Thursday, January 22, 2015

Seeking Vengeance In Houghton

The Nanooks longest roadie of the year comes after a heartbreaking sweep at the hands of the Seawolves on home ice. It's a tough one to swallow for the players, perhaps just as tough for the fans. For those that know me, I'm also a Packers fan and after that brutal last 3 minutes of Sunday's game against Seattle, that weekend was very painful. 

But, as captain Colton Parayko stated during Saturday's post game press conference, you can't look at what's behind you. You have to keep the truck pointed forward and focus on what's in front of you. Pretty wise words for a 21 year old...

But the Nanooks have made it to Houghton, Michigan with the goal of taking down Michigan Tech. At 16-7-1, that's no small task. But with a 9-1-1 record away from the John MacInnes Student Ice Arena, that leaves a 6-5-0 record at home (1-1-0 in neutral site games). That hot 10-0-0 record to start the season was tops in the country for a while until Mankato came to town to change all of that. Sweeping the #1 Huskies at the time seemed impossible with the run they were on. But they had played a long stretch of road games early in the season. Now in a swing of 8 straight home games, the Huskies look to change the tide on home ice. 

But the Nanooks have something to say about that. The guys seem refocused and ready to go. Should be a good series. I'm expecting a split. 

Unfortunately though, yours truly will not be able to watch the games this weekend. When I get back to Fairbanks on Monday, I will watch the recap games and break it down. 

Until then, Go 'Nooks!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Good News and Bad News

As usual, might as well start with the bad news. The Nanooks lost. Twice. To the Seawolves.

All I can say is "Ugh...". I had another diatribe written, but the only explanation I can give for only scoring 3 goals on some 90 shots on goal for the weekend is their goalie. Mantha stepped up and got it done all weekend. And rightly was named the rookie of the week for the WCHA. Despite the penalty situation Friday, the Nanooks had their fair share of power play chances on Saturday but just didn't execute. The Nanooks offense has been quite steady, but Matt Thomas and the Seawolves had their number this weekend and while the Seawolves weren't defensively amazing by any standards, they held the 'Nooks offense to the outside for most of the night and when the 'Nooks did get pucks inside, they lacked the confidence to make the timely play.

Seemed like the Nanooks were ringing the iron all night long too. I didn't see the official stats on that one, but I unofficially counted 4. Someone else said 5. Either way, those 2 3/8" bars seemed a lot bigger Saturday.

Anyway, on to the good news. As I mentioned Thursday, there was a silent auction benefitting Justin Woods in the rink this weekend. Well over 100 items were donated. Everything from gift certificates and items from local businesses to a size 32 Reebok signed by Shaq. Jerseys from a myriad of NHL clubs and former Nanook players. Framed photos, posters, and over 100 items sold.

Justin also recorded a video that was played in the Carlson Center this weekend reporting that he had just two treatments left and hopefully will be cancer free and back in Fairbanks by the end of February. A phenomenal proclamation. But spending nearly a year in Seattle undergoing expensive treatment has been assumably financially exhausting.

After the weekend was over, $25,650 was raised for Justin and his family to help offset some of his medical expenses. Which brings the total to just shy of $70,000 total since Justin began treatment. And for those of you who weren't able to make it to Fairbanks this weekend, Justin's GoFundMe page is still open accepting donations 

As for Justin's Nanooks, they head out for Houghton, Michigan to take on the Michigan Tech team that has also been struggling as of late with just one win in their last 5. Including a 47-save shutout for Joel Rumpel at Wisconsin. But with the Huskies playing their 3rd and 4th games of their 6 game home stand this coming weekend, so expect them to be fresh.

Until then. Go 'Nooks!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Officials Take Away More Than a Chance to Win the Game

I'm pretty certain there was a hockey game going on, but 91 minutes in penalties is absolutely ridiculous. What was being called by the men in stripes stuns me. There are calls you agree and disagree with every game, but if you're going to call the game THAT tight, it has to go both ways. And to swallow the whistles in the 3rd period until it gets down to the wire and the Nanooks start to get a push. That's just wrong.

It all starts in the 1st period. Nanooks control the pace of the game, get five shots on net, with two realistic scoring chances. Austin Sevalrud gets a hooking call with Nolan Youngmun breaking to the net. Good call. He gets out of the box, then Erickson gets tossed for five and a game with contact to the head, which doesn't make sense as he hit Brad Duwe, who is six inches taller than he is.

Doesn't take long, UAA pops one in, goes up a goal. Major penalty clock still ticking down. Azurdia for UAA pops another one in. But it goes under review and they see Anthony Conti backing into the goaltender and overturn the goal. Could have gone either way, honestly. Cameron bags the game winner on a separate power play with Parayko in the box for a questionable elbow. Again though, could have gone either way.

2nd period was pretty well controlled by the Nanooks. I thought they had good momentum at the end of the period, and obviously that power play goal from Kaiser was a huge one. They had Azurdia in the box for trying to cut the legs off of Hajdukovich with his stick. The officials chatted about it for a few seconds, but stuck with the minor.

I thought the game had swung for the better in the 3rd period. Officials were seemingly letting them play. Even going so far as to overlook Dylan Hubbs literally throwing jabs at Basara's head. Not a single penalty was called either way until after the Nanooks call timeout and pull their goaltender down by 1 with 87 seconds to play. Then Colton Parayko outworks his man at the half-wall near the bench area, goes low to extend his reach to make sure the forward doesn't have an angle on the empty net, and he gets called for a trip. Seconds later, the same official calls Atkinson for an extremely weak cross-check.

Now the wheels start to come off the bus. You've got UAA on a 5 on 3 power play now. The official Chris Perrault lets this game get completely out of hand from this point forward. He doesn't acknowledge the Nanooks' bench for an explanation. And now essentially with the game won, UAA starts the chirping. Shoves, grabbing, yelling, etc. all going on. And everything appears to be the Nanooks' fault. Only the Nanooks were assessed penalties in the 3rd.

After one such whistle, Perrault tosses Tyler Morley and Trevor Campbell with 10 minute misconducts and minors for slashing. Nolan Kaiser takes exception, and literally delivers one of the hardest hits I've seen. Completely uncharacteristic of him, but he gets pulled away and given a major and game DQ, which carries an automatic one game suspension with it. Quite honestly I will not be surprised if he gets more than just one. Zach Frye also got the gate for roughing on the same play.

The Nanooks came unglued at the end. No question about it. But the officials called the final 90 seconds of the game unfairly. There is no other way to put it. Chris Perrault has been in this situation before. In fact, he alienated Cornell from ever playing a WCHA school again after 76 minutes in penalties were assessed in game 2 of a series against Denver, in which the Big Red were swept and calls stacked up against them. Mike Shafer, Cornell's head coach had interesting comments similar to my thoughts on this same individual that officiated tonight. It's sad when officiating like that takes the chances away from these young men to win a rivalry game in the waning at home in front of a packed house.

I honestly feel sorry for those that paid their hard earned money to watch tonight's game. It's unfortunate to see this happen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Governor's Cup Stage Set in Fairbanks

This isn't going anywhere. Credit @AKHockeyEquip
This is a big one folks. It's not like this is just another conference series, its the Governor's Cup. The series that needs no introduction. I hate to bring up the sanctions, but with no postseason this year this is the Nanooks' seniors last hardware to claim save for the potential regular season championship trophy. There are quite a few seniors this year that would love to destroy their in-state rivals. And with all of the Fairbanks locals on this team, it means a lot to them.

As a team, the Nanooks didn't have a great road series against Bowling Green. They know they lost to a good team on the road, and let a win slip through their grasp. This week is about redemption. I could go on and on about stats, essentially that the Nanooks are better in nearly every facet of the game. But it doesn't matter. Rivalries send all of the stats out the window, and they don't matter.

Realistically, the only thing I see as a potential issue for Anchorage is their special teams. They're 2nd most in the country in penalty minutes per game, but their penalty kill is a little worse for the wear. 35th in the country at only 81.6%. With all of the energy this game brings, special teams is going to be a key factor for the Nanooks. They're going to get chances on the power play and they need to execute. Simple as that.

On the personnel side, Kyle Froese is injured but other than that all of the guys are healthy. Sean Cahill is reported to start between the pipes tonight for the 'Nooks.

The guys tonight are also wearing throwback jerseys to honor the 1970's era of Nanook hockey during the team's club days. I think they look pretty good, although there are mixed opinions.

The jerseys are provided as a fundraising opportunity for the Nanook Hockey Alumni. They enrich the heritage of Nanook Hockey and raise money to support the team. For those unaware, the new banners throughout the Carlson Center were created and donated by the Alumni as well.

These jerseys will be auctioned off online after the series is over. And the silent auction is going on at the Carlson Center this weekend too. Get there early, register as a bidder and get your number and put your names down on some items to help raise money for Justin Woods and his family.

See you at the rink tonight! Go 'Nooks!

Silent Auction Benefitting Justin Woods this Weekend

There is a Facebook group - Silent Auction/Fundraiser for Justin Woods

Photos of all of the items are on that Facebook page. There are artist used guitars, several signed jerseys from NHL teams and players (both UAA and UAF alums), a shoe worn by Shaq in one of the NBA championship games and signed (freakin' huge), as well as several gift cards for various restaurants and businesses around the state.

Justin has been in constant care at the Seattle Children's Hospital. As you can imagine, treatments and everything has amassed a large financial burden on his family. Thanks in advance to everyone who can help out and enjoy some of these items and supporting a good kid and a great family.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Third Period Struggles Give Alaska a 1 Point Road Trip

Tough road weekend for the Nanooks on the road at Bowling Green. Getting throttled in the final stanza of both games and return home getting just one point in the standings, despite a 3 goal lead going into the final period of Saturday's game. Friday was quite close, until the Falcons capitalized on a couple critical Nanook miscues. How did it all happen? Read on.

The Nanooks played two good periods of hockey on Friday, but towards the end of the second, the Falcons started to pull momentum away. Then in the 3rd period, it was all Bowling Green. Davis Jones and Kyle Froese misplayed the offensive play as Adam Berkle peeled around the net. Jones overcommitted as Froese backed off Berkle and left Brent Tate all alone coming down from the slot who had a wide open net to shoot it in.

Then Zach Frye with a critical rookie mistake, allowing Kevin Dufour to force the turnover deep in the defensive zone gives a golden chance to Mercier who hit the post, but Pohlkamp cashes in. Then a late goal to Adam Berkle sealed the Nanooks' fate Friday night.

Saturday night was just a roller coaster of epic proportions. The Falcons came out swinging, outshooting the Nanooks 10-1 early in the first period, but the Nanooks' second shot on goal, a beautiful showing of stick handling along the goal line to get away from two defenders, then going forehand to the backhand to beat Tomas Sholl 5-hole to get the Nanooks on the board first.

Then just four minutes later, Zach Frye catches a turnover caused by Hajdukovich and takes his chances wide open from the point and lays it on the left pad of Sholl, and bounces to the half wall to a perched Trevor Campbell who lays into the shot catching Sholl by surprise to give the Nanooks a 2-0 lead.

Then the penalty trouble starts to settle in for the Nanooks. Seemed like time after time from this point forward, the Nanooks would sit two minutes for this or that. It got old pretty quick. Most of it was warranted, but a lot of it was a lack of discipline. I understand the part of playing aggressive, but that was a bit excessive for me. Through this stretch, the Nanooks surrendered seven power plays before getting their first late in the second. Nanooks also gave up two extended 5 on 3 chances, the first of which in the first with the Morley brothers sitting for back to back infractions.

Sean Walker would capitalize on that chance on a shot from the low point to the top of the faceoff circle through some thick traffic to close the lead to one. But the Nanooks answered quickly as Tyler Morley picked off a clearing attempt by the Tomas Sholl at the half wall, whipped around and threw it to the net for his second goal of the night and regained the two goal lead... Or so we all thought...

Turns out Sholl got a little overanxious after he realized he had given the puck away and collided with the post. Thee net frame comes off the ice just enough for the puck to slide just inside the mooring under the frame before it went in the back of the net. The officials caught it, reviewed it, and quickly overturned it. Would have been huge with a 3-1 lead going into the locker room, but the Nanooks would stay at two.

Until just over four minutes into the 2nd as the quick stick of Shawn Hochhausen gets Friedman off the puck. Friedman tries holding Hawk up, but the sophomore center backhanded it through the 5-hole of Tommy Burke, who replaced Sholl late in the 1st. The Nanooks would go on to surrender another 5 on 3 power play to Bowling Green a bit later as Marcus Basara gets nabbed for high sticking, quickly followed by an interference call to Brandon Morley. But one of my favorite plays of the year ensues, as Tyler Morley forces a turnover right as Basara breaks free of the penalty box, comes in all alone. Basara gets the shot on goal, just doesn't get it quite high enough as he was late getting the shot off, but the puck hops up in the air off the pad, and Basara sticks with it right there to bat the puck in for the Nanooks first shorthanded goal of the season, and the Nanooks get a 4-1 lead. But despite an extended power play, the 4-1 score would stick through 40 minutes.

With a three goal lead, have to figure that the Nanooks have a pretty good bead on handing the Falcons their first loss at home since mid-November. But for the second straight night, the Nanooks surrender three goals in the 3rd period. The first one, Sean Walker's second goal of the game, sets everything in motion. At that point of the period (9:10 in, the Nanooks were outshooting the Falcons 7-1. After the goal was scored on their second shot of the period, the Falcons turned up the heat. Outshooting the A-Team 12-5 through the end of the frame.

But the last minute of the game was thrilling as a hockey fan, but immensely disappointing as a Nanooks' fan. Two goals given up in a span of 24 seconds to the same guy. Ben Murphy, the same guy that set up the game winning goal for the Falcons in their second game in Fairbanks back in early November. Both goals for Murphy came from pretty much the same place. The first one in all honesty could have been waved off with a BG forward in the crease. But it goes over the left shoulder of Jones from a shot he couldn't see. The second goal is one that may haunt Tyler Morley for at least the plane ride home. On an extended shift, the junior alternate captain attempted the clear the puck, but didn't get enough under it and Murphy was able to glove it down and beat Jones glove side to tie the game.

It's a rough weekend for the Nanooks on the road. I thought they played well enough to win Saturday despite all of the penalty trouble. But I didn't think the Tyler Morley line should have been on the ice after BG's 3rd goal was scored. They were clearly gassed. Can't say I've been disappointed in a tie before, but after leading 4-1 going into the 3rd period a tie was not what I was expecting... Give BG credit, they're not the 4th (now 5th) team in the country by the PairWise for nothing. They play very aggressive and swarm the puck carrier. They also can spread a defense out by creating passing lanes across the ice and connecting.

I did find it awesome though that the BGSU Pep Band would--after seemingly every big play for Alaska--would play the theme of the A-Team. Nice touch.

But with 1 point coming back to Fairbanks, the Nanooks will welcome the Seawolves to town for the first pair of games in the Governor's Cup series. The Seawolves come in with just one win in their last 13 games, and have not won a road game at all this season. The game against Air Force in the Kendall Classic is their lone win away from the confines of Sullivan Arena all season. Should be a good one.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Nanooks Earn Series Sweep of Ferris State

Ferris State Goaltender C.J. Motte after Saturday's loss
Gotta love some "Motte's" applesauce! CJ Motte was exposed yet again between the pipes in Fairbanks as the Nanooks rolled 8 goals on the senior on 71 shots through the weekend. Good offensive showing for the Nanooks, but the Bulldogs did not play a very good defensive game. The Bulldogs play very aggressive, and the Nanooks played a strong enough possession game and had the speed on the big ice to expose them. Friday seemed like it took a bit of time for the Nanooks to get their wits and get their passing game together. It started to come back in the 3rd period pretty quick and guys were making plays. Defensively, the Nanooks clamped down on Ferris State pretty hard. Their only goal, scored on the power play, was off a deflection in front of the goal by a Nanook defensemen. The puck would have went wide, but it slowed down enough in flight and found a Bulldog forward's stick, then the back of the net. From there, the Nanooks bagged 8 unanswered goals through the weekend and controlled play.

The highlights can speak for themselves to the scoring.

For those that watched the game, what is up with C.J. Motte? Seriously? That's the second time on our ice that he's come 40+ feet out of his crease to take out Garrick Perry. You can see the best angle of it in Joe Cook's KTVF highlights -- I even linked it right to the time that the play starts. Garrick comes up the ice on a turnover by the defenseman at the blue line. Perry streaks ahead and gets clocked by C.J. Motte trying to make a play. Feel free to slow that down (YouTube is awesome for that) and tell me if you see Perry ever make contact with an elbow. Perry made every effort to be cautious with the circumstances, and the puck is still at his feet at the time of the collision. How the official calls elbowing is beyond me. Anyone care to enlighten me? I know goalie safety is an issue, but he's not a goalie at the point. He forfeits all goalie protections at that point in the eyes of the rulebook. But hey, if he wants to end his career prematurely that's one way to go about it. One of these days someone that doesn't like him very much is going to see him coming when he pulls another stunt like that.

A strong defensive effort this weekend from the Nanooks. After shaking the rust off, they played complete games. It's going to be a really good series in Bowling Green. I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Nanooks Ring in 2015 with a Date with Ferris State

First thing is first, hopefully everyone had a great holiday break. I know I did. Sorry for the lapse in coverage, but I needed some time off. The players got to go home over the break as well for the first time since Dallas Ferguson took over as head coach. Players were able to go home for nearly two weeks and rest and take time with family. And also for the first time since I've been close to the program, everyone on the roster is 100% healthy. The extra time off did wonders for the guys as a few minor injuries were able to heal. Dallas revealed that Shawn Hochhausen had been playing with a lower body injury that had prevented him from getting all of his gear on, and had kept him out of practice for nearly three weeks. But he didn't miss a single shift, gutting it out and getting things done.

Friday night is also family night. I hadn't heard this until today after the luncheon, but the powers that be have come together to put a family night package together: $44 gets you 4 tickets, 4 sodas, and 4 hot dogs. $44 wouldn't even get 4 people in the door normally. I'm told that if this is successful, it will come back more often. So bring the families out! I would have gotten this out earlier, but I hadn't heard of it either so the word isn't getting out there as much as I would like. Usually I get told about things like this too, but not this time.

Now as far as Ferris State is concerned, they are a bit fresher this weekend. They played last weekend at Michigan/MSU/MTU's Great Lakes Invitational in Detroit at Joe Louis Arena. The Bulldogs didn't fare too well, getting goose-egged at the hands of Michigan State, and a 2-4 loss against Michigan Tech who some argue are a top 5 team in the country right now.

FSU made C.J. Motte their captain this year. Yes, the same C.J. Motte that lost his damn mind before our very eyes. And he's started every game this season thus far. With all of those minutes, his Bulldogs are 9-9-1 coming into this weekend and with a 1.81 goals against average with a .935 save percentage he's got the numbers to back a successful team. As a team, Ferris State is allowing just under 2 goals per game, where Alaska is allowing 2.7. The difference is in scoring as the Bulldogs have mustered a 2.53 goals for per game average compared to Alaska's 2.83.

But outside of Chad Macdonald and Gerald Mayhew, none of the Bulldogs players have scored more than 4 goals this season. Chad has 8 while Gerald has 6. Getting goal scoring was a point of emphasis for Bob Daniels as he addressed the Coach's luncheon attendees this afternoon. The team has struggled to be consistent offensively.

The worst of it is their special teams. The Bulldogs power play is at 11.2% on the season, 50th out of 59 teams in the country. The Bulldogs get themselves into some penalty trouble though. Even though they're top 10 in penalty kill, they average almost 15 minutes a game in penalties. And with the way the Nanooks power play has been (24% in the last 6 games), the Bulldogs' aggressiveness and tenacity can get themselves into some trouble.

Should be a good series as both teams have a history of playing each other really close. The Nanooks have had some great luck against C.J. Motte in the past as I alluded to earlier. Hopefully he'll get lit up again :)

I have plans after the game Friday night, so I will give a weekend recap after the game Saturday. Hope to see lots of faces in the stands this weekend. Get the family up and out to the games tonight to take advantage of the deal, and enjoy yourselves!

Go 'Nooks!