There were a few things the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team took away from its season-opening and home-ice setback against the nationally-ranked Denver University Pioneers to help prepare for this weekend’s conference matchup at Michigan Technological University.
One of those things was a need for UAF to improve on its power play. The Nanooks finished 0 for 10 on man-advantage sessions in the Carlson Center during Saturday’s 4-3 loss and Sunday’s 3-0 defeat to the Pioneers, who are ranked second in the U.S. College Hockey Online (uscho.com) and USA Today/USA Hockey Magazine polls.
On a positive note, the Nanooks killed eight of nine power plays during the weekend against the Pioneers, of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
The Nanooks, according to head coach Erik Largen, greatly emphasized special teams during practices at Michigan Tech’s John J. MacInnes Student Ice Arena in Houghton, Michigan. The Nanooks and Huskies face off there at 3:07 p.m. AKDT today and 2:07 p.m. AKDT Saturday in the first Western Collegiate Hockey Association series of the season for both teams.
“I think the stats don’t lie,” Largen said. “We gave up the short-handed goal on Sunday (against Denver); it was probably the difference in the game.
They beat us on special teams Saturday night and that ended up being the difference in the game.
“We spent a lot of time on special teams this week. We’re kind of taking a little bit more simplistic approach to the power play, a little bit more predictable approach on the power play. I think the guys have done a good job and I think that first week is always tough on finding your rhythm and timing on the power play.”
Largen saw some positive things, too, from the Nanooks last weekend against Denver.
“I like a lot of parts of our game,” he said. “I think we were really competitive, I think we made the game really hard on them.
“I think we took away their time and space. We didn’t give them a lot of opportunities.
“Especially on Saturday. We were getting to the net fronts and generating a lot and getting in on the forecheck. Overall, I liked our game.”
Those factors against Denver seem to be necessary against a Michigan Tech squad which swept Robert Morris 2-1 in overtime Saturday and 7-0 Sunday in Pittsburgh.
The sweep against the Colonials, of Atlantic Hockey, also gave the Huskies a sweep of the WCHA’s Player of the Week honors.
• Michigan Tech sophomore forward Alec Broetzman received the WCHA Forward of the Week honor after scoring an NCAA weekend-leading six points on four goals and two assists. His goals included Saturday’s game-winner during a short-handed situation.
• Huskies junior Seamus Donohue gained the WCHA Defenseman of the Week recognition with two assists and an NCAA-leading eight blocked shots against the Colonials.
Michigan Tech senior Matt Jurusik garnered the WCHA Goaltender of the Week award by stopping 59 of Robert Morris’ 60 shots, while recording his third career shutout.
Teammate and freshman forward Parker Saretsky was the WCHA Freshman of the Week for contributing a goal and three assists for four points, which also was an NCAA-weekend best among Division I newcomers.
Largen sees similarities between the Pioneers and Huskies.
“They’re both really good teams,” Largen said. “I think the difference was Robert Morris made the game difficult on Michigan Tech the first night. Doing things the right way, being firm with their puck decisions.
“Then the next night, they were a little bit loose, and Michigan Tech’s got that offensive ability to capitalize on turnovers and mistakes.”
The Nanooks, said Largen, have to be sure take care of the puck this weekend in the MacInnes Arena.
“It’s their home opener and they (Nanooks) know there’s going to be a lot of energy in the building and they’re going to bring their best effort,” he said.
“We’ve got to make sure that we’re competitive, ready to play at a high level and a high pace.”
• After the Michigan Tech series, the Nanooks play Penn State University at 3 p.m. AKDT Oct. 17 and 18 at the Pegula Ice Arena in University Park, Pennsylvania.
Guy Gadowsky, who guided the Nanooks from 1999-2004, is in his eighth season with the Nittany Lions, of the Big Ten Conference, and 20th season overall as a college hockey head coach.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.