FAIRBANKS — Year-in and year-out, Alaska-Fairbanks
typically has the most success at home of any team in the CCHA.
This season is no different. Although the Nanooks are under .500
(12-11-1 CCHA, 13-14-1 overall), they were 10-2 at home heading
into the weekend, with just one loss against a conference foe. Any
number of factors can combine to this great home ice advantage, but
the physical dimensions of the Carlson Center play a large role in
Fairbanks’ success.

Mira Levitan
A wider ice surface resulted in a fast-paced, up-and-down series. Goaltender Al Montoya faced a whopping 70 shots in the two games, and many came on odd-man opportunities. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Daily)

The Nanooks enjoy playing on an Olympic-sized rink, which is 200
feet long and 100 feet wide. Most CCHA rinks are 200 feet by 85
feet, the same size used by the NHL. While the extra 15 feet may
not seem like much of an advantage, it opens up more passing lanes
and increase the opportunity to play a more wide-open, run-and-gun
style of hockey.

“(The rink size) definitely is a factor,” coach Red
Berenson said. “The puck seems to change hands and
there’s more space and players are skating into
it.”

On Friday night, it appeared to take some time for Michigan to
adjust to the extra space, as several pass attempts went awry.
While the Wolverines were trying to find the right spacing on
offense, the Nanooks received several early scoring chances. Just
20 seconds into the game, goaltender Al Montoya faced an odd-man
rush.

“I thought we adjusted as the games went on,”
Berenson said. “It made for an exciting game for both
teams.”

Powerplays in the series proved exciting. The key to a
successful powerplay is to make quick passes and catch the penalty
killers out of position. With the larger rink, the penalty killers
fatigue much faster. Both sides were able to cash in multiple times
with the man advantage this weekend, as penalty killers had to work
extra hard to close down the bigger passing lanes.

Michigan took advantage of the extra space on its powerplays
this weekend and scored three powerplay goals in very similar
fashion — working the puck behind the goal and waiting for
the defenders to crash the net to fire a quick pass up to a
pinching point man.

Alaska-Fairbanks did have an advantage in team speed. Moving
laterally creates better scoring chances because defenders have a
shorter time to react once a player is moving at full speed.

“It’s a lot harder to penalty kill because
there’s so much room,” forward Jason Ryznar said.
“I think it’s an advantage to their team because
they’re fast. They’ll use the speed to widen the
defense.”

Forward Milan Gajic felt that Michigan was at an early
disadvantage as Alaska-Fairbanks was more familiar with its rink
and could take advantage of it.

“If you’re playing against a team that’s not
from Olympic-sized ice then maybe (there’s an advantage), but
these guys practice on this every day so they’re quick and
know how far the boards are away,” Gajic said.

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