Kendall Hockey Classic Preview
by Avash Kalra/Staff Writer
Friday night's first game features Air Force against Alaska. After three consecutive seasons reaching the NCAA tournament, Air Force fell short of that goal last season.
This season, the Falcons welcome back the reigning Atlantic Hockey Player of the Year, senior forward Jacques Lamoureux. But that leaves coach Frank Serratore concerned about the other end of the ice.
"I believe our competitive depth this year is much better than last season," said Serratore. "We were thin last year but ended up with a winning record mostly due to the play of our [then-senior] goaltender Andrew Volkening. We feel we have a much better and deeper team this year in regards to our position players. However, we are unproven in goal. We need one of our three goaltenders to step up if we are to have a successful season, and this may very well not happen until after Christmas."
Alaska, meanwhile, is coming off its first NCAA appearance in program history.
"There was a lot of excitement for our program and through our community," said Nanooks coach Dallas Ferguson. "We've talked about keeping a level head about last season. Once the dust settled, we realized we wanted to learn from the experience and get back there this season."
Alaska will look to a trio of senior captains to lead the way for the Nanooks this year.
Said Ferguson, "We want to come to the rink everyday with intent we are going to get better. We want to focus in on what we can control, like our work ethic and commitment."
WCHA foes Alaska-Anchorage and North Dakota will face off Friday evening. The teams will square off again in a WCHA regular season series in Grand Forks, N.D., in February.
Anchorage coach Dave Shyiak plans to use this weekend as an extended evaluation process.
"We will be evaluating our players on execution, line chemistry, D-pairings and who can play on special teams," said Shyiak of his young team. "It should gives a feel of what type of team we are working with."
Almost the entire defense corps for the Seawolves returns to Anchorage this season. Shyiak's team has been in the top three in the WCHA in each of the last three seasons in limiting opponents' shot total, but this year's defense will play in front of a rookie goaltender.
All the more reason for the defense to stay strong.
"On the flip side, we need to manufacture more shots that lead to an increase in goal production," said Shyiak. "We want to be a team that is tough to play against and keep teams scoring chances to a minimum."
North Dakota, coming off a 5-2 exhibition victory over Manitoba, has epitomized consistency during the past decade-plus, reaching the NCAA tournament in 13 of the last 14 years, including each of the last eight. Last year, the Sioux fell to Yale in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Still, six of the Sioux's seven 20-point scorers from a season ago return this year, so it's no wonder that talk of the Frozen Four is already swirling around Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks. In addition, Chay Genoway returns to the Fighting Sioux defensive corps after a concussion kept him out of last season.
Genoway played regular shifts in North Dakota's win over Manitoba last week.
"It was great to see," coach Dave Hakstol told the Grand Forks Herald. "I thought he handled [his ice time] real well and did a good job for his first 60 minutes back."
Following Friday's games, the teams switch partners for Saturday. with North Dakota facing Alaska and Alaska-Anchorage taking on Air Force.