detroit Red Wings.
To put it bluntly, they've struggled to score. 6 games into the season and scoring 13 goals for just over 2 per game is not a winning formula when your defense is allowing around 2.7 goals per game. The latter is about middle of the pack for scoring defense in the country, just about where you want to be and a hair above the Nanooks at 2.8.
The 'Nooks have had quite the opposite problem. With 21 goals at this point--especially considering that half of UA's opponents thus far were ranked--the boys are averaging 3.5 per game good for top 15 in the country. However, being at the top of national statistics is not always a good thing. And with 135 penalty minutes in 6 games--3rd most--something needs to change. I'm probably not the first person you heard from that has said that the 'Nooks have been slighted. Majors that should have been minors, as well as minors that weren't even penalties in my book have been rampant throughout the games that I've seen thus far.
But the officials aren't going to change their minds, and that's all in the past. Coach Ferguson has stated it to the players, but its fairly obvious that the guys just need to be more responsible with their hits and checks. And if they get a penalty, chirping to the officials isn't going to make it any better for the team as the game goes on. There is simply a new look at how existing rules are enforced and the game is going to be called tighter. I can complain all I want, but in the end its better for everyone. And the coaching staff will keep steering the guys in the right direction to play the right way.
After splitting time last weekend, John Keeney will get the start in goal tonight. While Jones may start tomorrow, I thought Keeney looked absolutely phenomenal in the second game against Mercyhurst. Positioning and rebound control was stellar and all but one goal of the three he allowed, I can't fault him for. And if he only gives up one a game that he could have stopped, we're doing pretty good and I didn't even mention all the shots that he stopped but probably shouldn't have. Keeney had a solid game Saturday, and apparently a great week of practice so I'm told so he'll earn the start tonight as the boys look to impress their parents in the crowd.
No word on the official lineup just yet. I know Youngmun, Larson, and Coyne are still out to injury, but Justin Woods was in full practice this week so hopefully he'll get a chance to suit up. Be sure to follow me on Twitter throughout the weekend so you'll get the full lines and pre-game starters before they're announced on the ice.
Go 'Nooks, and we'll see you at the Carlson Center!