FAIRBANKS—If the final Central Collegiate Hockey Association Preseason Polls prove correct, the Alaska Nanooks will open the playoffs on the road for the second straight year.
The Nanooks, according to the Coaches Poll, were predicted for a 10th-place finish, and the Media Poll has them in last place in the 11-team conference. The polls were announced Wednesday during CCHA Media Day.
The Nanooks received 31 points in the coaches poll and 150 in the media poll. This season’s rankings, which were voted by 11 coaches and 87 media members, are probably considering two factors about Alaska from the 2011-12 season.
One is the Nanooks placed ninth last season (8-16-4 CCHA, 12-20-4 overall) and were swept by Lake Superior State in a best-of-three first-round series last March in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. The other is the graduation of goaltender Scott Greenham, who finished as the program’s career leader in victories (48), shutouts (11), goals against average (2.24) and saves percentage (.916). Greenham is now with the ECHL’s Bakersfield (Calif.) Condors.
Three players — senior Steve Thompson, sophomore Sean Cahill and freshman John Keeney — are battling to be the Nanooks starting goaltender when they open the regular season against the Air Force Academy on Oct. 12 in the Kendall Hockey Classic in Anchorage.
Alaska also returns junior center Cody Kunyk, the team’s leading scorer for each of the last two seasons, and senior right wing Andy Taranto, who is 10 points away from becoming the 18th player in team history to compile 100 or more career points.
Rather than preseason rankings, Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson is more concerned about his team’s preparation for the exhibition game against Saskatchewan’s University of Regina at 6:15 p.m. Friday at the Carlson Center.
“For the time being, what makes those thngs relevant is what happens through the next five months of our season, and to see if people were right,” Ferguson said Tuesday in his office in the Patty Center. “We’ve been on both ends of that stick where people didn’t think we were going to do anything and we had a pretty good season. We’ve been on the other end where we thought we were going to be at a certain level and we weren’t.
“To me, it’s about the process,” Ferguson added.
Ferguson likes the character of his team heading into Friday’s exhibition contest and the Kendall Classic, where the Nanooks also face Canisius on Saturday, Oct. 13.
“I like our personality that we’re starting to develop, I like the work ethic and the chemistry that’s developing,” he said.
The CCHA coaches voted the Notre Dame Fighting Irish to finish first in the regular season while the media tabbed the Michigan Wolverines for the top spot.
Notre Dame placed eighth last season and was swept by Michigan in a quarterfinal series, but among the returning Fighting Irish are junior forward T.J. Tynan, the league’s co-leader in scoring last season with 41 points from 13 goals and 28 assists in 39 games.
Michigan was runner-up in the regular season and at the CCHA Championship Tournament in Detroit. Western Michigan, last season’s tournament titlist, was picked third Wednesday in the coaches poll and second in the media poll
Ferris State, last season’s regular-season champion and NCAA Division I national runner-up, is ranked fourth by the media and fifth by the coaches. The complete polls are listed on the Scoreboard on page D-2.
The CCHA is scheduled to dissolve after this season, its 42nd.
The Nanooks and fellow CCHA members Ferris State, Northern Michigan, Lake Superior and Bowling Green are heading next season to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State are going to the Big Ten Hockey Conference; Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan will be in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference; and Notre Dame will be a member of Hockey East.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.