As many of us woke up very early on Thursday morning thanks to the time change, it was a chance to get out of the hotel and explore Anchorage. As the sun finally came up around 8:30 a.m., the mountains came into view. From our hotel, off in the distance, we could see Mt. McKinley, the world's second-largest mountain at almost 21,000 feet high. This was quite a site to see at breakfast every morning.
After practice on Thursday, our bus driver, Rick - who turned out to also be an Alaskan geographical and historical guru - took us on a tour of the area. As we drove out along the Turnagain Arm, we could see several glaciers and even the odd mountain goat. The size of the mountains really started to come into context the further we drove from Anchorage.
Two current Griffs, Doug Beck and Patrick Sullivan, played junior hockey in Kenai River, Alaska, which allowed them to chime in on what they knew about the area. Later that night, the Griffs attended the annual Kendall Hockey Classic banquet hosted by the University of Alaska-Anchorage. The dinner was accompanied with speeches from each of the four teams' captains followed by a magic show in which Mitch McCrank screamed in amazement throughout.
Both Friday and Saturday, the Griffs prepared for games against Alaska-Anchorage and Alaska-Fairbanks the same way we would for any other game. After our game on Friday night, we all went to the top floor of our hotel and watched the Northern Lights dance across the sky. Many had only read about how amazing the Northern Lights were but had never actually seen them. This was for sure something that none of us will ever forget. A tough loss on Friday against Alaska-Anchorage was followed by a win against Alaska-Fairbanks on Saturday, which brightened all moods for the long trek home late that night.
After another 14 hours of travel, back across those same four time zones, the Griffs finally arrived back in Buffalo. As our week gets back to normal, dealing with the large amounts of homework due to classes missed last week, and preparation for our next opponent, Western Michigan, all the Griffs can look back and realize what an incredible experience we had in Alaska. It really was a trip of a lifetime.
Until next week, keep it simple,
Braeden Rigney and Ben Parker