Season Preview

College Hockey:
Goaltending a strength, but Alaska seeks goal-scoring consistency

Past predictors

Alaska finished the 2010-11 season with a weak second-half record that contained as many lopsided games as close ones. Goal-scoring inconsistency was certainly the issue with an otherwise strong team.

The Nanooks were outscored 91-89 on the season with the 50th-best offense (2.34 goals per game) and the 48th-best power play in the nation. Only three Nanooks hit the 10-goal mark last year, but two return this season. One of them is Andy Taranto.

“We look for Andy Taranto to come in and be a guy that leads in that department as well as Cody Kunyk,” said coach Dallas Ferguson. “I think there are some other guys that we need them to take the next step as far as scoring goals, guys like Nik Yaremchuk, Jarret Granberg, Colton Beck and Carlo Finucci. I think those six forwards there have a chance to create some offense and put some numbers on the board so we’ll look for them to lead in that department.”

Good omens

The Nanooks know they’ll get solid goaltending from senior Scott Greenham. Ferguson said that Greenham made great strides during his junior season, a year in which he played every single minute of record in Alaska’s net. In fact, he’s made 77 straight starts for UAF.

“You knew he was going to give you a chance to win every night,” said Ferguson, “and there’s certainly a comfort factor with the rest of the team knowing that your goaltender is going to be on and he’s going to give you his best performance every night. But moving forward, he’s not content with what our team has done over the last couple of years and … there’s more to do and more to give from his part as far as he is concerned.”

What spells doom?

The Nanooks defense is a little young, with three freshmen expected to rotate in. Only two seniors will lead from the blue line, Scott Enders and Aaron Gens. “I like our group and when those guys [Enders and Gens] came in we had five freshman defensemen in a group of eight so they have been there before. Scott and Aaron both worked hard this summer and they are ready to make their senior season the best season that they have had as Nanooks.”

About the Nanooks

2010-11 overall record: 16-17-5

2010-11 CCHA record: 10-13-5-3 (seventh)

2011-12 predicted finish (coaches poll): Fifth

Key losses: Forwards Derek Klassen and Kevin Petovello; defensemen Bryant Molle and Joe Sova

Players to watch: Forwards Cody Kunyk, Andy Taranto and Nik Yaremchuk

Impact rookie: Forward Michael Hill

Why the Nanooks will finish higher than the coaches poll: This Alaska team may have surprising firepower, and there’s always goaltender Scott Greenham.

Why the Nanooks will finish lower than the coaches poll: The consistency bug may be tagging along for the ride this year, again.

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    You notably left out Cody Butcher, a senior defenseman and assistant captain who will likely anchor the top line with Aaron Gens. He didn’t get a lot of playing time last year, but this kid did some serious work in this past offseason to make himself relevant on the roster. He’s improved himself both physically as an athlete, and mentally as a hockey player more so than most other players will do in a few years. His work ethic and dedication is the definition of leading by example. You also neglected Kaare Odegard, a returning junior who played the majority of games last year. He’s had some injury problems related to some of hits that he’s given/received, but he’s a consistent 2nd liner and a guy you can count on in the line up. That said, only 2 other spots are really going to be filled by freshmen this season. Enders and Odegard will likely flank these rookies to help keep in line. Early on, I’d say Tateson and Campbell are the top 2 freshmen D-men for the Nanooks this season, with Kaiser close behind. Michael Quinn is also a solid blueliner, but he’s currently battling an injury, so I’m unsure as to when I’d expect him back in the line up.

    I agree that Michael HIll will be an impact player, but we probably won’t see him in the roster for quite a while. He missed the whole second half of his final season in juniors with a major concussion. It’s unfortunate, but I applaud our coaching staff for taking the necessary precautions to make sure that he’s medically cleared before rushing him into the lineup. With Hill out, freshman forwards Matthew Gates and Nolan Youngmun have looked the most solid in play so far. Their speed and tenacity away from the puck is crucial the Nanooks system, and something that last years freshmen class did not grasp until late in the season. If these guys can get that going early, I’ll have pretty high expectations going forward.

    Thanks for the write up, Paula!

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