Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Bye Week Banter Into First WCHA Roadie to Mankato

Having a bye week early is pretty nice. Getting four solid non-conference games against quality opponents followed by a chance to regroup, reassess, and work on problem areas is a good opportunity to take advantage of before jumping into conference play. And when your first opponent is last year's conference champion, you need that opportunity.

After mustering just one goal during the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage, the Nanooks surged with 11 goals in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush. Tayler Munson's emergence was a big part of that. Named the team's top athlete during pre-season training, the sophomore forward surged with back to back two goal games and added a couple of assists on top of that. Hands down the tournament MVP, but also turned into last week's 2nd star in all of NCAA hockey. All in all, the Saturday game against RPI was, in the words of assistant coach Corbin Schmidt, a good indicator of what the Nanooks are capable of.

Turning to the Mavericks, they've had a bit of an interesting start to their season as well. Starting off 0-4 with straight home losses to UNO and on the road at St. Cloud. Mankato managed 2 goals in the first game against the UNO Mavericks, but didn't score another goal until their WCHA opener vs Bemidji. 195 and 23 seconds straight, 3 whole games plus 15:23 without scoring a goal. Quite odd considering they averaged over 3 goals scored per game last year.

And yes, Gervais, Blueger, Stepan, and Nelson are all still there this year.

The Minnesota boys in purple may have made a turn for the better with a pair of 3-2 wins over Bemidji on the road, but it remains to be seen how they can follow that up returning home. Cole Huggins has played the majority of the minutes between the pipes, but freshman Jason Pawloski took to the crease for one of the games against Bemidji, allowing 2 goals on 20 shots.

I wasn't able to watch that game live as I was in Dillingham for work. But watching the game on demand on, the Mavericks are taking advantage of opportunities. Saturday's 3 goals came on 2 power plays (set up quite well, I might add), and a defensive lapse given up to Zach Stepan, arguably one of their best forwards for a breakaway goal. Friday was even worse on Bemidji's part, allowing two shorthanded goals. The Mavericks don't screw around on the PK either though, head coach Mike Hastings preaches pressure. The puck carrier is allowed ZERO room, and both were forced turnovers. Teddy Blueger's shorthanded game winner was a thing of beauty too, deflecting a pass at the half wall intended for the defenseman, who was completely caught off guard and found himself immediately 3 strides behind going up the ice.

Moral of the story though, DON'T GIVE THEM CHANCES. Stay out of the box, and make smart plays with the puck. The Mavericks scored just one goal 5 on 5 against Bemidji, and just two 5 on 5 goals all season thus far. If the Nanooks can stay out of the box again this weekend, they'll be in good shape to set up for success. Defensively, the Nanooks have to contain. Watch for Mankato to reverse direction to open up the back side. Defensemen, keep the Mavericks in front of you. And help out your goaltender. Keep the pucks out of the slot, and stay true to blocking passing and shooting lanes.

Offensively, it's up to the 'Nooks to execute. Create chances in transition, and set up 2nd and 3rd chances in close with guys crashing the net. Keep their defenseman chasing, and capitalize. Finish Finish FINISH.

OK, I'm hyped for the game. It's almost midnight. I need to try to sleep now...

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Nanooks Swept at Kendall Classic for First Time, Fall to ASU 2-1

A much better start for Alaska today. The Sun Devils are not a slouch team by any means. They had some chances to get something going, but the Nanooks had possession on lock down. Davis Jones was barely touched, and at the end of the 1st, there was still fresh ice patches in the Nanooks end.

The goal in the first was a thing of beauty. Jack Weiss hustles to the boards to keep in a clearing attempt after Huysmans made a nice play in front of the net to begin the sequence. Weiss passed down low to Krieger who made his way below the goal line. As all of the defenseman cleared the slot to pressure the puck carrier, Krieger caught Tyler Morley virtually alone to the net coming down. Morley put it on the backhand and buried over the pad of Pashovitz to begin the scoring.

GAME DAY - Game 2 at the Kendall Classic against Arizona State

Game Day

Alaska Nanooks (WCHA, 0-1-0) vs Arizona State Sun Devils (Ind., 0-1-0)
4:07PM AKST - Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, AK

Live | Live Audio820 Sports 820AM

Live Internet VideoWCHA TV

Twitter: @NanookHockey

Obviously a tough night last night, especially for the defensive guys. Koberstein and Burns had some bright spots, but there's a lot to learn and improve upon. Both of them will sit out tonight as Nick Hinz will step in on the line with Zach Frye. Rookie Jack Weiss will get his first action tonight as well, paired with Josh Atkinson.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Huskies Blank Alaska 3-0 in Kendall Classic Opener

Nanooks had a bit of a slow start. A bit undisciplined with 4 straight power plays surrendered to the Huskies. After surrendering two quick goals, the guys finally got it going. The early goal was a botched clearing attempt. Really an unlucky break as a Nanook defenseman went for a breakout and surrendered it to Ethan Prow. A quick play to David Morley up the gut who took the first shot on goal. Jones made the save but Benik cashed in the rebound.

GAME DAY - Kendall Hockey Classic - Alaska vs St. Cloud State

Game Day

Alaska Nanooks (WCHA, 0-0-0) vs St. Cloud State Huskies (NCHC, 0-0-0)
4:07PM AKST - Sullivan Arena, Anchorage, AK

Live | Live Audio: 820 Sports 820AM

Live Internet VideoWCHA TV

Twitter: @NanookHockey

This is going to be a great game tonight. It's honestly the one I'm most excited for this weekend. The line chart looks solid for the 'Nooks. Rookies intermixed with the upperclassmen. Should be a good show. Big test right out of the gates, that's for sure.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday Night Rumblings

Parayko looked good in his first real action in a Blues sweater. He got a lot of ice time in all three phases, took couple of shots (both at the puck, and at some opposing players...). Good to see... I'm very happy for him. Like Kunyk jumping straight into NHL action, I hope its not TOO soon. But getting the stint in the AHL last season to get a glimpse at the pro life before coming into camp this year was probably great for him. He is even more beastly than he was during his time here.

On to the Kendall, I'm headed to Anchorage in the morning. Pretty confident in our guys, hoping they can step up and get it done against SCSU. Not that we played poorly in the exhibition, but I would like to see more of a defensive effort. Allowing 37 shots to SCSU isn't going to yield 0 goals against. 'Nooks need to maintain possession, keep it moving, and make smart passes. Dump and chase is necessary at times, but if the guys can get on it and make quick transitions, I don't think SCSU can skate with us... I'm curious to see who gets the first shot between the pipes. I think all three of our goaltenders look really good. Keeney had some seriously glorious moments last week in that 3rd period. Jenks was tested a bit too with guys getting in his face and cutting his visibility. But I still think its Davis' job to lose. Decisions like these though make my glad I'm not the coach..

No idea what to think of ASU yet, obviously sticking around for the Friday night game though between them and UAA so I'll have at least some idea for Saturday. A lot of transfers from other schools, but not sure how many of them are eligible or not...

Bold predictions here....

Friday 3-2 Win
Saturday 4-1 Win

We shall see..

Go 'Nooks!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Nanooks Conquer Mt. Royal 4-0

Nolan Huysmans with a close chance
Mt. Royal is a lot better than I think a lot of people realized. Granted, neither team could get a lot of passes through, but a close hockey game. The Cougars are probably the toughest CIS matchup the Nanooks have faced since I've been around the program. I can't recall a team that kept the Nanooks out of their element for such extended periods of time. They outshot the 'Nooks pretty badly, 21-12 at one point, but the perseverance paid off.

Mt. Royal had two goals overturned by the end of the 2nd period. The first was an easy call, distinct kicking motion into Jones' pads. The second, they called goalie interference. Specifically that the goalie's process to make a save was interfered with. AKA a guy was chilling in the crease for no reason except to disrupt vision. But he got a little too close.

Tyler Morley bags goal number 3 for the 'Nooks.
The Nanooks goal was a squeaker from Ryker Leer. Goalie never saw it sneak inside the far post. But with under 3 seconds to play in the 1st period on the power play, it was well timed at least. Peter Krieger would wrist in goal number two early into the 3rd period off a flip from Nolan Huysmans. Not too much later, Tyler Morley capitalized on a similar play from Peter Krieger as this line continued to click all night long. The Cougars pulled their goalie with about 3 minutes to play, but Josh Erickson's shark-like nose smelled the blood in the water and really pushed hard to force the turnover and get back down the ice and bury the empty-netter.

After last week's Blue/Gold, I was pretty anxious to see how the rookies would get along with the upper classmen on the ice. I got some of that sense last week, but with all of them on one bench seeing the shakeups throughout the night was great. John Mullally will be a good dynamic forward. A lot of speed, good skills, and not afraid to get a bit physical. Ryker Leer has some great composure and patience, but it comes off as hesitation sometimes and there's not nearly as much space or time at this level to wait around. I wouldn't call that a mistake so to speak, but an observation throughout the evening that I found myself waiting for him to do something.
Things got a bit chippy at times.

Chad Staley--this kid can play. Doesn't have a lot of size, but in almost Datsyukian-fashion he had a rush 1 on 3 in the 2nd period and he deked out all but the last defender. One of those moments you wish would have paid off, especially as a player. Hope to see more of that.

Peter Krieger with the nice hand-eye coordination.
Defensively, the 'Nooks look solid. Obviously losing a guy like Parayko hurts. But the team is going to have to fill that void collectively. Two guys suiting up this year by the names of Jordan Burns and Nik Koberstein are equipped to do just that. As the season wears on, we'll see more of their offensive sides develop at this level but both guys should be solid contributors. Great to see J.D. Peterson doing so well too. With the work he's put in, he's got the ability to been a great shut down defender for the team.

For the goalies, each played a period tonight. Par for the course. Jones was tested a bit more as the Cougars got the better start. Technically neither goalie allowed a goal. Jenks looked good too, composed in the crease, doesn't over-commit. Keeney looked great too. A lot of juicy rebounds left out there, but he had a LOT of really good saves too, including a Class A Robbery on a back door feed. Not going to be easy picking a starter for the Anchorage tournament, that's for sure.

All that said, Mt. Royal was a good challenge. But it's a short week for the guys and St. Cloud, a pre-season top 20 team looms around the corner. Let the season begin!

 All of the photos here are courtesy of MMF Photography. Check out the full gallery of photos at his SmugMug page!

GAME DAY - Exhibition vs. Mount Royal

Game Day

Alaska Nanooks (0-0-0) vs Mt. Royal University (CIS Canada West, 0-0-0)
3:07PM AKST - Carlson Center, Fairbanks, AK

Live | Live Audio: NONE

Live Internet VideoWCHA TV

Twitter: @NanookHockey

After holding UAA to 13 shots on goal, and 0 goals the Mt. Royal Cougars look to extend their Alaskan domination north to Fairbanks. We'll see about that. Some of the Anchorage fan base is already imploding on themselves. It's pretty humorous considering that this was just an exhibition game against a decent team with a good mix of Canadian Junior A and Major Junior players. Not too dissimilar to an NCAA squad in terms of size and skill. 

For the 'Nooks, the line combinations are going to be the story of the day as the new freshman get their first action in a real game situation as they look to develop chemistry with the upper-classmen. Here's my first stab at what I think we'll see in that department:

Peter Krieger-Tyler Morley-Marcus Basara
Brandon Morley-Austin Vieth-Nolan Huysmans
John Mullally-Tayler Munson-Alec Hajdukovich
Ryker Leer-Colton Sparrow-Josh Erickson
Jasen Fernsler  --  Chad Staley

Josh Atkinson - J.D. Peterson
Zach Frye - Nikolas Koberstein
Justin Woods - Nick Hinz
Jordan Burns - Jack Weiss

Kyle Froese (injured)

Davis Jones
John Keeney
Jesse Jenks

If these were the lineups to begin tonight (and they're not, this is just my stab), we would see this change multiple times throughout the night. Just based on my looks at the Blue/Gold game, John Mullally could be a great forward dynamic and will probably float between the top 3 lines as a fresh face in the mix. Ryker Leer could have a similar impact. With Jared Linnell's departure, that leaves just two extra forwards. But everyone has a shot at playing time. Today will be their first shot to prove that they belong in the lineup.

Of note, there will not be any live audio from today's exhibition. Bruce Cech will not be in the arena. No radio coverage, and no play by play on the feed. You'll just have to be entertained by V-MAX and myself over the arena PA.

Hope to see the fans fill the rink this afternoon. Sunday game is a bit different, but mid-afternoon should everyone home before dinnertime. Go 'Nooks!