The University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team collectively knows that its opponent will be hungry this weekend in the Carlson Center.
On Oct. 11 and 12 in Houghton, Michigan, the Nanooks, respectively, swept the Michigan Tech Huskies 3-2 and 2-1 in the John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena.
The Nanooks and Huskies face off at 7:07 p.m. today and Saturday in the Carlson Center.
“They’re going to want revenge and more than that, they’re just going to want points,” Nanooks head coach Erik Largen said after Wednesday’s practice at the Carlson Center.
“Right now, we’re competing with them for that home-ice playoff positioning in the standings.”
The WCHA playoffs don’t commence until March but the Nanooks and Huskies are separated by three points in the standings. A win in regulation or overtime also gives a team three points in the standings.
The Nanooks, at 8-8-0 overall and 6-4-0-0 WCHA for 15 points, are tied with the Bemidji State Beavers for second place. The Huskies, 7-6-0 overall and 5-5-0-0 WCHA for 15 points, shares fourth place with the Bowling Green State Falcons and Northern Michigan Wildcats.
“They’re going to come in and play their best hockey against us, and that’s got to be our expectation,” Largen said of Michigan Tech.
“We’ve got to know that we’ve got to match their work ethic and their play and competitiveness. I think if we do that, we’re going to give ourselves a good opportunity, but they’re a very good team and they’ve been playing real well as of late, winning their last four.”
The Nanooks are 2-2-0 in their last four contests. UAF split with Northern Michigan on Nov. 15 and 16 in Marquette, Michigan, and split with the Ferris State Bulldogs at the Carlson Center last weekend, falling 3-2 Friday and winning 3-1 Saturday.
Michigan Tech swept at Lake Superior State on Nov. 15-16 in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and swept Northern Michigan in Houghton last weekend by consecutive 3-2 scores.
Transition, said Largen, will be a key for the Nanooks this weekend on their Olympic-size (200-feet by 100-feet) ice sheet at the Carlson Center.
“Our focus has to be on playing very direct in our transition,” he said. “We can’t be so much east-west and allow them to be able to have an easy transition game against us.
“We know we’ve got to be able to play a pretty direct ans north game. If we’re able to do that, I think we make it hard on them having to go 200 feet all the time.”
After the Michigan Tech series, the Nanooks visit the Beavers on Dec. 6 and 7 in Bemidji, Minnesota. The series, set for 4:07 p.m. AKDT each day, is the Nanooks’ last competition before the Christmas break.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.