March 1, 2007
Alaska Aims for Extended Road Trip

By James Jahnke

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 comes first.

CCHA Notebook

Sophomore forward Adam Naglich, a Las Vegas native, didn't play his first competitive ice hockey game until he was 16.

National TV Schedule

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 later.

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.”


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
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.

No. 11 Alaska at No. 6 Western Michigan
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
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.

No. 9 Ferris State at No. 8 Lake Superior State
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.


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 don’t know.”

• 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, 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 at