As an independent team outside the six conferences in NCAA Division I men’s hockey, it makes sense UAF would appreciate underdogs.

But as the Nanooks teeter on the edge of snagging an at-large berth in the 16-team NCAA tournament, they’ll be fans of the powers that be when conference tournaments wrap on the upcoming weekend and the tournament field is revealed Sunday. That’s because underdogs can destroy the Nanooks’ dream.

UAF (22-10-2), which closed the regular season a week ago, sits No. 15 in the Pairwise Rankings, which mimic the formula the NCAA Ice Hockey Committee employs to determine 10 at-large berths in the NCAAs – the six conference playoff champs automatically qualify. But the Nanooks are effectively No. 16 because the Atlantic Hockey championship game pits Holy Cross, No. 43 in the Pairwise, against Canisius, No. 44. So, one of those two teams that sit well below UAF in the Pairwise is going to the NCAAs.

What the Nanooks badly need is for teams above them in the Pairwise to win their conference tournaments. The Nanooks will be fans of Boston University (No. 5 Pairwise) in Hockey East; Quinnipiac (No. 2) and Harvard (No. 6) in the ECAC; Denver (No. 3) and St. Cloud State (No. 7) in the NCHC; and Minnesota State-Mankato (No. 13) in the CCHA. They won’t sweat the Big Ten final that matches Minnesota (No. 1) against Michigan (No. 4) because both teams are locks for the NCAAs.

What the Nanooks really don’t want to see is Providence (No. 24) or UMass-Lowell (No. 25) engineer a Hockey East upset; or Colorado College (No. 36) or North Dakota (No. 18) succeed in the NCHC; or Northern Michigan (No. 26) pull an upset in the CCHA. If any of those teams win their conference tournaments, and thus an auto bid to the NCAAs, the Nanooks likely are toast.

The situation has become this for UAF: Two weeks of scoreboard watching and waiting, and no ability remaining to influence their postseason possibilities.

Yay, hockey!?

Photo by Miles Jordan/UAF Athletics

Meanwhile, three teams still alive in men’s D-I conference tournaments feature players from Alaska.

Providence, which plays Boston University in a Hockey East semifinal, includes senior defenseman Cam McDonald of Eagle River. The Friars advanced with a 2-1 overtime win against Northeastern.

Cornell, which plays Harvard in an ECAC semi, features sophomore forward Sullivan Mack of Anchorage.

And Minnesota State-Mankato, which battles Northern Michigan in the CCHA final, includes sophomore forwards Zach Krajnik of Eagle River and Tanner Edwards of Anchorage.

A couple of Alaskans saw their season end when top-seeded RIT was beaten in three games by seventh-seeded Holy Cross, which seized the series via Sunday’s 5-1 win. That marked the end of the line for RIT senior forward Caleb Moretz of Fairbanks and senior defenseman Calvon Boots of Fairbanks.

John Banovetz

The only other Alaskan still playing across conference tournaments or NCAA tournaments is Norwich senior defenseman John Banovetz of Eagle River. He had one shot on goal and one blocked shot in Saturday’s 2-1 overtime defeat of Plattsburgh State in the first round of the men’s Division III tournament. Banovetz has two assists in 25 games.

Norwich plays Endicott in a quarterfinal Saturday.

In women’s NCAA Division III action, Colby senior winger Tate Senden of Palmer closed her career in a 4-0 loss to Amherst in an NCAA tournament quarterfinal Saturday.

Senden racked 9-14—23 totals in 26 games this season, which tied her for second on Colby (18-8-0) in goals and left her solo second in assists and points. In 56 career games, she earned 17-18—35 totals. Senden’s freshman year was interrupted by back surgery and her sophomore season was limited to two games by the pandemic. But she was a force as a junior and senior, earning 16-17—33 totals in 44 games.

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