Who's won six straight conference games and vaulted itself into the thick of the final CCHA race? The University of Alaska (Fairbanks), of course, now ranked 20th in NCAA Division I by USCHO.com.
The Nanooks (12-8-4 overall) have opened the calendar year by sweeping Michigan and Notre Dame on the road, and Northern Michigan at home, to improve to 10-7-3-1 in the CCHA, where they currently sit in fourth place with 34 points. They're just two points behind third-place Notre Dame, four points behind second-place Western Michigan, and five points behind league-leading Miami, whom they will visit this Friday and Saturday in Oxford, Ohio.
It’s been a bit of tightrope act this season for Alaska, which has averaged 2.71 goals per game and surrendered 2.58 goals per outing so far. The Nanook penalty kill, though, is ranked eighth in the nation, and has eliminated 100-of-113 opponent power plays (88.5 percent) while also scoring four shorthanded goals.
They're also getting things done by committee, at least scoring-wise. Senior forward Jarrett Granberg leads Alaska with five goals and 12 assists for 17 points, and had a game-winning goal with three seconds left at Notre Dame. Senior classmate Andy Taranto is right behind him with 7-9—16 points, and recently passed the century mark for career points. They're just two of nine Nanooks in double figures this season, with Trevor Campbell the highest-scoring blueliner for the Blue and Gold to date with 1-14—15 points.
In goal it’s been a different story, as freshman John Keeney has firmly taken the reins in the Nanook net, and played in 15 of UAF's 24 games. The California native has gone 8-4-3 with a 2.30 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, and has been in goal for the last six games/wins.
Following the Miami series, coach Dallas Ferguson’s club will host Ohio State at the Carlson Center, visit Lake Superior State, and host Michigan State before concluding the regular season with a home-and-home series with in-state and future WCHA rival Alaska Anchorage for the annual Governor’s Cup.
Following the last-ever CCHA Tournament in Detroit in March, the Nanooks hope to be one of 16 teams in the nation left standing, with their second-ever berth to the NCAA Tournament and second such selection in four years.