Separated by 359 miles and bad blood, the Seawolves and Nanooks are set to renew their rivalry as they battle for the 2010 Governor’s Cup this weekend.
The ‘Wolves (10-18-2 overall, 8-16-2 WCHA) will look to make it a fourth straight series win over their CCHA rivals. The series kicks off from Sullivan Arena on Feb. 26 and then shifts up north to the Carlson Center the following night where a champion will be crowned.
Memories of old UAA-UAF series’ are always on the mind of old and current players and supporters. For sophomore defenseman Brad Gorham, an Anchorage native, he can recall what it was like growing up and watching the battle for state supremacy.
“Sullivan would be sold out the whole time,” Gorham said, as he prepares for his first cup as a player. He paused shortly and quite simply remembered the atmosphere within the arena. “A pretty intense environment.”
The matchup from the Sully will be the first home game for the team since fans saw them defeat Minnesota 2-1 back on Jan. 30.
Last year, the Seawolves rode the stellar goaltending of Bryce Christianson, who posted back-to-back shutouts in last year’s installment of the series. UAA was victorious 1-0 in Fairbanks the first night and then cruised to a 3-0 decision on home ice the day after to retain the cup.
Of course if you ask anyone from the UAF side, the cup has been in the hands of the Seawolves for far too long. The Nanook head coach Dallas Ferguson, a former UAF captain himself, knows the importance of a series victory against the rival team.
“When you go through it as a player, you get the full effect of how much the hockey game means to the communities and two universities” Ferguson said.
This year looks to be yet another toughly contested series as both of the rivals seem to be playing even better than in years past.
Senior forward Kevin Clark has led the Seawolves offensively. His 27 points (16 goals-11 assists) continue to move him up amongst the other leading scorers in the league.
Junior forward Tommy Grant (7-14—21) and junior forward Sean Wiles (9-8—17) have been consistent all year as well.
For head coach Dave Shyiak, his team has to stick to the game plan to be successful in this or any series they play.
“Take care of the puck, keep things simple, roll four lines and defensemen, and be sound on special teams” Shyiak said as he listed attributes that his team will need to execute on the ice this weekend.
The Nanooks (12-9-9 overall, 9-9-8 Conference) are currently tied for 5th place in the CCHA and remain in the mix to claim home ice for the postseason. UAA is also in the thick of the playoff hunt and still can continue to improve their positioning for the second season.
Led by a core of returning letter winners, the Nanooks look ready to make some more noise offensively this time around. Freshman winger Andy Taranto leads the way with 29 points (12-17) with senior center Dion Knelson (15-12—27) right behind him.
On the other end of the ice, sophomore goalie Scott Greenham has been the anchor for his team. He has started all 300 wgames for the blue and gold and posted ridiculous numbers. His 2.28 goals against and .915 save percentage make him one of the toughest goalies the Seawolves will face this season.
This has typically been a team the Seawolves have thrived on playing. In the history of the two teams playing each other, UAA has the upper hand with an 80-48-11 advantage over their northern rivals. Even more eye opening may be the home record of 46-19-5 the Seawolves enjoy when the Nanooks come to town.
Editors Note: The puck drops at 7:07 to kick the series off from Sullivan Arena. The university is calling for a white-out and has “Beat the Nooks” shirts available for purchase at the bookstore.