That's why when Doc DelCastillo resigned as coach last April, Alaska didn't travel far in their search for a replacement. The university stayed within the program, promoting assistant coach Dallas Ferguson, who has served as an assistant for the last four seasons.
The 35-year-old Ferguson played a large role in recruiting the current team that has 12 freshmen, 4 sophomores, 5 juniors and 6 seniors. Ferguson is confident the hands-on approach he and the recruiting staff took the last four years will help establish stability and create an identity.
"I think when I was hired, my familiarity with the school and program as a student-athlete and assistant over the last four seasons definitely played a part," he said. "I'm honored that they recognized my passion for everything this program and school stand for."
Ferguson is excited about the infusion of youth in the large freshmen contingent and believes the remainder of the roster will help them blend in.
"I've really liked what I've seen since the guys got back on campus," Ferguson said. "It's a great mix, and we've got six really good leaders in the seniors. They know what I expect and what type of game I want the team to play. I've noticed them passing that along to the underclassmen both on and off the ice.
"With 12 freshmen coming in, we need to help them fit in and come along," Ferguson said. "Our seniors are doing a great job of conveying my message to them."
While "hard work and being hard to play against" has remained the team mantra, the Nanooks will sport more depth.
"If you look from goaltending through the defense and all the way up through the forward position, we feel pretty good about who's going to be in and out every night," he said. "That's because we're deeper at every position. If you look at our team in past seasons, we've maybe relied on one or two guys to do the scoring and maybe our goalie to play the defense for us. Now, I think our strength will be in numbers, and as a result, we'll be harder to play against.
While Alaska will try to distribute scoring throughout the lineup, players like junior forward Dion Knelsen (4 points in 2 games), sophomore forward Dustin Sather and senior captain Adam Naglich are expected to carry the load. In net, Ferguson will use a 1-2 punch of freshman Scott Greenham (1-0-0) and senior Chad Johnson (0-0-1).
So with his team gelling and the team-wide depth coming to fruition, Ferguson is ready to make Alaska a desirable place to play.
"Like I said, I really believe in what we're building here and I plan on being here for a while," he said. "If we can build that stability and winning attitude behind the bench and on the ice, I think we can make this a desirable place to play."
On Campus clips -- Defending national champion Boston College started its title defense with an exciting 5-4 win against Wisconsin after raising the 2007-08 championship banner. The Eagles continue their title defense Friday when they host Bowling Green and then kick off their Hockey East schedule at Northeastern Saturday. ... If you're looking for a breakout team this season and a possible sleeper come tourney time, keep an eye on Northeastern. Coach Greg Cronin is confident last season's experiences have helped mature his team into a possible contender. "We won 11 straight, got some national recognition, but then faltered when we experienced what it's like to have everyone gunning for you," Cronin said. "I think that adversity definitely seasoned us and made us tougher mentally. That should help when we're battling for playoff position and trying to make the tournament." ... After skating to a 3-3 tie through regulation and overtime, Ohio State and No. 8 Miami went to the first shootout in Central Collegiate Hockey Association play and NCAA history. The Buckeyes prevailed for the conference win, as Corey Elkins, Zac Dalpe and Peter Boyd all converted their shootout attempts and Joseph Palmer made one save to win the shootout 3-1.
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