Alaska-Fairbanks coach Guy Gadowsky doesn”t know what to expect when the No. 14 Michigan hockey team (1-3-1 CCHA, 2-4-1 overall) visits the Land of the Midnight Sun this weekend.
“Usually they come in here heavily favored after another sweep,” Gadowsky said. “This is very new ground for them. But regardless of how they started, we know that they are still the University of Michigan.”
After dropping two games at home to Northern Michigan last week, the Wolverines are off to their worst start in 15 years. In contrast, Alaska-Fairbanks (2-2-0, 6-2-0) is off to a surprisingly good start. Despite starting the year last in the CCHA media”s preseason poll, the Nanooks now sit fourth in the conference standings.
Historically, Alaska-Fairbanks has been a relatively easy target for the Wolverines. They defeated the Nanooks in each of the teams” first 18 games. But during the last two years under Gadowsky, Alaska-Fairbanks is 2-2 against Michigan.
“I am really pleased with our start,” Gadowsky said. “I think we have the program going in the right direction.”
Last season, Michigan started the weekend series against the Nanooks with an 8-0 blanking. But Alaska-Fairbanks came back to earn its first ever win in Yost Ice Arena the next night.
From the very beginning of the 5-2 win, it was clear that the stars were aligned in Alaska-Fairbanks” favor.
Just 26 seconds into the opening stanza, Michigan goalie Josh Blackburn headed for the bench after a delayed penalty call. Then a blueline slapshot from Mike Komisarek deflected off a Alaska-Fairbanks player and slid all the way back into the Wolverines” empty net.
But this year”s Nanooks shouldn”t need fluke goals to keep up with Michigan. Alaska-Fairbanks is averaging nearly five goals per game this season and eleven players have already lit the lamp more than once.
“The key for us has been getting all four lines involved,” Gadowsky said. “You can”t key too much on any of our guys.”
Michigan”s offense, on the other hand, has been led by junior Mike Cammalleri the only Wolverine with more than two scores this season.
“He is such a talented player,” Gadowsky said. “I don”t know if the flow of the game will allow us to shadow him, but he will definitely get special attention.”
Michigan departed early on Wednesday morning, hoping to adjust to the four-hour time change before Friday night”s tilt. But the players will not just forget about their schoolwork.
“I think I”ll be taking my laptop and most of my history books,” freshman Jason Ryznar said. “You have plenty of time to read on the plane. It”s a long flight.”
When Ryznar arrives, the Alaska native will have friends and family waiting for him.
“It will be good to have some home fans cheering for me in the stands,” said Ryznar, whose father, Daniel, has been in Ann Arbor watching him play the past month.
Injury update: Michigan captain Jed Ortmeyer has recovered from the mild concussion he suffered last Friday against Northern. He practiced on Monday and should be at full strength against Alaska-Fairbanks. But two other starters for the Wolverines could not make the trip senior forward Craig Murray (separated shoulder) and junior defenseman Mike Roemensky (high ankle sprain).