Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Impact of a Player

Before I get this going, I have to get something off my chest...



OK, on to some analysis.

On the last road trip, the Nanooks faced a tough Michigan Tech team just after splitting with an equally talented Bowling Green team at home. The Nanooks found themselves in a hole early by 4 goals. Enter Davis Jones... The Nanooks responded, and with a vengeance. With the game tied 5-5 late in the 3rd, the game ended in the final minute with Michigan Tech netting the game winner. Next night, the Nanooks weathered quite a few storms, which might be an understatement. Davis Jones was on fire, and came up with 48 saves on 51 shots, with the last shot being the OT game winner for MTU.

But the Nanooks had some offensive success. With 10 goals in 4 games, the Nanooks 2.5 goals per game average was the highest it has been since just after the winter break. A time when I had hoped the Nanooks offense would get them over the hump and get the season turned around.

Then Tyler Morley gets hurt.

The teams leader, leading scorer, and a guy who simply makes others around him better goes down, and the team's struggles continue. Now I'm not saying the team struggled without him in the lineup. Sure, losing your leading goal scorer hurts, but there's 24 other guys active on the roster to get the job done.

And in those 4 games, the Nanooks put on their best showing, despite a 1-3-0 record to show for it.

And then Captain Morley returns for the Nanooks in resounding fashion in a win-and-in playoff situation coupled with an opportunity against the arch rival Seawolves to not only retain the Governor's Cup for a 7th straight year. But to also keep them out of the playoffs in the process.

And with a 4 point weekend, Captain Morley said ACC would not put their fingers on the cup, nor even get a sniff at the playoffs for a second straight year. With the Nanooks season extended, the boys head to Houghton this week for a rematch amidst a really familiar set of circumstances.

2013...one week before the playoffs, the Nanooks sweep Michigan State. Sparty comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3.

2014...one week before the playoffs, the Nanooks split with Anchorage (including that 7-2 Seawolf beatdown). ACC comes back for the playoffs and wins in 3.

2016...two weeks before the playoffs Tech sweeps in Houghton (not to mention swept the 'Nooks in Fairbanks back in November), and look where we are headed.

They say the past shapes the future. With 4 games already under the belt this season against each other, there's not much different circumstantially than last week. The Huskies have won 14 of the last 15, and amassing 27 goals in the last 5 games, including 9 goals in the final game they played at Bemidji the week before the series against the 'Nooks. Last weekend during the rivalry series in a home and home with Northern Michigan, the Huskies dispatched the Wildcats soundly with a cumulative 9-1 tally. 

Beating the Huskies isn't going to be an easy task. But with Davis Jones playing lights out, and the return of Tyler Morley and John Mullally will make this weekend even more interesting. And if the Nanooks can play with the grit they showed against Anchorage, expect some great hockey.