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Way Up North

This was going to be a Linkorama entry, but I still feel like I don't write enough about the CCHA, and it was getting long enough that I figured I'd make it into a whole post.

Alaska came away with a 3-1 victory over Lake Superior on Saturday night to earn a three point weekend. Alaska is starting to quietly look like one of the better teams in the CCHA this season. They're 4-1-3 in the league to give them 11 points, and currently in 3rd place in the league. Even more surprising is that they currently sit at 11th in the way-too-early Pairwise Rankings, and are one of three CCHA teams that would make the NCAA field.

Kyle Greentree was the big story for Nanooks on Saturday, scoring all three Alaska goals. It was Greentree's second hat trick of the season. But the more important underlying story in the win was that both Dion Knelsen and Ryan Muspratt, who returned from injury this past weekend registered an assist in the game. Muspratt also added a goal in Friday's 2-2 tie. Their presence could be a key to Alaska's success in the second half of the season.

The Nanooks have always been excellent, with two capable starting goalies. Chad Johnson's 1.96 GAA puts him 9th in the country overall. Junior Wylie Rogers' numbers are still a bit inflated due to the 6 goals he gave up to Alaska-Anchorage in an overtime loss, but he has settled down and looked more like his usual self in his past two appearances.

The real question for the Nanooks would be whether or not they'd get enough scoring to compete with teams. Kyle Greentree is having a good year, but has also been a little inconsistent. After a 7 point weekend against Nebraska-Omaha, Greentree was held scoreless in three straight games before his hat trick on Saturday. Putting Dion Knelsen back on his line will be a great addition. Muspratt hasn't score a ton of goals in his career, but is a hard worker and is an upperclassmen now that can contribute a little bit more.

Alaska will now embark on perhaps the toughest part of their schedule, and should give everyone an idea of just how good they are. They travel to South Bend this weekend to take on the CCHA's other upstart, Notre Dame. That starts a stretch where they will play 8 of 10 games on the road, including the second half of the Governor's Cup series, where the Nanooks need a sweep to hold onto the Cup, and a road series against Michigan State. After the Michigan State series, they fly back home to take on Michigan.

Alaska has put themselves in a great position. They're already in a position to be fighting for an NCAA tournament berth, and look like they're only going to get better in the second half of the season now that they're starting to get healthy. They have the potential to really catch fire and surprise a lot of people in the second half of the season.