Alaska is looking to reverse a little polarity this season.
“For our group coming off last season, there was a sense of disappointment,” coach Dallas Ferguson said. “We didn’t expect to be where we were with our record and we wanted to learn from it to make us better for this season.”
Alaska ended the season in next-to-last place, going 4-7-2-2 in CCHA regular-season play in the second half and 1-4 in to finalize 2011-12, a split with Alaska-Anchorage in the Governor’s Cup tournament — which the Nanooks did not capture — and two losses to Lake Superior State in the first round of the CCHA playoffs.
Close losses. And that was the story of the Nanooks’ season.
“We need to score more, like everybody else,” Ferguson said. “There’s no secret there. You look at our season last year and I think that 10 of our losses were by one goal, so whether it was getting that one save when we needed it or capitalizing on that opportunity when we got it, we need to make sure that we’re prepared to do that this season.”
Ferguson chuckled when he was reminded that the Nanooks are returning 96 percent of their scoring in the line of Colton Beck, Cody Kunyk and Andy Taranto. That’s 40 goals, and it’s 96 percent.
“We’re certainly aware of what they can get accomplished playing together but I think we’ve added some guys to our lineup like a Tyler Morley as a freshman who I think is going to come in and be productive … and Nolan Huysmans is coming in and can be productive in a different way. He kind of follows the mold of an Andy Taranto. He kind of likes to go in and get dirty. He’s a big, strong kid that has a good set of hands around the net.
“I think there are guys as well, like [senior] Jarret Granberg and Nik Yaremchuk, that are seniors for us that have been solid players for us that I believe are going to be productive players for us, offensively.”
In addition to figuring out their offense, the Nanooks will have to figure out who will start in net.
“In goal with Scott Greenham, he’s basically carried the mail the last three years for us and the year before that it was Chad Johnson, so for our program it’s the first time since I’ve been head coach that we really haven’t had an established, starting goaltender,” Ferguson said.
Senior Steve Thompson, sophomore Sean Cahill and freshman John Keeney will compete for the starting position. Thompson has played five games in three seasons and Cahill has no minutes to his credit. Keeney played four seasons in the USHL, most recently with the Muskegon Lumberjacks where his save percentage was .897.
“We have a senior goaltender that is really working hard to get his opportunity,” Ferguson said, “and we have a freshman and a sophomore really following his lead.”
Ferguson is optimistic that his team will be able to grow from its recent past. “Something that’s always been important for us is just to focus in on process and not get distracted with anything that we can’t control or worrying about the end of the season … or how all those things are going to play out,” he said. “I think if you work the process, that’s going to give you the best chance to be successful.”
About the Nanooks
2011-12 overall record: 12-20-4
2011-12 CCHA record: 8-16-4-2 (10th)
2012-13 predicted finish (coaches poll): 10th
Key losses: F Carlo Finucci, D Cody Butcher, G Scott Greenham
Players to watch: F Colton Beck, F Cody Kunyk, F Andy Taranto
Impact rookie: G John Keeney
Why the Nanooks will finish higher than the coaches poll: They’re well coached, play a disciplined game and always function as a unit. That is something that can overcome many shortcomings.
Why the Nanooks will finish lower than the coaches poll: I have them picked in last place because I think the rest of the CCHA field is simply stronger than they are.