FAIRBANKS—In three seasons, Adam Henderson has gone from a player making adjustments to making his presence his known with the Alaska Nanooks hockey team.
The center and graduate student was named Tuesday as the team captain for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association squad, who face the University of Regina (Saskatchewan) in an exhibition game at 6:15 p.m. Friday in the Carlson Center.
“It was kind of a big shock,” Henderson said after Tuesday morning’s practice in the Patty Center.
He was voted captain by his teammates and he learned of his selection from Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson.
“It’s kind of nice to know that the teammates have that level of respect and trust in voting me as a leader on the team,” said Henderson, “and to have the coach have that level of respect and trust is very humbling.”
The Nanooks also announced three assistant captains — senior right wing Andy Taranto, senior defenseman Kare Odegard and junior left wing Colton Beck.
Also Tuesday, junior center Cody Kunyk was voted to the second team of the CCHA Preseason All-Conference Team.
Henderson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound native of Whitehorse, Yukon, came to the University of Alaska Fairbanks after transferring from CCHA rival Michigan State University, skating in 27 games with the Spartans in 2008-09.
He developed confidence while getting comfortable with the Nanooks systems.
“It was a just a level of confidence and the coaches having trust in you, and you feeling the same way toward the team,” Henderson said. “It was just a matter of time; I kept doing things and working hard day in and day out.
“You may not get rewarded that weekend or that day, but over the long haul things started going my way,” Henderson said. “The team helped me out a lot so things could go my way.”
Maturity has benefited the 23-year-old, who is working toward a master’s degree in business administration.
“He came in here and had to find his way a little bit as far as where he was going to fit into the lineup,” Ferguson said of Henderson’s first season with the Nanooks in 2010-11. “Once he fit into the lineup, it was kind of maintaining a level of what to expect from him every night.”
Henderson has shown he’s reliable. Last season, he contributed six goals and three assists for nine points in 35 games, playing all but one contest for the Nanooks. He scored in three of Alaska’s last four games of 2011-12, including providing the game’s first score in a 4-3 loss to Lake Superior State in the opener of a best-of-three quarterfinal series in Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., last March.
“We know we’re going to get a kid who competes hard and does a lot of the little things — blocking shots, finishing checks and going to the front of the net,” Ferguson said. “I think even last year, I think you could see where he kind of found his niche on the power play, playing in front of the net and using his size and strength to his advantage.”
Henderson has 11 career points (seven goals and four assists) in 59 games with the Nanooks. He had a goal and an assist for Michigan State in his only season in East Lansing, Mich.
Henderson also was the Nanooks’ nominee last season for the CCHA Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award.
Kunyk, the Nanooks’ leading scorer the last two seasons, was Alaska’s only player selected to the CCHA Preseason All-Conference Team.
The 5-foot-11, 206-pounder from Sherwood Park, Alberta, produced 15-17-32 totals in 36 games last season after leading the Nanooks as a freshman with a 12-18-30 scoring line in 33 contests.
“He can play at a high pace and he can make plays at a high pace,” Ferguson said. “I think you can see at times where can be a real dominant player in our lineup, in our league.”
The complete Preseason All-Conference Team can be seen at www.ccha.com.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.