FAIRBANKS—Alaska freshman center Tyler Morley gets introduced today to the Ewigleben Ice Arena in Big Rapids, Mich. — the site of the Nanooks first Central Collegiate Hockey Association series of the season.
The 2,493-seat arena — arguably the best-lit facility in the CCHA — is the home of the 18th-ranked Ferris State Bulldogs, last season’s NCAA Division I national runner-up and CCHA regular-season titlist.
“I know it’s a small barn, but it should be fun with energy, and they should be real emotional games for the guys,” Morley, whose two goals tie senior right wing Nik Yaremchuk for the team lead, said after Tuesday morning’s practice at the Patty Center.
The Carlson Center was an energy storehouse last weekend for the Nanooks, who captured their third title in the fifth annual Brice Alaska Goal Rush. The Nanooks opened Friday with a 3-2 victory over Merrimack of Hockey East and ended the tournament Saturday with a 2-1 upset of No. 2-ranked North Dakota of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The 2-1-1 Nanooks kept their strategy simple, particularly against North Dakota, which is ranked fourth this week in the USCHO.com Poll of top 20 Division I teams.
“Sometimes, you get yourself in positions where you hurt yourself more than you help yourself,” said Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson. “We just said let’s go help ourselves, let’s go work hard, keep the game simple and limit our turnovers.”
The approach won’t change for the 1-1-2 Bulldogs, whose home ice is a regulation 200-by-85 sheet compared to the Carlson’s Olympic-size layout of 200-by-100.
“Ferris has a small rink and they’re a transition team,” Ferguson said. “If you get in there and get sloppy and careless with the puck and try to do too much in certain situations, you’re going to be playing in your own end a lot.”
Puck management is going to be a key for the Nanooks, who are 30-27-4 in the all-time series.
“We want to get the puck in behind the defensemen, get the puck to the net, get bodies to the net,” Ferguson said, “and compete hard without the puck and be smart with it.”
Bob Daniels, in his 21st season as Ferris State’s head coach, said the 2012-13 edition of the Bulldogs differ from the bunch that last season earned the CCHA regular-season title and captured the NCAA West Region championship to advance to the Frozen Four in Tampa, Fla., where they defeated Union (N.Y.) in a semifinal and lost to Boston College in the final.
Ferris State is coming off a win and tie last weekend at home against Mercyhurst. The Bulldogs rolled to a 7-3 win Friday and tied 3-3 Saturday against the Lakers of Erie, Pa., and the Atlantic Hockey Association.
“We’re feeling ourselves out a little bit and trying to become the team we think we can be down the road,” Daniels said Tuesday from Big Rapids, “but with eight new players in the lineup — half of those being defensemen — we’re a bit of a work in progress right now.”
Daniels has seen inconsistency and promise so far this season.
“One period, we look good, and the next period, we look awful,” said Daniels, who has a career coaching record of 334-362-81.
“It’s one of those things where I like our team, and I think our team is going to get stronger as the season goes on,” he said. “We’ve got some experience up front, so that helps;, but on defense and in goal, it’s a completely different team than we had a year ago.”
The Nanooks and the Bulldogs split in four games last season, with three games decided by one goal.
“It should be a good matchup, we always look forward to it,” Daniels said.
A pair of defensemen, sophomore Trevor Campbell and freshman Josh Atkinson, lead the Nanooks in scoring with four points apiece from one goal and three assists each. Ferris State is led by a trio of four-point scorers — junior right wing Andy Huff with three goals and an assist; senior left wing Kyle Bonis with two goals and two assists; and sophomore defenseman Simon Denis with one goal and three assists.
• Though it’s early in the season, Nanooks senior goaltender Steve Thompson ranks 10th in Division I with a 1.50 goals against average in two games.
• The Nanooks play host to the Lake Superior State Lakers at 7:05 p.m. Nov. 2-3 for Alaska’s CCHA home-opening series. The Lakers swept the Nanooks in a first-round playoff series last March in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.