Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CCHA Polls Released

CCHA Coaches and Media Polls
The CCHA polls have been released and the Nanooks are about the middle of the pack. I suppose its time for me to give my prognostications as well. Below are all 3 poll results.

Coaches Poll

1. Michigan

2. Notre Dame

3. Miami

4. Ohio State

5. Northern Michigan

6. Nebraska-Omaha

7. Alaska

8. Ferris State

9. Michigan State

10. Lake Superior State

11. Western Michigan

12. Bowling Green

Media Poll

1. Michigan

2. Notre Dame

3. Miami

4. Ohio State

5. Northern Michigan

6. Alaska

7. Nebraska-Omaha

8. Michigan State

9. Ferris State

10. Western Michigan

11. Lake Superior State

12. Bowling Green

Alaska Nanooks Hockey Blog Poll

1. Michigan

2. Miami

3. Notre Dame

4. Northern Michigan

5. Alaska

6. Ohio State

7. Michigan State

8. Nebraska-Omaha

9. Western Michigan

10. Ferris State

11. Bowling Green

12. Lake Superior State

As you can see, my list differs quite a bit. Of course, these are predictions, so being "right" and "wrong" are entirely subjective. Whose is more accurate? Who knows.

Aaron Voros on David Letterman
Aaron Voros along with the rest of the New York Rangers will be on David Letterman tonight. According to the press release, David will be doing tonights famous Top 10 list with the NHL's New York Rangers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

First Impressions

My acclaim for a good season was reaffirmed Saturday as I watched our guys take on each other. There were some things that I really liked from our team. Rookies played solid defense and disciplined offense. Granted, there were some things that are ripe for improvement, but these will get worked out with time.

As much as I would like to write a page or two about each of our rookies, unfortunately a social life is somewhat required for sanity. I also didn't have my laptop at the game, so I was stuck jotting notes on my iPhone in between the numerous Twitter updates on Saturday, so my thoughts aren't as complete as I would like them to be.

Speaking of Twitter, the nanookhockey Twitter feed is also embedded on the right hand column of the blog. So for those of you that don't want to leave this page (and why would you), the gadget on the right will show the 5 most recent updates. However, you have to refresh the blog to update them.

So without further adieu.....

Justin Daigle
(last name pronounced: "Day", for the record)
In short, I am reallyimpressed with this kid. For a freshman to come in and be able to skate right with Dion Knelson without getting blown up, that catches my attention. For the latter half of the game, Justin was paired up with Dion, and the senior wasn't getting any breathing room from the rookie. He plays solid, tight D, he's quick on his feet, and most importantly, he's smart. Watch for him and Joe Sova to be paired together on the PK.

Nik Yaremchuk
A good offensive instinct is instilled in this guy. He was involved in a lot of offensive plays that really demonstrated his vision and awareness. He's got a great sense of where his teammates are, and this will only get better as he adapts to the team throughout the season. Although he didn't make his way onto the score sheet last weekend, he is going to have a lot of assists this season.

Jarret Granberg
A good finesse forward with some flair. For those that were at the game, did you catch that shootout shot he tried at the skills competition? Believe me, I did. One of those times I wish I had my video camera. Anyway, Saturday's number two star is sure to frequent the score sheet this season. The freshman forward notched a goal and an assist on Saturday, that I hope is indicative of his season to come. From my previous post of his "Best of the West" nomination from WCHB, I had a pre-instilled vision of this guy coming into Saturday. I wasn't disappointed.

Andy Taranto
I didn't see much of him on Saturday. I saw him suited up, and he was introduced on the ice, and he played a few shifts, but there wasn't much of him to be seen on Saturday. Someone mentioned to me after the game that it looked like he got hurt, which I hope isn't the case. If it is, hopefully the coaching staff will keep him off of the ice this weekend and just let him heal before the season starts. For last year's USHL leading goal scorer to be held off the ice for an injury, that could be a big deal for us. Judging by the number of power play goals he had last year, my hopes are that our power play can get somewhere above the 10% mark this year (9.5% last season, worst in the CCHA, sadly). Closer to 20% would be closer to the top of the pack, which is where we need to be.

Chad Gehon
I liked what little bits I saw of him playing. He didn't see a whole lot of ice time on Saturday, which was a little saddening. But from what I saw, he's a pretty solid player. I didn't see anything that jumped out at me as spectacular, but on the same note, he didn't make any huge mistakes either. I may have to post an update on him a bit later as I see him play more, but I am definitely tuning into him next game.

Kaare Odegard
The 3rd Canmore Eagle that the Nanooks have recruited (Darcy Campbell, Kelly Czuy), so he has a bit of a reputation to uphold. Last year, he amassed 28 points with 72 penalty minutes while he played 28 games as the assistant captain in Canmore. He is definitely a physical player, which is definitely a personality we can use more of. With the way UAA pushed us around last year, Odegard is a welcome addition. Hopefully he can knock someone around. But from what I saw Saturday, he's got a lot of potential. He's a strong skater, but as time goes on, he will get better.

Steve Thompson
At this point, he is the clear #2 goalie behind Greenham. He has good vision, good poise, doesn't get rattled, stays in the crease, and keeps his poise. Though he wasn't great in the final shootout, allowing both attempted shots, during regular play, he was very solid. Obviously, he isn't Chad Johnson yet, but I can see Greenham and Thompson splitting time this season.

Colin Rundell
Another kid that shows a lot of potential. I like his discipline, especially his focus in the shootout attempts, stonewalling every one of them. But he has to tighten up on the rebounds. He lost sight of a few that almost burned him. He is focused enough that I don't think this will be an issue later on in the season.

After the game, during the open skate, I had the chance to go out and meet most of the players. There were a few I didn't get to meet, but I'll be sure to meet them later on in the season. Between shaking hands and falling down on my skates, I introduced myself and got to know the players a little bit. Their attitude: Get back to the Joe. I heard that from quite a few players, and I think that is going to be the primary motivator this season. And rightfully so. We got their last year, and walked away empty handed. So getting back there, and getting into the NCAA tournament is really something to shoot for this season. But every one of the guys I talked to are excited to take on this season. Awesome, because so am I.

Congratulations are in order for Dallas Ferguson who received a 5 year contract extension as Alaska Hockey's head coach. I think I speak for every one when I say "That's a good thing".

Last week, an opportunity came up to potentially start writing for USCHO as a "rink reporter", writing recaps for each of the Nanook home games in journalistic fashion. I'm still waiting to hear back from our athletic department on the details, but that will ultimately earn me a press pass. A privilege that I was previously denied.

Current Events

CCHA Scoring Change
The CCHA has decided to fully embrace the shootout, by going to a 3 point system. Wins in regulation or overtime will net all 3 points to the winning team, whereas teams winning in a shootout will earn 2 points, and the team losing in a shootout earns only 1 point. So, any game that goes to a shootout will see the victor credited with a tie and a shootout win in the conference standings, while the loser will receive credit for a tie.

“We feel that this is a fairer system,” CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos said. “Now, all teams will have access to the same number of points throughout the regular season and every game is worth three points whether it is decided in regulation time, overtime or a shootout. We also feel this will give teams an added incentive to win a game in regulation time or overtime because they will gain the maximum number of points for doing so.”

Alaska Nanook Women's Hockey Benefit
There will be a wine and beer tasting fundraiser on October 10th at the Fairbank's Curling Club from 6:30pm to 9:00pm. There will be a number of wines and beers to sample provided by K&L Distributors. A silent auction will be held, there will be music, things to buy, and information about the different hockey organizations. This event is being sponsored and hosted by the Fairbanks Women's Hockey Association. Tickets for this event are available for purchase online.

The women's hockey final roster for the 2009-2010 season has also been announced.

Pictures from Blue/Gold

Below are a few pictures from the Blue/Gold game this past Saturday. I'm still drafting my first impressions, but I'll get those up before the Southern Alberta game this weekend. Click on the pictures for larger versions.

Photos courtesy of Mike Fisher. More pictures from the Blue/Gold game can be found at Mike's Photoblog.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Blue/Gold Recap

At last, the 2009-10 Nanook hockey season is underway. Seeing the guys skate for the first time always makes me a little giddy. But the Nanooks are skating strong, and they definitely brushed the rust off tonight and played some pretty good hockey, albeit a little safe, considering the circumstances.

For those that don't know, the Blue/Gold games are not your standard hockey game. They play two periods, 25 minutes each with a running clock, and penalties only last a minute. The game started off better than I expected. Sure, their was some readjustments to be made as the game went on, but the game started off good.

The first 10 minutes of the game seemed to fly by, both teams playing good, solid defense, and staying really tight on the forecheck. Then, with some good stick handling and a nice set-up pass from Ryan Hohl in front of the net, Justin Filzen knocked it past starting goalie Scott Greenham. With 15 minutes remaining (and counting down, mind you) in the first period, Blue was on top 1-0.

But the Gold team reacted, and with both team captains skating for Gold, they noticably picked it up and took control. Derek Klassen launched a puck at the goal, only to take an unlucky bounce off the crossbar and ultimately waved off. But then, about four minutes after Filzen's goal, Joe Sova, in his best Scott Niedermayer impression, winds up and blasts a shot from the blue line to the top right corner of the goal that Colin Rundell was just not quick enough to catch. And just like that, the game is knotted up 1-1. And it stayed that way heading into the break. Now, between the two periods was a bit of a skills competition, which I will get into at the end of this post for the sake of continuity.

The second period started out strong, the defense for both sides picked up right where they left off and the puck went back and forth for most of the second period without either team allowing a goal. But, some opportunities came and gone for both sides, notably a Nik Yaremchuk breakaway was stonewalled by Steve Thompson, and a missed connection across the crease between Nik Yaremchuk, and Dustin Sather on a 3 on 2 rush that just passed by the blade of Sather's stick. But it wasn't until 18 minutes and 40 seconds into the second period that Sova served up a prime set up pass to freshman Jarret Granberg that broke the tie. After setting up low, Ron Meyers passed the puck back out to Sova on the point, then dished it to Granberg who facilitated a family reunion between puck and twine. Now, Gold has taken the lead once again 2-1 with 7:20 left.

Blue came out fired up, but was still unable to tie it. As timed ticked away, now with only 47 seconds left, time calls for desperate measures, Blue pulls their goalie. Aaron Gens (I believe) headed on to the ice as the extra attacker. After about 31 seconds and still no goal, Blue calls time out. After coming up with the plan, with 16.7 seconds left on the clock, blue lines up with 4 forwards and 2 defensemen. After winning the faceoff, Bryant Molle fires one towards the net that deflected off of Thompson's pads. Next thing I know, just 6 seconds after the puck was dropped, Dion Knelson, who led the Nanooks last year in scoring, sneaked it past the right side of Steve Thompson for the tie with only 10.3 seconds remaining.

I know, this is only an exhibition game between our own team, but I got excited. Maybe a bit too excited. But come on, this is ending up one tight hockey game.

Now at first I was under the impression that if a tie were to come about, a shootout would commence. According to the press release "...and if at the end of the second period the teams are tied, a shootout will be used to decide the winner." Well, so much for that I suppose. 5 minutes were put on the clock and 5 skaters and a goalie from each team were all on the ice, so overtime it is.

Overtime started and scoring opportunities were not going to come easy for either side. And neither defense would allow a goal in the OT period. Which is good, I wanted to see a shootout anyway.

My wish came true, and the shootout was dominated by Blue. First shooter for Blue was Nik Yaremchuk, and this true freshman did not disappoint. He deked Thompson out of position and scored against Thompson's right side. Kaare Odegard had a close one, but was ultimately stopped by Rundell. 1-0 Blue. Justin Filzen steps up and puts one in the five-hole to make it 2-0 in the shootout. Adam Cardwell takes a shot for Gold that is ultimately stopped by Rundell to end the shootout.

Blue wins the game in the shootout.

Third Star: Joe Sova
Second Star: Jarret Granberg
First Star: Justin Filzen

There were a few skills competitions that separated the two periods. In summary, the winners are as follows:
  • Fastest Skater: Ron Meyers
  • Fastest Shot: Cody Butcher, 93MPH
In the shootout competition, all shots were stopped by the netminders.

In a future post, to come probably later this week, I'll discuss my thoughts and prognostications based from this game, including my first impressions from our rookies.

Klassen and Petovello named Nanook Captains

Last night, at the Nanook hockey banquet, which I wasn't able to attend, unfortunately, head coach Dallas Ferguson made the announcement of naming Derek Klassen this season's team captain. Klassen sat behind last year senior Adam Naglich as the assistant captain. I could have predicted this one. Klassen is a stud on and off the ice, and was recognized last year as the Don Jamison Unsung Hero, a team award given for work ethic and dedication, for his efforts. This isn't the first time he has sported the prestigious 'C' on his jersey. Back in his junior days with the AJHL, he lead the Oil Barons in scoring with 25 goals and 33 assists in 58 games in his final season in Fort McMurray.

Kevin Petovello is quite a leader himself. He was named an assistant captain for the Victoria Grizzlies (BCHL) and had a career-best season in his final year, scoring 41 goals and 26 assists with 35 penalty minutes in 60 regular season games, resuling in being recognized as Victoria's Most Dedicated Player. Last year in CCHA play, Petovello notched 12 assists, second-most among all Nanook skaters, and finished the season with a total of 18 points, fourth in the teams totals.

Klassen seemingly did a great job in Naglich's shadow, achieving the aforementioned unsung hero award. I have a lot of hope for this season, I really do, and I'm glad to see that the leadership is in place to set up success. The definition of success, at least in this case, is to improve on what was accomplished last season. Which, to be honest, has a lot of room for improvement. Shooting for 2 goals per game, while keeping our defense to the same standard, I don't think is too much to envision. Last year, the Nanooks were among the BEST in defense, stouting the number one goalie in the nation, with one of the worst offenses, and one of the most pitiful power plays.

My hope is, I will catch a glimpse of what to expect at the Blue/Gold game in a few hours. My thoughts will flow through the Twitter feed as they happen. With a reloaded offense with the likes of Jarret Granberg and Andy Taranto, who posted great numbers last year in juniors, and still a solid defense who are building it with the skills of Justin Daigle, and Kaare Odegard, you heard it here, and I've said it before, this is going to be a great year for the Nanooks.

See you tonight at the Patty Center.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Upcoming Events

Nanook Hockey Banquet
For those of you that read the News-Miner, the the Nanook Hockey Banquet is this Friday at the Princess Lodge in the Edgewater room. Social hour, meaning Meet-N-Greet with the players and coaches, starts at 6:00PM, with dinner to follow at 6:45. Cost for adults is $35, children (12 and under) are $15. For tickets, contact Barb Milles at (907) 479-3391.

In addition to hearing from the coach, the new players will be "grilled" by Bob Downes so you can get to know them better, and the captains for the coming season will be named.

Blue/Gold Exhibition Game
This Saturday is the season's annual Blue/Gold game at the Patty Center. I will be on-site live-blogging the game. If you haven't already, start following us on Twitter, and as the game goes on, I will post updates as they happen.

Update: Hall of Fame Induction Brunch
Come to the Wood Center at 10:30AM to see ex-head coach Tavis MacMillan inducted in the Alaska Athletics Hall of Fame. Tickets will be $25, available at the door (must RSVP with the Alumni Office in advance, (907) 474-7081). Speeches will be given by his former coaches and colleagues, as well as Tavis' induction speech.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Jarret Granberg named to WCH's Best of the West

For those in the know, the guys over at the Western College Hockey Blog are cranking out a blog series on the top 56 recruits, ramping up to the start of the upcoming hockey season. One of the only things I am looking forward to right now (the start of the semester is really hard on us at work).

But anyway, looking at this guy on film, I'm pretty impressed. He definitely isn't the biggest guy in the world, but he's pretty good at introducing pucks to twine. The Nanook rookie played three seasons for the Brooks Bandits of the AJHL, in 2006-2007 regular season, the 5' 11" 155lb forward scored 23 goals and added 24 assists for 47 points with 31 penalty minutes in 45 games as a rookie. He notably recorded a five point night against the Canmore Eagles with two goals and three assists. His most recent season with the Bandits proved even more fruitful. As the team captain, across all 60 games, he netted 42 goals, tallied 44 assists for a grand total of 86 points, and only penalized for 42 minutes and average 1.4 points per game.

Between this guy, and our other studly recruits on the docket (more to come on the other guys later), this season is shaping up to be a big year for Nanook Hockey.