Nanooks follow tradition with Northern Michigan
By Rebecca Coleman
Sun Star Reporter
On Nov. 19 and 20, junior Joe Sova began the last home hockey weekend of the semester in his traditional way: forming an A out of the pucks on the Nanook rail. This tradition began his freshman year while playing Michigan State on the road. “[Scott] Greenham and I were bored, so we sat down for about half an hour and figured out how to build an A,” he said. Now that it has become his pre-game ritual, it no longer takes him 30 minutes to build. “I can get it up in about 45 seconds,” he said.
After sticking to his traditions, Sova played strongly during the battles against the Northern Michigan Wildcats. On Friday, Nov. 19, he scored the only Nanook goal of the game after receiving a quick pass from senior Kevin Petovello while on a power play. The Nanooks managed to hold off the Wildcats until there was 3:49 left in the third period. After some confusion during a Nanooks line change, the Wildcats utilized a two-on-one breakaway and scored. The game went into overtime, ending with a score tied at 1-1.
The winner was determined by a shootout. To take first blood, UAF sent out Petovello, who scored easily. Northern Michigan sent up Greger Hansen to fight back, but Greenham deflected his shot. Next up for UAF was senior Ryan Hohl, whose shot was turned away. Northern Michigan utilized Tyler Gron, who netted the puck past Greenham, bringing the shootout score to a tie. Freshman Colton Beck would have the last shot for UAF. Using the same shot as Petovello, the puck soared past the Wildcats’ goalie. Northern Michigan’s last hope, Brian Nugent, missed his shot, giving the Nanooks the win.
“We always seem to get into this situation with these guys,” said Assistant Coach Brian Meisner. “They’re a tough team to play.” Since the 2007-08 season, UAF has faced off against Northern Michigan 13 times. The Nanooks have tied the Wildcats four times, but haven’t won against them since a 4-1 victory on Nov. 30, 2007.
Junior Carlo Finucci was eager to battle it out with the Wildcats. “I don’t think I’ve seen a CCHA win against them,” he said prior to the game. “It’d be nice to stick it to them this year for being a lot of chaos last year.”
“They knocked us out of the playoffs last year,” Meisner said. “We’ve had lots of close games with them because they play very similarly to us.”
“They’re a good team,” Sova said. “Our battles are pretty epic.”
This weekend would not give the Nanooks, or Finucci, the long-awaited win over the Wildcats. On Saturday, Nov. 20, the Nanooks looked sharp and had a lot of great opportunities to score, but the Wildcats’ goalie had a lot of great saves. Going into the third period, the score was tied at 0-0. With 7:42 left in the game, the Wildcats scored. For the last minute of the period, the Nanooks pulled their goalie in an attempt to get a tying goal, but the Wildcats got control of the puck and scored on an empty Nanook net. Even though there were only seconds left in the game, senior Bryant Molle picked up his first goal of the season and took away the shutout from Northern Michigan.
“This seems to be the theme with us playing Northern,” said Head Coach Dallas Ferguson. “We’re disappointed with the outcome.” However, he was pleased with the low amount of penalties acquired by the Nanooks (two). “Our penalty kills have been good,” he said. “More guys are involved with the rhythm since they’re not in the penalty box.”
Unfortunately for the Nanooks, they aren’t able to play as a full team, as two of their eight defensemen are injured and unable to play. Freshman Michael Quinn sustained a knee injury about a month ago during an away game against Michigan State. Sophomore Justin Daigle broke his ankle after a fall just moments before gearing up to play Michigan on Nov. 5. Sophomore Andy Taranto incurred a lower body injury during Friday night’s game, and so did not play on Saturday.
“I’m just trying to do what I was brought here to do,” Quinn said. “But it’s tough being out of the lineup.” He is hoping to return to the action before the end of the semester.
“It’s unfortunate,” Daigle said. “Nobody wants to be in this situation.” He doesn’t anticipate being game-ready until February.
“It’s unfortunate they’re out,” said Sova, a fellow defenseman. “They’re big assets. But it’s what happens.” As a result, other players “who haven’t seen a lot of ice are seeing it now,” he said.
Everyone on the team has had to step up their defense, regardless of their position. “There has been a lot of help from everyone,” Meisner said. “Everyone cares about defense, which leads to our success.”
“Knowing each other [also] helps,” Sova said. “We’re a tight-knit group. Our whole team gets along, and we hang out on and off the ice. That’s what it takes for a team to be great – chemistry.”
This chemistry can be seen in the reactions to Quinn’s and Daigle’s injuries.
“The guys have been very supportive and tell me to keep positive,” Quinn said.
“Almost everyone visited me in the hospital after my surgery,” Diagle said. “And the guys are great about checking up on me when I’m in treatment…and they help out wherever they can.”
Hohl is happy with the cohesion of the team. “The core of our team is very strong,” he said. “With the allowance of some good young men concerning the freshmen class, we have come to gel into a nice looking hairdo.”
“We’re pretty much a family,” Sova said.