Anchorage Wolverines' key contributors feel at home on the road ahead of NAHL semis

May 16—This weekend's series against the top-seeded Lone Star Brahmas of Texas in the semifinal round of the NAHL's Robertson Cup playoffs in Blaine, Minnesota, is technically a continuation of a road trip for the Anchorage Wolverines.

While the games will be played on a neutral site at the Fogerty Ice Arena, they will also serve as another homecoming of sorts for a pair of players who have been vital to the Wolverines' success in the postseason.

Forwards Tyler Hennen and Cole Christian are the Wolverines' leading goal scorers through seven playoff games, and both grew up in Minnesota and call the state home.

Christian, who leads the team with five goals, hails from Duluth, just over a two-hour drive from where the team will be playing in suburban Minneapolis. Hennen, who is hot on his trail with four goals, hails from Hallock, about 378 miles northwest and a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Blaine.

"It'll be pretty cool being back down here," Hennen said. "A lot of my friends and family will be here so it'll be nice."

Hennen is expecting his family and a bunch of friends enrolled in Minnesota schools to make the trek to see him play for a chance to advance to the finals. His dad attended their series-clinching win over the Wisconsin Winidgo in the Midwest Division finals last weekend.

Christian says both of his parents, his brother and perhaps some childhood friends are coming down for the games this weekend. He plans to share meals with them when he has some downtime.

"It's pretty cool that I get to do it back home," Christian said.

Christian grew up a fan of the Minnesota Wild in the NHL and used to drive down to watch games. While he dreamed and envisioned himself playing in big postseason games in the home state one day, he never thought it would be as part of a team from Alaska.

The Wolverines face Lone Star at 1:30 p.m. AKDT on Friday and Saturday in the best-of-three series. If a Game 3 is needed, it will be played at noon Sunday. The games can be streamed on NATV, and the team is having watch parties at Matanuska Brewing Co. in Midtown Anchorage on Friday and Saturday.

Hennen and Christian first crossed paths about a year and a half ago and briefly played on the same line in the Elite league. They have enjoyed playing together again and are happy to contribute to the Wolverines' success in a major way during the playoffs.

"I think both of us have definitely stepped up here and have been clutch for our team in the playoffs so it's nice to finally be getting on the score sheet again," Hennen said.

Christian credits the players around them for setting them up for scoring opportunities by "making good plays, which always helps."

"Honestly, we've been playing great as a team, and I think if we continue that, we'll have success down the road here," he said.

Christian says the team's confidence and expectations are high heading into this weekend's series. The Wolverines were able to pull off a sweep of the Windigo last weekend and stayed in the Lower 48. That's allowed the players to get a much-needed relief from action.

"I think it will be very beneficial with us having rested up and coming to Minnesota earlier than the other teams," he said.

The first NAHL game Hennen attended was to watch his brother Hayden, who was on the Wolverines' inaugural team that made it all the way to the Robertson Cup title game. He believes that this year's team has what it takes to get the job done as long as they stay true to what got them to this point.

"I think we just have to stick to our game plan, keep playing how we've been playing, and I think we'll see good results from that," he said.