Here are ten things to know about our opponent in the CCHA Semifinals, the Alaska Nanooks:
1) They come in at 17-14-6 overall and are 15-11-5-3 in CCHA play, counting playoffs. They beat the Buckeyes in a three game series, winning the deciding game 1-0 on a goal with under a minute to go in regulation.
2) Weird team. They've shut out their opponent on eight occasions this year. They've been shut out ten times. You want to know why Ocho Cinco won CCHA Player of the Year? They scored 54 goals in CCHA play and still finished fourth. That's 1.93 goals per game. The only team that scored fewer was FYS with 43 (43??!!!). The saving grace for them was that they only gave up 51, tying them with Michigan for the fictional "Jennings Trophy" of the conference, and finishing one ahead of Notre Dame. The difference? Michigan scored 98 goals and ND had 95.
3) More stuff about Chad Johnson and his lack of goal support: They scored 73 goals for the season as a whole and currently sport a 17-14-6 record. Granted they would be undefeated with Jeff Lerg in net, but the only teams to score fewer goals than that are: American scored 58 and went 5-28-2. FYS scored 62 and went 10-23-5. Alabama-Huntsville scored 63 (in just 30 games) and went 5-20-5 (go ahead Sparty, fire Comley and hire Danton Cole). Brown scored 60 and was 5-23-5. Harvard scored 68 and was 9-16-6. Merrimack had 72 and was 9-21-4. And Michigan Tech scored 62 and was 6-25-7. Alaska got a bye in a pretty decent conference, despite a complete lack of goal support. Remember how we all felt really bad for Billy Sauer at the start of the year? That's pretty much what Johnson went through the whole season. Johnson has a 1.67/.939. Good enough for Player of the Year honors in the CCHA and a spot in the final ten for the Hobey Baker.
4) Dion Knelsen leads the team in goals and points (10-12--22). Braden Walls and captain Adam Naglich each have nine tallies on the year. Aaron Gens is the leading defense scorer with 10 points. Not a whole crapload of offense from the blueliners.
5) Johnson's GAA was second only to Jordan Pearce nationally and he's #1 in save percentage. Both wins against OSU came via shutout. As you would expect, then, Alaska ranks very highly in team defense (#2 to Notre Dame, at 1.70 goals per game). And as you would expect, their offense is pretty far down the list 53rd at 1.97 goals per game.
6) They're actually one of the least penalized teams in the country. Only Providence and Princeton take fewer penalty minutes a night than Alaska's 10.9 minutes per game. And when they are on the PK, they usually kill it off. Their PK is #6 in the country at 88.2%, just a tenth of a point ahead of Michigan's. (They've been shorthanded 41 fewer times however.) The power play on the other hand is an anemic 9.9%. Only RPI and American are worse. American scored 11 power play goals this year and gave up 9 shorthanded tallies. They almost would have been better off declining to go on the PP. That's pretty sad.
7) Alaska coach Dallas Ferguson took home CCHA Coach of the Year honors tonight.
8) The teams split the season series in Alaska, with Alaska winning 4-1 the first night, which was the largest margin of victory for Alaska in series history, and Michigan taking the second game by a 3-2 score.
9) Michigan is 36-7-0 all-time against the Nanooks and 1-0-0 at neutral sites. In the 43 games between the two teams, there have only been five one-goal games and none have gone to OT.
10) Tim Miller leads all Wolverines with 9 career points against the Nanooks (2-7--9). Travis Turnbull has 2-6--8. Brandon Naurato's three goals lead everyone. David Wohlberg (2-0--2) and Aaron Palushaj (2-3--5) each average a point per game in their careers against Alaska. Bryan Hogan is 1-0-0 with a 2.00 goals against and a .920 save percentage in his lone appearance. Sauer is 5-3-0 with a 2.15/.913. Miller (6-6--12 in 19 games) and Turnbull (7-4--11 in 19 games) lead all Wolverines at Joe Louis Arena, but Caporusso has a 7-3--10 line in just 8 games. Glendening, Wohlberg, and Palushaj are also a point per game or better at the Joe.
The Nanooks are playing for their season. Win and they get a shot to play for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Lose and they're playing a consolation game before their season ends. This one isn't going to be easy. Alaska has given up 1 or fewer goals on 19 occasions this year, but they've scored 1 or fewer 15 times. Johnson will have to stand on his head to give Alaska a chance to win this one. But he's done that all season. That's why he's a Hobey finalist. It should be a good one.
The game will air live on the Big Ten Network and streaming on the Fox Sports website. Fox Sports Detroit will then reair the game at 10:30 pm. Go Blue!