Monday, March 11, 2013

Seven Seniors End Their Career at the Carlson Center

Every year, watching the guys take the ice and skate their last game gets harder and harder. I think I was just as emotional as some of our players were tonight. And to see it all end this way makes it even tougher to swallow.

But looking at the grand scheme of things, what an amazing group of seniors we have this year. These guys have been through a lot as the Nanooks have progressed and grown as a program, and each of them have played a significant role in that.

Each senior class is always something special in their unique ways. Thompson said it best in the end that this team was the closest bunch of guys that he's ever been a part of. I know each of these guys are sad to see their careers end tonight, but I'm both saddened with them, but excited for them.

I'm excited in the sense that I know these guys got a good education during their time here, and after they hang their skates up for the last time, they will have a foundation built to lead them on to success through the rest of their adult lives.

One last piece here as sort of a public thank you letter...

To the Nanooks Senior Class,

It has been an amazing experience watching all of you grow from the freshmen you were when you first got here, to the phenomenal group of men that you are now. None of you played like freshmen when you got here, all of you came out of the gates swinging and have helped lead this program to new heights.

For your dedication to our program, I say thank you. For coming to the rink every day with the right attitude and leading this group of 25 hockey players to come together as a team and collectively represent UAF the Fairbanks community the right way.

Every year, either myself or the athletic department will typically receive a letter from someone the team has met along the road, thanking the school for a positive interaction with the guys at some point along the road. And it's these types of interactions that show your true character, and your willingness to help other people.

And Kaare, you're the epitome of that. I've never seen anyone with an ambition or a desire to help people the way that you do. This With All Your Heart foundation that you started has made a tremendous difference in people's lives in this community, and will continue to impact lives long after you leave this place. Here in a few weeks, when you make the trip down to Pittsburgh for the presentation of the Hockey Humanitarian award, whatever the outcome is know that the real trophy are in the lives that you've impacted with your campaign.

For Adam, I wanted nothing more for you than to see you raise your hands victoriously tonight. While a championship on the ice just wasn't in the cards, what you've done off the ice should be just as special to you. To walk out of here with a Master's degree is nothing short of amazing in the amount of time you've been here. The leadership that you've brought to the team this season, and the way the guys have rallied around you has been great to watch, because its visible to anyone who pays attention. A great quality that should translate very well into the corporate world in leading a company.

Now Chad I know your senior season didn't quite go the way that you had planned or hoped with the injury. And whether you choose to pursue a medical red shirt or not, standing by and supporting the team and still being there means a lot. My own hockey/sports career ended in high school with a bit of a freak accident to my knee in the 5th game of my final season before becoming eligible for juniors. While the scale and impact varies between us quite a bit, I can still relate and understand the desire and hardships of not being able to play and help a team you spent three and a half years getting to this point to sit on the other side of the glass. And on that note, thanks for sticking by these guys and keeping the team first. Also, your deke in Anchorage as you undressed Jared Tuton and buried the wrister will forever live on as one of the sickest goals in Governor's cup history.

For Nik and Jarret, throughout these last four years both of you guys have been cycled everywhere around the line charts. That's clearly because the coaches know they can count on you guys to work hard and get the job done. But I've noticed the chemistry between you guys throughout the last few seasons has been brewing between the two of you, and to watch you both skate flanking Tyler Morley this season and seeing you guys start to take flight and . The three if you together made one if the most exciting lines in college hockey, which certainly got a lot more recognition after the performances at Michigan and Notre Dame.

Steve, it could have been very easy for you to get frustrated with the situation you're in and bolt for the nearest exit, but you didn't. You stuck by the team and kept everyone together with your bright personality and hilarious (sometimes even twisted) sense of humor. You were the glue that held a lot of this team together, and really helped build confidence in the freshman and helped get them going this season. And thanks for making us all laugh with your "On The Road" series. I've often griped that there isn't enough of that "Inside Look" at college hockey teams like you see in the NHL and elsewhere. That was a very cool look at the team that most fans have never seen before.

Andy, what a hell of a ride it's been. You've definitely grown into more of a complete player over the last 4 years here, and I can't wait to see where your talents take you as you enter your professional career. I hope this won't last long, but for now your name is the only one on the stat sheet of goal scorers in the NCAA tournament in a Nanooks' sweater. It wasn't the flashiest goal I've ever seen from you, but it embodied you as a player--hard work and a willingness to get to the front of the net and score. I hope that last stat doesn't last long as the foundation of this team that you and your 6 classmates have helped set will keep these guys going forward to get back to that level very soon.

Me and 6 of the seniors at the final press conference of the season. Kudos to Chad Gehon for evading the camera.

So in summary, thanks to all of you guys for 4 solid years of Nanook Hockey. You have all made an impact on this team and the community, and your names will live forever in our history. I hope that we have had as much of an impact on you as you have on us, and that the memories that you've created here will last a lifetime. I look forward to hearing about where life takes you from here. I'll take a look once in a while, but if you want to send me a note about what's going on and where you're at, don't hesitate to shoot me an email.

Take Care,

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Game Day - Survive and Advance

Game Day

CCHA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 3

Alaska Nanooks vs Michigan State Spartans
7:05PM AKST - Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK

Live | Live AudioKCBF 820 Sports

Live Internet Video ($9): AmericaOne | Radio: 820 AM Fairbanks

Twitter: @NanookHockey

Not a lot can be said about what the Nanooks need to do tonight to move on. The players know it, the coaches know it, and I'm sure that you the fans know it as well. The whole season is on the line tonight, its as simple as win and advance or lose and watch on TV.

The Nanooks' effort last night was great as they were focused on getting scoring chances and taking away the neutral zone from Michigan State, forcing them to carry the puck across the blue line the majority of the time. When the Spartans did gain a clean entry, the Nanooks' backcheck was extremely effective in creating turnovers and forcing the play in the other direction.

Same keys to tonight's victory here, but the Nanooks may be facing a fresh goaltender. Jake Hildebrand, a freshman from Butler, PA has seen the majority of action for the Spartans this season, going 7-15-2 in 24 starts with a 2.30 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Not terrible numbers, but also no playoff experience for this young netminder as well. Throughout the season, the Spartans have held somewhat well defensively just have had a struggle scoring goals. Tonight, Michigan State's line chart shows essentially a complete shuffle of the forward lines as head coach Tom Anastos tries to remedy the production.

On the Nanooks side, Colton Beck still remains unavailable as Richard Coyne will see action again tonight. Right winger Andy Taranto is a game time decision as he battles an injury, but he looked good in the Nanooks preskate today, so he should go. However Max Dumond has been taking reps today and will go through warmup preparations in case Taranto needs to sit out. Other than that, the same lines from last night will roll again tonight as the Nanooks look to close out the series and advance to round 2 in Kalamazoo. 

Lines for tonight: 

Alaska Nanooks

F1 7 Nik Yaremchuk - 37 Cody Kunyk - 29 Andy Taranto (A)
F2 17 Jarret Granberg - 27 Tyler Morley - 25 Nolan Youngmun
F3 12 Garrick Perry - 14 Adam Henderson (C) - 24 Nolan Huysmans
F4 5 Richard Coyne - 20 Matt Friese - 11 Alec Hajdukovich

D1 6 Michael Quinn - 4 Colton Parayko
D2 22 Josh Atkinson - 18 Trevor Campbell
D3 13 Kaare Odegard (A) - 23 Nolan Kaiser

G1 39 John Keeney
G2 1 Steve Thompson
G3 38 Sean Cahill

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Nanooks Persevere, Take Down MSU 4-1 to Force Game 3

A much better start tonight for the Nanooks, as they got an early lead and kept their foot on the accelerator. Unfortunately, Colton Beck would not get to be on the ice tonight to enjoy it. It honestly saddened me to see the junior left winger in a suit sitting in a chair watching while his team warms up. A bit emotional for me, but I know he's a bit twisted inside as he looks onto watch his team taking care of business.

In the first period, Beck's line mates got it done as Nik Yaremchuk had to sit for an interference call 8:18 into the opening frame. After a great first shift by Henderson and Taranto, the 2nd PK forward unit of Morley and Kunyk capitalized on a great outlet feed from Colton Parayko. Morley made the entrance, and hustled for a 2 on 1. As they crashed the net, Kunyk was found open just on the back door who made a beautiful backhanded wrister to beat Yanakeff high glove side to open the scoring. Really was a beautiful, highlight reel goal. Or as we like to call it, a goal-scorers goal.

Into the second frame, the Nanooks took advantage of a deflated MSU team who struggled to contain the Nanooks early. And after a few bet close scoring chances, Granberg ripped a beauty from the high slot, almost from the blue line as he looks to the sky, as Granny's goal--the eventual game-winner--was his first playoff goal since the game-tying goal he scored about midway through the 3rd period his sophomore season in the first game against...Michigan State... back in 2011.

With just under 8 minutes to go in the middle stanza, Kaare Odegard found Andy Taranto at the blue line with about a 100 foot pass right on Taranto's tape. Taranto wheeled into the zone with Yaremchuk on the other wing, and Kunyk coming in hot on the trailer. But TO knew where he was going and snapped a twisted wrister past Yanakeff for the 3-0 lead. Unfortunately, it looked like Taranto was struggling a bit after that goal and played about a half of another shift before being permanently affixed to the bench. He stayed on the bench through the 3rd, but I don't believe he saw any ice time. Hopefully he'll be well enough to return tomorrow, but coach West didn't give me any shred of info on his status in the post-game presser, so only time will tell...

Into the 3rd, the Nanooks still pushing hard and committed to burying Michigan State they were buzzing around Yanakeff for most of the opening shift when Anthony Hayes took an early cross-checking penalty after running over Nik Yaremchuk just 26 seconds in to the period. After some early chances, Henderson won a draw and Campbell sent a puck right into Atkinson's wheelhouse, but his stick betrayed him and disintegrated on impact.

After a quick rush to the bench, he went off and Parayko came on, who made a nice keep in at the point and got it over to Campbell on the half-wall just outside the apex of the faceoff circle. Trevor let a slapshot go and Nolan Huysmans made a nice deflection into the goal after providing some good net front presence to go up 4-0.

But before I can even finish collecting my notes, Tanner Sorenson breaks the goose egg for MSU after a feed from Walsh to the back door as Sorenson had a wide open net to put it in after Keeney overcommitted. A great night for Keeney altogether, but he was left out to dry a little bit on that one...

From there through the end of regulation, the Nanooks showed why they are the number 3 penalty killing team in the nation, spending much of the final 5 minutes shorthanded. Even quite a bit of it down 2 men for various lengths of time. Then with just under 26 seconds remaining in the game, Trevor Campbell makes an aggressive hit on a Michigan State player (Lee Reimer, I believe. Not 100% sure on that one) who crumbled to the ice, but got back up fairly quickly. The officials huddled and elected to call a major and a game misconduct for checking from behind. The penalty box doors were already revolving for some time before that, but a pretty big hit, and the player did just turn his back but I couldn't have called that a game misconduct for that hit.

Regardless, Trevor did get first dibs on the best shower before the rest of the guys could get there. And if the ruling sticks he'll be eligible to return for game 3 tomorrow. As a major penalty, the league office will review it prior to tomorrow's game so we will see but I don't think they will make any changes to the call.

Tickets for tomorrow's game go on sale at 8:00AM sharp. The Patty Center ticket office will be open, and you can also get your tickets at any Ticketmaster outlet (Fred Meyer's in town), or online at The Carlson Center box office will also be open tomorrow with some special hours, but not sure on the specific times. But get your tickets and come out to support the 'Nooks as they look to advance to Round 2 and the Western Michigan Broncos!

Game Day - A Shot At Retribution, Survival

Game Day

CCHA Playoffs, Round 1, Game 2

Alaska Nanooks vs Michigan State Spartans
7:05PM AKST - Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK

Live | Live AudioKCBF 820 Sports

Live Internet Video ($9): AmericaOne | Radio: 820 AM Fairbanks

Twitter: @NanookHockey

So its no secret, last nights loss was probably something that nobody really expected. The Nanooks played well for the most part, but at times I thought they lacked energy. A little more hot and cold than normal, but you can tell the guys really tried to pour it on there at the end of regulation to get the game winner, but it just wouldn't go...

But after the game, I stopped myself and realized that the loss was my fault... In a sport filled with tradition, routine, and superstition I realized that in skipping out on my ritual pre-game meal (Wendy's Spicy Chicken sandwich) I had set up this team for failure. But worry not fans, we're good to go for tonight! 

On that note, the Nanooks are staring at the end of their season straight in the mouth. A loss tonight, and the Nanooks will hang it up for the year. A win and they will force a third game tomorrow with the same implications.

There are a number of teams throughout history in various sports that have come from long odds to win it all. The Nanooks are faced with the same situation now, but just six games. Six wins is all the Nanooks need to win the final CCHA championship. The boys did it in January, and they are perfectly capable of doing it again. Channeling their inner Mighty Ducks from D2 as they power through the rest of the playoffs.

In other, more urgent news... One of the Nanooks top forwards Colton Beck will miss tonight's game due to an injury sustained on a hit by Justin Hoomaian in the first period yesterday. Beck missed a few shifts, but was back in the game by the end of the first period. Missing him on the top line tonight could be big, but hopefully the Nanooks can persevere and push through without him tonight. Hopefully he'll be available to suit up tomorrow.

As a result of that scratch, the Nanooks lines have shifted pretty significantly up front. Richard Coyne comes in on the left side on the fourth line. Yaremchuk moves up to left wing in Beck's place. Youngmun fills in for Nik on the right wing, and Huysmans moves to swap with Hajdukovich on Henderson's line. Defensively, Kaiser comes in to continue the rotation with JD Peterson on the right side paired with Odegard.

Here is the full line charts for Alaska after the break.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Unfortunate Results From a Superior Effort, MSU Wins 2-1 in OT

Not the start (or finish) the Nanooks were hoping for as Tanner Sorenson took a clean pass into the slot, and let a wrister go to beat John Keeney glove side just 27 seconds into the opening frame. A nice play they setup off of the faceoff, but a bad break for Alaska to get down early. But that play did sort of wake the Nanooks up so to speak and pulled them out of hibernation and they got to work.

But as they were starting to get rolling, Justin Hoomaian wound up and blasted Colton Beck from behind into the boards, looking like Beck hit his head. Beck was down on the ice for a good chunk of time as Dr. Keller and athletic trainer Mike Curtin attended to him. The officials talked it over but elected not to give him a major, calling it boarding. The Nanooks couldn't score, but they did keep turning up the intensity and getting some better scoring chances.

But with about 5 minutes left in the opening stanza, Colton Beck got hooked up by Tanner Sorenson as the Nanooks were putting on the pressure. With the official's arm raised, and Keeney headed to the bench, Beck finds Kunyk alone on the back door. Kunyk put all he had in that shot against the grain as he had to launch himself at the puck to make it happen. But he had an empty net to shoot it in as Yanakeff couldn't get over in time.

The game remained tied 1-1 through the 2nd period, but the Nanooks had some pretty glorious scoring chances. Granberg had a fantastic shot with Odegard in the box shorthanded. Granberg got the puck through the 5 hole on Yanakeff, but it trickled through the crease wide. Then on the power play late in the period, Taranto rings the post in the waning seconds. So many chances, but Yanakeff stood tall.

Into the 3rd, still no scoring but the Nanooks still with impressive puck possession and offensive zone pressure. They just could not buy a goal. Parayko, Taranto, and Morley all had very good chances that found everything but the twine.

Into the extra frame, Matt Berry made a great feed to DeBlouw for the game winner, who released the shot from faceoff circle above the dot. A low percentage shot, and Keeney probably wishes he could have that one back. Keeney only saw 15 shots on the goal tonight, but unfortunately two of them went in.

Not the results anyone was hoping for, nor the results that the Nanooks deserved. They outplayed MSU tonight, but again Yanakeff steals one from the Nanooks as we head into game two tomorrow night. Hope they're ready, 'cause the Nanooks are gonna bring the house down right on his crease.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Taranto And Top Line Roll as Nanooks Sweep the Cup

Four consecutive Governor's Cup wins is a great statistic as this year's senior class makes history in the deciding game of the 20th annual Alaska Airlines Governor's cup. Only 7 others have their name on the cup 4 times, and 7 more will have theirs permanently etched into history (Corbin Schmidt now with 5, 4 as a player, 1 as a coach).

But skipping the theatrics, lets get to the game...

The first period got off to as good of a start as anyone could have hoped, as Colton Beck buries on the first shot of the game right off of the opening draw just 9 seconds into the opening frame. Kunyk won the draw back to Parayko who cycled the puck up to Taranto who entered the zone and halted just inside the blue line and found a streaking Colton Beck to the net. And when Beck is alone, Beck doesn't miss. Just a beautiful shot, quick wrister that goes top shelf over Kamal's shoulder and pops the water bottle off. Just pretty.

Throughout the first period, a lot of tight checking and good transition hockey throughout the period, but largely controlled by the Nanooks. A lot of scoring chances, but the Nanooks have missed a number of open nets.

But in the waning seconds of the period, a time slot the Nanooks failed to control last night, the top line does it again as Andy Taranto nets his second point of the game on a give and go with Colton Beck as Becker finds T.O. left alone in front of the net for the goal with just 2.5 seconds left. Quinn with a second assist on the play with the outlet pass.

The second period featured much of the same in the way of Nanooks offense. A lot of puck movement and control with clean passing. However, play after play seemed to keep missing the net despite the goaltender leaving it completely vacant. However, Taranto would light the lamp a second time on a rush with Cody Kunyk after Nolan Kaiser knocked the play in the other direction. They all just made a fantastic play in transition to create the scoring chance... All with speed, keeping the skates moving.

Less than a minute later, Bobby Murphy capitalized on a chance with Nolan Kaiser screening Keeney unknowingly. Murphy let the wrister go from just about the top of the near-side faceoff circle. Nice shot, I'll give him that. Beck nearly nabbed his second of the game, but just before the shot was taken Taranto was assisted to the ice and into the back of the net just as Beck put the puck in. Originally called a goal, then waved off as the officials said he interfered with Kamal.

Into the 3rd, a lot of back and forth action again as the Nanooks kept the action going, but ACC kept coming but couldn't crack through the Nanooks defense. Give Keeney credit, he played a hell of a game. The final shots on goal show nearly even markers, however the scoring chances for the Nanooks greatly outweigh the chances for the opposition.

The 3rd period would continue scoreless through the end, despite a fair number of power plays that were well defended. And through until the final buzzer when the Nanooks would raise the Governor's Cup victorious for the 4th consecutive season.

Big sweep for the Nanooks as they ride 3 consecutive victories into the 1st round of the final CCHA playoffs as Michigan State makes the long haul back to Fairbanks, the second trip in a span of two weeks. Should be a great series.

Go 'Nooks!

Game Day - We Came for the Cup

Game Day

Alaska Nanooks vs UAA Seawolves
7:07PM AKST - Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, Alaska

Live | Live AudioKCBF 820 Sports

Live Internet Video (Free): | Radio: 820 AM Fairbanks

Television: KFXF Fox 7 | Twitter: @NanookHockey

When all is done, and the dust has settled, the Nanooks should emerge victorious. If the game goes anything like it did last night, this will be a blowout affair as the 'Nooks will raise the cup victorious over Anchorage's home ice. 

From a scenarios perspective, the Nanooks will win the cup with either a win, a tie, or a loss and a shootout win. 

Lines tonight for Alaska:

F1 17 Jarret Granberg - 27 Tyler Morley - 7 Nik Yaremchuk
F2 36 Colton Beck (A) - 37 Cody Kunyk - 29 Andy Taranto (A)
F3 12 Garrick Perry - 14 Adam Henderson (C) - 11 Alec Hajdukovich
F4 25 Nolan Youngmun - 20 Matt Friese - 24 Nolan Huysmans

D1 6 Michael Quinn - 4 Colton Parayko
D2 22 Josh Atkinson - 23 Nolan Kaiser
D3 13 Kaare Odegard (A) - 10 J.D. Peterson

G1 39 John Keeney
G2 1 Steve Thompson
G3 38 Sean Cahill

Friday, March 1, 2013

Cody Kunyk and the Nanooks Win an Overtime Thriller 2-1 Over UAA

Game one of the 20th annual Governors cup did not disappoint with its fair share of drama and excitement. First, Governor Parnell was 15 minutes late to the Carlson Center. Which caused the game to start 10 minutes late.

Then the Nanooks took it to the Seawolves right off the draw, registering 9 shots on goal before the Seapups could get their first.

While the first period didn't see any goals break through, the Nanooks rang one through in the second as Garrick Perry simply out worked Ben Matthews in front of the net to bury the rebound from Tyler Morley to break open the scoring. Atkinson also with a helper on the play.

After that, it was like blood in the water in a sea of sharks, Alaska started pouncing. Shot after shot kept the entire arena on their toes wondering how they didn't go in. Kamal up to the task.

Into the 3rd, Alaska still hungry to score, but an untimely penalty to Tyler Morley, one of the Nanooks top penalty killers, allowed the Seawolves get back into the game with a rebound goal just in front of the net. Lucky break there for Alex Gellert as Matt Bailey took the first shot. Sproule also with a helper.

And it would be tied up 1-1 into overtime, as the Nanooks look to get the game winner. And 2:50 into the extra frame, Colton Beck found Cody Kunyk lurking around the Nanooks own blue line.

From there, Kuny was off to the races on his own, and that kid doesn't miss. A great wrist shot blocker side through the 7-hole for the winner.

The 'Nooks are up on the wolves, and can retain the cup with either a win, a tie, or a loss and a shootout win. Both teams face-off tomorrow at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage, puck drops at 7:07PM.

The 20th Annual Governor's Cup - Going for the Senior Sweep

In the 20th installment of the annual Governor's Cup, what I consider as the greatest rivalry in college hockey is renewed once again. Every year, each home-and-home series has brought its own dash of drama and sent each set of seniors away with memories that last a lifetime. This year is no different. The seven seniors on this Nanooks squad have never had to watch anybody in a green jersey lift that cup above their heads. And they are all thirsty to raise that cup one last time in front of Anchorage's home crowd.

The 'Nooks are 11-8 so far in this series, the year-by-year results appear in the graphic above. 3 years ago, faced with the exact opposite circumstance, the Nanooks' senior class of 2010 had never had a chance to raise that cup victoriously. While that year's class was particularly small (Brandon and Dion Knelsen, Cody Rymut, and Dustin Molle), the moment still meant a lot. And after a particularly impressive 5-1 win over Lake Superior to complete the sweep, now-senior then-freshman Jarret Granberg made his appearance in the post-game press conference after scoring the game's first goal.

And after the media (including myself) put everyone through the ringer of questions, News 13's Jaime Schwartzwald asked Granny to peek ahead at the Governor's Cup series and talk about what this is like for a freshman coming into the series. Now, I don't have audio or video of this question--this is completely from memory that has stuck with me ever since... He came back and said (paraphrasing here), "It's a big rivalry, and I know the seniors are really excited to come out and get this one. They've never gotten their hands on the cup before, and they've made it clear how much it means to them, the team, and the community. I'm excited to get out there and do everything I can to make that happen."  I'm sure that's not word for word, but the impact of that statement has stuck with me for three years now, and Jarret and his classmates get to push for what only 7 others have been able to accomplish: having their names etched into the Governor's Cup 4 times...

With the tables now turned, the Seapups' seniors have only been able to watch along the boards as the Nanooks have posed for pictures with the hardware while leaving the ice. And two players will miss this series as Jordan Kwas and Austin Coldwell who have combined for a total of 5 assists all time versus the Nanooks will be out with various injuries. Jordan Kwas is in his senior season, is second on the team in points (9-11-20) and is the number one power play scorer for ACC with 5 goals.

This is the best weekend in college hockey, bar none. The entire state of Alaska clings to this series and everyone knows who won the Governor's Cup once all is said and done. As per tradition, UAF is organizing another bus trip with two full motor coaches that will be loaded up with over 100 students to watch their Nanooks play over 300 miles away.

For the 20th time, this... is the Governor's Cup...

Stay tuned in to the blog and to my Twitter feed for updates throughout the weekend. I will be flying down to Anchorage on Saturday afternoon just in time for the 1st Annual UAF/UAA Alumni game, which will be at 2PM at the Sullivan. Be sure to check that out!

Go 'Nooks!