A young UAA hockey team will get plenty of game experience when they host the 2010 Kendall Hockey Classic Oct. 8-9 at the Sullivan Arena.
The second ranked North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Air Force Falcons and two-time defending Classic champs UAF Nanooks will all invade the Seawolves’ home ice.
UAA head coach Dave Shyiak will get an early look at how his team is meshing and which of his 10 newcomers will be able to make immediate impacts in the Seawolf lineup.
“I’m looking for guys to execute things in game situations and get a good gage of where we’re at as a team and which players can perform,” Shyiak said.
Returners such as senior co-captains Tommy Grant and Craig Parkinson will look to help lead a young team to the first Classic championship since 2006. Despite being young, Shyiak believes that the mix of returners and newcomers will be a good thing.
“We’re going to have real good depth up at the forward position and we have a good balance of veterans and new players back on defense,” Shyiak said.
On the blue line, senior Luka Vidmar, junior Curtis Leinweber, and junior assistant captain Brad Gorham will all log large amounts of ice time and help lead the defensive efforts.
The real question is who will be between the pipes for the Seawolves this season. The Seawolves lost the services of both Jon Olthuis and Bryce Christianson from last season and have left the Shyiak with an open competition in practice between three contenders for the number one spot.
“They all look good, are battling hard in practice and the job is certainly open until somebody proves otherwise,” Shyiak said.
The three hopefuls for the opportunity are sophomore Dusan Sidor, and freshmen Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal.
The Classic provides an excellent tool for the UAA coaching staff to get a look at where their team stands as well as gives hockey fans a long awaited arrival of the season.
“It’s great starting the season in your hometown against some of the best programs in the country,” Shyiak said, who enters his sixth season in charge of the program. “Our young guys are going to be tested early by tough opponents and will get to see what they’re up against this year.”
Their first test will come against a foe they will see plenty this year in conference play, and one of which is a national title contender.
University of North Dakota (UND) will come as the heavy favorites to win the tough-as-nails WCHA title. The Sioux return an experienced group of players (they only lost two seniors from last year) and will be bolstered by the return of fifth year senior defenseman Chay Genoway.
Genoway, the preseason pick to win the WCHA player of the year, was an All-American in 2009 but was limited to only nine games last year due to a season-ending injury he sustained. He will again serve as team captain for a team loaded with talent in all positions.
The team is led by head coach Dave Hakstol, who enters his seventh season at the reigns. Hakstol, who couldn’t be reached for comment, is 155-84-22 during his tenure with the Sioux and is a five-time finalist for National Coach of the Year.
UND, who last year won the WCHA conference playoffs and advanced to the NCAA Tournament for an eighth straight appearance, will also have the services of a Anchorage native.
Evan Trupp, a senior forward who attended South Anchorage High School, is coming off a fantastic junior year. His 34 points were a career high and he led the team with 26 assists, another personal best. He also won Most Valuable Player of the WCHA Final Five last season during the Sioux title run.
The Falcons of the Air Force Academy will prove to be a test as well for the Seawolves.
Last year, the Falcons went 16-15-6 and are very familiar with the Kendall Classic, as this year will be their third Classic appearance.
The tournament is good fit and opportunity for the team and 13th year head coach Frank Serratore.
“We’ve done it before and it’s in the west, so it’s a good trip for us,” Serratore said, who is the brother of Bemidji State bench boss Tom Serratore. “I think it’s a win-win because we get some early games against good opponents in UAF and UAA and people up in the Air Force up in Anchorage get to see our Academy team skate.”
Two years removed from a 28 win season that included a conference title and first ever NCAA Tournament victory, the Falcons are a proven contender in the Atlantic Hockey Association (AHA) conference.
Similar to the Seawolves, the Falcons face inexperience when it comes to goaltenders.
“We graduated our senior goalie last year, Andrew Volkening, who was probably our best player ever in the program,” Serratore said. “So, filling that hole will be our biggest question mark.”
Volkening finished last season with a 2.44 goals against average and .918 save percentage leaves big skates to fill for returners junior Stephen Caple and sophomore David Bosner, who saw only five games combined last season.
Senior Jacques Lamoureux will look to lead the charge for the Falcons offensively this season. He is coming off a season in which he had 22 goals and 20 assists to go along with his team leading 52 penalty minutes.
The road to the Classic title goes through the UAF Nanooks though who will look to three-peat this year.
Head coach Dallas Ferguson will look to lead his No. 12 Nanooks into the Sully and come out with more than just a title.
“Obviously we’re coming down (to Anchorage) to win, but we need to make sure we are getting better before we start conference play,” Ferguson said.
When asked about his team feeling the pressure of their highest preseason ranking ever, Ferguson pointed out that it was more about taking care of their own business first and foremost.
“From our standpoint, it’s nice to be recognized but we have a lot to prove to ourselves first,” Ferguson said. “Working towards our identity and making sure we’re playing together and disciplined is our goal.”
The ‘Nooks only lost three seniors last season and boast strength at all positions.
Andy Taranto, 2009-10 CCHA Rookie of the Year, looks to be the focal point of the UAF attack. His freshman year saw him post 14 multi-point games and finish with 18-24—42 totals.
On the other end of the ice, a combo of juniors, defenseman Joe Sova and goalie Scott Greenham, will keep UAF opponents frustrated. Both players were featured on last year’s Kendall Classic All-Tournament team.
Sova, is a strong two-way defenseman who contributed 6-18—24 totals last season while Greenham was the backbone in net and had 2.20 goals against average to go along with his .919 save percentage.