Friday, February 03, 2006

Wylie Scores!

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Rogers leads in shutouts
Staff Writer

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Put University of Alaska Fairbanks goaltender Wylie Rogers in the seat of airplane and he's asleep like an infant in a hospital nursery.

"It's not that I don't get enough sleep," the sophomore said after Tuesday's hockey practice at the Carlson Center. "It's just that I'd rather be sleeping than sitting on a plane and listening to people talk around me, or having that uncomfortable, awkward silence between you and a passenger. I'd rather just sleep."

For the two seasons he's taken road trips with the Nanooks of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association, Rogers falls asleep on a plane right after he sits down and fastens his seat belt. "It's a skill like anything else," Rogers said. "It's something that takes practice ... practices makes perfect."

Practice also led Rogers to a perfect night of goaltending last Saturday and a precedent in UAF history. Rogers stopped 31 shots in a 3-0 victory over Ohio State, securing a split of the weekend series at the Carlson Center and making the Rogers the Nanooks' all-time career shutouts leader with five. "He was sharp the entire game and he made the saves when we absolutely needed him to," said UAF head coach Tavis MacMillan. "You didn't see him with overmovements Saturday night. You saw him compact and you saw him playing with a lot more control than he has recently." Rogers had previously shared the UAF career shutout mark of four with Todd Henderson (1990-93) and Preston McKay (2000-04). Rogers saw the Nanooks fall 5-1 Friday night to the Buckeyes, and he remembered last season's road trip to Columbus, Ohio. He was in the net each night at the Value City Arena, where the Nanooks fell 2-1 and 5-2, respectively, to the Buckeyes on Dec. 3-4, 2004. "It did cross my mind, the frustrating feeling after Ohio State last year," he said. "But I think these are two new teams--we're not the same team as last year and neither is Ohio State. I had to take it like a new game; but, of course, if I'm 0-2 against a team, I want to get some redemption."

Rogers is often modest in his 5-foot-10, 178-pound frame, as he cares more about a Nanooks victory than he does a personal achievement. It was easy, though, to savor Saturday's milestone. "It's like a feather in my cap, and now that I've reached it, it's something I want to defend, obviously," he said. "If that gets me to play my best every single game, then that's great. "But it's a team accomplishment, too. I wouldn't have had five shutouts if it wasn't for the guys on the team." Rogers is grateful for his teammates' defensive efforts, whether they're blocking shots, clearing rebounds or clearing traffic out from in front of the crease to give him a clear view of oncoming shots. "That's just more motivation for me, that's more fuel for my fire," Rogers said. "It's just a landslide effect when someone does something great and everyone on the team feels it. It impacts every player on the team in a positive way, whether it's me making a big save or (sophomore defenseman) T.J. Campbell taking a slap shot off the chest or (junior defenseman and tri-captain) Jordan Hendry getting the puck on a must-out. "Everything like that has a positive effect on the team. I think it's not so much what they do to help me, but it's what every single guy on the team does to help each other."

Though UAF sits in 11th place (6-10-2 conference, 10-11-3 overall) in the 12-team CCHA, the Nanooks sport the second-best penalty killing in the league at 87.3 percent (151 denials out of 173 power plays). The Nanooks denied 15 of 16 Buckeyes power plays, including all nine Saturday night. "It's all determination," Rogers said. "We're determined to not get scored on and it's something we take pride in as a team. That gives a lot of chances for guys to shine." Rogers, who is scheduled to start in Friday night's series opener against ninth-place Nebraska-Omaha (7-9-2, 13-11-2) at the Carlson Center, ranks seventh among CCHA netminders with a 6-6-0 record, 2.46 goals against average and .920 saves percentage. His saves percentage also ranks 20th nationally in NCAA Division I.

The emergence of 6-foot-2 freshman Chad Johnson (4-5-3, 2.81 GAA and .914 saves percentage) and the steady development of 6-5 fellow rookie Brandon Cross has made Rogers work for playing time this season, following a standout freshman season.

Rogers played in 32 games last season, compiling a 15-12-4 record with a 2.88 GAA and .906 saves percentage. He earned a first-team All-CCHA Rookie Team honor and an All-CCHA Super Six Tournament Team selection after backstopping the Nanooks to third place in the postseason tournament in Detroit.

"All three of us push each other in practice," Rogers said. "Day in and day out, you know your job is up for grabs every day. I've got to approach every game like it's my last game, and I'm not one guy who wants to sit and watch the game from the bench."

Staff writer Danny Martin can be reached at or 459-7586.

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