Alaska Fairbanks Release

The Western Michigan University hockey team (11-12-1 overall, 9-7-0 CCHA, 4th-tied) embarks on its longest road trip of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association season, traveling 3,500 miles to meet the University of Alaska Fairbanks (9-9-4 overall, 6-8-4 CCHA, 8th) this Friday and Saturday (Jan. 24-25). Faceoff at the Carlson Center is 7:05 p.m. AST/11:05 p.m. EST both nights.

Western Michigan owns a 12-8-3 lifetime edge over Alaska Fairbanks in a series that began in January, 1993. The Broncos will be making their third trip to Fairbanks in as many years. UAF captured last year's series, 2-1-1, taking three of four points at home.

All-TIME: WMU leads, 12-8-3 @ UAF: WMU leads, 6-4-3


LAST YEAR'S SERIES

Alaska Fairbanks gave a preview of things to come when its managed a weekend split against Western Michigan on the opening weekend of play. UAF posted a 7-3 win before WMU answered the next night with a 5-4 overtime triumph. Last January, the teams met in Fairbanks, skating to a 4-4 overtime tie before UAF recorded a 6-3 win in the series finale.

WMU'S LAST FIVE

Jan. 18, 2003 — WMU 4, Miami 1
WMU completed a weekend sweep versus Miami, producing a 4-1 win. Dana Lattery notched a hat trick to the lead the Broncos, who held the RedHawks to 0-for-9 on the power play. WMU prevailed despite being outshot, 27-16.

Jan. 17, 2003 — WMU 3, Miami 2
Western Michigan scored a pair of third period goals to pull out a 3-2 win at Lawson Arena. Despite being shutout for two periods, Miami claimed a 2-1 lead with goals scored 3:56 apart early in the third period. Vince Bellissimo's second tally of the game with 6:26 left in regulation proved to be the game-winner.

Jan. 11, 2003 — WMU 4, UM 3
WMU rallied from a 3-1 deficit with 12 minutes left in regulation to pin a 4-3 loss on Michigan at Lawson Arena. Vince Bellissimo scored a pair of goals 3:37 apart in the third period and Dana Lattery added the game winner 3:55 later. WMU had been outshot, 22-8, after two frames.

Jan. 10, 2003 — UM 10, WMU 3
The Wolverines put seven goals on the board in the opening 20 minutes to roll to a 10-3 victory at Yost Arena. The seven goals were the second most ever allowed in a period by a WMU team. Jed Ortmeyer scored four goals for the Wolverines, while Jeff Campbell scored twice for WMU, which surrendered its most goals in six seasons.

Jan. 4, 2003 — WMU 4, Findlay 1
Pat Dwyer scored just 14 seconds into the game and WMU never trailed in recording a 4-1 non-conference win over Findlay at Lawson Arena. The Broncos scored three times in the first period and outshot the Oilers, 35-22, to halt a four-game losing streak. Vince Bellissimo earned No. 1 Star honors with a goal and two assists.

SCOUTING ALASKA FAIRBANKS

The CCHA's Cinderella team last season, Alaska Fairbanks enters this week's action occupying eighth place in the league standings. The Nanooks are one of the hottest teams in the circuit, having gone unbeaten in eight of 10 games (6-2-2) after taking three points from Lake Superior State (2-2 OT, 5-2) on home ice last weekend. UAF was credited with 62 shots in Friday's tie against the Lakers. A team with just three seniors, UAF is led in scoring by sophomore Jared Sylvestre (8-11-19), who is flanked by Blaine Bablitz (10-7-17) and Ryan Campbell (9-8-17). UAF is a disciplined team, averaging a league-low 11.2 penalty minutes per game. Between the pipes, Preston McKay (3.85 GAA, .883%) and Lance Mayes (2.94 GAA, .909%) have split time. Fourth-year head coach Guy Gadowsky owns a career record of 46-65-18. He was named CCHA Coach of the Year last season, leading the Nanooks to the CCHA quarterfinals.

GETTING DEFENSIVE

Perhaps it was a wake up call, but since losing 10-3 at Michigan, the Broncos have been a different team, especially on defense. In three straight wins against ranked teams (No. 8 Michigan, No. 14 Miami), WMU has allowed just 2.00 goals per game and killed 19 of 21 opponent power play chances (.905). On Saturday, the Broncos scored their CCHA-leading seventh short-handed goal of the season en route to a 4-1 win despite managing just 16 shots on goal. During the three-game win streak, Jim Culhane has inserted an extra defenseman in the lineup, going with seven players back on the blue line.

SCORING RACE

One of the interesting side plots to the WMU season is the team scoring race, which features four players all within a point of top honors. Freshman Brent Walton (9-12-21) has stood atop the scoring charts for five weeks, and owns a one-point cushion over Dana Lattery (13-7-20), Vince Bellissimo (11-9-20) and Jeff Campbell (10-10-20). Campbell finished as WMU's co-leader in points last season while Bellissimo has been on a tear of late, producing nine points (5 goals, 4 assists) over the last five games.

MAKING A MOVE

Over the course of three weeks, Western Michigan has moved up four spots in the CCHA standings, going from eighth place to fourth, where there is a four-team logjam. This past weekend, WMU advanced past the .500 mark in league play for the first time since Nov. 1.

QUOTING CULHANE ON ALAKSA FAIRBANKS:

"It's a challenging trip, there are the adjustments to the time zones, jet lag and the bigger ice (Olympic sheet). We will be going up a day early to get acclimated to all the changes. UAF is coming off a very good season and has been playing well of late."

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