The non-conference games are done. It’s time for the Alaska Nanooks to begin conference play in the new Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
And they’ll start their 28-game WCHA schedule against a very familiar opponent: Northern Michigan.
The Nanooks and Wildcats were Central Collegiate Hockey Association rivals and have met 48 times in the past, with the Wildcats holding a 28-8-12 record against the Nanooks.
But this year, both teams enter with young rosters, as each has 17 freshmen and sophomores.
“I don’t know what to expect from them,” Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson said. “I know they have the Dahlstrom kid has been playing in net for them and they’ve been pretty happy with him. They’ve got some players that can create some offense.”
“The Dahlstrom kid” that Ferguson referred to is Mathias Dahlstrom, who played with the North American Hockey League’s Kenai River Brown Bears during the 2010-2011 season.
Dahlstrom, a freshman, started both games against Michigan Tech last weekend for the Wildcats, but head coach Walt Kyle said he is expecting to start Dahlstrom one game and sophomore Michael Doan the other game.
Dahlstrom is 1-3-0 with a 2.77 goals-against average and a .913 save percentage this season. Doan is 1-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA and a .902 save percentage.
But the Nanooks aren’t talking about Dahlstrom or Doan. They’re talking about the Wildcats’ offense.
“They’re going to come out hard,” senior defenseman Michael Quinn said. “They’re a very skilled team, they’re also very fast. They have some really good skilled forwards up front who can make plays.”
One of those forwards is Stephan Vigier, who leads the Wildcats with five goals in six games.
“He’s off to a great start. Last year he did not have a good year,” Kyle said. “He’s come back this year with a real sense of purpose and has played real well for us.”
Last season, Vigier scored just seven goals, while in
2011-12 he had 13.
The Nanooks know just what they have to do to be successful against the Wildcats.
“The big thing for us to be disciplined and play a fast game, play a heavy game offensively where we’re trying to get to the front of the net,” Ferguson said.
Being undisciplined is what got the Nanooks in trouble against Mercyhurst. The Nanooks racked up 33 penalty minutes in Saturday’s 3-3 tie, with the Lakers scoring all of their goals with the man advantage.
“Last weekend we battled hard but didn’t battle smart,” Quinn said. “We spent too much time in the penalty box. That hurt us quite a bit. We’re working on playing real hard and taking the body but also playing smart.”
Ferguson and Kyle are scheduled to speak at the coaches luncheon at noon today at the Alpine Lodge
Today’s and Saturday’s games are at the Carlson Center with puck drop set for 7:07 p.m.
Contact sports reporter Tim O’Donnell at 459-7583. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMSportsGuy