WHO: Miami RedHawks (7-2-3) at Alaska Nanooks (6-5-3).
WHERE: Carlson Center, Fairbanks, Alaska.
WHEN: 11:05 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
MIAMI RADIO: WKBV-AM (1490) Richmond, Ind.; and WMOH-AM (1450) Hamilton, Ohio, both nights.
ALASKA RADIO: KCBF-AM (820) Fairbanks, Alaska both nights.
NOTES: The Nanooks have been all over the map this season, following a 4-1-1 stretch with their current three-game winless streak (0-2-1).
Alaska earned two of a possible six points last weekend, losing 4-3 in overtime on Friday and tying, 2-2 on Saturday before earning the extra shootout point.
Senior Andy Taronto has been one of the Nanooks’ best offensive threat in recent years, and he is two goals short of 50 for his career and one point shy of 100. He has five goals and four helpers this season.
Among Alaska forwards, freshman Tyler Morley and senior Jarret Granberg also have nine points (5-4-9 and 3-6-9, respectively).
A pair of junior forwards – Colton Beck and Cody Kuynk have eight points each, but the scoring drops off after that. Senior center Nik Yaremchek and freshman forward Nolan Huysmans are the only other forwards with five points for the Nanooks.
Unlike Miami, Alaska’s blueliners have generated a decent portion of the team’s goals. Five Nanooks defenseman have found the net, accounting for eight of the team’s 36 markers.
Sophomore Trevor Campbell has a goal and eight assists, leading all defensemen with nine points. Freshman Colton Parayko – the lone Alaska draftee who was selected by the St. Louis Blues – has a team defensemen-high three goals.
Other Nanooks with offensive ability include freshman Josh Atkinson (1-5) and junior Michael Quinn (0-6), who have six points each, and senior Kaare Odegard, who has a pair of goals.
One of the most head-scratching Alaska statistics is its three goalies have all played in at least four games, and none have been pulled.
Sophomore Sean Cahill was playing fairly well (2-1-1, 2.22 GAA, .895 save percentage), but he not played in several weeks. He may have been injured but information has been hard to come by.
Freshman John Keeney has played five of the Nanooks’ last six games and has been outstanding. He has a 2-2-2 record but boasts a 1.79 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
After Keeney played four straight games, senior Steve Thompson went between the pipes last Friday and took the loss, surrendering four goals on 18 shots into the decisive tally in overtime.
Keeney played last Saturday and stopped 29 of 31 shots in a 2-2 tie, and he was perfect in the shootout, so there is a good chance Miami will face Keeney this weekend unless Cahill can play.
Neither Cahill nor Thompson saw much action last season, so it appears Keeney is Alaska’s goalie for the next few seasons.
Alaska loves to put the puck on net – the Nanooks average 37.6 shots per game – so Miami’s goaltenders will need to be alert. An average of nine shots come from the UAF defense corps.
The Nanooks have not struggled on offense or defense but they have not exceled either. They are fifth in the CCHA in both goals per game (2.57) and goals allowed (2.43).
Their penalty killing is ranked second in the conference (87.5 percent) and they have also scored twice shorthanded.
Alaska has an equal number of power plays and penalty kills – 64 – both of which are tops in the league. So Miami, which is tied for the CCHA lead in penalty minutes with 180, will need to keep its cool.
For a young Miami team that has exceeded early expectations but still has growing to do, a 5,000-mile road trip across four time zones may be an excellent bonding experience.
The biggest question this weekend is: Will freshman Ryan McKay return to the net for the RedHawks?
The freshman came to Oxford with an outstanding resume and was dominant in his two-plus starts before the unspecified leg injury he suffered in Ann Arbor.
McKay skated in warm-ups the previous four games in Oxford and Miami was off Thanksgiving weekend, so hopefully he will be ready for this series.
If McKay can go, one would think coach Enrico Blasi would start him on Friday – since that is what he did the first two weekends of the season – and still come back with freshman Jay Williams on Saturday.
Williams has been very steady, giving Miami a chance to win every night, but he has not shown the ability to steal a game. If McKay can get back to form it would be a definite upgrade one game per series, plus Williams would not have to play back-to-back nights each weekend.
The RedHawks’ tandem of sophomore Austin Czanik and freshman Riley Barber is 1-2 in points per game in the CCHA, and Czarnik leads college hockey in shorthanded goals with three.
Miami enters this weekend unbeaten in its last five games (3-0-2), and the RedHawks have played well in Fairbanks recently. Miami is 5-0-1 in its last six games at Alaska and is riding a 7-1-1 streak overall vs. the Nanooks including a four-game winning streak.