Sunday, March 8, 2015

Nanooks Sweep, Bring Home Governor's Cup for 6th Straight Time

What a weekend. So incredibly proud of the guys for overcoming adversity, coming into Anchorage down 2-0 in the series and getting a sweep in their barn and a shootout win to keep the hardware where it belongs. 

Game 2 was incredibly fun to watch tonight as the Nanooks dropped the hammer and set the tone in the 1st period, outshooting the Seawolves 20-5 in the first stanza. But with nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, it remained a one shot game into the second period. 

Zach Frye was confined to the penalty box for the first 1:57 of the second due to a checking from behind minor in front of the Nanook net. A good penalty in my mind as the Seawolves would have had a 2 on 0 opportunity after forcing a turnover on the forecheck. The Nanooks were holding the Seawolves power play at bay when Brandon Morley made a great play to chip the puck out of the zone. He got the first read on it and made a B-Line (see what I did there...) to the offensive zone to retrieve it. He collected it behind the goal line and found Tayler Munson to break the scoreless tie whilst shorthanded.

Just over a minute later, Krieger won the draw over to Munson after he got waved out of the faceoff circle. Got the puck over to the far side point to Trevor Campbell who made a nice read of the traffic in front and sent the puck through which took a fortunate bounce off the skate of UAA forward Blake Lease before finding the twine. 

The 3rd Nanooks goal tonight is probably my favorite of the weekend. With about 5 and a half to play in the 2nd, Alec Hajdukovich goes on a forechecking rampage. He picked off an outlet pass on the breakout, and then forced another turnover before making a nice feed to Erickson who realizes he has time in the slot and rips it home top shelf, all they up by the Thin Mints.  Up 3-rip at this point, things were looking pretty good for the guys in blue. Cahill had some seriously good saves this weekend. Including a snaring glove on a desperation jump to close the back door on a chance by Cameron in the 2nd. 

But UAA would finally crack the scoreless draught 95 minutes and 43 seconds into this weekend series. Tad Kozun would be the benefactor of being in the right place at the right time, collecting a rebound off of an Austin Azurdia shot to put UAA on the board for the first time of the weekend. 

Then Azurdia would make things a bit interesting as he took a shot from the weirdest angle and find its way in. I didn't see the shot from about 140 feet away amidst all the bodies, but it definitely went in. 

The Seawolves tried to keep coming too, but the Nanooks stymied nearly every entry attempt, and picked off several passes in the latter stages of the 3rd period to not even give them a sniff at the goal as the clock expired. 

But the Governor's Cup is still to be determined by the ensuing shootout. A feat which has now occurred 7 times in the history of the trophy. The Seawolves used their advantage to shoot first, which Tad Kozun rang off the left goal post. Tyler Morley cashed in on a great deke past Mantha for ultimately the championship winner as Cahill came up big on the final two shooters, including senior Scott Allen who had to score to keep it going, which Cahill promptly denied as the festivities ensued. Including Colton Parayko charging his own goaltender. Feet came off the ice, by all accounts a 5 minute major. But instead he'll hoist the Governor's Cup for the 6th straight time. 

This weekend marks the first time the Nanooks have swept the Seawolves in Anchorage as far back as the history books online allow me to search, also yesterday was the first time in 10 years the Nanooks have shutout the Seawolves in their barn. 

To our seniors, thank you immensely for leading this team through the season. With the sanctions, it would have been very easy to write this season off with nothing to play for.  But you didn't. Through all of the ups and downs, you guys lead this team to an 8 game unbeaten streak, the longest in the entire country to close out the season and end your careers. Playoffs or not, you're leaving as champions. 

To Colton Parayko, please stay. If the Blues call and you head to the show, I won't be upset. But I can only imagine what next year holds with you still patrolling the 'Nooks blue line. 

And to my wife, thank you so much for this trip. Best birthday present a guy can ask for. 

I will post some of the amazing photos I've seen tomorrow, and will be taking a few weeks hiatus before my final write up of the season. 

From the runway in Fairbanks, GO 'NOOKS!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Fox 7 and Alumni Game

For those that didn't see my Tweet last night, GCI is having some apparent issues in their broadcast studio in Anchorage. As a result, they are unable to feed the game live to Fairbanks so Fox 7 is tape delaying the game tonight at 10PM.

Also, the UAF/UAA Alumni game will be played today at 2PM at Sullivan Arena. Free to watch, free to park. Should be a fun time swing old faces play some puck. This game rotates every year, so next year the bout will return to Fairbanks. I don't recall who won last year, but I do recall broken glass and a shootout. So there's that. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Nanooks End Seawolves Playoff Hopes with 1-0 Victory

Nanooks came out of the gates on fire, but Tad Kozun came out swinging. Literally. 8 seconds into the game he sits for a high sticking minor putting a stick up into the cage of Perry. Nothing came of the advantage but it set the tone for the Nanooks and the pace for the rest of the season. Retribution was paid though, legally as Perry put him into the bench. 

Penalties abounded though, but mostly bad ones in the offensive zone. I thought Munson had a goal, but he rang the pipe. As the penalty expired though, Krieger redirection off a Campbell pass made it through and Munson buried the rebound for the first goal of the game. 

The second period had its fair share of pleasantries as intensity continued to build. Culminating with an unfortunate hit at the hands of Hochhausen on who I thought was Anthony Conti. Might have been Kozun on second thought. Hochhausen was committed to the hit, but the UAA player turned into the boards and Hochhausen didn't let up. Unfortunate timing, but he got the gate on a major and misconduct which left about 4 and a half minutes of power play time into the 3rd period. 

The penalty kill continued to be outstanding for the Nanooks tonight into the 3rd period. Colton Parayko and the rest of the bench thought he had a shorthanded goal until the official who is right on top of the play waved off the goal because Brandon Morley was offside by a good 30 feet. The strong UAF contingent in the crowd disagreed, but it was a good call. Regardless, the fact that Parayko sent the shot from the center line and it went in, was impressive. Goalie got bailed out a bit there. 

Seawolves brought the heat in the 3rd period, I'll give them that. Including a shot off the crossbar but Cahill was up to the task. 

Great win tonight for the Nanooks as they've officially ended UAA's hopes at a playoff berth. Last year, these same two teams played the first round in Fairbanks and now both teams don't qualify. Only one of them by merit, though. Tomorrow, the Nanooks need a win and a shootout win to take the Governor's cup back home to Fairbanks. Go get it, boys. 

Game Day - Governor's Cup Thoughts

Regardless of the outcome this weekend, the Nanooks season ends after the final buzzer on Saturday night. Last season, these same two teams skated a brutal 5-games straight in Fairbanks as last year's Junior class watched their season end on home ice at the hands of their most bitter rivals. The struggle continued earlier this spring when the Seawolves won another two straight games again at the Carlson Center, giving them quite the advantage in the Governor's cup going into the final two game series as we close the season.

Flip the table around, the Nanooks now have the upper hand despite the current series record. The boys in Blue and Gold have the chance to keep ACC on the couch for playoffs themselves as the Seawolves currently sit in last place by 3 points, the only position this season that will be disqualified from playoff contention. If the Nanooks can win just one game this weekend, ACC sits at home too.

The Seapups are 1-9-0 in their last 10 games, being outscored a walloping 43-20 in that stretch. Which includes the 10-0 embarrassment at the hands of the MTU Huskies in the confines of the Sullivan arena. Prior to last week's upset over Bowling Green, the Seawolves last win(s) were in Fairbanks a midst a tough stretch for the Nanooks. Currently riding a 6 game unbeaten streak, and along side North Dakota as the only teams in college hockey to go undefeated in February, things are looking different from mid January.

But, there is still a trophy on the line here. And with nothing to lose, this is the Nanooks playoffs this weekend. This is the trophy they're striving for. And with all of the other NCAA noise that shrouds this season, this is what matters. Two wins and a skills competition later, another blue plaque gets put on that cup and our seniors get to raise the cup on Sullivan ice and graduate winners. Time to buck up and get it done, boys.

Both games this weekend are broadcast live in Fairbanks on Fox channel 7 so those of you not making the trek south are taken care of. I'm on the afternoon flight down with several others today. I've heard from quite a few people making the trip as well, should be a fun weekend.

Despite the age of this video, it still gets me pumped up. The guy who made this can't get enough credit. Thanks TB! Hopefully we can get another one this year...


Monday, March 2, 2015

Nanooks Triumph Over Adversity, Sweep Alabama-Huntsville

This weekend was an interesting road series in Huntsville, Alabama taking on the UAH Chargers for the second series of the season. A bit of a homecoming of sorts as well for former Charger and Nanooks assistant coach Lance West, who was ceremoniously introduced by his alma mater. 

But on the ice, the Nanooks had an interesting series. I was a bit surprised of the results as the Nanooks found themselves down early both nights. 

Friday night took some fight as UAH changed the tide of the game going up 1-0 on the power play with under 2 minutes to go in the first period. This power play came shortly after a man advantage opportunity for Alaska had lapsed, in which Colton Parayko had rang the post and nearly cashed in himself. A shot from the point by Carlson got through and ping ponged off of two legs down low and just sat in the crease. Tyler Morley tried to clear it but just missed the puck with his stick, but Kestner got a stick on it down low to somehow barely tip it past Cahill, who did not get his pad in place to hug the post.

That same taste of karma from the hockey gods continued into the second. In the early goings, Tyler Morley setup a good play to Parayko at the point with Perry all alone in front of the net. Guerriero had no chance of stopping that puck, but the post did, and it bounced off his back but somehow stayed out. Later on, after the Nanooks had a 3 on 1 rush that Tyler Morley and Garrick Perry nearly hooked up for the tying goal, but mistimed the pass and rand out of room. Perry had a minimal chance but it hit the outside of the cage. Seconds later Ben Reinhardt for the Chargers makes a stretch pass play again to Josh Kestner who gets a clean breakaway and made a couple of nice moves to beat Cahill on a defensive miscue for the Nanooks. 

Down 2-0 at this point, the Nanooks continue to keep coming. The shots on goal at that point were staggering a staggering 28-6 not quite at the halfway point of the game. But the flood gates opened.

Marcus Basara busted the goose egg after Peter Krieger made some nice moves behind the Charger net and getting to the slot to take the shot. The defense followed Krieger, but Basara made a quick heads up play to get to the rebound and cash in to cut the lead. Then early in the 3rd, Tyler Morley gets possessed on a shorthanded rush and speeds into the zone leaning into a defender to drive the net and just rips a backhand that was way too hot to handle to tie the game. I he got a bit fired up during the second intermission.

My favorite play of the game came off the faceoff draw on a power play as Tyler Morley won it back to Parayko, who sent it back to Morley down low below the goal line as Basara found a soft spot in the slot to get open and roofed it for the game winning goal. Sparrow would add a dash of salt in the wound on another faceoff play of his own in almost the same fashion. Sparrow won the draw back to Atkinson to get it behind the goal line. Vieth got to the puck despite two defenders giving chase, and hit Sparrow on the door step, who roofed one from point blank (again, not a rookie move) to seal the deal.

Saturday was somewhat the same story. Just a few seconds into the game, a strange shot from behind the goal line snuck between the post and the back of Cahill and trickled in the net. But Tyler Morley cashed in just past the half way point of the period. Basara made a play in the corner and the defenders collapsed on him, but Tyler Morley broke towards the net, got the puck and backhanded one five-hole to tie it up on the power play. Seemed like the coaching strategy for the game was to collapse on Basara after he burned them for two goals on Friday. Seemed that way all night, but it didn't work there..

Another power play chance presented itself, and Tyler Morley made a beautiful cross ice pass to the point to Parayko, who waited patiently for the lane to open to get a shot through, ripped it, and took the first lead of the night. The Chargers came right back though down the ice less than a minute later as Max McHugh caught Cahill sleeping. McHugh just crossed the blue line and ripped it, nobody screening him... Can't fault him for the next one though as McHugh got a stick on a puck off a shot from the point to redirect it low for the 3-2 lead 6:32 into the second period.

It stayed that way until 6.9 seconds on the clock when Trevor Campbell came through in the clutch. Again, patience for the shot to go to find the lane despite the time crunch.

The third period had exactly nothing. UAH stepped up defensively and limited the shooting lanes. Parayko had a shot at the game winner with about 2 minutes left, but rang the left goal post. But redemption came in overtime just 15 seconds in as a Charger player failed to clear the puck past the big man who one-timed it from the point, high over the goaltenders blocker. Beautiful shot.

Now the fun begins. The Nanooks have gone unbeaten in their last 6 games. Second best streak in the country with Bemidji. Now the 'Nooks have the Seawolves to contend with in Los Anchorage. After getting the sweep in our barn back in mid-January, the fugly Seawolves didn't win a single game until Saturday's fluke against Bowling Green. Revenge is a dish best served cold.