Surprise Seawolves

Tim Nichols

It’s been an interesting ride for both Minnesota-Duluth and Alaska-Anchorage as they head into this weekend’s series at Anchorage.
The Bulldogs have been a disappointment for most of the season. But if it wasn’t for two goals in the last 30 seconds of Friday night’s game against North Dakota, the Bulldogs might have picked up three points against the No. 1 team in the nation instead of just one.
Heading into Alaska to play the Seawolves is never an easy task, however. Alaska-Anchorage boasts one of the toughest defenses in the country, and without a doubt the stingiest in the league. It also has one of the hottest goaltenders in freshman Gregg Naumenko.
“Duluth played North Dakota extremely well,” Alaska-Anchorage coach Dean Talafous said. “They are getting better and better every weekend.”
Despite how tough Minnesota-Duluth has played in recent weeks, the Bulldogs will meet a determined and disciplined team in the Seawolves. Alaska-Anchorage will also be looking to distance itself from the pack a bit, especially with Denver idle in conference play this weekend.
“It’s fun and interesting for the fans, but it’s also good for us,” Talafous said. “We feel like we’re a factor now, even though we really didn’t anticipate anything at the start.”

Naumenko lauded by WCHA
While Minnesota’s Matt Leimbek gathered honors for his offensive output against Michigan Tech last weekend, Naumenko should have earned WCHA defensive player of the year honors for his performance against St. Cloud State.
The freshman from Chicago turned away 56 of 58 shots and currently leads the conference with a 2.08 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage.
“When he came in, we just needed a second goalie,” Talafous said. “Gregg is a good goalie, and Doug (Teskey) is a senior and a leader. We evaluated both of them, and Gregg very early in camp proved that he was ready to play at this level.”

Nicklin likely to miss first game
Ending one of the more physically demanding streaks in college hockey, Minnesota-Duluth goaltender Brant Nicklin will probably not start for the Bulldogs on Friday.
The junior has started 80 consecutive conference games for Minnesota-Duluth. He suffered a knee injury in the first period of Saturday’s tie with the Sioux. Although doctors have said there is ligament damage, surgery will not be necessary.
Starting in his place is seldom-used senior Tony Gasparini. Gasparini has seen action in 10 games in his collegiate career, but performed admirably against North Dakota. When Nicklin went down in the first period, Gasparini came in to stop 28 shots from the high-powered Sioux attack.

Who’s up, who’s down
Who’s up? While running the risk of sounding like a homer, Minnesota.
The Gophers have played well the last couple of weeks, and their hard work finally paid off when they earned a series sweep of Michigan Tech. But Minnesota will face probably its toughest task of the season against No. 5 Colorado College this weekend. The Tigers Minnesota its two most humiliating losses of the season, sweeping the Gophers 6-1 and 7-1.
Who’s down? Michigan Tech. After being swept by the Gophers, the Huskies and their enigmatic offense returns to Houghton, Mich., for their Winter Festival. And who’s their guest for the Festival? North Dakota. Good luck, Huskies.