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Tuesday @ The Rink

CHAT LIVE With Alaska Head Coach Tavis MacMillan

Welcome to the CSTV.com moderated chat room!

On Tuesday, December 26 at 2:00 p.m. ET, Alaska Head Coach Tavis MacMillan enters the "Tuesday @ The Rink", presented by CSTV.com and USCHO.com. UAF squares off against in-state rival Alaska-Anchorage in the second weekend of the Governor's Cup Friday and Saturday.

Wayne Wilson

Head Coach Tavis MacMillan is in his third season at the helm for the Alaska Nanooks hockey team. MacMillan is 35-32-9 after his first two seasons as head coach and will look to continue to lead the team to excellence on and off the ice and raise the national awareness for the program as a top Division I hockey program.

In his young coaching career, MacMillan has guided his program to seven playoff victories over the last two seasons, a feat only equaled by the defending CCHA Champions, Michigan State; however, the Nanooks wins are unique in that all seven were upsets over higher ranked teams that occured on the road.

Last year, MacMillan enjoyed several sucesses with his team throughout the season, knocking off three No. 1 ranked opponenets (Minnesota, Michigan, and Miami) throughout the season, leading the Nanooks to their fifth straight Alaska Airline's Governor's Cup title, and leading Alaska hockey to the Central Collegiate Hockey Association playoffs for the second consecutive year.

A former Nanook star, MacMillan spent seven years as an assistant coach at Alaska (1996-2003) after playing professional hockey with the Alaska Gold Kings of the West Coast Hockey League. MacMillan served as a player and assistant general manager in 1995-96, earning second-team WCHL honors.

The Nanooks' fourth leading all-time scorer with 192 points, MacMillan tied teammate Dean Fedorchuk for the NCAA scoring championship with 74 points in 1993-94. He served as an assistant captain that season while earning Most Valuable Player and Scholar-Athlete honors and graduated from Alaska in 1995.

** GET YOUR QUESTIONS IN NOW!!: Tavis won't be stopping by until 2:00 p.m. EST on Tuesday, December 26th, and his time will be limited, so feel free to submit your questions now and we'll save them for his arrival!
CSTV.com Moderator: Welcome to the second of our "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats on CSTV.com. We're joined now by Alaska head coach Tavis MacMillan.
Coach MacMillan: Merry Christmas and a happy holiday season to everybody out there.

Joe (Detroit): You've said repeatedly that a few of your players, notably Kyle Greentree, have had to carry the load for the rest of your team all season. Do you see any changes coming to that after the break and has it been frustrating to witness?
Coach MacMillan: I'm hoping some guys step up. It has certainly, at times, been frustrating. It's tough for Kyle to have that responsibility. Even though he welcomes that responsibility, he needs some help from some other key contributors. We won't have success this season unless we get more support for Kyle.

Nick (Anchorage): How is the team responding to the very real danger of losing the Governor's Cup, given the advantage that UAA gained in the first half of the series?
Coach MacMillan: The guys take a lot of pride in the Governor's CUp. That home series was a tough one for us early in the year. We were 15 seconds away from being up a win and a tie. Instead, we're down a loss and a tie. More importantly, for our team right now, this is big two-game road series against a very good opponent. We will have to play great hockey Friday night to be successful. We win Friday night, then we'll worry about the Governor's Cup, but we're only worried about one game right now, and that's Friday night.

Rob (Anchorage): Does the success that both the Nanooks and Seawoles have had in conference play this season take the rivalry between the schools to another level?
Coach MacMillan: I don't know if it heightens the rivalry. Even if both teams were down, the rivalry would still be there. What's great for Alaska hockey - and I mean Alaska as a state - is that both teams having success will help both our programs in the long term. Believe me when I say that when we're not playing UAA, I'm the biggest UAA fan out there. I'm an Alaskan, and Dave Shyiak's a good friend. Let's face it: we play them four times a year, and that's good for the power rankings, right? The better both programs are, the better hockey is in the state of Alaska, and the better both of our programs will be in the long run.

Mark (Talkeetna): How has the name change affected the rivalry between the Nanooks and Alaska-Anchorage?
Coach MacMillan: I'll be completely honest: aside from the initial reaction when the change was announced, it hasn't really been a big topic of discussion in a negative manner. I've had nothing but positive comments from it all season long. The only people that pay a whole lot of attention to it are the Anchorage media. It seems to bug them more than anybody else.

Mark (St. Louis): Coach MacMillan, How much video work does your team do before a game for pre-scout and then after a game? Thanks
Coach MacMillan: We do a lot of post video work after games. We watch the video of Friday night's game on Saturday after it's been broken down, then on Tuesday nights we watch Saturday's game after it's been broken down. Then we do a Thursday pre-scout video meeting, but on top of that, we also do a lot of individual sessions with players, d-pairings, lines and with goaltenders. Video plays a very important part in teaching.

Jack (Anchorage): I was looking at your roster the other day and noticed that a majority of your team is from Canada and nearly all played juniors in Canada. Just curious why you do not bring in more American kids from American junior leagues like the WCHA and other teams in the CCHA?
Coach MacMillan: I think if you just look from a geographic standpoint, it makes lot of sense. The closest places to us are B.C. and Alberta. When you look at the USHL, it's basically embeddedi n the WCHA. There's several Minnesota schools, where you have a lot of recruits come out of state of Minnesota, and the strong influence of California kids, and they're playing in the USHL. With CCHA, there's a lot of Michigan kids, and we're a long way away from Michigan. And like Minnesota, Michigan has a number of institutions with hockey programs. So for us, when you look at investment and returns on recruiting dollars, it makes the most sense. If you look at Anchorage's recruiting over the next couple of years, they're doing the same thing. We're stumbling over each other constantly in recruiting. I think both schools have found a niche market, and we're doing very well in those areas.

Minnesota: Do you feel that your team would benefit from a split of the WCHA and the development of a new Pacific Coast division? One that would have the Colorado, Alaska and other teams from that area? Do you feel that it would benefit your program to have less travel time? Do you think this would benefit the CHA in the restructuring?
Coach MacMillan: That's a tough one. I think it'd be great to play in a conference with Anchorage, but I love playing in the CCHA. As a player, I played as an affiliate member in the CCHA in the early 90s, and I've been fortunate enough to coach in the CCHA for a number of years. There are great people in game and our league, with vision and experience. Anchorage enjoys something similiar in the WCHA, with great action every weekend. We play in two great leagues, in which parity is not a cliché, parity is evident in both our conferences, and it makes for exciting play every weekend. I think evenetually, over time, more programs will add hockey, hopefully western U.S. institutions. It'd be nice to see the growth of the game out west.

Joe: What are the biggest things you're looking to improve in the second half?
Coach MacMillan: I think consistency. I think you've seen, in the first half of the year, offensive production, and the defensive execution and goaltending haven't been there on the same nights. When we get great goaltending we win, and if we don't get great goaltending, we lose. That's not a slight on our goaltending by any means: we're just not good enough offensively to make up for an off night for our goaltending. Goalies are in a unique position. They're the easy heroes and the easy goats. Forwards can hide, defensemen a little, but goalies can't. And I can tell you right now, if we win Friday night, our goalie played great. If we lose Friday night, he probably didn't play very well. Right now, we're in a situation where we have to hold teams to two or less to get points. Along with that, we need more production from guys like Aaron Lee and Kyle Jones. These are good, hockey players who have proven they can score goals in the past. At the moment I believe they have one goal combined. We have to figure out a way to get these guys going again. If we can get these guys going and get some more balanced offensive production to help Kyle Greentree and Curtis Fraser, I think we can be very successful.

Josh (Fairbanks): You've done very well in the playoffs, especially given all the travel. Sitting sixth in the CCHA at this point, how big would it be to bring a playoff series to Fairbanks this year?
Coach MacMillan: It would be awesome. I've been fortunate enough to be part of and witness the playoff series that we have had here. This community really embraced those outings, and it was so much fun. But more importantly, if you look statistically, a ridiculous number of playoff victories come from the home team. We have had great success on the road, but we would much rather play at home.

Dave: Any key series you see in the second half that will be most important?

Dave: Any key series you see in the second half that will be most important?
Coach MacMillan: The next one coming up. It seems like the schedule is set up where we'll say the next game is our biggest game of the year until the end of year. It's not a junior or pro hockey schedule with 80 games. The best thing about college hockey is that every game counts. We start with the two Governor's Cup games in Anchorage. Then we're at Ohio State, at Michigan State, home to Michigan, at Bowling Green, home to Miami, at Western, home to Notre Dame, and home to Omaha to finish it. That's a great schedule. If you're a competitive person, that's the type of games you want to play in every weekend. It's not going to be easy, but again, that's what makes this league and competitive D-I athletics so much fun: the understatnding that prepartaion is so important to this game. If you're not prepared, you're not going to be successful, but if you are prepared, you are going to be successful.
CSTV.com Moderator: That's all the time we have with Coach MacMillan this afternoon.
Coach MacMillan: Once again, have a safe and happy holiday season. Whoever you're a fan of, wherever you're from go out and support Divison I college hockey. It's a great game that is supported, played, managed and coached by great people who care about a great game. Support around the country is very important to the growth and stability of our game.
CSTV.com Moderator: That will do it for today's "Tuesday @ the Rink" chats. Be sure to check back for info on next week's guests.

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