When Michigan coach Red Berenson says that he’d rather
ice-fish in Alaska than walk along a beach in Florida, he
isn’t joking around. When he played in the NHL, he spent two
summers in Anchorage running a hockey school.

And, ever since Alaska-Fairbanks joined the Central Collegiate
Hockey Association, he’s gotten to spend the occasional
winter weekend there, as well.

The Wolverines left Ann Arbor early Wednesday morning for
Fairbanks, and currently — as is usually the case when they
go up north — they are in the midst of quite an interesting
trip.

In the past, Berenson has taken the team to the University of
Alaska Museum and the 800-mile-long pipeline system. Last night,
the team went curling.

But now, it’s time to get down to business. Tonight and
tomorrow, No. 4 Michigan (13-4-1 CCHA, 18-7-1 overall) will look to
extend their dominance over the Nanooks. The Wolverines have won 25
of their 28 meetings, and 11 of 12 in Fairbanks.

Though Alaska-Fairbanks’ record (11-10-1, 12-13-1)
doesn’t stand out, Michigan isn’t looking past the
Nanooks to next weekend’s series against Miami — the
team one point ahead of Michigan at first place in conference
standings. This year’s version of the Nanooks is the best the
Wolverines have ever faced, according to Berenson, and they are
especially tough at the Carlson Center, where they have gone 9-1 in
conference play and 10-2 overall.

Alaska-Fairbanks coach Guy Gadowski doesn’t attribute the
team’s great home record and poor road record to the travel
that comes with playing in Alaska. In the CCHA, only the Nanooks
and Northern Michigan play on an Olympic-size rink — which is
wider than Yost Ice Arena’s surface — and Gadowski
places an emphasis on speed and skating ability when recruiting to
capitalize on that.

The Nanooks will be a tough test for Al Montoya, who was just
named CCHA Player of the Month. The sophomore goaltender has
allowed just five goals in the Wolverines’ last six games.
The Nanooks are third in the league in scoring, averaging 3.36
goals a game. Kelly Czuy and Ryan Campbell lead the team with 24
points each.

“We like to get up and go,” Gadowski said.
“The fans here are very knowledgeable and like to see
offensive hockey, and we like to play that way. I think it’s
an exciting brand of hockey, but I also think we can win that
way.”

Michigan players enjoyed their last trip to Alaska two years
ago. The Wolverines swept the Nanooks with 2-1 and 4-0 wins.

“It is a long trip, but we get to spend a lot of time
together,” junior defenseman Nick Martens said after last
Saturday’s game against Lake Superior State.
“It’s a good chance for us to put away the pressures of
school, and focus on hockey while we’re there. We have five
days when all we have to worry about is hockey. It’s just a
great experience.”

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