Denver Hockey Series Preview: University of Alaska Fairbanks

Photo courtesy Shannon Valerio/Denver Athletics

The Pioneers look to build on last weekend’s success when they welcome the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks this weekend

It sure was sweet watching David Carle lead the Pioneers to two consecutive wins last weekend, a fantastic start to the young head coach’s career.  But as you look around the NCHC, the conference as a whole is already having some early success (of course, the exception being North Dakota).  That being said, Denver can use all the confidence they can get before conference games begin.

This week, the Pioneers climbed one spot in the USCHO rankings from No. 10 to No. 9.  Freshman forward Emilio Pettersen and sophomore goaltender Devin Cooley received NCHC Rookie of the Week and Goaltender of the Week honors.  Cooley has done a great job as a first-time starter, and Pettersen on the top line with Guttman and Lukosevicius may be one of the best trios in the NCHC.

University of Alaska Nanooks

This weekend, the Pioneers host the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks, a hockey club that is very familiar to some of David Carle’s staff.  Assistant coaches Dallas Ferguson and Tavis MacMillan both previously served as head coach of the Nanooks before their time with the Pios.  David Carle himself is also an Alaskan native so there may be some extra motivation to win a couple more games.

The Nanooks and rookie head coach Erik Largen have had a tough start to the season losing their first four games to Arizona State and St. Cloud State.  And after facing Denver, their schedule doesn’t get any easier.  They travel to Mankato Minnesota to play the Mavericks, a team that just swept the Boston University Terriers.

Alaska so far has been starting games poorly giving up a ton of shots and goals in the first period.  Teams are attacking right out of the gate and that shouldn’t stop with the Pioneers.  Another interesting stat is that the Nanooks haven’t scored in 21 powerplay opportunities.  Their penalty kill is respectable at 88%, but they will have to come up big again this weekend against a hot Pioneers team.

The worry with a team that is struggling to score is that the game will be mucked up from the first puck drop.  Maybe the idea behind jumping on a team early like the Nanooks is to take the wind out of their sails early.  The last thing the Pios need is a team to grind out a close game.  But the way the Pioneers moved the puck and skated last weekend against Air Force and Alabama Huntsville, they seem hungry to strike first.

Who to watch

#11 – Forward – Steven Jandric – 2017 stats:  4G, 19A, +9

#28 – Forward – Kylar Hope – 2017 stats:  8G, 12A

#5 – Defenseman – Nikolas Koberstein (MON 2014 5th) – 2017 stats:  1G, 11A

#1 – Goaltender – Niko Dellamaggiore – 2018 stats:  1-4, 2.88GAA, .899SV%

Prediction – Pioneers sweep, move to 4-0

It was very surprising watching the Pioneers have their way with the Air Force Falcons in Cadet Ice Arena.  But it was comforting watching young players play “relentless Denver hockey.”  The Pios should pick up another pair of wins against Alaska, but playing clean games must be a priority.  There are several very tough NCHC teams that are about to come into Magness Arena where one penalty could decide a game.  Focus has to remain a building block of success for this team.

Twitter Follow – @NanooksHockey

Where to Watch/Listen

Friday – 7:07pm MT, Altitude TV, ESPN DENVER 1600

Saturday – 7:05pm MT, Altitude 2, ESPN DENVER 1600