After an impressive series sweep on the road against Robert Morris University (0-2-0), the Huskies (2-0-0) find themselves in their 99th home opener, facing off against the University of Alaska Fairbanks (0-2-0). The Nanooks are coming off a homestand against the University of Denver (2-0-0) in which they were swept.

Analysis

Alaska find themselves in a precarious situation after recent budget cuts at the state level reduced university funding by 40%. However there is some good news, they—along with the University of Alaska Anchorage (0-0-0)—are confirmed to be playing this season. In addition, this uncertainty hasn’t affected the Nanooks’ roster as all of their prominent scorers have returned. This leaves the Nanooks in a good spot in terms of team composition, with a healthy concentration of upperclassmen while slowly incorporating underclassmen in both the offensive zone and on the blue line. 

The biggest name returning is junior Steven Jandric (24 pts). He and seniors Tristan Thompson (20 pts), Kylar Hope (19 pts) and Colton Leiter (16 pts) form the nucleus of the team. Fleshing out the younger side of things are sophomores Chris Jandric (15 pts) and Sam Ruffin (8 pts). So far this season the Nanooks have been able to muster three goals, all of them coming from upperclassmen with assists by underclassmen. Head coach Erik Largen has been mixing and matching line combinations similar to what Huskies coach Joe Shawhan has done, allowing new players to learn from their older linemates. 

Moving to the crease we see some slight changes for the Nanooks. Junior Niko DellaMaggiore has departed (forgoing his senior season) while freshman Emils Gransoe enters to take the vacancy. Returning are junior Gustavs Grigals (0-1-0, 2.08 GAA, .933SV%) and senior Anton Martinsson (0-1-0, 4.03 GAA, .889 SV%), both starting last weekend against Denver. Grigals had the better night allowing only two goals on 28 shots in a 3-0 loss, while Martinsson kept the Nanooks close allowing four goals in 32 shots in a 4-3 loss. I would be surprised if the Huskies didn’t see both of them in net this week as Alaska tries to determine who their defacto starter will be. 

The Huskies find themselves in a good spot following a successful weekend at Robert Morris. Sophomore Alec Broetzman found himself with a six-point weekend, including the first natural hat trick for the Huskies since 2003. Freshman Parker Saretsky saw a very bright start to his college career with a four-point weekend including his first goal. Rounding out the top end in points is senior Alex Smith with three, while junior Seamus Donohue and sophomores Trenton Bliss, Colin Swoyer and Brian Halonen each came out with two. 

In net, senior Matt Jurusik preformed spectacularly allowing only one goal the entire weekend and recording his third shutout with the Huskies. I would expect to see him start both nights unless Coach Shawhan wants to see what either junior Robbie Beydoun or Blake Pietila have to bring to the table.

Keys to the Game

  1. Physicality. The Nanooks took a lot of penalties last year and this year has been no different with 11 of them just last weekend. They are a hard-hitting team and we will most likely see a similar style that we saw against RMU.
  2. Endurance. Due to the physical nature of the Nanooks, Tech is going to want to go for the long play. As seen in game two against RMU, Tech was able to outlast the Colonials as the game progressed. They are going to want to take the same approach and save themselves for later in the game.
  3. Don’t underestimate. This Nanooks team (as well as the Seawolves) have something to prove in the college hockey world. After their funding uncertainty and news regarding the possible dissolution of the WCHA, expect them to try to prove that they belong. The Huskies need to treat this series like its all on the line because for these two teams it might very well be.

My Prediction

Tech is the favorite in this matchup, but I think Alaska has more than meets the eye. Expect a long series that has points where the Huskies look like they might lose, but narrowly escape with the win and sweep. MTU wins 2-1, MTU wins 3-2.

How to Watch

Both games are available through Mix 93.5 for audio featuring Dirk Hembroff (free), and via flohockey.tv* (paywall) for video. Game 1 will be Friday at 7:07 Est and game 2 will be Saturday at 6:07 Est.

*Flohockey.tv is also the source of all games played in WCHA buildings this season so don’t be afraid to sign up for a month or the year for flohockey. Flo Sports now has apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku.