Saturday, September 15, 2018

A New Era of Nanook Hockey

As the 2018 season comes upon us, we are starting a new era of Nanooks hockey. While there have been three different head coaches in as many years, both Lance West, and now Erik Largen were not new to the program. While I don't personally like how the transition of powers went down in the spring, the team is in a solid place right now. Erik Largen is a hometown guy, an alumni of the program, and has a great mind for the sport. With the addition of Karlis Zirnis and Joe Howe, I'm ready for an evolution of Alaska Hockey. While what that looks like remains to be seen, there is a theme of optimism and positive energy throughout the team right now that is almost palpable.

The Nanooks' first official team practice is Monday, and I'm looking forward to seeing the format and how engaged the team is. Of course this is also the first look at the freshmen, and I'm excited about their potential. With 10 freshman suiting up, that's about a third of the total roster. And there is a lot of talent there that I'll get into at a later point.

I had a chance to sit down with Nanooks head coach Erik Largen to get his thoughts as he prepares to get the season started. I still intend to focus more of my time on these videos as I think they're a bit more beneficial than my written prose, and you get more than just my own opinions. That said, I do want to write more and make this blog a place to visit again.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Head Coach Erik Largen

I don't think I envisioned that title being a reality a month or two ago. But through adversity comes opportunity for Erik and the Nanooks next season. Erik fought for the viability for the program and UAF is committing long term both to Erik and the team--full scholarships, boosted recruiting budget, better salaries for assistant coaches, and a stable operating budget.

Being involved with the FaceOff Club the last couple of years, a lot has weighed on the boosters to fund things like team activities and meals while they're on the road. Some of that will still happen I'm sure, but hopefully this will allow us to invest in other fundraising opportunities and get more into our scholarship fund.

As you know I haven't had much time to write much. Between my full time job, some side work gigs, and some modicum of a personal life. If you haven't followed me on YouTube, you can catch up on some of the videos I've posted on the channel the past two years. It's a lot less time for me to throw up a camera with someone that you want to listen to than to spend time researching and hours writing these posts. It does take a lot of effort, and I took a bit of pride in it. For those that followed here, I hope you will follow the videos too.

Follow the Nanooks Hockey Blog on YouTube

Monday, February 20, 2017

It's Been Quite a Year

I honestly really hate that I haven't had a chance to put anything up here at all in nearly a year. So much of my time has been wrapped up in fundraising efforts with the Face Off Club (throwback jerseys, anyone?), work, travel, and helping out my wife while she finishes graduate school. Here's to hoping that her Master's degree becomes my meal ticket and she can be my sugar momma and I can study and write about hockey all day long. And watch hockey. Maybe that seems a bit like a pipe dream...

But here we are, heading into the final week of the regular season. The Nanooks finish off their showing at home with a less than stellar 5-8-1-0 season record. The LSSU series was an interesting one. Tempers flared in the first game, ending with 115 penalty minutes being assessed after a skirmish broke out during the handshake line, infamously highlighted by the Nanooks 3rd string goalie Niko DellaMaggiore earning a game DQ for facemasking, and LSSU equipment manager Paul Prucha crossing the line and shoving Nanooks' captain Brandon Morley. Neither of which should have happened, but the latter being completely inexcusable.

Nevertheless, four out of a possible six points to close out the home schedule isn't a bad run, neither is going 2-1-1 this season against LSSU when the conference point standings are coming down to the wire and LSSU finishing their season at home against Ferris State.

Speaking of conference standings, lets take a peak at what those look like entering the final weekend.

1Bemidji State6119-5-2 2668-41
2Michigan Tech5114-6-6 2674-52
3Minnesota State4814-8-4 2686-65
4Ferris State3811-12-3 2671-69
 Bowling Green3812-13-1 2670-65
6Alaska349-13-4 2661-80
7Lake Superior328-12-6 2673-80
8Northern Michigan319-14-3 2662-69
9Alabama-Huntsville309-14-3 2668-86
10Alaska-Anchorage266-14-6 2648-74
Courtesy of

Nobody can catch Bemidji, they've already wrapped up the MacNaughton Cup. Michigan Tech closes out with a home-and-home against Northern Michigan, and can fend off Mankato if they're able to muster at least 4 points due to Mankato owning a 2-1-1 head to head advantage. But MTU or the Mavericks will end up hosting the first round in either 2nd or 3rd place. The last playoff spot rides on Ferris State, Bowling Green, or the Nanooks. Bowling Green hosts a desperate UAH team, and Ferris goes on the road to the Lakers, which has about the highest seeding implications among all of the series this weekend.

The Nanooks have statistically the most favorable match-up against the last-place Seawolves. I think we all know that we can toss the records out the window here, but ACC can finish no better than 8th place with 32 points - and that's wholly dependent on Northern Michigan getting 0 points and UAH getting only 1 this weekend as the Seawolves lose the head-to-head tiebreaker to both teams, including LSSU, who already sits at 32 points.

The Nanooks sit in a much better spot. With a potential six point weekend, and a Bulldog and Falcon meltdown, the Nanooks could host a first round playoff series in fourth place. Regardless of how things shake out here, the Nanooks are 1-0-1 against FSU, so the tiebreaker here comes to conference wins. Should the Nanooks sweep, and Ferris get swept both teams would end up with 11 conference wins and the Nanooks would win the tie breaker due to the head to head matchup. The only way the Nanooks can leap BG is a  sweep against Anchorage, the rest of that fate lies in the hands of the UAH Chargers.

Most of this what-if-nonsense is best/worst case figures. All of the variance and splits introduce a whole other world of probability that I'll leave to Geof Morris to help figure out. Of course numbers mean very little after the puck is dropped...

On that note, a lot of eyes will be watching these games this weekend. The Nanooks have hoisted the Governor's cup seven consecutive times now. Just to put that into perspective, Nanook rookies Troy Van Tetering and Tristan Thompson were still in the 7th grade the last time that trophy lived in Anchorage. Broadening that out, the Nanooks have won 12 of the last 15.

The Nanooks don't have much of a scoring threat to worry about except for Mason Mitchell (who I will attest for being a stellar human being, he really is. Despite his school choice). A few guys have a few more points than he does, but he is the team's lone 10 goal scorer, double that of the next closest guy. Matt Anholt has broken the 20 point mark, which bests any Nanook player thus far. But beyond the top four Seawolf scorers, the stats take a bit of a dive to 9 points. The Nanooks have 10 players with 10 or more points to their credit, which will be needed to crack Mantha, assuming he starts.

The Nanooks have been playing quite well since their eye-opening weekend in South Bend. Despite running into Tolvanen in the middle of his hot streak, our guys were making all of the right plays to get in scoring position. This weekend is going to be about controlling the transition game and limiting Anchorage's offensive zone possession time.

I have no doubt that Nanook fans will show up in droves this weekend to the Sullivan. There will be a bus load of students, and I've heard "See you in Anchorage" countless times since Saturday. This should be a fun one.

Go 'Nooks! 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Impact of a Player

Before I get this going, I have to get something off my chest...



OK, on to some analysis.

On the last road trip, the Nanooks faced a tough Michigan Tech team just after splitting with an equally talented Bowling Green team at home. The Nanooks found themselves in a hole early by 4 goals. Enter Davis Jones... The Nanooks responded, and with a vengeance. With the game tied 5-5 late in the 3rd, the game ended in the final minute with Michigan Tech netting the game winner. Next night, the Nanooks weathered quite a few storms, which might be an understatement. Davis Jones was on fire, and came up with 48 saves on 51 shots, with the last shot being the OT game winner for MTU.

But the Nanooks had some offensive success. With 10 goals in 4 games, the Nanooks 2.5 goals per game average was the highest it has been since just after the winter break. A time when I had hoped the Nanooks offense would get them over the hump and get the season turned around.

Then Tyler Morley gets hurt.

The teams leader, leading scorer, and a guy who simply makes others around him better goes down, and the team's struggles continue. Now I'm not saying the team struggled without him in the lineup. Sure, losing your leading goal scorer hurts, but there's 24 other guys active on the roster to get the job done.

And in those 4 games, the Nanooks put on their best showing, despite a 1-3-0 record to show for it.

And then Captain Morley returns for the Nanooks in resounding fashion in a win-and-in playoff situation coupled with an opportunity against the arch rival Seawolves to not only retain the Governor's Cup for a 7th straight year. But to also keep them out of the playoffs in the process.

And with a 4 point weekend, Captain Morley said ACC would not put their fingers on the cup, nor even get a sniff at the playoffs for a second straight year. With the Nanooks season extended, the boys head to Houghton this week for a rematch amidst a really familiar set of circumstances. week before the playoffs, the Nanooks sweep Michigan State. Sparty comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3. week before the playoffs, the Nanooks split with Anchorage (including that 7-2 Seawolf beatdown). ACC comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3.

2016...two weeks before the playoffs Tech sweeps in Houghton (not to mention swept the 'Nooks in Fairbanks back in November), and look where we are headed.

They say the past shapes the future. With 4 games already under the belt this season against each other, there's not much different circumstantially than last week. The Huskies have won 14 of the last 15, and amassing 27 goals in the last 5 games, including 9 goals in the final game they played at Bemidji the week before the series against the 'Nooks. Last weekend during the rivalry series in a home and home with Northern Michigan, the Huskies dispatched the Wildcats soundly with a cumulative 9-1 tally. 

Beating the Huskies isn't going to be an easy task. But with Davis Jones playing lights out, and the return of Tyler Morley and John Mullally will make this weekend even more interesting. And if the Nanooks can play with the grit they showed against Anchorage, expect some great hockey.