Thursday, September 30, 2010

Scouting the Lancers

Tonight, the Lancers from the University of Windsor come to the Patty Center to face off against the 'Nooks. This is the Lancers 5th game on the schedule, so they've got some time under their belts so far to get their season rolling.

Last season, the Lancers took on a pair of the 'Nooks common CCHA foes in the Michigan Wolverines and the Miami RedHawks. That trip to the states didn't fare so well, with back-to-back 2-6 losses. I don't expect much different here.

Coach Ferguson has said recently that Scott Greenham may be given a run for his money for his time between the pipes. Last season, Greenham racked up the 2nd most playing minutes of any D-I goalie in the nation. Backups Steve Thompson and Colin Rundell have clearly put in some work to improve their games, and tonight is a perfect night to give one of these guys some game time.

I'm sure you all saw my thoughts on the Blue/Gold game, but that still holds true. I'm sure we'll still see Dallas shake the lines up a bit throughout tonight to look for some more chemistry. Also, I anticipate the freshmen getting a lot of ice time tonight to continue to get used to the game plan and the strategy with the upperclassmen leading the way.

Should be a good time tonight. The game is at 7:05 here at the Patty Center Ice Arena tonight here on campus. The circus is still going on at the Carlson, so the game will be in a smaller venue (and, subsequently, on smaller NHL-sized ice). Tickets will be available at the door.

Tonight's prediction, 7-1 'Nooks.

See you all at the Patty... Can't make it to the game? The Voice of the Nanooks, Bruce Cech calls the games live over the radio on 91.5FM in Fairbanks, or via the online stream at

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quotes From The Conference Call

The CCHA Head Coaches, along with the Commissioner Anastos met this morning via conference call with the media. Here are some quotes from Coach Ferguson.

On the difference of going into the off-season after having qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time
Going into the summer and now I think it’s important we talked about keeping a level head about last season because that is behind us. Once the dust settled I think we all realized that we wanted to learn from the experience and realized that’s what we want to get back to this season. With that being said, there’s a lot of work that has to go into it and our focus going into the summer was everyone doing what they needed to do to get better so that we could hopefully give ourselves an opportunity to be successful again at the end of next year.

On strengths and areas of concern going into this season
I think that it seems like we have good depth at all positions. I think it’s real competitive and I’m just looking to see where everything is going to shake out here when we play our first game as far as the line-up. I’m real happy with some of the decisions we have to make, being that we have some tough decisions to make on who’s going to be in the line-up every night. I really like our senior class and our guys that are going to be looked upon to lead us. I really like our leadership and our depth going into this season. I think that one of the things we want to focus on is just making sure we’re being consistent on everything that we’re doing in all facets of the program.

On candidates to pick up the offensive slack created by the departure of Dion Knelsen, and Andy Taranto’s line mates to start the season
Dion was obviously a great player for us at a bunch of different levels. He played in a lot of different situations and he was a good leader. I don’t know if we are going to have one guy just step up and be Dion Knelsen and take up his minutes. I guess it’s going to be by committee that we are going to fill up some of those minutes that Dion leaves behind. At the same time I feel good about our team and guys jumping up and taking advantage of that opportunity.
As far as Andy goes, right now we are mixing things up and trying to find some chemistry in there. I know that at the end of the season last year him, Dion and Dustin Sather had a real good run there going the last ten games going into the playoffs. So Dustin and Andy have been playing quite a bit together here in practice. We have been mixing some guys in there, trying to see where the chemistry is at. We are going to have a few opportunities coming up here in the next couple weeks with the tournament in Anchorage and our tournament to be ready to go for Michigan State to open up the CCHA.

On Nanooks being picked 3rd in coaches poll 
It’s nice to be recognized, but at the same time everybody right now is 0-0-0. We are not going to worry about preseason polls or what’s behind us and some accomplishments we’ve had. We have to focus in on moving forwards and getting better every day. I told them two years ago when I came back from the meeting in Grand Rapids and we were picked 12th, our approach is going to be the same way. We are not going to focus in on those things. We are just going to focus in on getting better every day and being a strong group and I think if we do that it will give us the best opportunity to be successful.

On meeting the three ‘Big Ten’ teams four times
To be successful within the league throughout the regular season, you need to be successful in your cluster. We have a strong cluster, but every night you play in the CCHA is strong. You need to play your best every Friday and Saturday to be successful. Our approach needs to be the same. We can’t get up for some teams and not for others because if we do that we are not going to be successful at the end day. From our approach, it’s kind of the same every day for us. We know that it’s a battle. We aren’t a team that takes any team for granted and if we do we are not going to be winning very many hockey games. We are excited about the opportunity and we feel it’s a strong cluster but we tie that into the fact that we are in a great league and we need to be prepared every Friday and Saturday.

You can read quotes from the rest of the coaches here.

CCHA Preseason Polls Released

Miami and Michigan at the top. Sound familiar? Thought so. Nanooks sit in third in this years Coaches Poll, and fourth in the Media poll. The teams are listed by rank below. As Coach Ferguson said this morning, "It's nice to be recognized in the polls, but right now, everyone is 0-0-0".  Which is completely true. All of these rankings that are coming out, just like the USA Today poll from Monday. At this point, its all subjective. Starting tomorrow, the guys have to get out there and start earning it.

Secondly, Andy Taranto was named to the CCHA All-Conference Second Team, and Joe Sova, along with Scott Greenham, earned honorable mentions.

Coaches Poll

Team (first-place votes)   Points
 1. Michigan (8)              108
 2. Miami (3)                 103
 3. Alaska                     81
 4. Michigan State             76
 5. Notre Dame                 75
 6. Northern Michigan          65
 7. Ferris State               64
 8. Ohio State                 56
 9. Lake Superior State        35
10. Western Michigan           29
11. Bowling Green              23

Media Poll

Team (first-place votes)   Points
 1. Miami (57)                877
 2. Michigan (17)             825
 3. Michigan State (1)        651
 4. Alaska                    618
 5. Notre Dame                567
 6. Ferris State              546
 7. Northern Michigan         536
 8. Ohio State                428
 9. Lake Superior State       312
10. Western Michigan          225
11. Bowling Green             190

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nanooks Ranked 12th

So the first poll has hit the press, and the USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine poll has Alaska ranked 12th. Here's how the poll looks.

1. Boston College
2.  North Dakota
3. Miami
4. Michigan
5. Yale
6. St. Cloud
7. Maine
8. New Hampshire
9. Minnesota-Duluth
10. Cornell
11. Denver
12. Alaska
13. Wisconsin
14. Boston University
15. Minnesota

-The Kendall Classic now looks even more appealing with the Fighting Sioux sitting atop the list.

-Michigan's rank is no more than a salute to their program. Granted, you can never count out Red's team, but they were not strong enough last year to top the likes of Yale or St. Cloud.

Granted, my take is a little different, and debate could go on forever of who should be where on this list. This is simply an estimate of where the chips will fall. None of these teams have really taken the ice yet. Once the season starts, these will change. They always do.

That said, its getting to be that time for the guys to get out and show the world that they don't belong at #12.  They are going to have to win their way up the ladder and earn their rightful spot.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Blue and Gold are Looking Good

The Nanooks are playing high level hockey. While the blue team did pull off a 3-2 win, whats more important is how they played together.

The first thing that stands out across the board is speed. It was quite a fast game. Good cycles in the zones, and good passing. There were a few missed passes, but for the most part there were good tape to tape passes. Cycling the puck went quite well. The guys were able to move the puck around and generate some scoring chances. Obviously, the D did quite well limiting those chances. Some odd-man rushes were negated by strong defensive play. Overall, quite impressive.

One thing that I also like to look for in these games is chemistry. In other words, which players click well on the ice to and develop scoring chances.

I saw some good things between Adam Henderson and Ryan Hohl. Both of them have no problems getting physical, and when they came together, pain was inflicted. Another interesting combo was the match up between Aaron Gens and Jarrett Granberg. The two hooked up on the first goal of the game with Granberg getting the deflection, and were a post away from another. While Granberg would eventually come out of the game due to an apparent injury after a hit into the bench, but not before that intriguing pairing caught my eye.

Another intriguing part of the team is Cody Butcher. The burly junior recorded the hardest shot at 98 mph. 98! The guy has got a cannon of a shot from the point that could definitely be an instrumental part of the team. From the limited time we saw of him last season, he looks much improved. For me, its too close to call. I guess this is why I don't coach! Coach Ferguson said that it was very competitive top to bottom for ice time. Hopefully, I'll get to see Butch on the ice some more this season.

Also, as far as the fastest skater goes, the reigning champ from last year, Ronnie Meyers, lost his title to a freshman in Erik Slemp in a photo finish. I uploaded the video of the final skate to my Twitter feed, but you can see it here as well.

The 'Nooks will play the University of Windsor on Thursday, also at the Patty Ice Arena a 7. But I'm anxious to get into tournament action, starting with the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, October 8th and 9th against Air Force, and North Dakota respectively.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Getting Underway

The camaraderie was thick last night at the Princess Lodge. The players were all dressed for success and you can tell they are all excited to hit the season rolling. Coach said it best, "In a thousand mile journey, it all starts from step one". That step one starts this afternoon with the Blue/Gold game.

Last night, I had the pleasure of Carlo Finucci's company  at our table, who has really been working his tail off training and conditioning. I'm really happy for him, he's get some great puck handling skills, and that conditioning will definitely help with his speed. Judging by the video that was played, displaying their pre-season activities (I'll see if I can get my hands on it for those who didn't attend), the guys have really been training hard all the way around. As coach said, guys are really competing for time on the ice top to bottom and lines are still somewhat in limbo. This afternoon at the Blue/Gold game will be the first chance to see which players fit in to which lines, and see which players have some good chemistry with each other.

The competitions will be very interesting as well. After seeing practice this week, the fastest skater is going to be a very exciting competition to watch. Of course, they are just fun little competitions, no real impact other than bragging rights. Will Ronnie Meyers keep his fastest skater title? We'll find out this afternoon.

The biggest announcement from last night was the captain's announcement. All 3 of this year's captains are seniors. Forward Derek Klassen and defenseman Bryant Molle are both alternates (yes, I'm a purist, I don't like to call them assistants), and forward Kevin Petovello, who served as an alternate last year will don the C for the 2010-11 season.

Now I don't know about you, but I'm excited to get things going. This evening, at 5:00PM will be the puck drop at the Blue/Gold game. Doors open at 4:00, and since the Patty is less than half the size of the Carlson Center, I highly suggest showing up earlier rather than later. If you can't make it, be sure to follow me on Twitter for updates.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Final Countdown

The title is much more than a famed song by somewhat of a one-hit wonder band, but the clock can't tick fast enough tomorrow to hit 6PM for the Nanook Hockey kick off banquet tomorrow night at the Princess Lodge. If you've never been, the banquet is a pretty relaxed environment. The freshman get to introduce themselves and talk a bit about where they come from, how they got here, and so on. Historically, the captain and the alternate(s) have been announced as well. Not to mention the elegantly prepared menu for dinner. The menu this time around is Yankee Pot Roast and Chicken ala Pierre, with potatoes, vegetables, salad, rolls and dessert.

Of course, Saturday is when the fun really begins. The guys suit up and take the ice for the first time this season for the intra-squad scrimmage known only as the Blue/Gold game, which always takes place during UAF's Starvation Gulch, a yearly student tradition. The Blue/Gold game is a lot of fun to watch. Although not a true game in the sense, but it gives a good first look at the players, and a good chance for the new guys to see the (reduced) crowd for the first time.

Granted, there really isn't a whole lot of pre-game analysis I can do here, but its definitely an event you don't want to miss. Puck drops at 5PM, doors open at 4PM on Saturday at the Patty Ice Arena.

Some pre-game reading.

  • Joe Sova's picture has found its way to INCH's A-Z lineup, a pre-season series they run spotlighting players around college hockey. Check out the article to see what they had to say.
  • produced a cool write up of incoming transfer Adam Henderson, who made his way here from Michigan State. Henderson said of his departure “Michigan State was a bit of a culture shock for me, but coming to Fairbanks is closer to what I’m familiar with.  I am much closer to my family and it now gives them the opportunity to come watch me play,” Good that he's a family man! Anyone remember when Curtis Fraser's dad came to town, and he went off and scored 3 goals in the first 5 minutes? I do. Check out the whole post.
  • You can also check out a photo compilation on Facebook of the Nanooks first practice this past Monday. Great shots!

That's all for now, folks.  Be sure to follow along with my Twitter feed on Saturday for live commentary. See you at the Patty!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

10 Days

The sun is actually going down at night, cars are nice and frosty in the morning, meaning hockey season is upon us. 10 days from now, the 'Nooks will take the ice for the first time of the 2010-11 season to face...themselves... The annual Blue/Gold game is always a treat for the community. Gives every one a first look at the new players. And it gives the new players a first look at the crowd. The rules are a little relaxed, its not a full game, and there are some friendly fun intra-squad competitions, like fastest skater, hardest shot, and lastly the shootout challenge. This shootout isn't all about scoring either, it's style points that count.

The Blue/Gold game is slated for Saturday, the 25th at 5PM at the Patty Ice Arena on campus. The exhibition game against University of Windsor of Ontario will be on the following Thursday (9/30) at 7:05, also at the Patty Ice Arena.

For those that haven't seen the news (or those who don't read my Twitter feed), the folks at College Hockey News beat all the major players to the party with the arrival of their Preseason Top 10. Writer Joseph Edwards pens the Alaska program at number eight in his write up, saying
"The Nanooks — an NCAA Tournament team for the first time last season — lost five players from their roster coming into the 2010-11 season, headlined by leading scorer Dion Knelsen, but they can take plenty of solace in returning nine of their top 11 scorers from last season, including Andy Taranto who put up 18 goals and 42 points as a freshman. Also in the mix are blueliners Joe Sova and Aaron Gens, who surpassed the 20-point on the season as sophomores. Scott Greenham, who went 18-12-9 last season, returns to backstop the Nanooks and improve upon a top-10 team defense (2.83 goals/g) from last season. A second trip to the NCAA postseason isn’t a given, but it’s certainly not [out of] reach, especially with so much uncertainty in the CCHA with teams like Michigan State, Notre Dame and Ohio State, all of which lost a lot and have huge question marks."
Keep in mind, three scoring stand-outs in their respective junior leagues, including Canada's Junior A Player of the Year coming into the Alaska program will look to boost last years 40th ranked offense (2.77 goals/game average). I'm quite confident that Dallas and his staff are getting this new guys into the system and will work them throughout the lineup.

The other major news outlets have yet to release their preseason thoughts, but I'll visit them more a bit later.

Also of note is Penn State's move to add a Division I varsity hockey team. Many of my informed readers who have emailed me about this seem quite familiar with the club. They've had a club team for several years with a loyal following of fans. Their current arena looks to be about the size of Taffy Abel arena, where 3,372 Lake Superior State fans call home. But, it's not the fan count that really matters. If that were the case, UAH (whose arena more than doubles the capacity of Lake Superior) wouldn't have been nixed from the CCHA. Tom Anastos, the man at the helm of the CCHA, said in a press release back from August 11, 2009
“The league completed its due diligence of the application for membership submitted by the University of Alabama in Huntsville with careful consideration and discussion of various issues,”
CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos said in a news release. “At this time we have chosen to maintain our membership at its current level." (source)
Fast forward 364 days, when Anastos went on record with the Detroit News, saying
"They are a very attractive choice -- very attractive," CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos told The Detroit News on Tuesday. "They're in a different market than we're in, more and more U.S. players are on college rosters, and there's tremendous growth of the sport in Pennsylvania." (source)
This can only mean one thing... The CCHA hates the south...

...joking, of course. But really, why would Anastos force an established program to become the only independent team, especially when UNO defects to the Weak Club Hockey Association, leaving an odd number of teams? Seriously, shutting out a conference-less team, which would bring the CCHA back to an even 12-team conference, the CCHA said "No way", and went on to hire a third party scheduling consultant (for who knows how much money) to work out a formula to make the 11-team rotation work. Then, the following year, they bring in an upstart team in Penn State. I don't get it...

Speaking of that schedule rotation, which takes 5 years to cycle evenly, will be in place for a total of a year before (potentially) bringing the conference back to 12, while still leaving UAH out to dry. One has to think, is the CCHA seeing the big picture here?

Penn State adding a D-I program of course makes 6 Big Ten (of which, I'll point out, currently has 11 member schools, and will be growing to 13 next year...) member schools, which has everyone on their heels as to whether Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and then Penn State will bail out of their respective conferences in favor of a new Big Ten conference... Thus putting the CCHA at 8 teams, and UAH still homeless.

I can sit here and deliberate how Penn State can change the landscape of the college hockey world, but we'll save that crap for next offseason, when it actually matters. For now, congratulations to those who are supporting Penn State hockey. I'm sure this is an exciting time for you, and even though the D-I hockey landscape is small, growth is always a good thing. Once again, good luck to the UAH folks, I'm pulling for ya.

Can we just drop the puck already?