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Nanooks Icers face tough foe to start second half

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Posted: Friday, January 3, 2014 12:15 am | Updated: 6:18 am, Fri Jan 3, 2014.

FAIRBANKS — The Alaska Nanooks and Minnesota State Mavericks both finished the first half of the season on a roll. The Nanooks finished 2-0-1 in their last three games while the Mavericks won their last seven.

The two hockey teams meet today and Saturday at the Carlson Center for a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association games. Both games start at 7:07 p.m.

"It was great to finish the first half the way we did, but that's old news. We're just trying to get back into the swing of things," Mavericks head coach Mike Hastings said.

The Nanooks last played Dec. 14, a 5-1 win at Bemidji State. Head coach Dallas Ferguson called the win the team's best game of the first half.

The Mavericks (11-7-0, 9-3-0 WCHA), the preseason favorite to win the WCHA, last played Dec. 17, a 3-2 overtime exhibition loss to the USA Junior Team. Their last game to count in their record was a 4-1 win at Alabama Huntsville Dec. 14.

Even with the break between games, the Nanooks (7-8-3, 4-7-1 WCHA) are still trying to use the momentum from the three game point streak.

"As a team, you know the feeling and what it takes to win like that," senior left wing Colton Beck said. "We knew we were going to win coming into the rink. That's something that we will carry over into the weekend."

The Nanooks streak ended a five game losing streak and has coincided with the emergence of a fourth line.

The trio of Josh Erickson, Alec Hajdukovich, and Matthew Friese have produced a goal in each of the Nanooks last three games.

"All three games we got points in, those guys scored. That's big lift," Ferguson said. "There's good chemistry between the three of them, they know what their role was and they know what they need to do. It's nice when they get rewarded."

The Mavericks have gotten their own lift from an unexpected source. While sophomore goaltender and Fairbanks native Stephon Williams struggled to start the season, freshman Cole Huggins stepped in.

"Cole's done a good job earning his opportunities. And when's he had the opportunities he's done something with it," Hastings said.

In 12 games this season, Huggins is 7-3-0 with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage.

The Mavericks have the top power play in the WCHA and 10th best in the country, converting at 22.6 percent.

Jean-Paul Lafontaine leads the Mavericks with eight goals and 16 points. Matt Leitner, the preseason WCHA player of the year, is second on the team with 14 points and leads the team with 10 assists.

The Nanooks and Mavericks have met just 10 times in the past, with the Nanooks winning all 10. The last meeting was during the 1994-1995 season.

Contact sports reporter Tim O'Donnell at 459-7583. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMSportsGuy

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