You hardcore college hockey fans are no doubt totally clued in on UAA's opponent Friday night in Fairbanks, but for those who are not, here's a tip: Perennial power North Dakota will be considerably short-handed for that match, which is its season opener.
Owing primarily to a preseason team party that resulted in suspensions, North Dakota will be without its top three returning scorers and four of its top five returning scorers, and, frankly, so many guys I've lost count. According to the excellent Brad Elliott Schlossman, the beat writer at the Grand Forks Herald and a dude who evidently never sleeps, the Sioux will be down to 16 skaters for the game against the Seawolves at the Brice Alaska Goal Rush. That's two skaters shy of what college teams dress for a game. The Sioux will only be able to dress 10 forwards -- that's three lines and a spare dude -- instead of the usual 12.
Among those sitting out will be Danny Kristo (19-26--45 totals in 42 games); Corban Knight (16-24--40 in 39 games); and Carter Romney (18-15--33 in 42 games).
Remember, though, because of excellent scheduling (sarcasm), UAA will get two more shots at the full-strength Sioux in a hockey heartbeat. After playing North Dakota in Fairbanks on Friday and following that with a game against Merrimack on Saturday in Fairbanks, the Seawolves' next series is their WCHA opener at -- wait for it -- North Dakota.
Seriously, three games vs. NoDak in a four-game span. Hmm? Why does that seem familiar? Oh, because UAA went through the exact same scenario last season with Nebraska-Omaha. The Seawolves beat the Mavericks 3-0 in Fairbanks on Friday at the Brice, then turned around and traveled to Omaha for a WCHA-opening series, which the Mavericks swept.
UAA last week opened the season by winning its own Kendall Hockey Classic, and 1-0-1 is a good start to the season, and the same start UAA got off to last season, when it beat Nebraska-Omaha and Mercyhurst to win the Brice and get off to a 3-0-1 start.
We'll get a much better handle on UAA soon. After the Brice, the Seawolves play at No. 2-ranked North Dakota and then have an idle week before entertaining No. 1-ranked Minnesota. That's some tough sledding.
And remember, fans, this is the last season of the WCHA as a power league, so you might want to catch the Minnesota home series. After this season, the WCHA becomes the college hockey equivalent of a mid-major conference or something lower. All the big dogs are headed to the two new leagues.