|UND defenseman Derek Forbort battles along the boards with a UAA skater from in Anchorage, Alaska|
in 2011 during the last time the Green and White and Seawolves played each other in Sullivan Arena. (Photo: UND Sports)
We've officially reached college hockey season as the No. 7 University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks travel to a place well known by the program, but not much by the current team.
The Hawks are on the road to faceoff with long-time Western Collegiate Hockey Conference foe the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves Friday and Saturday from Sullivan Arena.
These two teams have a long history together, but haven't played each other since the 2012-13 season as North Dakota left to join the National Collegiate Hockey Conference before the 2013-14 campaign. UND hasn't played in Sullivan Arena since 2011.
Since then, UAA has struggled to perform in the WCHA having continued to finish near the bottom of the conference and dead last the past two years. UND, on the other hand, has continued its run at or near the top of the college hockey world, making the NCAA tournament every year since 2001 and winning its 8th National Championship in 2016.
So, will it continue to be like old times for this series that has seen UND dominate to a 46-17-5 clip all-time, or is the dawn of a new season and the task of the Hawks traveling nearly 3,000 miles for a pair of games enough to sway the tide for UAA?
Let's see what DDC thinks will stand out this weekend in Alaska in his weekly "Who? What? How?" series preview.
Players to Watch
|Sr. G Olivier Mantha|
Alaska-Anchorage (2016-17 scoring):
Sr. F, Matt Anholt, 5 goals, 17 assists -- 22 points; Sr. F, Tad Kozun, 5g, 14a -- 19 pts; Sr. D, Jarrett Brown, 5g, 10a -- 15 pts; Jr. F, Jonah Renouf, 3g, 6a -- 9 pts; Fr. F, Cameron Trott, 50 points in two seasons of Junior A hockey; Sr. G, Olivier Mantha, 7-18-4, 2.82 goals against average, .913 save percentage.
UND (2016-17 scoring):
Jr. F, Shane Gersich, 21g, 16a -- 37 pts; Sr. F, Austin Poganski, 12g, 13a -- 25 pts; So. D, Christian Wolanin, 6g, 16 a -- 24 pts; So. F, Rhett Gardner, 8g, 13a -- 21 pts; Fr. F, Grant Mismash, 2nd Round NHL draft pick; Sr. G, Cam Johnson, 20-13-3, 2.38 GAA, .903 SV PCT.
The Seawolves were last in the NCAA in scoring last season, recording just 1.74 goals per game and were second to last in power play goals at 0.44 per game.
Senior Matt Anholt leads UAA returners with 22 points (5g, 17a) last season.
Senior netminder Olivier Mantha has posted a .903 save percentage of better in his of his three seasons with the Seawolves.
UND leads the all-time series with UAA at a 46-17-5 mark. This weekend marks the first time the two long-time WCHA foes have played since October 26-27, 2012.
North Dakota has made the NCAA tournament in 15-straight seasons.
The Fighting Hawks return 7 of their top 10 scorers from last season, but lose 99 combined points from Tyson Jost (Colorado), Brock Boeser (Vancouver) and Tucker Poolman (Winnipeg), who all left for NHL contracts and are on opening-night rosters for their respective teams.
How’d they get here?
UAA won their exhibition matchup against Simon Fraser University, 6-1. Senior forward Austin Azurdia had a hat trick and an assist in the win..
No. 7 UND topped Manitoba 6-2 in exhibition fashion as sophomore forward Ludvig Hoff notched two goals while all six rookie skaters tallied at least a point.
The Green and White are 6-0 in their last six games against Alaska Anchorage.
|UND rookies Jordan Kawaguchi (29) and Nick Jones|
converge on a Manitoba skater. (Photo: GF Herald)
The PickWell, this is kind of an odd one.
A non-conference series (and we know how important these are to the Pairwise) that's 3,000 miles from home with a team in UND that's chocked full of new faces that are still trying to get to know each other while replacing three NHL players from last season's roster.
Sounds easy, right?
Well, DDC thinks it will end up being that way, but it may take a minute. UAA has a nice group of returning players and are going to be fired up at home against an old-time foe, but frankly put, they have been at the bottom of the WCHA for the past two years for a reason.
The Hawks look like they are going to bring a depth that the Seawolves just cant hang with for a 60-minute game. With a group of returning standouts like skaters Shane Gersich, Austin Poganski, Christian Wolanin and netminder Cam Johnson, UND is simply more talented than UAA.
With that complement of talented returners, the Green and White showed in the exhibition that their rookies can play, too. Freshmen Grant Mismash and Jordan Kawaguchi both potted goals in their first games in a UND sweater while all six rookies tallied at least a point in a 6-2 drubbing of Manitoba. Of course, this is only an exhibition, but the rookies certainly passed the eye test last week against the Bisons.
Travel shouldn't be an excuse for the Fighting Hawks as they arrived three days in advance for this series and are the more talented team.