Monday, November 30, 2009

Nanook Skater of the Week: #29 Andy Taranto

Seriously. Are you surprised? This Nanook rookie has the highest point total of all rookies in all of NCAA D-I hockey with 18. He has 5 power play goals, tying him in 6th with many others, and is one of only two freshman with that tally, alongside Michigan State's Derek Grant (although, Andy has notched that tally in two less games).

Coming off of a 4 point weekend, Andy notched 2 power play goals, 1 even strength goal, and recorded an assist in the series against Northern Michigan. Andy also notched the game winning shoot out goal in Friday's contest. This guy is going to go down as one of our greatest recruits. He's faster and a better stick handler than Kyle Greentree was, and, he's almost on pace for a 50 point season.

When in the defensive end, he does a great job bringing pressure to the puck and making the guys work to move the puck. He gets in the passing lanes and forces bad angle shots. Offensively, he sets up camp in front of the crease, screening the goalie and knocking in rebounds. He's also got one hell of a shot too, with incredible accuracy.

Andy is a great player and a great addition to this team. Congratulations for being selected as the Nanook Hockey Blog's Skater of the Week, as well as the CCHA Rookie of the Week.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Nanooks Take 4 points in Two Shootout Victories Against Northern Michigan

First, a question for the officials that may or may not actually read this blog, but when you see a home player with his skates sticking up from behind the away team bench, do you ever think to yourselves "Huh, I wonder how he got there?" Now I didn't get a great look at the hit tonight, but the replay up on the board showed a player drive Hohl into the boards, and lower his body and picked up Ryan and dumped him into the bench. Whoever did it is lucky I didn't get his number, otherwise, this post title, and the content might be a little bit more spiteful.

The men in stripes let the guys out there play a bit more tonight, and some calls were overlooked on both sides of the puck, but that hit was a little dirty, and I'm a little surprised that wasn't a misconduct call, or even a two minute boarding penalty. In all seriousness, it's one thing to hit a player, it's another entirely to hit someone with the intent to injure. 

But, anyway, the Nanooks skated very well and were very sharp on the attack, and I thought the first period had some incredibly brilliant defensive play in it. The first half of the period, NMU had some nice rush attacks that our defensemen were having none of. We had some struggles tonight though on the backcheck. The Nanooks had a hell of a time taking the puck away from Northern after they set it up in the zone. We got better as time went on, but once Northern came on, it took some work to get the puck going the other way. Particularly, I thought all of our defensemen played pretty outstanding tonight. Had a couple of plays they collapsed on, only one of which amounted for a goal, but Greenham came up with a few solo saves on his own, which saved us from letting the game tilt the other way. There is some room for improvement on our penalty killing, positioning and patience, mainly. Getting into the passing lanes to disrupt their passing around the perimeter, forcing them to either shoot or pass low. Shifting the puck around the blue line forces our defense to shift to look at a shooter, then all of a sudden, a cross ice pass opens the back door, and boom, they've scored.

I still think Greenham did a great job this weekend. Given the chance, I'm sure a few of those goals would have had a different outcome, but that's how it goes. As a fan and a blogger, its really hard not to compare Greenham against Chad Johnson. Right now, Greenham is still learning. And Scott has significantly better stats than Johnson did in his sophomore year.

Name                      GP W L  T GA MIN     GAA   SH  SV    SV%
Scott Greenham, So 13 8 3 2 26 796   1.9609 1 289 .917
Chad Johnson, So    19 5 6 2 52 1002 3.1133 1 393 .883

Obviously, their hasn't been 19 games yet for Greenham to play, and that was Johnson's entire sophomore season. But as you can see, Greenham is ahead of his time. Same thing with Chad in his sophomore year, they both have showed a lot of brightness, but they still have some growing to do. Unfortunately, Chad had an injury that kept him off of the ice his junior year, but he got out there his senior season and blocked virtually everything that was shot at him, and ended the season as the number one goaltender in the country.

But Northern Michigan came to play hockey this weekend, and they were a real challenge for us. It would have been nice to come up with an actual win this weekend, but 4 points in the CCHA standings is not a bad thing.

Offensively, we were able to keep it up tonight, scoring 3 goals in the first period. NMU netminder Stuart was pulled after his 4th goal against him in the second period, and he might have been the root of Northern's problems. Stuart got a big chunk of Taranto's shot, but it bounced right off of his glove and into the back of the net. He got a little antsy after that and kinda went crazy. If I was Walt Kyle, after goal two, he would have been out of the net. He was clearly rattled, and a shaky goaltender is not something you want to see. Carlo Finucci's goal was a real thing of beauty to watch too. A nice wheeling backhanded shot driving towards the net. I really hope someone posts highlights up from tonight, just so everyone can see it.

Then, obviously, Brandon Knelsen's game winning shoot out goal won't go without attention, taking it out wide, and simply beating Ellingson to find twine. Brandon's brother, Dion, who didn't get to shoot last night since his new line mate Andy Taranto and Scott Greenham sealed the deal before Dion's turn came around, attempted the same shot that he scored to beat Allen York of RPI with back in early October. Looks like Reid did a little homework and got his stick involved and poked it away before Dion got the puck on the backhand.

A great weekend of hockey. It really was. Both teams fought hard, and when the dust settled, the Nanooks emerged with 4 points, and the Wildcats, and that duck call of theirs, head home with 2. Bon voyage NMU, we'll see you again in late January at the Berry Events Center.

The Nanooks go on the road to take on last-ranked Western Michigan University next weekend.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Nanooks Nab the Shootout. Taranto Goes Off as UA wins 4-3

During the post game conference, Gens said it best. A question came out from a kid in the crowd, "Were you nervous in the shootout?", Aaron came back and said "We have Greenham in net, we don't get nervous..." How true is that for tonight? Sure, Scott did have 3 goals allowed, but NMU had to really work for all of them. But he came up huge in the shoot out.

The real story is Andy Taranto. Had a great game not only on the score sheet, but through all aspects of the game. He stepped up in the offensive zone and caused some havoc. Unfortunately, shoot out goals will not count as a goal tally, so Taranto doesn't quite nab the hat trick, but had a great look at getting goal number 3 in the 3rd period. But, he will get credit for the game winning shoot out on a nice high backhanded shot.

I thought we struggled a bit offensively, but NMU's mistakes amounted, and they actually had a few more than they were called for, but the Nanooks capitalized on 3 of 6 power play opportunities. Definitely a great thing, because we didn't much going in the offensive zone at even strength.

We had some defensive break downs that Greenham came up big to stop. Great awareness on Scott's part to keep an eye on the puck through all of the traffic. I thought Odegard played really well tonight defensively. He did a good job keeping NMU skaters out of the slot and steering the puck wide.

A great win for the Nanooks tonight. Obviously, would have like to win in regulation or OT to get all 3 points, but coming out with 2 is much better than 1, or even none. Tomorrow night, the Nanooks will take the ice in their alternate gold jerseys, which they have never lost wearing. Let's hope that rings true.

Looks like the Wildcat faithful, who travelled over 3,000 miles for disappointment, have already posted video to YouTube of Greenham's denial of Northern's shoot out attempts.

Here's another edit, with some more video highlights from Friday's game.

See you at the Carlson Center tomorrow night. Puck drops at 7:35PM AST.

Some people sent me some emails tonight, assuming from Michigan asking about audio/video The game tomorrow will be aired on KSUA, internet stream is available at Live video is available through B2 Network, which is pretty decent, but costs $7.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Northern Michigan Heads, err, Further North, For a Series at the Carlson Center

So no "Skater of the Week" this week. Not that I didn't want to post one. It's just, well, it's Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful for ALL of our players, and all of college hockey. Plus, time is short.

Now that the sappy stuff is out of the way, time to disect some weekly media. Notably, Paula Weston, while giving some lovin' to some respectable goaltenders, she throws Scott Greenham a bone with, essentially, an honorable mention.

Here is her list, with an addendum of games played, and why I think credit isn't being given where its due.

• Mike Johnson, Notre Dame (.943/2) (5GP)
• Cody Reichard, Miami (.936/4) (10GP)
• Pat Nagle, Ferris State (.933/7) (7GP)
• Drew Palmisano, Michigan State (.932/8) (11GP)
• Brad Phillips, Notre Dame (.931/9) (7GP)
• Reid Ellingson, Northern Michigan (.931/10) (7GP)
• Riley Gill, Western Michigan (.931/12) (9GP)
  [Note: Interesting case with Gill, stats show that even though he has played fewer games, he has faced just as many shots. Do you point to defensive issues? Me too.]
• Taylor Nelson, Ferris State (.930/13) (8GP)

First off, Scott has played nearly twice as many games as quite a few of these players. The only real stat that matters, goals against average (besides winning percentage), Greenham is right up there at 1.889. You also have to keep in mind, Greenham is number 1 in stats with a minimum of 700 minutes, or 12 games played. Not taking anything away from any of these aforementioned netminders, I think they are some great competition for Scott, but I've watched every single one of these goalies play, a few in Fairbanks even, and none of them seem to have the poise that Greenham has in the crease.

Oh, you came to read about Northern Michigan? Well, this is technically a preview post after all. The Wildcats are a team that have typically always had our number. In Paula Weston's CCHA article this week, she picked NMU to come up with the sweep, with back to back 3-2 performances. I, however, will choose to be a bit more optimistic. I like the Wildcats team, however, our typical home-ice advantage may be a bit irrelevant this weekend for two reasons. One, its Thanksgiving, our student sections is going to be a ghost town, and pep band won't be in attendance. And secondly, NMU's home ice is also a 200'x100' olympic sheet. So they're used to the extra space, something that a lot of our competition is not. But the dangerous NMU plaer to watch for is Mark Olver. With 9 goals and 9 assists, he is averaging over 1.5 points per game.

The Nanook offense is currently lead by Freshman winger Andy Taranto, with 14 points, which accounts for 1.17 PPG, and I'm not surprised in the slightest. When paired with Dion, and Yaremchuk, this offensive line has accounted for 37 of the Nanooks total 93 points. Let's hope they can keep it going today.

Statistics wise, UA and NMU are pretty much identical. In CCHA play, the Wildcats have put up 25 goals for with only 19 against, while the Nanooks have put up 23 goals, and 19 against. So, by that, expect a close contest.

Like I said before, Paula Weston predicts an NMU sweet 3-2 both nights. I really hope she's wrong.

Friday       3-2 W (OT)
Saturday   2-1 W

Monday, November 23, 2009

Where are they now? - Nanooks Turn Pro

Ex-Nanook defenseman Tyler Eckford got his NHL debut this past week, getting called up to the New Jersey Devils playing against the Nashville Predators. He earned 9:01 of ice time, and got flagged for a hooking call.

Eckford contributed in Saturday's 5-3 loss to Dallas as well, earning his first NHL point on an assist in Brian Rolston's 2nd period power play goal. Eckford spent some time in the sin bin in this game as well, on an interference call in the 1st period.

In 2 games played, Tyler has 0 goals, 1 assist for 1 point, as well as 4 penalty minutes. He is also an even 0 in +/-

Tyler Eckford's NHL Profile Page

Former Nanook goaltender Chad Johnson is making a name for himself in the pros as well. Playing for NY Rangers affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack, as the starting netminder, Johnson has posted 2.060 goals against average, as well as a .927 save percentage with 3 shutouts in 15 games played. He is second in goaltending stats with a minimum 15 games played. He is also tied for 1st among AHL goaltenders with his 3 shut out performances.

Chad Johnson's AHL Profile Page

Nik Yaremchuk - CCHA Rookie of the Week

Image courtesy of

Congratulations to Nanook rookie Nik Yaremchuk for his selection as the CCHA rookie of the week.

His two goals and two assists this past weekend received some attention from the CCHA head office.

I've talked about Nik before, but it's worth mentioning that although he's relatively small, he's got some great hockey sense and instincts. What I really like is his involvement on defense. He gets down in the zone and really helps out the defense and comes up with the occasional turnover.

Great job Nik!

Alaska Nanooks 3, Lake Superior 2

Although I didn't see the game (you can thank High School Musical for that), I heard during intermission that the Nanooks went down 2-0 again, and of course, my heart stopped beating for a few moments. After the show, I get home, and see that Dion knocked in two goals to tie the game, with Bryant Molle notching the game winning goal.

Not seeing this game at all makes it a bit difficult to fully analyze this one, but I think the 'Nooks are faltering a little bit defensively, and potentially in net. I don't want to blame the departure of Chad Johnson, because Greenham is a very capable replacement, but it may take a little while for Scott to play up to Chad's level. He is only a sophomore after all. Coach Ferguson was quoted after Friday's contest saying "I’d like to get that big save when it counts...". I very much agree. As I mentioned in my review from Friday's game, Greenham could have/should have been able to stop two of those four goals and keep it to a much closer game. Not taking anything away from Greenham, he's a great goaltender, but will take some time to perfect his game.

The Nanooks still need to find a way to win on Friday road games. Splitting these series that we should have sweeps in aren't helping us in the standings now, and definitely won't come March.

The Nanooks return home this week for a tough series against a Northern Michigan team that is coming off of a home sweep as they beat down the UNO Mavericks 5-1 and 6-3 on Friday and Saturday respectively.

The Nanooks fell to 12th in all three major polls this week.  PairWise rankings pit us at 14th.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Alaska Nanooks 3, Lake Inferior State 4

On bizarre Friday in college hockey, the Nanooks couldn't pull it out against the abysmal Lake State Lakers. How sad... We had some very good opportunities go past that we should have been able to capitalize on, especially against a defense who isn't exactly known for being outstanding.

The Nanooks came into this game being the least penalized team in the CCHA, and worked their way into the penalty box six times. Luckily, we did pretty decently on the PK, holding the Lakers to one power play goal on five chances.

Two of the three Nanook goals came on the power play, once with a two man advantage, which, is a decent stat, don't get me wrong, but we should be able to score on these guys on even strength. What is going to happen tomorrow? What is going to happen against a Northern Michigan team next weekend that slaughtered UNO tonight? Some offensive questions need to be answered before we enter our incredibly difficult schedule starting next month.

Defensively? Same story. LSSU should not have been able to score four goals on us. Period. I thought Greenham should have came up with two saves on two of the Lakers goals. Should have been a 3-2 score.

I don't want to harp on our team. We have some incredible talent, and we play at a pretty high level, I just don't like seeing us losing to teams that we should be beating. But, that's the way it goes some times. If this week is anything like the last two weeks, Lake Inferior State will have to come up with a miracle to get the 'W'.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Lake State Lakers: Some (not so) Fond Memories

This weekend, the Nanooks remain on the road and head up to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan to take on the Lake State Lakers in the dreaded Taffy Abel arena.

The Nanooks history at Taffy Abel is not a bright one. In the last 10 meetings against LSSU, the Nanooks are 2-4-4, with all four of those losses happening in Taffy Abel. Last season, the Lakers ventured north to the Carlson Center, and walked out with just one point as the Nanooks earned a win and a tie with the Lakers. But our record in Sault Saint Marie is a dismal 6-17-0, and trail overall 11-23-5. Their students can't be THAT rowdy, can they?

Although I like our chances this weekend, I wouldn't be surprised of another road series split. Obviously, I have to expect a sweep. Statistically speaking, LSSU's 31 goals for and 36 goals against are resoundingly trumped by the Nanooks mark of 29 goals for and just 17 against...

So the Lakers don't look very strong, more goals against than for is usually a bad sign in terms of outlook for the season. The most recent polls that came out, LSSU did garner some votes in the USCHO poll, putting them on the bubble.

Based on LSSU's record, and our history, I expect a hard fought game, but UA should still come out on top. Since the Nanooks have been in Sault Saint Marie since Wednesday evening, I don't expect the travel issue to be a problem, especially since they didn't come back to Fairbanks before this one.

Since we are clustered with them this year, there will be a rematch in Fairbanks for our final CCHA series in February. Hopefully they won't have to wear Ice Dogs jerseys this time...

Scores this weekend.
Friday:     3-1 W
Saturday: 2-0 W

Current Nanooks record, 7-2-1

Nanook Hockey Blog picks, 6-4 (right-wrong, in terms of strict win or lose). Score differential, 7 goals.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


So my aforementioned "life" has kept my hockey reading to a minimum, and although I knew some of this stuff, I never really had the time to write a post about it, and since I have time during my lunch hour today, I figured 3 posts on an otherwise boring Tuesday is enough to keep you guys reading.

Senior forward Brandon Knelsen was featured in the CCHA's 10x3 feature this week.

Sophomore goaltender Scott Greenham was named the RBC Financial Group CCHA Player of the Month for October after being named goalie of the week twice over the first four weeks of the season. On a similar note, Scott tied a mark set by former Nanook goaltender Keith Bartusch (2001-05), who was 6-0-3 in his first nine starts. After his 20-save performance in Alaska’s 3-2 (OT) win against Ferris State, Scott improved his career record to 8-0-2, making him the first Alaska goaltender in the Nanook's 30 year history to go undefeated in his first 10 career starts.

Although Michigan State's rookie Derek Grant received the CCHA RBC Rookie of the Month honor, the honorable mention went to Nanook freshman Andy Taranto.

Nanook Skater of the Week: Joe Sova

Image from

This week's selection for the new skater of the week piece (see below) goes to sophomore defenseman Joe Sova. Joe has been incredibly valuable on the Nanooks blue line, and an asset to the Nanooks' nationally elite defense. His defensive positioning is outstanding, staying in the shooting and passing lanes, getting his stick down on the ice and preventing opposing forwards to connect, along with challenging the puck along the boards, making his opponents work for every point that they get. Overall, Joe leads the Nanooks in the plus/minus column at +6.

But what makes Sova so special is his offensive prowess. He is a pretty dangerous player from the point. He has an incredibly accurate shot, and I'll use the Brice goal rush as a perfect example, mainly because the game against Michigan can't be found on YouTube...

This video against RPI illustrates two points, his defensive dive he made pretty much saved the goal right there. But the goal he got was very pretty, sniped it top right. His goal against Michigan was very similar but was on the rush, and Hogan was so far in front of the net that Sova didn't have much of an angle to shoot at, but it didn't matter, he made it anyway.

Joe is second on the team in shooting percentage as well at 18.8%, netting 3 goals on 16 shots. He is 3rd on the team in total points with 7 through all 10 games this season. Joe also sits in 2nd in the CCHA overall for scoring defenseman.

A couple of seasons a go, after Doc's reign came to an abrupt end, the departure of Nanook defenseman and Hobey Baker finalist Tyler Eckford before his senior season left a lot of worried fans out there wondering who could fill his skates. I think Sova fills them pretty well, and by his junior/senior year, he will be nationally considered as an elite defenseman, if he hasn't drawn that attention already.

Great job Joe, you have skated very well for this team and are well deserving of your selection as the first Alaska Nanooks Hockey Blog Skater of the Week.

So I'm going to try to put out a new piece that I'll keep up each week highlighting a Nanook skater. If you want to nominate a player, feel free to email me your nomination, and include anything in the email you feel justifies their selection as the skater of the week. Since this isn't a democracy though, I am the sole person on the selection committee, with some potential insight solicited from my puck-minded friends, and thus I have the ultimate say in who gets named here. My personal criteria for selection are based on performance, not just in the recent games, but on the season as a whole. Players are chosen based on impact to the team, and their value. I will make a player of the week post each week on Tuesday or Wednesday with my selection. I may try to get interviews with the players when applicable, however, the protocol to get an interview with the players formally may be more than its worth, but I may try to get a chance to sit down with some of the seniors that I choose down the road. I know the players are reading this, but unfortunately, as much as I would want to actually give you guys something for being named here, I'm poor. So all you win is bragging rights. Hopefully, down the line, I might be able to get a local business to make a donation to this section, or something of that nature. I have an idea for one sponsor, so I'll have to approach them and see how that goes.

Alaska Nanooks 5, Bowling Green 3

Sorry for this one coming so late. I've been busy as of late having a life. But fortunately that won't last too much longer...

This game went much more like you would have expected Fridays game to go. The Nanooks came on very strong in the first period, notching three unanswered goals. Obviously, some looked better than others, but the real meat of it was UA's power play performance. Although the box score shows 2 of 5, we were really 2 of 4, and both of the power play goals came within 20 seconds of the penalty being called. Dion's goal came 14 seconds after the whistle, and Granberg's came 16 seconds after the whistle. Pretty decent outing coming after a night where we were 0 for 5...

Our offense really clicked in the first period. Passes were making it from tape to tape, and plays were happening. A nice 2 on 1 opportunity between Dustin Sather and Carlo Finucci was capitalized on a nice touch pass across the front of the crease from Sather to Finucci, which put goal number 2 on the board.

I thought the announcers had at least one thing right, saying that we were playing much better on the attack, then when we tried to clamp down defensively and manage our lead. Once we did that, we allowed 3 goals, one on the power play, and two other even strength goals that brought the Falcons within a goal on two different occasions.

Had Dallas kept with the attack from the first period, we could have buried Bowling Green in the second period and not had to worry about BG coming close.

Sorry for such the long delay on this. I've had some live performances of a particular musical in Fairbanks that I'm a part of that has somewhat taken over my life for the last few weeks. The last weekend of shows is this weekend, so the Lake State recaps might be a bit delayed too, but I'll try to keep them rolling. On that note, I won't get to watch the Saturday game, so I'll be recapping solely off of box scores, and potentially a USCHO recap. Game preview to come Thursday.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Alaska Nanooks 1, Bowling Green 3

I've been really dreading the composition of this post, hence why this isn't going up until late Saturday night, even though I started writing this during the 3rd period. But sometimes, life doesn't always throw lemons your way. The game really did not go the Nanooks way, and to be honest, they weren't getting much done in almost any aspect of the game.

 The 'Nooks have kinda had the hot and cold thing going for the last few years, coming up with a big win against a strong opponent (in this case, Notre Dame. Or Miami, like last year) and then dropping a game against a weak opponent the following week. BGSU is a team that we should have swept. There shouldn't have been any reason not to. Not taking anything away from BGSU, they played a strong game and made us work for everything we got, but up until yesterday, the only team to score 3+ goals against us was Notre Dame. To have Bowling Green in that category is kind of appalling (especially since they did it twice).

Our biggest fault of the night, were turnovers. We handed the puck over to them on numerous occasions in the transition game, and that alone accounted for two of BG's three tallies on the night. We were poor in our offensive production, not setting up the puck, bad passing, and not being able to really get control of pucks deep. We played a lot of dump and chase offense, and very rarely were we able to chase down the puck before the Falcons broke out.

The best and the worst part is, Bowling Green was only able to muster 14 shots on the evening. From a defensive perspective, thats usually a good thing, but the bad thing is that of those 14 shots, 3 went in. Poor Greenham, definitely didn't have a career night with a .786 save percentage and a 3.02 GAA (since he didn't technically play for the full game), definitely going to make an impact on his stats this early in the season. Hopefully not too much.

Granted, this was our first trip to the lower 48, and with the amount of freshman in our lineup, this was their first opportunity to see what our away games are like. As I mentioned last week, our team travels a lot of miles to play our opponents, and traveling can wear you down pretty bad. I don't want to use travel as an excuse for a loss, that would be stupid, all things considered. But this weekend was a great chance for our freshman to get a feel for our travel schedule. The Nanooks will stay away and travel to Sault Saint Marie, Michigan on Tuesday to prepare to take on the Lake State Lakers.

Going into this weekend, the Nanooks were ranked ninth. After this, we may slip, but I still think we are going to be in the top 10 with Vermont getting their butts kicked by BC, and Cornell losing to Yale, the rankings may adjust above us to keep us relatively solid where we are at. Hopefully, the focus this week will be off of us and on #1 Miami falling to two shoot out losses to Ferris State, one of which went for 11 rounds before FSU pulled it off. Keep in mind, shoot out wins only matter in CCHA standings, as the NCAA still views it as a tie. After game one against BGSU, the Nanooks fell to number nine in the PairWise rankings.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to Go Bowling in Bowling Green

While this whole Doc fiasco blows up all over the web, we still have hockey to play. Which, when you think about it, could wind up being detrimental to our team for those players and coaches that pushed through ground zero who may have lost some focus to this crap.

Luckily for us, we are playing a win-less team. Granted, its in their barn, but still they got their butts handed to them by Ferris State, 1-5 and 2-3. I have a lot of respect though for Bowling Green's newly hired head coach Dennis Williams. Coming in to a crippled program where it wasn't even certain that hockey was going to exist this year. Granted, he hasn't gotten his first win yet, and let's hope he doesn't this weekend, but he's got a strong will in a place where morale is probably pretty low. There are only 58 teams in Division 1 hockey, since we don't have that many to lose, just having one drop off is pretty major.

What scares me about BG is the 3 goals they put up on John Faulkner at Nebraska-Omaha two weeks ago in a tying effort. Maybe it was their 9 power play chances. But they only got 20 shots on goal, and 3 went in. A bunch of controversy went down after BGSU used an ineligible player in the shootout to get them the win. The league office said the officials should have caught it, and since they didn't, it stands. That's OK. I think UNO gets too much credit anyway, as I've said before.

The Falcons don't have any major offensive weapons that our defense can't shut down. I think Scott Greenham is going to be the best goalie the Falcons will face this year, and I don't vision their players getting any big points this weekend.

BG starting goalie Andrew Hammond, is to say the least, not Scott Greenham. Hammond boasts an .896 save percentage with 3.8247 goals against average. I'd like to see at least 3 goals each night from our offense against the Falcons, favorably more. There should be no reason to leave Ohio this weekend with less than 6 points.

Friday     4-0 W
Saturday 3-1 W

So, if you haven't noticed, I've adjusted the blog theme a bit, and I think I'm going to stick with it. The old one, the body was just too narrow, and didn't really work to post videos in, plus it made my posts look ridiculously long that some people just decided to send me an email and tell me that.

On a similar note, I'm very pleased with how well this blog is being received. I've gotten compliments via email, in person, via the comments sections. I'm kind of impressed and surprised. According to Analytics, I'm averaging 60-80 hits per day, netting on average about 2,100 hits per month. Just over 6 months in, and already getting some good press. Hopefully, I'm doing something right...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Truth Uncovered About Doc DelCastillo

Danny Martin, my esteemed colleague over at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has posted a very interesting, serious article on the resignation of former Nanook Hockey head coach Doc DelCastillo.

Several rumors have circulated throughout the university about such accusations as sexual harassment of  two separate women. Personally, I chose to not believe them. I've talked with Doc several times, and I never got the impression he was that type of person. But, granted, all of our conversations revolved around hockey. I would have been under the impression that if sexual harassment was really involved, charges would have been filed, and Doc would have been off the team a lot sooner than the end of the season.

Documents were obtained from the University through the Alaska Public Records act through litigation. All the details of his cases are covered in the article, which I highly recommend you read. Feel free to sound off in the comments.

Former UAF  Coach Doc DelCastillo Opens Up About His Resignation [Danny Martin, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner]

Monday, November 9, 2009

UA hasn't played away yet?

So much crap always surfaces about travel and how every team is at such a disadvantage when they come to Fairbanks. Within 24 hours of the final horn of Saturdays game, some Notre Dame fan attested the reason they lost was due to the intensive travel the team had to take to get to Fairbanks (which, I'll remind you, UA pays handsomely for). Give me a break. Now the chatter is that UA is finally leaving the state to play an away game. As if playing in Anchorage isn't away?

By contrast, this week, here are the away games that were played in the CCHA and the driving distances (one way) from the home ice to the away ice according to Google Maps.

Miami @ Michigan -- 241 Miles
LSSU @ WMU ------ 344 Miles
BGSU @ FSU --------256 Miles
NMU @ OSU ---------636 Miles
UNO @ MSU ---------672 Miles

Now, when the 'Nooks visited Anchorage for the Kendall tournament (against Michigan and Mercyhurst), 357 miles, right about the average of the 5 other away games that happened this last weekend.

Notre Dame, and all of the other teams that make the trek up here, do so only once per season. Only one long trip to Alaska per season (sans playoffs) for each team to whine and complain about. The Nanooks are set to make seven such trips this season, and make two trips on back to back weekends across the country. Once this coming week against Bowling Green, and the following weekend against Lake Superior State. And again in January, playing UNO and Michigan on the 8th/9th and the 15th/16th respectively.

Here is the list of the away games this season, and the traveling distances to each (one way, adjusted for air travel).

Alaska @ Bowling Green -- 3,685 Miles
Alaska @ Lake Superior ----3,750 Miles
Alaska @ Western Mich. ---3,697 Miles
Alaska @ Nebraska-Omaha 3,153 Miles
Alaska @ Michigan----------3,623 Miles
Alaska @ NMU--------------3,344 Miles
Alaska @ Ohio State--------3,820 Miles
Alaska @ ACC---------------357 Miles (driving)

These are one way figures. Round trip, total mileage doubles (obviously), and for those unwilling to do the math, the total mileage traveled for UA this season will be 50,858 miles. Sure, travel sucks, but you don't hear us complaining. Think about us before you complain about coming here to play.

On another note, the Nanooks have broken into the top 10  in the polls this week, hitting the number 9 spot in both the USCHO/ poll and the USAToday poll after a split series with higher ranked Notre Dame, who now sits one seat above us at number 8. I believe this could be UA's highest ranking in history. An email I received from the face off club today cited a news paper article showing UA at #11 back in the early 90's, which was the best ever at the time.

The unofficial PairWise rankings this week pegs Alaska at number 7.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Alaska Nanooks 3, Notre Dame Hunchbacks 1

Just a word of advice to the Irish. I understand the "fighting" adjective and all, but should you choose to get "testy" with the home team, don't do it in front of the student section. Just saying.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell was in attendance tonight at the Carlson Center, handling the honorary puck drop honors. Chancellor Rogers and AD Forrest Karr gave him a complimentary customized white jersey for coming to our barn, which he promptly put over his tax-funded fancy attire.

Another night of face paced hockey, however, this contest was not as, err, clean, as it was last night, couple with another night of... questionable... officiating. But, coach West said it best, at least they were "consistent"... Consistent? OK, I suppose. UA spent 8 minutes down a man, where ND was deprived for only 4. Filzen got flagged twice, once legitimately, once because the refs apparently felt like it.

But anyway, the penalty kill tonight went really well. Technically, UA killed off all four, but Notre Dame notched their only goal 4 seconds after Filzen got out of the sin bin. Basically a power play goal, but just adds a minus to our players stat sheets.

If college hockey had a goal of the week honor, this week it would go to Andy Taranto. This kid is going to be something special in his career here as a Nanook. His set up pass cross ice from Sova was on the mark, and he put it top shelf stick side. So pretty, it really was.

Classy move of the week? Dion Knelsen giving the puck to captain Derek Klassen on a rush toward the empty net to put the icing on the cake. Dion had a great chance at it, but he let his captain take the honors, and Klassen added a nice big minus for 6 hunchback skaters. Obviously not a requirement, but a very nice, gentlemanly move on Dion's part.

Anyhow, a very good, character win for the Nanooks tonight. This is the way that last nights game should have gone, but you can't win them all.

The Nanooks now head on the road for the next two weeks, facing Bowling Green and Lake Superior State. For those that don't know (I think I touched on this before...), Kevin Petovello and Brandon Knelsen have been out with injuries for this series. I spoke with coach Lance West after the game and asked him about their progress. Sounds like Brandon will be making the trips these next few weeks, but Kevin Petovello is going to be staying in Fairbanks for these trips on the mend.

Also, the gold jerseys that the Nanooks debuted on Halloween, that were worn again tonight, are here to stay. Coach West said during the post-game conference that the 'Nooks are going to be donning the golden sweaters on Saturdays, sticking with the traditional white jerseys on Fridays...

Friday, November 6, 2009

Alaska Nanooks 2, Notre Dame Hunchbacks 3

Notre Dame became the first team this season to score more than 2 goals on the Nanooks, and thus the first to defeat the Blue and Gold.

Despite having the 9-7 shot advantage in the first period, Notre Dame came out of the first period with the lone goal. Notre Dame senior Christiaan Minella caught the Nanook defense sleeping and capitalized on a turnover in the Nanook end and blasted it past Greenham to net the first goal of the game. Not a whole lot of chances on either side in the first as it was a great showing of defense.

The second period started and the Nanooks came out strong, getting into the Notre Dame zone quickly and setting up camp. Some good cycles by Alaska kept it close to the goal but it was Dion Knelsen's name in the goal column as he knotted the game up at 1-1 off assists from Taranto and Yaremchuk. A lot of bodies in front of the net for this one as Dion tried to get the puck across the crease back to Taranto, but it hit one of the defenders skates and sneaks past Irish netminder Mike Johnson. A bit of a trash goal, sure, but we'll take it.

Riding the energy of the goal, Nanook forward Dustin Sather gets whistled for hooking. And a few moments later Bryant Molle is sent to the box for tripping (a very questionable tripping call, mind you), which gives the Irish a 5-on-3 power play chance for just over 1:30. UA had some great efforts killing this penalty, with a glamorous pick and clear by Klassen sends the Irish to chase down the puck. Coming back on the rush, Notre Dame senior captain Ryan Thang puts his name on the score sheet, scoring a power play goal. Now, technically, the goal was scored on the second that Sather's penalty was up, but Dustin didn't even get his stick on the ice before Thang scored. But in terms of technicality, ND scored with just a one man advantage. But anyway, 2-1 now for the hunchbacks from Notre Dame.

A few good opportunities, scoring chances, and some poor officiating later, Nanooks fight back off of a dump into the Notre Dame zone by Ronnie Meyers, he chases it down behind the net, gets it to Filzen, and somehow in the midst of all 10 skaters jammed together, freshman forward Chad Gehon discovers the puck and squirts it through Johnson's legs. A bit of another high traffic goal that Alaska converted on. But hey, it's 2-2 in the second period.

Now here is another prime example of why CCHA officiating has gone downhill. About a minute and half after Gehon's goal, Scott Enders is defending a player in front of him, and got a decent poke in, but he gets flagged for hooking? Seriously? The crowd definitely agreed with me on that one. Enders sat in the box, and Notre Dame notched their second power play goal of the night from the stick of Kyle Lawson, which ends the scoring for the second period. As irritated as this makes me as I am writing this, I'll get to the officiating crew here again in a bit when I get to my comments.

The third period, the Nanooks came out with fire. They upped the pressure and kept the puck in the Hunchback zone for 15:31 of the 20:00 period, generating a total of 16 shots, compared to Notre Dame's 1. With about 1:10 left on the clock, Greenham comes off of the ice to give UA the extra skater. The Nanooks had some good looks and a few chances to knot the game at 3 in the closing seconds that came up just short. Captain Derek Klassen had a great chance just outside of the right face off circle that went just wide (which, Derek made a pretty funny comment about in the post-game conference in response to Danny Martin's question asking him about the play), and Joe Sova had a great chance in front of the crease at about the 10 second mark that was ultimately deflected wide.

UA really threw everything they had at the Hunchbacks in the closing period, but came away empty handed. Hopefully we can come out tomorrow with the same energy that we had in the 3rd period. If we can, the Hunchbacks of Notre Dame will head back to their bell towers with a series split in Fairbanks.

Shots 37-15 in Alaska's favor.

Greenham 12/15 (.800 save percentage) 3 GA
UA defense allows 2 power play goals of 3 chances.

I thought we did some things pretty well tonight, some other things not so much. For one, we really ground it out in the offensive zone tonight. Both of our goals tonight came with high traffic in front of the net, as a result of lots of good work in the offensive zone. Notre Dame wasn't giving much to shoot at for the better part of the game, and with some offensive grinding, UA came out with two even strength goals.

Our defensive effort was great, but wasn't without fault. Towards the end of the first period, Minella picked a UA defenseman in transition (I didn't catch who exactly) that lead to Notre Dame's only even strength goal. Playing a team like Notre Dame means you've got to be on top of your game for all 60 minutes, or you'll get burned, like the Nanooks did there. Secondly is the penalty kill. Granted, if it wasn't for the jackals in zebra stripes calling the game, this wouldn't have been much of an issue tonight. But you work with what you get. The Nanooks finished just 33% on the PK, allowing 2 goals from ND.

But, the two legged zebras really screwed the pooch tonight. Apparently, offsides rules are subjective, penalties are only called when the officials feel like the timing is right, and corrective lenses are not to be worn when necessary. I guess earning your paycheck is not a sentiment used by the CCHA officiating crews these days. I always hate blaming officials for game outcomes, regardless of a win or a loss, especially in the case of this game where it really can go either way, but the officials tilt it the other way. The game really was mostly clean by both teams. There were some calls not made on both teams, but the calls that were made on Molle and Enders were marginal at best. Had those calls not been made, the game could have had an entirely different outcome (say 2-1 UA), but alas, the Hunchbacks get the favor in this one.

Look for Coach Ferguson to tighten up some bolts and get back on the ice tomorrow night and come away with a series split and send the Hunchbacks home to their towers in South Bend.

How Much Fight Does the Irish Have?

#13 Alaska vs. #9 Notre Dame

This series promises to be an exciting one. Notre Dame is a surprising 4-3-1 so far this season (and even more surprising, are still ranked above UA, despite 3 losses to unranked teams (note: Boston College was not ranked when they beat ND)).

The Irish have only played one away game thus far, and have traveled 3,500 miles to get here for their second and third games away from South Bend, so hopefully home ice will tip in our favor.

Notre Dame 4-3-1 (19 GF, 13 GA) (2.375 GFA, 1.625 GAA)
Alaska 5-0-1 (18 GF, 7 GA) (3.000 GFA, 1.166 GAA)

Statistically, the Nanooks are coming in looking a bit better than Jeff Jackson's Irish, but statistics don't mean everything. The Nanook defense has not allowed more than two goals in a game all season, including the shut out Greenham pitched to Red Berenson's #3 Wolverines.

Expect a good showing by both teams. Notre Dame appears to be on a bit of a roller coaster, having beat Boston University, losing to Boston College, then coming up with a win and a tie at home against Ohio State. We also won't mention their losses to Providence or Alabama-Huntsville... Expect a showing of defense this weekend, as Greenham and the Nanook defense flex their muscles against ND's squad, but I think the Nanooks will come out with a sweep this weekend.

Friday 3-1 W
Saturday 2-1 W (OT)

Tune in to my Twitter feed for live, in-game updates.

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Ferris Swept in Fairbanks

As it tends to do, history repeats itself as the Ferris State Bulldogs leave Fairbanks with no points last weekend as the Nanooks handed them 3-1 and 3-2 (OT) losses on Friday and Saturday respectively, bringing the aforementioned winning streak to 15-0-2.

Unfortunately, I was out of town for these games. While residing in the central time zone, where Alaska hockey games don't exactly air in prime time, I wasn't able to tune in for this series. However, sources say that Ferris looks much improved from last season, and fought us until the bitter end both nights.

In game one, all of the Nanook goals (with the exception of the empty-netter at the end) came on the power play, capitalizing twice on four chances for a 50% power play conversion. From my observations watching the films between FSU and RMU, their defense has really tightened up from what I remember last season. With that, Ferris got on the board first at the 14:31 mark of the first period as Blair Riley sneaks one past Greenham just outside the crease off of a centering pass from Cody Chupp. The Nanooks answered with just 1.1 seconds left in the first when freshman Nik Yaremchuk beat Taylor Nelson and the clock to knot the game up at 1-1 with a man advantage headed into the first intermission.

The Ferris defense really clamped down in the 2nd period, but got a little rattled as Ferris' Eric Alexander took an infamous 5 minute major penalty for checking from behind, and had a 10 minute game misconduct penalty tacked on to that as Mr. Alexander found his new home in the locker room for the remainder of the game. Already down a man, Blair Riley becomes the second guy to go to the box at the 12:00 mark to give Alaska a full 2 minutes of 5 on 3 power play action. Ferris defense did a good job defending in their zone and clearing the puck, as the Nanook power play unit failed to convert on the 5 on 3 chance. With Blair Riley out of the box, the Nanooks still have 2 minutes left to work on the 5 minute major, and a minute later, Aaron Gens took a shot from the right point that Nelson had no chance of stopping. Obviously, I didn't see it, but I wished I had. Supposedly, outside of Ronnie Meyers goal in game 2 (trust me, I'll get to that in a second), it was the prettiest goal of the weekend. Gens' goal would become the game winning goal as Cardwell's empty netter at the end of the 3rd just puts the icing on the cake.

In game 2, there really is only one story here. Not taking anything away from Taranto's or Sova's goals, they both capitalized off of a pair of good rebounds. But the real gem comes from sophomore Ron Meyers. This guy has become pretty famous for his last minute antics around Fairbanks. Last year, as Alaska played host to the Ohio State Buckeyes, Meyers notched the games only goal in game three with just 50 seconds left in the 3rd period to send UA to the Joe. This season, he's back at it, with just 15 seconds left in overtime. I won't begin to describe the beauty of his play. Just watch for yourself...

Ronnie knows how to make a blogger proud.

Also, congratulations are in order for UA Athletic Director Forrest Karr for being selected in AKJOC's Top Forty Under 40! He will be recognized in a special luncheon on January 14th at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage.