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Brice Alaska Goal Rush: PSU Hockey Preview

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The men's hockey team travels to Alaska for a pair of games.

There's Goal Up In Them Mountains

This weekend, the team will take what is hockey's closest thing to a bowl game excursion. It will travel approximately 4,000 miles from State College to Fairbanks, Alaska. It's the longest trip that the Lions can make in division one hockey. The two teams that it will face present a challenge, so too will the travel. Alaska may be absurdly far from most of the D1 hockey population, but what happens this weekend in Fairbanks could have reverberations that are felt 4,000 miles away.

Coming off of a solid series win against UConn, PSU has received their first six votes ever in the college hockey rankings. With an opportunity to play two of the top 25 teams in the country, not just on the road but across a continent, the team has a great chance to grab a few points and make a serious statement. What happens in Alaska this weekend could cause the traditional hockey powers to pay a little closer attention to State College. While Penn State surely hopes their play will lead to points, this trip is as much about team unity and relationship building for Penn State as it is about winning.

Wisconsin made this same trip last week, playing both Alaska teams in Anchorage, and returned empty handed. Despite this, the Badgers still remain ranked at #18. This speaks as a testament to not only the difficulty of the trip, but to the skill of these two Alaskan powerhouses.

Brice Alaska Goal Rush

The Carlson Center in Fairbanks, Alaska

Penn State's one Alaskan player, junior forward Casey Bailey, hails from the southern city of Anchorage. Despite the fact that the games will be played in Fairbanks, which is approximately 6.5 hours by car from Casey's hometown, he will surely have quite a support group at the game.

Anchorage and Fairbanks are the same distance apart as State College and Richmond, Virginia. For Alaska, this makes the two cities neighbors, and at times, uncomfortably close together. There is a natural competition between the Sea Wolves of Alaska-Anchorage and the Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks for any fresh meat that may arrive in the area.

Coach Guy Gadowsky lived in Fairbanks from 1999-2004 while he was the head coach for the Alaska Nanooks hockey team. Gadowsky has maintained many connections from his days in Fairbanks a decade ago. The people there remember the former coach fondly, as he was inducted into the Nanook's Hall of Fame a few weeks ago. So Guy's kind of a big deal in Fairbanks, which could lead a nice recruiting pipeline for the Nittany Lions to take advantage of. Obviously it cannot be expected that Penn State will pull in multiple Alaskans every year, but picking one up every once in a while would be more than many teams can manage.

PSU vs. Alaska-Anchorage (Friday, 10.17.14)

Juneau where the game is being played? Fairbanks, Alaska

Juneau what time the games starts? 9 P.M.

Live Audio: American One Sports ($)

Streaming video: WCHA.com ($)

The Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves started the season fast with wins over the University of Maine and Wisconsin at the Kendall Classic. However, during the Wisconsin game senior captain Brett Cameron was given a major penalty for his hit to the head on the Badgers' Timmy Davison. As a result he will be serving a suspension and will miss the game against Penn State. Six players on Alaska-Anchorage had 19 or more points last season. Thanks to graduation and Cameron's suspension, Penn State will only have to go up against three of those players.

Take a look at the brutal hit, and be thankful that we don't have to play against this guy.

Senior forward Scott Allen, who scored 17 goals and had 14 assists last season, is the guy the Lions need to watch. Junior forward Blake Tatchell also had an impressive year last season, racking up 25 assists and 7 goals. Without Cameron, on paper, PSU and A-A are pretty darn even. Once you factor in the travel however, most would give an edge to SeaWolves. If Penn State can find a way to win this game, or escape with a tie, it would be a major statement.

PSU vs Alaska Nanooks (Saturday, 10.18.14)

Juneau where the game is being played? Fairbanks, Alaska

Juneau what time the games starts? 11 P.M.

Live Audio: American One Sports ($)

Streaming video: America One Sports ($)

The Alaska Nanooks are currently ranked #19 coming off their 2-0 start. With a successful 18-15-4 campaign last season, they seek to take the next step into college hockey contention this time around. With the advantage of home ice, the odds are in favor of Alaska for this game. Last year, Eric Scheid led all Penn State scorers last season with 20 points. Last year, Alaska had eight players who scored twenty or more points. They fly around and they put the puck in the net at a dangerous rate. This is going to be a tough task for the Lions, but one that could really allow them to make a statement.

What's Next?

The Lions face a quick turnaround after the Alaska trip. When the second game ends on Sunday morning, the Lions will hop on the plane to get back and re-acclimated with State College as fast as possible. Following their return, the team has arguably the most winnable four-game stretch of the season. They will play two each against Holy Cross and Bentley inside the friendly atmosphere of Pegula Arena. A week later, PSU plays four games in eight days: two on the road at #9 Lowell and two on the road at #10 Michigan. It is important for the team to shake off the cobwebs of this Alaska journey quickly. Hopefully they will be happy cobwebs.

Returning from this Alaska trip with any number of points in hand, will be a tremendous statement for Penn State, especially considering how Wisconsin fared in their trip. Returning home with a victory in either of the two games will turn some heads in the college hockey world. There is a great opportunity here for the team. Let's hope they skate well.