View From Alaska Anchorage

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Minnesota heads to Alaska this week for a WCHA first-round playoff rematch from last year against Alaska Anchorage. The Seawolves ended the Gophers season a year ago, winning two games at Mariucci Arena to advance to the WCHA Final Five. Alaska Anchorage is off to a 3-2-1 start this season and we talked with radio voice of the Seawolves Kurt Haider to learn more about this week's opponent.

GopherSports: Kurt, the Seawolves advanced to the WCHA Final Five last year after beating Minnesota. How is Alaska Anchorage looking this year?

Kurt Haider: The Seawolves, buoyed by last season's late success, have started the new season with a determination not to waste the momentum.  A tie with Clarkson followed by victories over St. Cloud State, Nebraska-Omaha and Mercyhurst have kick-started the season, with a realization that the heavy lifting is yet to come with the WCHA regular season.
Coming in to 2011-12, UAA knew that goaltending was going to be a position without too much worry.  Sophomores Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal showed last season that they could handle the mental and physical rigors of the WCHA, so this season is a test to see if they can improve on their performances.

On defense, veterans Brad Gorham and Scott Warner anchor the effort.  Freshmen Derek Docken and Austin Coldwell have played full-time this season, and have played well.

Offensively, a question asked was how the Seawolves were going to replace Tommy Grant's goal scoring.  Early indications show multiple players will be counted on to contribute...the old "scoring by committee" approach.

GS: Who is one player that Gopher fans should pay attention to this weekend?

KH: If you have to pick one player to watch, that player might be Daniel Naslund.  Last season, Naslund improved gradually over the course of the season, so it was relatively quiet.  This season, he's thrown some unbelievable passes and has shown a quiet confidence when he's in the heat of battle around the goal.  His size and vision have made him a player to plan for.

Others to keep an eye on could include Matt Bailey, Jordan Kwas and Mickey Spencer.

GS: The Seawolves had success against Minnesota last year. What do they have to do this weekend to continue that success

KH: This match-up is intriguing because of what happened in last season's playoffs.  With UAA's unexpected two-game sweep at the Mariucci, I'd guess that the Gophers can hardly wait to get to the Sullivan to prove it was a fluke.  It wasn't, and that means UAA followers expect it can happen again.  The immediate stakes aren't nearly as high now, but rest assured both teams realize that these WCHA points in October will be huge when next March comes around.  The Seawolves can win if they play consistent, intelligent hockey.  They were able to neutralize St. Cloud's and Nebraska-Omaha's speed through the neutral zone, and countered effectively after turnovers.  Continued steady play from Gunderson and Kamal is a must.  

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