Alaska is in Kalamazoo after an agonizingly
long Wednesday of travel that included flight delays in
Seattle and Minneapolis. And now that the Nanooks have reached
the Lower 48, they’ll stick around until their season
ends or they start preparing for the Frozen Four, whichever
Sophomore forward Adam Naglich, a Las Vegas native,
didn't play his first competitive ice hockey game
until he was 16.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a bettor
to take the latter after the Nanooks’ 9-19-6 regular
season left them in 11th place in the CCHA. Since a 5-1-3
start, they have won just four of their last 25 games, including
just two in 2007.
Despite the failures, sophomore forward Adam
Naglich takes heart in the fact that only four of their
last 15 losses have been by more than two goals. This weekend,
the Nanooks face Western Michigan in the No. 6 vs. No. 11
series in the first round of the CCHA tournament. The Broncos
handed Alaska two of its narrow defeats, 2-1 and 3-1 decisions
last month in Kalamazoo.
“I think our team thrives on the challenge
of the playoffs,” Naglich said, citing last year’s
road sweep of Notre Dame. “The way our team is built,
kind of gritty, suits playoff hockey.”
If that’s not the case, the month’s
worth of clothes the Nanooks packed before leaving Fairbanks
this week will be put in summer storage sooner rather than
Alaska has had a downer of a year because
it has been unable to find offensive depth behind upperclassmen
Kyle Greentree (21-17–38) and Curtis Fraser (18-15–33).
After them, the next most prolific goal scorers have five.
Naglich has just four, despite playing in all 34 games and
seeing time on the power play.
Perhaps he can use the excuse that he’s
still getting used to playing the game on frozen water.
The 22-year-old was a star roller hockey player growing
up in Las Vegas. He didn’t play his first competitive
ice hockey game until he was 16, but he went on to the British
Columbia Hockey League and now the CCHA.
“Everything happened pretty fast,”
he said. “Now that I look back on it, it seems against
the odds. I don’t know how many people have done that.”
Probably about as many college players as
have come out of Vegas. It’s tough to find many similarities
between Sin City and Fairbanks.
“In Vegas, everything is open 24 hours.
In Fairbanks, most places close at 10 o’clock,”
Naglich said. “Both have positives and negatives.
If you weren’t playing hockey or going to school,
you could get bored in Fairbanks pretty easy. I had a couple
of my friends from back home visit this winter, and they
couldn’t understand why the hell I was up here.”
And nothing against the town, but Naglich
hopes he doesn’t have to go back for a while.
“I think we have a great chance against
any CCHA team we play,” he said. “We’re
all disappointed, but we’re looking at the playoffs
as a second chance to prove ourselves.”
IN THE CCHA
Will they build it?: Three
CCHA teams that play in multi-purpose facilities have expressed
interest in building a hockey-only venue in the near future.
The one everyone knows about is Notre Dame,
which is more than halfway toward its fund-raising goal
for a new rink. The others, Nebraska-Omaha and Ohio State,
aren’t as far along in their processes. UNO shares
the off-campus Qwest Center with Creighton hoops and traveling
acts. OSU shares Value City Arena with the Buckeye basketball
teams and other events.
On the subject of an on-campus rink, UNO coach
Mike Kemp said, “There’s something to it, but
a little more research has to be done that has nothing to
do with the university. We could have that information as
soon as the CCHA finals or as late as May.”
In Columbus, the idea of a hockey facility
“is being drummed around,” coach John Markell
said. “If any place is a possibility, it would be
at a place like Ohio State.”
Markell said the Buckeyes would love to fill
a 6,000-seat rink as opposed to having that many people
occupy less than a third of the cavernous VCA, making crowds
feel smaller than they are.
CCHA First Round Matchups
No. 12 Bowling
Green at No. 5 Nebraska-Omaha
BGSU: 5-22-1 (7-27-2 overall) UNO: 13-11-4 (16-14-8 overall) Season series: UNO leads, 4-0 Falcon fact: BGSU has been tied or
trailed by one goal entering the third period in each
of its last nine games. The Falcons are 2-6-1 in that
span Maverick fact: UNO is fifth in the
country in scoring at 3.68 goals per game, trailing
Michigan, RIT, New Hampshire and Minnesota. How BGSU wins: With decent team defense,
as the once-porous Falcons have had in holding opponents
to two or fewer goals in five of their last eight
games. How UNO wins: Turn on the team speed
from the get-go to prevent BG from starting to believe
that it can hang.
11 Alaska at No. 6 Western Michigan
Alaska: 7-16-5 (9-19-6 overall) WMU: 14-13-1 (17-16-1 overall) Season series: WMU leads, 2-0 Nanook fact: Seniors Curtis Fraser
and Lucas Burnett have played the most Division I
games in program history (145). Bronco fact: The Broncos are the
most-penalized team in the league at 20.7 minutes
per game, and also have the worst penalty kill at
80.1 percent. How Alaska wins: Keep it low-scoring
and hope for a few fortuitous bounces. How WMU wins: Protect freshman goalie
Riley Gill and play with the moxie of a favorite.
No. 10 Northern
Michigan at No. 7 Ohio State
NMU: 10-17-1 (13-21-2 overall) OSU: 12-12-4 (14-15-5 overall) Season series: OSU leads, 3-1 Wildcat fact: NMU has not won in
Columbus since Nov. 7, 1981, a span of 10 losses. Buckeye fact: The OSU Ice Rink, at
which this series will be played because of the state
high school wrestling tournament at Value City Arena,
will be the fourth Columbus arena OSU has used this
season, joining the VCA, Nationwide Arena and the
Ohio Expo Center. How NMU wins: Wake up and play like
the talented team it is. Get traffic in front of freshman
OSU goalie Joseph Palmer and make his first playoff
experience miserable How OSU wins: Break the Wildcats’
shaky spirit early. Don’t count on Palmer to
steal a game, go out and take it. Get fans riled up
at the small rink.
9 Ferris State at No. 8 Lake Superior State
FSU: 10-16-2 (13-20-3 overall) LSSU: 11-14-3 (17-16-3 overall) Season series: LSSU leads, 1-0-1 Bulldog fact: The only time Ferris
has won a road series in the CCHA tournament was 1980,
a two-game, total-goals triumph at Ohio State. Laker fact: If LSSU wins this series,
it will have its most victories in a season since
winning 19 in 1996-97. How FSU wins: Crash the net for rebounds
off Jeff Jakaitis, and don’t get caught out
of position on defense. How LSSU wins: Be physical, put defensive
pressure on Ferris’ forwards when they cross
the blue line, and try to keep the puck to the outside.
Feels so familiar: This is
the second straight year that UNO has hosted Bowling Green
in the CCHA’s No. 5 vs. No. 12 series. When you factor
in that they were in the same scheduling cluster this season,
it means that the teams will have met eight (or nine) times
in the last 12 months.
UNO won the four games this season by a 20-3
goals margin, but Kemp isn’t worried about overconfidence
in his troops.
“We’re playing to extend our season
right now, so there should be no lack of attention to the
relevancy of these games,” Kemp said. “If we
don’t have it, we’re going to be taking an early
vacation, which is unacceptable around here.”
Kemp also said that he feels UNO was put behind
the eight-ball by having to travel to Alaska last weekend,
a draining trip before the playoffs. It’s not supposed
to happen under CCHA bylaws, but when the league playoffs
was elongated by a week last year, it caused scheduling
quirks such as this one.
AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Asked about rumors
that UNO might go to the WCHA if the league expands with
Bemidji State, Kemp said, “That’s one of those
things where until something like that happens, you really
• UNO sophomore Adam Bartholomay remains
suspended for the season despite being cleared of wrongdoing
in his recent alcohol-related arrest at an Iowa casino.
However, Kemp said he expects Bartholomay to be “back
in good standing with the team next season.”
• After rotating
goalies Charlie Effinger and Jeff Zatkoff equally all season,
Zatkoff played both games for Miami at Northern Michigan
last weekend. The RedHawks say it was a “coach’s
decision,” which might indicate that Enrico Blasi
plans to ride one goalie through the playoffs.
• Miami hockey SID Jess Bechard is leaving
the program to move back to his hometown of Brantford, Ontario,
to pursue “a normal life and be closer to family.”
Best of luck, Jess.
• Offense seems to be more indicative
of a team’s standing in the league than defense this
season. The bottom five teams in the conference standings
(the four traveling this weekend, plus Lake Superior State)
are also the bottom five in goals per game. On the other
hand, the bottom five in defense includes first-round hosts
Western Michigan and Ohio State, and Michigan is right on
the doorstep as the sixth-worst defense in the CCHA.
• OSU tough guy Zach Pelletier must
sit out Friday’s game against NMU after picking up
a game disqualification at the end of last Saturday’s
win over Michigan. Meanwhile, OSU forward Tommy Goebel (11-14--25)
will be a game-time decision after suffering a concussion
on a Jack Johnson check on Friday.
• Big thanks to Spartan SportsZone star
Dave Ellis for passing along this story from Saturday’s
Bowling Green-Michigan State game in East Lansing: “Comcast
Local (actually the ‘ultra-local’ East Lansing-only
one) was doing the game for TV. The TV truck always plugs
in audio and video to us so that we can record their stuff
as well. Apparently, their crew plugged the audio feed into
the wrong spot, and it sent a high voltage surge into their
truck, which proceeded to set two distribution amplifiers
on fire in the first intermission.
"[The director] kept switching cameras
for a silent video feed while [an] engineer put the fire
out and tried to restore the audio, which happened by the
second intermission. After the game, they decided to keep
Eric Peasley around to watch the tape and insert new play
by play for the entire second period onto the master tapes.”
• Spartan shorts: MSU goalie Jeff Lerg
won the Perani Cup, which is given to the CCHA player with
the most “star-of-the-game” points on a 5-3-1
scale throughout the season. Lake Superior State goalie
Jeff Jakaitis was second, three points behind Lerg. A goalie
has won the Perani Cup in each of its seven years. ... Ever-quotable
Spartan coach Rick Comley, in the State News about
having home ice in the second round: “We just lost
to Bowling Green, so it doesn’t matter.”
• Not sure whether this is an omen,
but Ferris State’s women’s basketball team beat
Lake Superior State, 91-79, in the first round of their
conference tournament Tuesday.
• Four CCHA players are among 10 finalists
for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award, which goes to the
senior player who best mixes success in hockey, academics,
community work and character. They are: David Brown (Notre
Dame), Curtis Fraser (Alaska), Jeff Jakaitis (LSSU) and
Ryan Mahrle (WMU). Fan voting begins March 10 at seniorclassaward.com,
and the recipient will be announced at the Frozen Four.
• Notre Dame is a lock for the NCAA
tournament, but the CCHA’s three “bubble”
teams, Miami, Michigan and MSU, didn’t do themselves
any favors by losing a game apiece last weekend. MU and
U-M remain in decent shape, but Sparty has some work to
do to get in.
• NMU coach Walt Kyle won his
100th game last weekend (100-81-17).
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report. James Jahnke can be reached