Broncos Take on Nanooks Tonight

The Western Michigan hockey team will be taking on the Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks tonight and tomorrow night to open the regular season. Broncos Illustrated takes a look at the Nanooks as the Broncos try to start the season out right… with a pair of wins.

The Nanooks are a team of fresh faces… a lot of fresh faces.

The most obvious of those fresh faces is Tavis MacMillan, the first year head coach at UAF. MacMillan replaces Guy Gadowsky who left for Princeton in the off-season. "This will be an interesting year for UAF and for myself in my first year" said MacMillan.

The Nanooks only return 13 letter winners off of their sixth place team of a year ago. Adding insult to injury UAF also lost the services of goal scorer and goon Aaron Voros – who led his team in both goals (15) and penalty minutes (132) last season – who signed with the New Jersey Devils of the NHL during the summer.

MacMillan's squad also lost quite possibly their best senior class in a long time. Leaders like Ryan Campbell, Cam Keith, Felipe Larranaga and Preston McKay will be sorely missed this season.

Replacing those departed players are 11… that's right 11 freshmen. "Eleven freshmen is a lot of freshmen and it is certainly going to be a challenge, but I also think it is going to be one of the strengths of this program," said MacMillan. "I am very encouraged by the 11 freshmen that are coming in."

Leading the way for this freshmen class is Kyle Greentree who has been one of the top three scorers in the BCHL each of the past four seasons. Greentree is expected to spend time with the top scoring line and the top power play unit this season. "He will have an immediate impact in our lineup and will play a prominent role," said MacMillan of his star freshman.

Goaltending will be another issue for UAF to deal with. Senior Keith Bartusch (2.80 GAA, .912 SV%) is the only goalie on the squad with any amount of significant playing time at the Division 1 level. "[Bartusch] will carry the bulk of the load and he has the opportunity to be the guy. I think that he will rise to the task," said MacMillan. Sophomore Ryan Comeau has seen only spot duty so far and freshman Wylie Rogers – who is expected to vie for playing time – has yet to see action as the Nanooks have only played an exhibition game so far this season.

For the Broncos there are some fresh faces as well. Most notably is Mike Erickson – a transfer from Minnesota – who is expected to step right in on the left wing (his off side) of the second line and to park himself in front of the net on the power play looking for those always-handy "garbage" goals.

Daniel Bellissimo will add his name to the hat for the up for grabs job in net for the Broncos. The younger Bellissimo started in net against Brock playing well but don't expect to find out who is starting in goal until game time tonight.

Face off tonight at Lawson Ice Arena is scheduled for 7:35pm with the rematch scheduled for 8:05 pm tomorrow night as the nightcap to the homecoming football game. Tickets are available at the Lawson Arena ticket office beginning two hours before game time each night.

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