Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nanooks Drop Game 1 to Michigan Tech 3-2

The Nanooks got off to a great start to jump the Huskies with an early goal on a beauty of a shot from JD Peterson. Now, Peterson didn't get the goal, put he placed the shot on Coply to hit his right pad, where the puck landed beautifully on Tyler Morley's stick off the rebound with a wide open net for the early 1-0 lead which last through the end of the first, a period largely dominated by the Nanooks defense controlling Tech's blue line.

But the second started very differently, as the guys kept getting trapped during their breakout. Tech had the play covered, as the took away the centering pass and kept a guy low. Petan was that guy. Twice. Once for their 1st goal, and for their 3rd. Almost identically the same play. 

Shane Hanna split the two with a snipe from the point for the first of his career. Good play that developed on the rush, as the play came back to the point after a flurry on the initial rush. Very nice shot to be honest, I can't fault Cahill for that either who looked good in his first start of the season.

Garrick Perry closed the scoring for the evening getting a shot through the short side under the blocker of Copley. Kind of a weird play that nobody was really sure what had just happened. From my angle, I didn't see the puck in the net until Copley moved enough to see the puck sitting under the rubber where the netting meets the base of the goal frame. The officials discussed it, and the puck definitely went in but just like me it caught everyone else by surprise as well.

The 'Nooks had the better chances in the 3rd to tie the game, but Copley came up big on golden chances from Tyler Morley and Cody Kunyk. On Morley's pseudo-breakaway, a lot of us thought that he actually scored before he got railed into the net. Turns out Tyler went across the goal line before the puck did. Again, the 'Nooks played well enough to win, but they weren't quite ready for the pressure that Michigan Tech came out of the 2nd period with.

Hopefully game two goes a bit differently and the 'Nooks can catch their stride. 

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Comeback Falls Short Ferris State Completes the Sweep, Remains Unbeaten in WCHA

Davis Jones got the start in goal tonight for Alaska, but game two started just as the first did. 3 goals from Ferris State early forces the Nanooks to fight back from behind yet again. All 3 goals fairly quick plays from Ferris who was just given too much room in the zone. I only got to see the highlights after the 1st period was over, thanks to the hotel WiFi after I made it to Green Bay.

But just like last night, the Nanooks again dialed up the pressure and turned the game around yet again. A late period penalty to Zach Dorer for hooking at the end of the 1st gives Alaska a power play to start the 2nd with a great opportunity to jump start the offense to get an early goal. And getting that goal they did as Cody Kunyk made a great pass through traffic to Parayko in the high slot creeping down, sniping one past Motte to cut the lead to 2 just 22 seconds into the period. 

Cue the momentum changing penalty as Atkinson was called for holding while fighting for the puck, but it only added fuel to the fire as Parayko dished a sharp outlet pass to a breaking Cody Kunyk who buried his 1st goal and 2nd point of the game one-on-one with CJ Motte shorthanded.

Just over 5 minutes later, the Nanooks had the Bulldogs chasing and out of gas after Garrick Perry and Michael Quinn made great plays to keep the play alive and trap the lines. Some smooth single changes got Kunyk free on the ice, who cut in front of the goal on a shot from Perry that Kunyk redirected through Motte's pads to tie the game up at 3.

Garrett Thompson for Ferris State banked in the ultimate game winner from behind the goal, getting some puck luck and a bounce off of Jones' right skate and into the net. 

A series of unfortunate results as the Nanooks hit a hot goaltender. The guys played well enough to win, despite getting down early in both games. Ferris was outmatched for the final 40+ minutes both nights, but the Nanooks need to find a way to start at that pace and dictate the flow of the game from the start. Looking at all of the facets of the game, from transition through special teams and O and D zone play, the Nanooks won each of those battles with the exception of the one stat that matters - goals. And in close games like this, the usual difference maker is the goaltender and CJ Motte is debatably the best in the country right now. 

With that, Ferris State's unbeaten streak extends to 8 games, and remains undefeated in WCHA conference play and further distance themselves from the rest of the conference. Meanwhile Alaska remains in a tie for 7th with 4 points. Granted, the Nanooks have two games in hand yet to play this season. Of which the final series of the season will be a rematch at the Carlson Center against Ferris State on February 28th and March 1st back in Fairbanks. 

And the Carlson Center will get the ice back in after the holiday bazaar this past weekend as the Nanooks return home for their first series in a month versus Michigan Tech. Somewhat unfortunate for the Nanooks as the next two home series both fall on holiday weekends. Next weekend against Michigan Tech over Thanksgiving, and then Minnesota State comes to town New Year's weekend. 8 of the last 10 games on the year will be in Fairbanks though to finish the season. A lot of travel in the middle, and starts and finishes at home.

Tonight I'm sleeping in Green Bay getting geared up for the Packers/Vikings game tomorrow. Should be an interesting one there as the Nanooks pack up and loads the bus in Big Rapids to get to Chicago for their return flight in the morning. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Ferris State's Empty Netter Ends the Nanooks Comeback Efforts

Nanooks found themselves down 4 goals early in the 3rd period, but with 3 goals of their own, the guys found themselves in comeback mode, but it just fell short.

First period got off to a good start I thought. The Nanooks had good energy and controlled play early but fell victim to the Ferris State transition game and got back on their heels a bit., Gerald Mayhew made a good play across the blue line. J.D. Peterson made a good play to check Mayhew in my opinion, but the puck took a Ferris State bounce right on the stick of Domenic Panetta. With Peterson out of the way, Panetta just had Keeney to beat from low of the faceoff circle and he won that battle high glove side on Keeney.
Motte with a big save on Colton Beck in the 2nd period

2nd period the 'Nooks finally got some power play chances to work with after Cory Kane had a big hit on Cody Kunyk in the corner. I agreed with the call. Kunyk was not hurt, but the onus of the hit is on the hitter, and Kunyk's back was clearly turned. But sadly, two quick transitions for Ferris State late in the period less than 3 minutes apart. Robinson on a breakaway, and Binkley with a a hard shot on a 3 on 2 rush that Keeney couldn't get the arm closed soon enough as the Nanooks find themselves down 3 goals heading into the 3rd.

Ferris got up early on a slapshot from Chad MacDonald from above the faceoff circle. Then it was all Nanooks from there. Colton Parayko got a good rush started after Hajdukovich made the play at center ice to stop the transition. He made a great pass behind the defender Connor Schmidt to find Marcus Basara, who made a backhanded snipe top shelf over the blocker of Motte to break the goose egg.  There was blood in the water now, and the Nanooks just kept coming. Cody Kunyk made a phenomenal snipe of his own to the same spot about 5 minutes later with a great move to cut to the slot. That would mark point number 100 for his career.

Then just a minute and 15 seconds later, Tyler Morley brought the game within reach with about 8 minutes to go on a nice feed from Campbell. The Nanooks started bringing the house, but seemed to be in a bit of a panic, as none of the players seemed to want to keep the puck on their stick. When adrenaline gets pumping, and the pressure rises the need to get rid of the puck quickly but they had space to work with but couldn't settle it down.

Then an empty netter as Babinski breaks free of Quinn and puts the puck in the empty net with 38 seconds to go ends the Nanooks hopes at a comeback. They did it once against Mercyhurst, but couldn't get the elusive 4th goal tonight to get the win. Nanooks finish the game outshooting FSU 44-32. 34-18 in the final 2 periods.

The Nanooks return tomorrow for the final game of the series and look to end Ferris State's unbeaten streak.

Game Day - Nanooks Take On Bulldogs

Game Day

Alaska Nanooks (5-3-2, 2-2-0 WCHA) vs Ferris State Bulldogs (8-2-1, 5-0-1 WCHA)
7:07PM EST (3:07PM AST) - Ewigleben Arena, Big Rapids, Michigan

Live | Live AudioKCBF 820 Sports | 820 AM Fairbanks

Live Internet Video ($9): AmericaOne | Live TV: KFXF Fox 7

Twitter: @NanookHockey

So the blog has made it to Big Rapids this morning, seeing the first signs of snow flurries so far on this trip. Got in to Ewigleben arena this morning for the Nanooks preskate at 11:00AM and the guys looked pretty good. Seemed to have a lot of energy and they look ready to go. 

Ferris is an interesting place for hockey. The rink is pretty small and intimate. It seats roughly 2,000 people but the ceilings are maybe 20 ft. high. If that. With bleacher seating that wraps around one side of the rink and maybe 15 rows. The highlight is definitely the press box, though. And hopefully a couple of Nanook wins.

Ferris definitely has some skill players to keep in check, but I think the 'Nooks have more firepower in the top lines. Definitely going to be a good series to watch, that's for sure.

30 Second Clip from Morning Practice

Alaska Nanooks

F1 36 Colton Beck - 37 Cody Kunyk - 24 Nolan Huysmans
F2 12 Garrick Perry - 27 Tyler Morley - 9 Marcus Basara
F3 7 Josh Erickson - 14 Brandon Morley - 11 Alec Hajdukovich
F4 16 Joey Davies - 15 Shawn Hochhausen - 17 Jared Linnell

D1 6 Michael Quinn - 4 Colton Parayko
D2 22 Josh Atkinson - 18 Trevor Campbell
D3 8 Justin Woods - 10 J.D. Peterson

G1 39 John Keeney
G2 30 Davis Jones

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nanooks On The Road Again to Face Ferris State

The boys are on the road again this week, taking on Ferris State in Big Rapids, Michigan. The blog is tagging along on this one, meeting up at practice on Friday. A pretty big and fun trip for me. I'm writing this from my hotel in Grand Rapids, about an hour south of Big Rapids. The team got in today and made it to Ferris State at about noon. I just got back from the Grand Rapids Griffins game after they destroyed Milwaukee 5-0. It wasn't really even a game. Went to the Red Wings game at Joe Louis on Tuesday, and will go again tomorrow before making the trip north to Ewigleben arena on Ferris State's campus, a rink that makes the Patty Center look like an NHL rink.

Ferris State has been doing quite well thus far this season, currently on a 7 game unbeaten streak, of which 6 of those games have been at home. During that streak, they've averaged 4.3 goals per game and allowing 2.4 per game. That +1.9 goal differential is 3rd best in the last 7 games, next to Minnesota and Boston College. That's pretty good company to be in. Now, the other thing to consider is that the combined records of the 4 teams that they have played is 15-24-7. Read into that what you will.

The Nanooks are coming off of a bye week after an already long trip home from Sault Ste. Marie got a little bit longer after their bus broke down. D'oh! More than 40 hours later, they got home very early Tuesday morning, and a week later they hit the road again. So not really a bye week as it turned out, but a weekend off, which is good for morale anyway.

The Nanooks have had decent success in Big Rapids, splitting with them in the only series early last season. Steve Thompson had a shaky game in net allowing 6 goals in just 24 shots, but the defense didn't help him much either. Offense had 43 shots on goal that night, but was stymied by CJ Motte in goal. Sean Cahill started the next night and got his first win, as Tyler Morley had one of the prettiest dangles in front of the net to get the game winner that you'll ever see. I remember that one like it was yesterday.

Ferris remains the only unbeaten team in conference play with a 5-0-1 conference record. Last week (I know I forgot to recap, my bad) was the first time the Nanooks had lost on Friday and the first time they won on Saturday. Granted, it was also the first games outside of Alaska.

Should be a good series. I'm hoping the 'Nooks can build off of that last win and keep momentum going. Hoping the bye week doesn't hurt those chances.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bounces Go Lakers Way, Nanooks Fall 4-1

Yesterday's loss to the Lakers mark the 3rd loss for the Nanooks on the season and their second loss in a row. But for the first road trip of the season, I was impressed with the legs and the energy the Nanooks had after their 26 hour roadie and 3,967 miles between the two cities.

I thought the 'Nooks had good legs in the first and second, and honestly took it to LSSU for the first 32 minutes, including a beautiful play by Nolan Huysmans with a great read by Trevor Campbell as Nolan made the steal at the blue line, and got around the defender. Campbell read the play from the slot and started bombing down ice to get in the play forcing a 2 on 1. Then Huysmans made a great no-look saucer pass over the defender's stick, fooled Kapalka who over-committed and Campbell made a phenomenal quick tap to the top shelf to go up 1-0 six minutes into the 2nd period.

Then a quick turnaround off a center ice turnover sent the Lakers back the other way on a 3 on 2 that pinballed through traffic before Alex Globke put it in the back of the net for his first of two on the evening. Things just started spiraling after that.

At the end of the first period, shots on goal were 7-6 in the Nanooks favor. 12:12 into the 2nd period the Lakers registered their 8th shot on goal which made it past Jones. The Nanooks were up 16-8 at that point in the game. And the gap would further close from there as the Nanooks couldn't get step back on the gas pedal. Then by the end of the second period, the 'Nooks found themselves down 3-1. Then the 4th goal dagger pounded into the Nanooks hearts 5 minutes into the 3rd.

The other thing to point out here is the Nanooks were 0 for 8 on the power play. Now Michael Quinn did put one past Kapalka late in the 3rd, but the officials took a look at it and waived it off. I have no idea why. I must have watched the replay a dozen times myself looking at the positioning of Nolan Huysmans who had the screen in front. I'm assuming here that they called no goal because he was in the crease, but Nolan did not impede the movement of the goaltender which by rule is allowed.

73.1 Interference on the Goalkeeper - A player of the attacking team may stand
on the goal crease line or in the goal crease, or skate through the goal crease,
unless, in the opinion of the official, the player is physically or visually
preventing the goalkeeper from defending the goal.
PENALTY—If a goal is scored, it shall be disallowed. Faceoff at the
nearest neutral zone faceoff spot.
The issue I have here is the word visually. Every team in hockey is planting a forward to screen the goaltender while attacking. And Kapalka reacted to the shot so he did see it at some point. As an official, how do you call that? If they ruled that Huysmans visually prevented Kapalka from making the stop, that's the most inconsistently ruled play in college hockey.

I hope the boys use the emotional fire from this and unload on the Lakers tonight. If they can stay on the gas, they can take the Lakers down.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Nanooks Fall Short 2-1 to NMU

I thought NMU played with some better pace tonight, which may have caught the 'Nooks by surprise.

Tyler Morley knocked home the first one on a great give and go with Perry after Garrick made the steal just inside the Wildcat blue line. But NMU had 2 unanswered as the progress the Nanooks were making with penalties was all of a sudden reversed. 

8 Nanook penalties tonight, again in key moments when they hurt momentum the most. 3rd period especially when you're trying to make a comeback then 3 penalties one after the other put a big damper on that. I was hoping, like many, that the momentum from the three successful PK's would generate the momentum but the Wildcats deserve a little credit at least for weathering the storm. Although it wasn't much of one. 

The biggest downfall was the lack of flow to the game. And that goes for both sides, although perhaps more noticeable for the 'Nooks. Too many missed passes and turnovers tonight for Alaska to win the hockey game. 

With 4 power play chances, the 'Nooks put just 4 shots on net. Errant passes, poor entry, and a lack of movement makes it hard to create scoring chances. That should be an emphasis going into Lake State next weekend, who just got their world rocked by Wisconsin 8-1 for their first loss of the season. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nanooks Take Down Northern Michigan 5-4

OK I respect the fact that the 'Nooks got up 2-0 early. But why step off the gas??? If you can shove it down their throats, do so! As soon as the guys got the second goal, 4 of the cylinders in the hemi v8 cut out and all of a sudden it's sluggish hockey. Shots were 6-1 Alaska with about 6 minutes to go in the period, and they get the next 3 including a goal on a rebound.

That theme continued through the start of the second period as Northern tied the game until Luke Eibler railed Garrick Perry into the boards. He was a bit slow to get up, but the 'Nooks responded, picked it up and got northern on their heels and forced them to take a couple of bad penalties in a row as the 'Nooks banged home a pair of 5 on 3 power play goals for the 4-2 lead and tallied a 3rd as Hochhausen notches the 1st of his career on a great steal at center ice by Huysmans coupled with some smooth stick handling in the zone for the setup. 

But the Wildcats got on their toes and set up for an interesting ride as they closed the gap with two goals off of two miscues by the 'Nooks. One on an extended possession by Northern as they used puck control and safe passing to wear out the defense and forced them to over-pursue the puck carrier. As a player it's a difficult situation to be in after you've already been out there for 2 minutes and you're trying to defend a 3-2 shell, you can only take away the lanes for so long before you have to try and make a defensive play to clear it. Unfortunately that didn't swing in the 'Nooks favor as they got a puck through that pin balled into the goal. 

Then a costly penalty to Erickson late had them pull to within a goal but the D held strong and played well enough in front of Keeney late to help him out. 

Nice win for the boys tonight. I was impressed with the scoring but a little disappointed in the lack of consistent effort throughout the game. If you let off the throttle, you open the door for them to climb back in and that's exactly what happened tonight. Twice. Let's hope the boys can put 'em down hard tomorrow and get a sweep on parents' weekend!

'Nooks are now 4-0-0 on Fridays. 3-0-2 at home, 4-1-2 overall. 

Hajdukovich, Hochhausen, Brandon Morley, and Jared Linnell all notched their first career points this evening. 

Cody Kunyk remains at 98 points for his career. Thought he had an assist on Beck's goal but they changed it to Parayko. Probably because he's taller. 

Game Day - Nanooks Take On Northern for Parents' Weekend

Game Day

Parents' Weekend

Alaska Nanooks (3-1-2, 0-0-0 WCHA) vs Northern Michigan Wildcats (2-4-0, 0-0-0 WCHA)
7:07PM AKST - Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska

Live | Live AudioKCBF 820 Sports | 820 AM Fairbanks

Live Internet Video ($9): AmericaOne | Twitter: @NanookHockey

As a fan of hockey, this series always piques the interest as the NMU series is always tough. Granted, the 'Nooks didn't have a lot of success with Northern over the years, but after sweeping the Wildcats at home a year ago I think the guys are getting over the realization that they're really not any different from other opponents.

But that being said, there is history to be written this weekend as the 'Nooks play their first ever WCHA conference games at home against a familiar CCHA rival. And while we got the better of Northern last year, they are a much different team this year. Hard to tell at this point if better or worse, but their defense returns a lot of experience in front of a net that leaves a big space to fill with Jared Coreau foregoing his senior season to sign a deal with the Detroit Red Wings. 

To put it bluntly, they've struggled to score. 6 games into the season and scoring 13 goals for just over 2 per game is not a winning formula when your defense is allowing around 2.7 goals per game. The latter is about middle of the pack for scoring defense in the country, just about where you want to be and a hair above the Nanooks at 2.8. 

The 'Nooks have had quite the opposite problem. With 21 goals at this point--especially considering that half of UA's opponents thus far were ranked--the boys are averaging 3.5 per game good for top 15 in the country. However, being at the top of national statistics is not always a good thing. And with 135 penalty minutes in 6 games--3rd most--something needs to change. I'm probably not the first person you heard from that has said that the 'Nooks have been slighted. Majors that should have been minors, as well as minors that weren't even penalties in my book have been rampant throughout the games that I've seen thus far. 

But the officials aren't going to change their minds, and that's all in the past. Coach Ferguson has stated it to the players, but its fairly obvious that the guys just need to be more responsible with their hits and checks. And if they get a penalty, chirping to the officials isn't going to make it any better for the team as the game goes on. There is simply a new look at how existing rules are enforced and the game is going to be called tighter. I can complain all I want, but in the end its better for everyone. And the coaching staff will keep steering the guys in the right direction to play the right way.

After splitting time last weekend, John Keeney will get the start in goal tonight. While Jones may start tomorrow, I thought Keeney looked absolutely phenomenal in the second game against Mercyhurst. Positioning and rebound control was stellar and all but one goal of the three he allowed, I can't fault him for. And if he only gives up one a game that he could have stopped, we're doing pretty good and I didn't even mention all the shots that he stopped but probably shouldn't have. Keeney had a solid game Saturday, and apparently a great week of practice so I'm told so he'll earn the start tonight as the boys look to impress their parents in the crowd.

No word on the official lineup just yet. I know Youngmun, Larson, and Coyne are still out to injury, but Justin Woods was in full practice this week so hopefully he'll get a chance to suit up. Be sure to follow me on Twitter throughout the weekend so you'll get the full lines and pre-game starters before they're announced on the ice.

Go 'Nooks, and we'll see you at the Carlson Center!