Sunday, December 12, 2010

Nanooks Close First Half With OT Win Over Ferris State, 4-3.

What a gritty win over division rival and cluster mate, Ferris State. Several Nanooks stepped up in this series in the absence of senior captain Kevin Petovello, but Nik Yaremchuk took the spotlight on the score sheet on Saturday, notching two goals in the 4-3 OT victory. But it was a team victory overall, as the Nanooks once again had to fight back, despite getting the early lead.

Nik Yaremchuk would start it all off, getting on the board off of Ferris State's Justin DeMartino's minor for interference. The Nanooks were just 1/7 on power play chances the night before, and knocking one in the net on their second chance is certainly a momentum shifter.

And they would carry that momentum with them throughout the period. Ronnie Meyers and his usual antics took the puck the other way off the back check, used the odd man rush to their advantage. Although Ronnie's shot didn't get all the way through, Derek Klassen was right there to clean up the rebound in the crease to lock in a two goal lead heading into the locker room after the first 20 minutes.

That two goal lead was not as secure as one would have hoped. Ferris State came right out of the gates in the 2nd period firing. And it didn't take long before one of their shots beat Greenham, the first of which came from junior forward Aaron Schmit just 1:35 into the first period. And after a series of Nanooks penalties, Ferris got an equalizing power play goal of their own from sophomore center Travis Oulette at 16:13.

Ferris really roared back in the 2nd to tie it, out-shooting Alaska 14-3. But with the score tied at 2-2 through 40:00, its a brand new game for the 3rd period...

And what a game it was, certainly defensive. The 'Nooks got two penalties right out of the gate as Sova and Taranto served back to back minors, but the Nanooks' penalty kill stood tall. Nik Yaremchuk could have actually had a chance at a breakaway for a potential shorthanded goal and a hat trick, but opted to clear to allow him and his teammates to change. Nanooks netminder Scott Greenham had an epic save on a shot top shelf by Todd Pococke. Greenham said "no soup for you" with a vengeance as his sweeping glove caught it right out of mid-air to keep it tied.

With the Alaska penalties over, the Blue and Gold had a power play chance of their own as Ferris State senior winger Mike Fillinger was penalized for bulldozing Joe Sova into the boards with about 8:00 remaining in the 3rd. Sova was a bit slow getting up, likely seeing birds circling above his head. But Joe being Joe, it was 1:14 before his next shift and he didn't miss it.

Now with Fillinger in the box, the Nanooks had a golden opportunity before them to take control of the game. They were generating good scoring chances, and cycling the puck well in the zone, but Ferris forward Matthew Kirzinger picked off a pass just inside the blue line, took it back the other way with a streaking Mike Embach who netted his second shorty of the year from the backhand, the first shorthanded goal the Nanooks have allowed this season.

Now down by a goal, the Nanooks rallied to tie, using strong puck possession and clean passing to maintain pressure. And just 3:00 later, Nik Yaremchuk picked a wonderful time to score his second goal of the evening as Michael Quinn got the puck up to freshman forward Cody Kunyk, skating right with Nik on the rush. Cody took a shot from the right side, which gleaned off of Nagle's pad, but found it's way to Nik's stick, and then to the back of the net to tie the game at 3.

Nearing the end of the 3rd period, Aaron Gens did his part as a defenseman, helping out his goaltender who was sprawling to make a save. Gens made a play to prevent a Ferris player from tipping in a loose puck, but was ultimately called for interference with 87 seconds left in regulation.

Ferris State would call timeout, rally the troops, and try to come up to get a big sweep at home with the power play chance. However, the 'Nooks had something to say about that, limiting the Bulldogs to just two shots on goal before the clock struck 0:00.

With Gens still in the box for 28 seconds, the Nanooks played a good old fashioned game of keep away before it got back to 5 on 5. No shots for either team through the first 90 seconds, then Ferris made a crucial mistake in overtime as a bad line change right in front of the official earned the Bulldogs yet another 2:00 trip to the penalty box, this time for too many men on the ice.

The 'Nooks now with a power play of their own, trying to capitalize, building pressure, getting chances. Granberg shoots one over the goal. Loose puck comes back around, and Matthew Kirzinger cross-checks Andy Taranto out of harms way, but guess what, the official saw that too.

Now the Nanooks, with a 5 on 3 power play chance for 1:03, took a timeout to recompose. As the time ticks away on this golden opportunity, Jarret Granberg gets the puck back to Sova at the point, who blasted one through traffic. Nagle somehow came up with the save, but Taranto was idling in park in his reserved spot when the puck came in his direction. And the reigning CCHA rookie of the year knew exactly what to do with it, finding the back of the net for the overtime game winning goal.

A good game for both teams. The Nanooks clearly laid it all out on the line and truly found what they were made of in that 3rd period. After that shorthanded goal, most guys emotions would go crazy, a serious buzzkill, especially when the game was tied. But that didn't phase them. They kept the jets on, and kept attacking. Clearly not quitting on any shift. Fortunately, that work paid off with 3 crucial points in the CCHA standings, keeping the 'Nooks in fourth place.

The Nanooks now get to enjoy a bit of rest and some time off as they get ready for finals this week, as well as parting to be with family over the holidays. Fortunately, the Nanooks will get to open the series at home for the first time in what seems like forever. January 7th and 8th, Western Michigan will get to visit the frozen north before our guys head out on a two week road trip to Yost Ice Arena to face the Wolverines', as well as a visit to the Joyce Center in South Bend, Indiana for a two game series against the Hunchbacks from Notre Dame.

Stay tuned to the blog during the break for updates on the Nanooks' prospects as well.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Ferris State Defeats Alaska for the First Time in 6 Years, 4-2.

Welcome back, oh dear readers. After what seems like the busiest month of my life, I'm finally back. Again, sorry for the lack of preview this week, but coming into the series, the Nanooks are undefeated in the last 15 games against Ferris State, with a 13-0-2 dating back to 2003-2004. If you had a chance to check out my Twitter feed, you might have seen the video put together by a couple of ESPN hopefuls. Assuming these guys can get the pronunciations of... well... anyone or anything not on their own team right, that is. Anyway, on to the recap of the first game with the Bulldogs and the "Nan-nukes", as they call us.

Good to see Andy Taranto and Michael Quinn back on the ice. I guess the bye week gave them a bit of rest to recover. Nanooks captain Kevin Petovello still remains on the injured list, and still in Fairbanks as he didn't make the trip down with the team. Hopefully he'll be back right out of the gate after the break.

With that said, the Nanooks got off to a good first period. Andy Taranto, fresh off an injury that kept him on the bench for 3 games, picked right back up where he left off, backhanding in a rebound off of a shot from the point off of Joe Sova's stick. Add Carlo Finucci to the stat sheet with the secondary assist all at 13:33 into the first period.

But that was the last lead the Nanooks would see tonight...

The first of which came on a well placed screen, as Nate Hennig put the first goal for Ferris on the board to close out the first period.

In to the second period, Mike Embach, the games eventual 2nd star, buried a goal past Greenham off of the left goal post unassisted. And Zach Redmond would also get on the board in the second with a power play goal, which would be the eventual game winner.

The third period would see the Nanooks apply pressure, and eventually Jarret Granberg would crack the defense and net the Nanooks only power play goal of the evening (1 for 7 on the night). That got my blood pumping, as the guys pulled within range to potentially tie things up. With about 1:12 left, Scott Greenham left his crease, and on came a 6th skater...

But, it worked against the 'Nooks, as Ferris forward Jordie Johnston picked off a pass, and took the empty netter in to seal a 4-2 win for Ferris State, their first victory over the Nanooks in over 6 years. Not that it means anything, but a stat that has gone in our favor for some time, so it had to be mentioned.

Tonight marks win number 299 for Ferris State head coach Bob Daniels. With 300 on the doorstep, the 'Nooks will have to slam the door and lock the deadbolt tomorrow. Tomorrow also features the "Big Chill at the Big House", a Guinness World Record setting outdoor hockey game with over 108,000 fans in attendance. That will be on Fox channel 7 here in Fairbanks for your viewing pleasure. Should be over about an hour before the 'Nooks game starts.

The Wall Street Journal has an article up regarding the Big Chill, as well as the college hockey landscape as a whole. One of the better articles I've read in a long time. Check it out.

And just to help out those two Ferris State guys who did the aforementioned series preview, and for everyone else out there who has no idea how to pronounce our team's name -- it's "Nan", like Nano. "Nooks", like the plural of Barnes and Noble's eReader "nook". Nanooks. There ya go... I'll get to the player pronunciations someday if I have to...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Bye Week Banter: College Football and the BCS

The Oregon Duck running the flag.
For those that don't know me, aside from college hockey, I'm a huge Oregon Ducks and college football fan. I was born and raised in Oregon, and I've been a Ducks fan since birth.

Over Thanksgiving (and coincidentally, the Ohio State vs Nanooks game, hence the limited coverage), I went back to Oregon to visit some family, and check out my Ducks' last two games of their now-perfect 12-0 season, their first in school history. Now that the Ducks have secured their spot among the top 2 in the BCS standings, a national championship is pretty much secured, and likely against Auburn. The BCS title game will likely see online sports betting firms favoring Auburn despite key statistical advantages in Oregon's favor. Running backs LaMichael James and Kenjon Barner spearhead the Ducks' 1st ranked rushing offense, which is averaging an NCAA best 303.8 yards per game.

The first game I went to was the final game of the season at Autzen Stadium, the Ducks' home turf against the Arizona Wildcats. Arizona quarterback Nick Foles had a relatively huge game, but it was just a compromise, as the Arizona rushing game was nowhere to be found. Despite scoring first and leading at halftime, the Ducks lead their usual 2nd half surge for 34 points to tame the then-20th ranked Wildcats 48-29. Box Score

And the second game was the infamous Civil War against Oregon State at Reser Stadium in Corvallis. When I first walked in to the stadium, I thought the fans were confused and thought it was still Halloween with all of this orange and black everywhere. All jokes aside, I was a green-and-yellow clad Ducks fan amidst a sea of Oregon State fans, who were hospitable, but didn't let me forget that the Beavers scored first. Fortunately, the heckling didn't last long, and neither did the Beavers' lead. The Ducks went on to pound Oregon State 37-20, as most of their fans vacated their own stadium shortly in to the fourth quarter. Box Score

With the BCS bowls to be announced in about an hour, the Ducks should be headed to their first ever trip to the National Championship game in Glendale, Arizona. But for me, I'm headed back to Fairbanks (in an airport now, in fact), and getting back to the daily grind, and back to the Nanooks.

Stay tuned this week for previews of the Ferris State series as the Nanooks close out the first half of their season before the holidays.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ice Dogs Forward Tayler Munson Verbally Commits to Alaska

Tayler Munson, a forward for the Fairbanks Ice Dogs and a 17th round entry draft selection for the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the USHL has said that he's made his decision to play for the Nanooks.

Munson, a grinder type forward, has six goals and four assists in 20 games for the Ice Dogs. He's the second Ice Dog to commit to the program next to Jared Linnell, also a future USHLer for Cedar Rapids, who is currently sitting with a 10-7-17 scoring line in 25 games.

Ice Dogs bench boss Josh Hauge told Danny Martin of the News-Miner “Tayler has the opportunity to be a very dynamic hockey player. He has a high-level skills set and the potential to be a very good professional prospect.”

For those that haven't been to an Ice Dogs game yet, Munson is a very good role player, with good positioning. He doesn't score a lot of goals, but he gets it done when he needs to. You'll find him forechecking, and helping out his defensemen in the D-zone. 

It's possible, and even likely that we won't see Munson in a Nanooks jersey until 2012 after a year in the USHL. Munson will play for Team Legwand in the NAHL Top Prospects tournament this weekend.

In related news, Nanook recruit Joe Kalicz, who was slated to participate in the same tournament, has been replaced due to injury.

Nanooks Take 4 Points Out of Ohio State Series

I have to admit, it's kind of hard to write a recap for a series that you didn't watch. Honestly, I couldn't even listen to the games, but if the box score and various recaps around the 'net are any indication, Friday's game was a mere 10 seconds away from victory, and Saturday was a come-from-behind triumph after scoring 5 unanswered goals.

Nanooks leading scorer Kevin Petovello has been added to the injured list. I don't have anything to report at the moment, but that's two skaters off the top line that have fallen to injury. The 'Nooks roster is deep enough though that some of the guys that have filled the lower line roles have stepped up to do quite well. Sophomore forward Nik Yaremchuk was one of those players, as he earned himself a CCHA player of the week honor this week for nabbing four assists and a shorthanded goal in the series.

The Nanooks handed Ohio State their first ever loss at Nationwide arena, who are now 7-1-3 all time in that venue.

Like I said, it's kind of hard to recap games you haven't seen. So here are a few links to some recaps around the net.

USCHO: Weekend work-up (Weston)

USCHO: Friday Game Recap (Boggs)

USCHO: Saturday Game Recap (Boggs)

News-Miner: Alaska Nanooks Give Up Lead in Final 10 Seconds, Lose to Ohio State in Shootout (Martin)

News-Miner: Alaska Nanooks Prevail Against the Ohio State Buckeyes (Martin)

Again, my apologies for really dropping the ball in this series. I should be back in Fairbanks this weekend for the bye week, and I'll post some pictures and such of what I've been up to down here in Oregon.