It isn't like UAF fans really need me to give them a Xmas present. Santa lives right up the road from them in North Pole. He visits them before anybody else. If you really look at the situation you can see that Nanook fans are probably likely to be his favorites. I'm glad for them. The poor buggers up there need someone to treat them as if they're special. Good on Santa for that! But he isn't the only magnanimous person up here in the frozen north. Some of you might be under the false impression that I bear the Nanooks ill will. I know from time to time I've been less than kind in my commentary about the white teddy bears, but in the spirit of giving and the reverence we share for this day; I'm going to give Nanook fans what they really need. I'm going to disclose the secrets of their all-powerful rival. I'm going to tell them everything they need to know about the Seawolves. Nanook fans will love me for it no doubt.
And anyway since Santa is probably a Nanook fan I'll have one-upped him since all he gave me was a lump of coal. Yes, I'm better than Santa. He's "like" all judgmental with the deciding of who's been good and who's been bad. Not me.
If the Nanooks want to win this weekend they'll have to focus on several things to accomplish it. They'll have to stop UAA's offense; they'll have to penetrate UAA's defense. More than those two things they'll have to outwork UAA on both ends of the ice. Let's look first at UAA's offense.
Going up the ice the Seawolves have had some fairly balanced scoring so far this season. In the first 16 games they're scoring at a rate of 2.81 goals per game with 45 total goals. 5 players have accounted for 58 percent of those goals (Lunden 7, Clark 6, Parkinson 5, Crowder 4, Daychief 4) with 5 others having scored 2 or more goals (Waldrop 3, McCabe 3, Grant 3, Tarkir 2, Tassone 2) accounting for 28 percent. The #1 this as expected has been Clark, Crowder, Lunden. In most games, these three guys have been a threat to score on virtually every shift. There has been a bit of line shuffling with Paul Crowder being tried in other combinations. Obviously, keeping those guys off the board will be one key to any hope for a Nanook victory. But with four freshman forwards having shown they are every bit capable of putting the puck in the net the Nanooks can't just focus on defending that one line. UAA's offensive effort is pretty straightforward. The Seawolves like to get the puck in deep and use their physicality to cycle the puck and work it to the net. They are overall big (for comparison's sake UAA is 2nd tallest, 6th heaviest and UAF is 43rd tallest, 14th heaviest in D1) and and pretty much everyone is strong on the puck meaning Nanook fans should expect some prolonged possession time by the Seawolves in the UAF.
Every team UAA has played has faced these onslaughts. Quite honestly, UAA's record doesn't reflect it's oft dominating play. They have lost more than a couple of games where they completely outplayed the competition. So all that said, if the Nanooks can withstand those assaults with great postional play and outstanding goaltending then they have a hope. Those two factors kept UAA out of the win column versus CC and DU. The Nanooks can learn from that.
In the Seawolf end the Nanooks will be facing a group of blueliners that are all budding Bobby Orr's. I use that slight exaggeration to make the point that these guys all have excellent wheels. The Nanooks should be well aware of senior "Big Luke" Beaverson already (6'5" 220lbs). This years captain is a force in his end. His hitting game and positional play are both excellent. Gaining position on him is a difficult task for any D1 forward. His partner on the blueline is UAA's most effective defenseman going up the ice. Mat Robinson always has the afterburners ready to go and his vision is second to none. He is a great passer and potential playmaker who leads the team in assists. I've been greatly impressed with the play of freshman Kane Lafranchise over the last 6 games. He has matured quickly in his role and looks every bit the future power play quaterback. He is poised when he has the puck on his stick and is another blueliner with great wheels. Shane Lovdahl is perhaps the most effective open ice hitter on the team. He has a cannon in his stick. Nils Backstrom is UAA's euro-import and has many of the classic traits of defensemen from across the pond. His skating is demonstrably understated which is to say that he doesn't look fast until he catches you from behind. Freshman Luka Vidmar converted to defense from the wing during his junior career and is another of the excellent UAA skaters on the back end. His poise with the puck is growing with each game he plays. Sophomore Trevor Hunt is also likely to play this coming weekend. He is stong and dogged and though he's only played in 9 games this season he leads all blueliners with a +3 rating.
So with all that I think the biggest question is can the Nanooks outwork the Seawolves on both ends of the ice. My only answer for that is I don't know. As a UAA fan I have to think that nobody can outwork "my" team. I haven't really seen any opponenet do so this season and so that gives me some confidence but being as this is a pretty intense rivalry I'd expect UAF might at least be more motivated than any team the Seawolves have faced. I guess we'll see this weekend. Merry Xmas nookies. I expect nothing other than a happy new year for the Seawolves which should start with success against your team.