It's been a long time coming...
The summer was great, but the snow is here and its time to get things rolling. In fact, tonight is the annual Face Off Club Blue/Gold Scrimmage. Some big changes are afoot this year. First off, at the Carlson Center, the news spread like wildfire that the entire west side of the building--both upper and lower sections--will allow beer and wine in your seats. As the athletic department was in a renegotiation year with the Borough and SMG for its use of the Carlson Center for hockey, the topic came up and is actually going to end up saving the athletic department money. The department will not directly receive the revenue of the sale of alcohol--doing so would require a lot more paperwork--the Carlson Center will be deducting the nightly lease rate each weekend by the total volume in alcohol sales dollar-for-dollar. And this isn't going to be just your typical run-of-the-mill domestic beers and wines, the Carlson Center will feature microbrews from Alaska and other breweries around the country on a rotating basis, as well as select wines from popular vineyards including Bear Creek. The food situation is changing around this as a result too. There will be a "Beer and Brats" corner where the Nachos place was last year, the Nachos will move back to where they were. The former beer garden on ice level will become a bit of a food court for fans to get food when they come in the door before they go to their seats. Should improve a lot of the timing issues fans had last year.
There is also the addition of a box seat section on the north wall of the building below the alumni banners at ice level, which will offer full bar service, and a dedicated wait staff. Money raised from the box seat sales will go to the Nanook Hockey Alumni and their fundraising efforts for the team.
Also of major note, the WCHA as a league changed vendors for WCHA.tv (THANK YOU!), going away from AmericaOne/Eversport and instead going with Stretch Internet. Having used Stretch before for some of the other Nanook sports, they're very stable and a good quality stream. I have not seen a High Definition feed through Stretch at this point yet, so I hope the quality there is up to snuff for what the league promised its members two years ago when the schools were required to purchase an exorbitant list of high dollar camera and production equipment. The best news about this though is the service is a bit cheaper. Not quite as cheap as NCHC, but you also get the ability two watch up to four games simultaneously. Along with seamless game switching and full on-demand. You can buy a single game for $7.99, or an all-day pass for all WCHA games for $9.99. There are season passes to follow your team for $89.99/year, or a league season pass for $129.99/year that covers all league games, as well as non-conference home games and postseason for all WCHA teams.
The Athletic Department will use Stretch for the Blue/Gold Scrimmage tonight for free from the Patty Ice Arena. Understand ahead of time that this will not be fully indicative of the quality as the equipment at the Patty is not on par by any stretch of the imagination to the equipment at the Carlson Center.
As for the Blue/Gold Game itself, it starts at 7:07PM, doors open at 6:00PM. $10 for adults, $5 for kids 12-under, or $30 for a family of 4 or more.
|Image courtesy Chris Caskey, alaskananooks.com|
Alec Hajdukovich, also entering his senior season developed into a force to be reckoned with as the season progressed last year. The setup that Duke served to Josh Erickson last season for the game winning goal of the final game last season against Anchorage still counts as one of my favorite plays of the season. It wasn't intentional--a puck intelligently chipped from the boards to the front of the net find's the stick of Erickson for the goal. Plays like that are what it takes to win in this league.
J.D. Peterson has returned to the team this year as a ripped monster. Every year, Mike Curtin--perhaps better known as MC--puts the guys through a gauntlet of strength and conditioning tests at the beginning of each season. The final test is a group of three max lifts--bench press, power clean, and squat. All three must be done within two hours of the first. The score is the combined weight which determines the annual strong man award. In 2003, Kelly Czuy set the program record at 1,001 lbs. J.D. tied that record. He means business for his final year in a Nanook sweater.
The final alternate is the only non-senior of the bunch. Sophomore Zach Frye returns this season with the hope to step up the offensive side of his game to help close the gap left by departing NHLer Colton Parayko (watch for him to make the Blues roster this season). Zach was the captain of the Lincoln Stars in his final year of USHL action before joining the Nanooks last season. His leadership role off the ice and in the classroom is apparent. Zach posted a 4.0 GPA his first semester and made the UAF Chancellor's honor list.
The team's first full practice this week was full of energy. The team had some jump in their step and fundamentals appeared a bit more solid than I remember from years past. Passing was pretty on point, and the coaching staff was already working the team through situational drills by the end of the first hour. I didn't stay for the whole duration, but all appeared to be running well. Notably absent though was Shawn Hochhausen. The would-be Junior skated in every game for the Nanooks last year. Not sure what prevented him from coming back this season. Also departing was Jared Linnell, & Matt Friese, who I had heard left on their own terms. Matt Friese got married this summer. But I haven't heard what Jared is up to.
The goaltending situation this season is bound to see some change. Last season, time was nearly evenly split between Sean Cahill and Davis Jones. Cahill posted the better numbers while Jones technically had a slightly better record. With Cahill graduating (with honors, mind you) that leaves some big time to fill. Jones looked like he was getting the starters reps in practice, although John Keeney looks sharp as well. Jesse Jenks, the incoming freshman the coaches have praised, has the size and poise to compete for the job as well. Will there be a perennial starter?
Look for the first real report tomorrow as we get to break down the teams first look at real "game action" in the scrimmage tonight. Of course I intend for all of you to attend or watch from home if you're out of town. Certainly comment here with how well the Stretch stream works. I hope it runs smoothly! Your's truly will be the on-ice PA announcer again this year. It's time for some fun!