Saturday, November 29, 2014

Nanooks' Lack of Discipline and Special Teams Sink Chances for a Sweep

NMU scored 4 power play goals on 7 chances, 2 of them majors and the Wildcats skate to a 4-1 final.

Ugly loss, it really is. I could give a laundry list of opinions about why tonight went like it did but in the end, the Nanooks did not get their heads into the game like they did last night. NMU got them off their game and it stayed that way and the Wildcats made them pay. That simple really.

Brandon Morley got tossed early in the second for a check from behind against Reed Seckel. It looked to me initially like they both lost their footing and fell forward into the boards, but Brandon did initiate that contact. Then tack on another major as Alec Hajdukovich leveled Reed Seckel (pretty sure that's not coincidence. He's pretty chirpy.) who started to lose his footing as he got rid of the puck. Unfortunate timing, but officials called it interference, which is essentially code for an unnecessarily rough late or early hit per the emphasis established for this year.

Nanooks got nabbed for a bunch of ticky tacky minor calls throughout the game too, that honestly shouldn't have been called. The officials let most everything go yesterday until Walt Kyle flies off the handle. Then today, the tune changes and it's slighted. Right after Duke's major went up late in the 2nd, Garrick Perry made an awesome center ice play to take the puck into NMU's zone to kill some time off the clock until an NMU player holds and rips the stick out of his hands. Right in front of Keith Sergott, one of tonight's officials who just let it go.

But either way you look at it, the Nanooks didn't play well enough to take the officiating out of the game and when your special teams unit allows 4 power play goals against, that's a hole that any team is going to have trouble digging out. 

Next week the Nanooks are on the road to take on a highly ranked Minnesota State team with a familiar face between the pipes in Lathrop grad Stephon Williams. Will be a tough test for sure. 

Got a long travel day ahead to get back to Fairbanks myself. But until next week, Go 'Nooks!

Friday, November 28, 2014

Davis Jones and the Nanooks Blank the NMU Wildcats

Great effort tonight by the Nanooks tonight early in the game. The first period didn't have a lot of flow to it, but the 'Nooks took advantage of the chances they had and mustered 11 shots on goal in the first stanza to NMU's 4. Not a lot of flow at all as both teams stifled the rush and neutral zone quite well. Most of the scoring chances came from the boards or the point. NMU tried to get some offense going from behind the net to no avail, and the Nanooks had some trouble connecting passes early on.

Into the second, things started to get going in the Nanooks favor. Garrick Perry made a great play to keep the puck moving on his stick and found Kyle Froese creeping down from the point into the slot with some traffic in front of Dahlstrom, the NMU netminder. Dahlstrom came way out front of his crease to make the save, but the rebound came right to Tyler Morley who didn't get picked up by the defense and buried it into an open net.  

Peter Krieger almost took it home right off the faceoff draw after the goal. Would have been a bang bang play as he caught Mitch Jones sleeping off and just went right around him but Dahlstrom made the save. 

Tyler Morley would be at the center of the play for the rest of the 2nd period as well as the junior alternate captain caught a feed on the power play from the point courtesy of Trevor Campbell just to the goaltender's left side. After drawing the defenseman towards him, a hole opened through the crease and Tyler got the puck through it to Marcus Basara on the backdoor to bury his 7th goal in the last 6 games. 

Up 2-0 with just over 5 minutes left to play in the 2nd period, the offense kept rolling for the 'Nooks as they held the Wildcats without a shot on goal in the final 10 minutes of the period. Their best chance came at 12:29 as Luke Eibler rang the iron for arguably the Wildcats' best scoring chance of the night.

Colton Parayko capped off the evening with a beautiful slapper from above the slot, ripping a feed from Tyler Morley earning his 3rd point of the night. After the puck went in, Tyler found himself upending the goaltender Dahlstrom with 9 seconds left of the period to start NMU on the power play to begin the 3rd. I wasn't too sure on that call. I thought Tyler was pushed, and it didn't look like anything was intentional but the camera angle didn't do much to sway me either way.

That said, the play ended Dahlstrom's night, as NMU head coach Walt Kyle put in Michael Doan for his first action of the season. In fact, they were the first minutes logged between the pipes by an NMU goaltender not named Mathias this season. Oddly enough though, Matthias Dahlstrom has had stellar statistics thus far, .954 save percentage, 0.99 goals against average coming into tonight. He has given up seven goals in the past two games, despite allowing just SIX goals in the previous NINE games. On tilt? Perhaps just tired. 

On another interesting note, the Nanooks were 2/2 on the power play tonight, doubling the power play goals surrendered total by the #1 penalty killing team in the nation. And continuing a hot power play run, converting four goals of their last eight advantages. These trends have catapulted the Nanooks to a 54.1% (53/98) combined special teams (anything north of 50% is good) for 15th best in the country. Prior to WCHA play, the Nanooks were 42nd at 47.8%.

Tonight's shutout by Davis Jones extends his season and career mark to two, and more importantly his record to 4-2-0 on the year. I imagine he'll be starting tomorrow as well. He wasn't stressfully tested tonight, but he stopped all 18 shots and did so confidently. He kept himself in good position and made every play that he needed to. 

Also a shoutout to Nanook equipment manager for designing up some new alternate jerseys this season. The new gold jerseys look pretty sharp. Sad I didn't get to see their unveiling in person, but they're a nice cut, with clean lines. Blue numbers on gold, with white nameplates on blue.

Moments of Brilliance and Frustration in the Soo as the 'Nooks Return Home for NMU

The 'Nooks had the weekend sweep of the Lakers in their grasp. And last Saturday night, it just slipped away... Friday night was quite the different story as the 'Nooks charged ahead with their best scoring performance of the year. The 'Nooks had Kevin Aldridge's number all night sniping shots all night high blocker. Up 6-2 early in the third, the game ended up 7-5, a bit closer than it should have been. Those 3 goals allowed to Lake State in the waning minutes of the third gave some momentum going forward, and it gave a bit too much hope for the Lakers going into Saturday's game.

NMU comes into Fairbanks after splitting with Anchorage and spending some time meandering The Last Frontier. NMU has been historically a tough opponent for the 'Nooks. I don't know what it is, but Walt Kyle always seem to have our guys' number. And this season, they've been statistically better than years past, currently at 7-2-1 through their first 10 games compared to 4-5-1 through the first 10 games last season. But, the Wildcats' have benefitted from an easier schedule thus far.

An early series against Wisconsin (just after the 'Nooks played them) with a neutral site sweep. Lake Superior State, Alabama-Huntsville, and a formerly slumping Ferris State squad at home before the split against an equally slumping UAA team.

I was hoping last weekend was the series to turn the slump around for the Nanooks. It seemed like it started off that way, but maybe this series will be a bit different. Matthias Dahlstrom has been the only guy between the pipes all season for NMU and averaging just under one goal allowed per game, and has a nation-leading 4 shutouts to his credit. The 'Nooks will certainly be challenged offensively, but I don't believe the Nanooks will get swept. I'm expecting a split in either of two closely matched games. They're always played quite closely, even last year's 4 game series was split evenly 2-2, and all 4 games were decided by one goal.

My apologies again for the lack of posts. I'm traveling visiting family for Thanksgiving, and will be the first series in Fairbanks I've missed since 2011. The Ice Dogs' announcer Raleigh will fill in for my announcing duties this weekend.

Here's to hoping I can watch the games at least!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Nanooks Look to Turn Things Around in The Soo

Riding a 5 game losing streak after a 5 game winning streak, the 'Nooks look to get things turned around (maybe another 5+ game win streak, eh guys? C'mon! A guy can hope right?!) after a weekend off and an early departure to Sault Ste. Marie.

It's hard to really explain the cause of the down swing. Really, all but one game were one goal games. And the main differences in close games as any coach will tell you comes down to special teams and goaltending. The power play has been up for the 'Nooks, about 18% in the past 4 games. But the penalty kill is starting to swing downward at 74%. Goaltending hasn't changed much, but one could argue that neither Davis Jones, nor Sean Cahill have taken their games to the next level. Also John Keeney has been a silent man thus far this season. I thought he would be sharing time with either Cahill or Jones, but I didn't figure that he would be riding the pine pony thus far. Keeney played the last two periods of the second game against Bowling Green and honestly looked good despite allowing the one goal early. He seems a bit more calm in net than the other two, perhaps the pressure is setting in. Again, hard to say. But honestly, the defense hasn't helped their goaltenders out much.

Hopefully, things will come together this weekend. Honestly the Lake State Lakers are in a bit of a down year. The 'Nooks left Monday night on the red eye to make the trek up there. They've had a bit extra time and I'm hoping that the weekend off has helped them relax a bit.

I've got my eye on a few players to step up this weekend. From the forward lines, Jared Larson and Peter Krieger have been pretty quiet since the season started. Krieger made some noise early, but since Tyler Morley came back in the lineup, he has scored just one point. Jared Larson has been in and out of the lineup, but in six games played so far, he's -4 and no points. He's a good player, but isn't playing to his potential.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tonight's 3-2 Loss Better Than Last Night's 3-2 Loss

Lots of things in this world are about perception, and how appetizing you can make things sound despite the end result. That is, in this case, the idiom that tonight's 3-2 loss, is better than last night's identical result. Why? Well, let's talk about that.

The Nanooks have had interesting storylines to follow in goal. The first 5 games of the season, both Jones and Cahill have played well enough to get the job done. Not amazingly spectacular--save for Jones' shutout of Wisconsin, and Cahill's bagel in Kalamazoo--but both guys were put between the pipes on the right nights to get the win. Since blanking the Broncos in Lawson, the Nanooks have not won a game with either of them. Cahill was a bit suspect last night, and didn't crack the lineup tonight. With Jones getting the start tonight, the defense needed his help a bit early and it wasn't there. Two pretty soft goals he allowed on 5 shots got his plug pulled after the first period. So in comes John Keeney for the first game action between the pipes the junior goaltender has seen this season.

It didn't take long for him to see his first action either. And while the Falcons were able to get one past him to go up 3-0, it could have been much much worse. John Keeney played very well in relief of Jones and it seemed to have sparked the team quite a bit as they got a lot more jump in their step in the 2nd. The team got a pretty decent start to the game overall, except for the one defensive lapse that led to a goal. But the second period took it up a few more notches.

And the tempo paid off with two quick scores for the 'Nooks to close the gap to 3-2 off another monster play by Marcus Basara down low, and a quick give and go for Austin Vieth with Tyler Morley. Those would come just 42 seconds apart midway through the 2nd frame.

The 3rd period is where things get a bit interesting. With about seven minutes left in the game, Trevor Campbell throws a puck high towards the net and Garrick Perry gets a stick on it in front of the crease and deflects it in. From my vantage point, it looked like contact was made with the puck at just above the height of the elbow--about eight inches below the crossbar. The officials waved it off as a high-stick.  The same officials that called six penalties in a ten minute span in the first period, then not calling a single penalty again for the rest of the game. Despite watching Parayko and Basara getting bullied for their milk money time and time again, no call. Perry was tripped up on a clear scoring chance six feet out from the net, no call either. Very rough.

That said, the game was much better tonight than last night for the 'Nooks despite the identical results. If you take away the two saveable goals Jones allowed tonight, and correctly call the Perry deflection, the 'Nooks take this one 3-1. Sad that it counts as a 3-2 loss (on John Keeney's record too, sadly) and the losing streak extends to five games. But the Nanooks' have a week off before setting off on their longest road journey of the season to the banks of Lake Superior, and their state University on the northern border of Michigan.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rough 3rd Period for Alaska, Falls to BGSU 3-2 at Home

First period got a good start for the Nanooks, but a few turnovers really change the tide of the game. The Falcons capitalized on the first one in the Nanooks own zone down low caught the defense out of position, and Mark Cooper was able to get it past the short side of Cahill. 

But the Nanooks can do that too, as Brandon Morley swiped a failed clearing attempt out of the air and made a defenseman miss and forced a 2 on 1, and made a great back door pass to Peter Krieger to knot it up at 1. 

But another costly turnover on the break out by the 'Nooks sent them to the locker room down 2-1. 

Marcus Basara gets the tying goal in the second period on really a nice individual effort wheeling up to the blue line then sneaking down the slot and waited out the goaltender and tucked it in around his pad. Pretty goal. 

But it wouldn't be enough as the Nanooks would come out pretty flat in the 3rd and couldn't really step into that groove with each other to get things going. And it cost them. Bowling Green got the game winner with 7 minutes left and had plenty of other chances to when that lead. Cahill did his part and stopped what he could but defensively the Nanooks needed some help tonight. 

Tough break too with the parents weekend festivities going on. A lot of parents here and I know the guys wanted to get this win. But hey, get some rest brush it off and come back tomorrow ready to work. New day and a new game. Time to come win. 

Sanctions, Parent's Weekend, and Bowling Green

Well I had a piece started about the Bowling Green series until this whole NCAA sanctions thing came down on us and totally screwed everything up. I don't understand what it is about that horrid organization and imposing sanctions on schools just to make an example out of them. There are too many cases of larger schools with far worse infractions getting far fewer penalties over the course of decades than Alaska got with these sanctions. By now I'm sure you've all seen the news that the NCAA has already imposed sanctions including a postseason ban on infractions that the university has already self-reported and disciplined themselves. Furthermore it was determined that victories with ineligible players participation from 2007 thru 2012 will be vacated. This includes two Governors cup championships as well as the team's only NCAA tournament appearance in 2010.