"You're playing WHERE?!"
When the Harvard men's hockey schedule came out for this season, one two-game series stood out as being remarkably, shall we say, different.
This morning at 5:30 a.m., Coach Tomassoni's team embarks on what will undeniably be a journey to remember, as the Crimson (5-5-1 overall, 5-3-1 ECAC) heads out to Fairbanks, Alaska, for a two-game series against the Nanooks.
Yes, the Nanooks.
If anyone knows what a "Nanook" actually is, please contact us ignorant continental Americans.
In any event, the 13 hours spent in the air getting to Alaska doesn't even approach being enough to prepare the Crimson for what awaits.
"We better pack our flashlights," Tomassoni said about the intricacies of such a journey. "I hear they only get one hour of daylight now."
(Well, Coach--the sun "rises" at 11 a.m. and "sets" at 2:30 p.m., although the effect approaches dusk more than it does daylight.)
The weather will not welcome the Crimson with open arms either, constantly pushing double digits--on the negative side of the scale.
"It's certainly not real warm up there," Tomassoni said. "I don't think we'll be doing any swimming or sightseeing."
Surprisingly, the trip to the land of igloos will not be the first for all of Tomassoni troops. Junior goalie Tripp Tracy once spent a summer in Alaska.
"I worked in a hockey camp there once, and got to see the longest day of the year there (a total of two hours without the sun)," Tracy said. "Now I'll get to see one of the shortest days of the year.'
But there will be hockey to play. Harvard takes on the Nanooks both tomorrow and Thursday nights.
The Nanooks have been far from impressive thus far this year, coming in at 5-10-1. But the Nanooks did knock off nationally-ranked Michigan St. earlier in the season in East Lansing.
The Nanooks' style of play has been characterized as typically "Western" revolving around more of a physical, clutch-and-grab type of game.
"I think it's important to see a different style of play," Tomassoni said. "Games like these can only make you better down the road."
Those dedicated parents (and yes, there are some) who will make the trip up to Fairbanks will see quite a different Harvard team. These tow games will feature several lineup changes for the Crimson.
Defensemen Ashlin Halfnight and Michel Breistroff will both miss the series. Halfnight will be playing in the World Junior tournament for Team USA in Calgary, Alberta, while Breistroff is representing his native France in the Izvestia Cup.
In addition to those absences, senior Steve Martins will sit out the first game, serving a one-game suspension for a game misconduct collected in the Dec 10 win over Colgate.
The Alaska games will feature other players getting an opportunity to see playing time. Keith McLean, a senior more used to logging minutes on the JV squad, will likely spell Martins in game one, and backup goalie Steve Hermsdorf will also get the start in the opener.
"How many times do you get to go to Alaska?" Tomassoni said. "A trip like this can only bring the team closer together."
How strange that the further a team gets from the Ivory Tower of Harvard, the closer together they become.
Eric Adelson of WHRB contributed to the reporting of this article.