Thursday, December 29, 2005

Evan Trupp chooses North Dakota

It is appropriate that I mentioned in my last post the importance of getting the local elite players to attend UAA because it appears that one of the two elite players among 87/88 birthdays has made North Dakota his choice of University beginning the 07-08 season. It's difficult to know why a kid chooses to go outside rather than stay home and play for UAA. In some cases it probably boils down to the educational offerings. In some cases it would be because the kid is choosing a school based on its hockey program. Perhaps even a combination of those two things. In Trupp's case your guess would be as good as mine. The kid is tearing up the BCHL scoring-wise and initial reports had him selecting between UAA and three schools (Wisconsin, UND and New Hampshire) that have both superior educational programs and traditionally better performing hockey programs. It's a catch-22 for UAA's hockey problem as their path to consistent success includes landing kids like Trupp. Get the Felde's and Trupp's of Anchorage to come to UAA and the hockey program will benefit. Lose guys like that and they build success on the ice for other programs a la Matt Carle and Brian Swanson (and countless other talent that went outside).

I suppose all Coach Shyiak and Co. can do is make their best pitch to these kids and then cross their fingers. Kids and their parents are going to make the decision that they think is best for them. I guess I'd just like people in that position to realize that success on the ice individually (i.e ... chances to turn professional) no longer is the exclusive domain of outside Universities. The UAA program is in the best league in the country and a talented player is going to get noticed regardless of who he plays for. Over the next couple of years we'll see if Trupp truly made the right choice. Naturally I have to wish him the best of luck in his hockey career but that doesn't mean it won't sadden this long time hardcore UAA fan.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Dave Shyiak CSTV Website Interview

As part of CSTV's regular Tuesday Chat Live series Dave Shyiak was today's guest. Click Here to link to CSTV's webpage for the complete text of the chat.

My Impressions:
Coach Shyiak is happy to be here and has a positive attitude. He knows what the problems are. He already understands how important it is to get the homegrown "blue chippahs" in the fold. I'm very pleased with everything I've heard him say.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Seawolves vs. Nanooks Preview

This coming weekend in Fairbanks there's gonna be a fight. It's a New Year's weekend in a semi-rugged midsize Alaskan frontier town. It has bars. There'll be lots of people in the bars. They'll be drinking lots of adult beverages and as will happen in such places someone will cross the line and someone else won't like it and you've got a bar fight. Fairbanks is progressive enough to have bouncers though so even though it is a rugged frontier town such things rarely (if ever) rise to the "good old fashioned" bar fight stage. Ahhh ... Civilization has replaced chaos and I suppose we're all better off for it. Besides ... there is still hockey. In Fairbanks this weekend the Carlson Center is the place to experience a taste of the old fashioned. It's always a barn-burning in-your-face toe-to-toe fight.

This weekend is the end of this season's fight for the Governor's Cup. I've never seen the actual Governor's Cup. I don't know if it is bowl shaped or chalice-like. I don't know if its brass, bronze, silver or gold. Is it big or could you drink a cuppa joe out of it? It doesn't matter to me. It's a symbol of hockey dominance in the state. Most importantly to me: have any UAA players seen it? Ya know ...the owner has all the bragging rights. If UAA fans and UAF fans were locked in a room together to argue about which team is better; the UAF fans don't have to say a word. They just have to point to the cup (whatever it looks like). That's easier than saying 10-5-1 (UAF's record vs. UAA over the last four years). That fine record is a result of some brutal hockey games. 5 games won by a single goal. 5 games won by two goals. 5 games won by 3 or more goals. Virtually every contest has been a bitter fight regardless of the score. UAA and UAF players have much notorious hatred for each other. The Governor's Cup series defines the word bitter in "bitter rivalry". Anyone even vaguely familiar with this series has a sense of the bitterness. It is in fact the only thing you can predict about this series with any measure of accuracy. It'll be bitterly fought. And No; the answer to the important question is ZERO UAA players have "seen" the cup from anywhere except across the ice.

Will UAA "see" it this weekend? Unpredictable. It isn't out of the realm of possibility but in order to do so, many things will have to come together for the UAA hockey team. They'll have to get good goaltending. They'll have to play their best defensively (both 5 on 5 and shorthanded). They'll have to find ways to put the puck into the net. Over the last 7 games UAA has been doing mostly all those things. Nathan Lawson has played 5 and 2/3rds of those 7 games and UAA is 3-4, which is substantially better than the previous 7 games where UAA posted 1-6-1 record. Nathan is healthy and seems to be back on top of his game. Defensively UAA has been steadily improving throughout the season. Coach Shyiak no doubt has harped on the team about being responsible in thier own end. They're all pretty much giving it up for the cause by blocking shots. They're closing off passing and shooting lanes well. The penalty kill has become quite respectable when compared to the sieve it was last year. The offense? ... um well lets just say it hasn't turned anyone's head. That could be a problem this weekend.

If UAA players can score 3 or 4 goals each night this weekend they have a damn good chance to "see" the Governor's Cup for the first time. If not then I hope they packed the opera glasses because that's the only way they'll get a close up.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Recruit Update

For the first time in the history of the hockey program UAA has completed a recruiting class during the early signing period. On paper the 06-07 UAA recruiting class is probably the most talented class ever to commit to the school. Coach Shyiak along with his hardworking assistants Keith Morris and Jack Kowal deserve a huge pat on the back for a job very well done.

From the research I’ve done I’d say that four of the seven recruits they’ve signed appear to be fully-fledged studs. Erik Felde, Josh Lunden, Ken Selby and Kevin Clark are all performing exceptionally well in their current junior leagues. Felde and Lunden play in the British Columbia Hockey League while Clark and Selby are skating in the Manitoba Jr. Hockey League.

On December 7th the CJAHL (Canadian Jr. A. Hockey League) held a prospects game in Yorkton, SK. In conjunction with NHL scouts this first ever tournament invited 40 of the top players from across all the Canadian Jr. A leagues. Felde, Selby and Clark were all selected to play in the tournament on the West team. Erik Felde was named player of the game from the West squad. Ken Selby won the fastest skater competition. Click here for the game report.

This was a high-end prospects game featuring the 40 best Jr. A players in Canada. And three of those top 40 are coming to UAA next year. Sweet.

Here are their current numbers:
Lunden – Chilliwack – 33games 22g-30a (3rd overall)
Felde – Vernon – 35games 14g-31a (14th overall)
Selby – Dauphin – 36games 25g-16a (17th overall/6th in goals)
Clark – Winnipeg S. 36games 27g-27a (7th overall/5th in goals)

Jon Olthius was named as one of the three goalies for the Interior Conference BCHL All-Star team. Erik Felde was also named to the same team. It’s worth noting (for any number of reasons) that Josh Lunden is playing on a line with two other high scoring BCHL forwards on what is probably the top line in the entire league.

Here is a link to the schools announcement for all 7 recruits. There are lots of interesting comments from the players current coaches as well as Shyiak's comments about each player. Good Stuff. Give it a look.

Monday, December 19, 2005

What's Coming Up

I'm hoping to provide some quality content but as of now those things are still "in the works". I will be focusing here on all things related to UAA Hockey but from time to time will probably find other interesting or fun things to fill space. I've only had this up for a little over 24 hours and it was nice to get a mention on the Western College Blog and I hope I live up to expectations. I'm a homer and I'm not going to apologize for being so. BUT ... with that said I've also learned many valuable lessons in humility from time to time and I'll try to apply those lessons when writing here. Those readers that know me from the USCHO Fan Forum should see only the best side of Drop The Puck here. Please feel free to comment as you wish.

In the next few days look for an article about UAA incoming recruits. My plan is to have some regular interviews and profiles as well as a regular post-game/series analysis. I have a couple of interesting stories from past seasons that I'll try to share as well (time permitting).

Preseason Preview: 3 Months Later

Both in order to give this Blog some content and to let anyone that wants to call "shenanigans" for my overly optimistic writings I'm posting the Seawolf Preseason Preview that I wrote at the beginning of September. It's unedited (except the formatting).

The Seawolf website was invaluable to me in compiling this preview and I’d like to especially praise whoever writes the player profiles.

In 04-05 the Seawolves gave up 3.5g/g and scored 2.5g/g for the season. 3 seniors departed accounting for 15 goals out of the 94 goals the team scored. The fan base, media and team all recognized that defensively the team was all too often ineffective (132ga on 1432 shots). 05-06 returning players account for 64 percent of 04-05 goals. A starkly unusual number of injuries sidelined a number of key and promising players throughout the season. I can’t find a reference to the number of games missed due to injury but it is safe to say it was higher than any other Seawolf season where that stat was kept. The power play was generally an exercise in futility (13.6) and on the PK was less than stellar (21.8). Suffice to say the numbers weren’t pretty.

Key Returning Players:
Justin Bourne - Jr. 6-3 195
Justin is the son of 4 time Stanley Cup winning Bob Bourne of the NY Islanders. The genetic link is clear when you see that Justin plays with the same determination that his father displayed. Not being an Isles fan though I suppose it wouldn’t be fair for me to say that Justin is a better skater than his dad … but anyway the “kid” has good wheels. Last year Justin scored 12g and had 11a finishing second on the team in scoring by only 2 points. It’s doubtless that we’ll see better numbers this coming season. Upperclassmen like Justin are usually expected to increase their output and I don’t find any reason here to buck that logic. Justin is a matured, disciplined and determined forward that will pose a threat to every opponent on every shift.

Charlie Kronschnabel – Jr. 6-3 209
Charlie is a walk on at UAA who scored 22pts as a freshman (9g13a) and 21pts in his second season (9g12a). Charlie was also the teams best faceoff man. He’s quite comfortable in front of the net. Like Bourne I think its fair to have the same expectation that goes with being an upperclassman. Charlie is hard working and usually makes the most of his opportunities.

Shea Hamilton - So. 5-11 199
A talented goal scoring forward Shea played in only 19 games last season due to injury yet managed 7 goals (4th on the team). Shea is a good skater who can also use physical play during the forecheck to make things happen. He was named tournament MVP in last seasons Nye Frontier Classic after scoring two PP goals vs. Minnesota in the championship game. It’s not unreasonable in my mind to think that Shea could increase his output to anywhere between 14 and …um … 20 goals? Shea is definitely a kid that plays with his heart on his sleeve while leaving it all out on the ice.

Merit Waldrop – So. 5-10 184
Merit led the freshman class last year with 5g and 9a. More than once last season it crossed my mind that he was sort of “snakebit”. He seemed to hit lots of iron while taking the 3rd most shots on the team. Merit is a shifty quick and highly manuverable skater with soft hands. He’ll need to find the mark more often to help the team and hopefully his summer play in the SEHL (finishing 2 overall in league scoring between Chris Fournier and Nate Thompson–recently signed a two way contract with the Bruins). I see double figures in goals.

Eric Walsky – So. 5-11 196
Eric is another talented forward who missed a ton of games due to injuries last season playing in only 16. His 3g and 4a were recorded over a period of 9 games from January 15th thru February 19th when he suffered a season ending injury. He also missed a good portion of the beginning of the season with a high ankle sprain. Eric apparently had an awful experience in the off-season with nasal reconstruction and I believe tonsils as well. Yikes! He said in the paper he expected to be ready to go by the start of the season. Will that all mean a slow start? Perhaps … but don’t underestimate this former Alaska High School Player of the Year; he can put the puck in the net and should become a more impactful player as the season progresses.

Ales Parez – Sr. 6-3 198
Ales is a playmaking forward who is very comfortable setting up behind the net. He can be very physical on the forecheck as well. Ales missed 13 games as a sophmore (4g17a) and broke his leg 5 games before the end of his junior season. As a freshman he led the team in scoring (6g22a). But Ales struggled for a good portion of his junior year (5g10a) but perhaps he felt pressure to put the puck in the net. He’s an outstanding assist guy and hopefully he start making other guys look great again in 05-06.

Chris Tarkir - So. 6-2 198
In his 1st season Chris scored 6g and 5a in 33 games. I like to compare Tarkir to Curtis Glencross in terms of the tools he brings to the rink. Like Glencross; Chris plays a game in the classic sort of western Canadian style where you always finish your check. He’ll prosper if he finds the right linemate and could have a breakout season. He’s definitely better than dark-horse pick to have a super-soph season. If Parez is allow to play his game Tarkir is the sort of player that could hugely benefit from playing on a line with him.

Chad Anderson – Jr. 6-4 217
A big good skating defenseman with good vision. Chad is effective on the power play both with his quality shot and crisp passing. He led the defensive scoring effort (4g11a) for the Seawolves last season. When he was a freshman I predicted he’d grow into a All-WCHA defenseman. I haven’t changed my mind.

Mark Smith – Jr. 6-0 191
Another player that missed the majority of the season due to injury playing in only 16 games. Smith had a very promising freshman season (5g16a) showing good attacking sense from his spot on the blueline. Mark is an excellent skater and carries the puck up ice very effectively. He should be an asset on the power play but struggled to score in 04-05.

Other returners:(whose contributions shouldn’t be ignored)
Justin Johnson – Hardest skating, hardest hitting, strongest player but snakebit when it comes to putting the puck in the net. Every team will remember when they play JJ because by the end of the weekend he’ll have put some serious body on everyone at least once. Good PK specialist as well.

Brent McMann – Also excellent on the PK and another hard charging physical player. Brent has never really had great goal scoring luck at UAA and the reasons for that are elusive because I’ve seen him score a few beauties.

Incoming Freshmen:
D- Shane Lovdahl 6-0 214
04-05 Cedar Rapids USHL (6g32a)(60games) – Top scoring defenseman in league (Second Team All-Star)

F- Jay Beagle 6-3 210
04-05 Calgary Royals AJHL (28g42a)(64games) – 1st team all star (south)

F- Adam Corrin 6-1 190
04-05 Winnipeg South Blues MJHL (36g40a)(63games) – 5th in league scoring

D- Matt Robinson 5-10 170
04-05 Calgary Royals AJHL (11g15a)(38games) – 2nd team all star (south)

F- Billy Smith 6-0 186
Green Bay Gamblers USHL (14g18a)(55games)

F- Matt Jolly 5-11 198
Fairbanks Ice Dogs NAHL (22g32a)(54games)

D- Dustin Molle 6-2 231
Waterloo Black Hawks USHL (1g14a)(60games)

By returning 17 players from last years roster UAA positions itself to improve. I’ve listed the key contributors above and I believe those 9 players will be the core group that provides the performance necessary to come close to the 29 to 31 points it is likely to take in order to finish 5th. I see close to 100 goals from that list. There are several changes that should help facilitate that goal. Dave Shyiak has an excellent reputation and past statistics show he can deliver coaching both the PP and the PK. That will help the goals for / goals against ratio. An increase of .5g/gm and a corresponding decrease of .5g/gam is within their grasp considering that this core group of 9 that I’ve listed will likely all improve their stats from 04-05. I’m fairly jazzed about the incoming freshman but expecting anything from a freshman is folly in most cases in the WCHA. UAA will get consistently high quality goaltending as well from both DeCaro and Lawson. It’s pretty clear that Lawson should get the majority of games. Both proved they had the ability to carry the team on their backs if necessary. Another positive is a major change in the scheduling philosophy. In past seasons UAA took an extended break during the xmas/new year holiday; sometimes as long as 5 weeks (must have made it seem like starting the season over in Jan to the players). This season UAA has filled that hole and plays a series the weekend before xmas against CC at home and then travels to FBX on the 30th and 31st.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Halfway Through the Season

With half the D-1 hockey season gone I've finally made up my mind to post a Blog. I'll make updates as regularly as possible.

This season began with high hopes (in my mind at least). During the summer, UAA quickly hired new Head Coach Dave Shyiak after former Head Coach John Hill decided to go back to being an assistant coach. All signs pointed to an improved season but at this point a disappointing record of 5-12-1 is the reality.

After a nice 6-3 win over RPI in the season opening Nye Frontier tournament, UAA lost to Vermont 2-0 in a tight defensive game. After a split with bitter rival UAF the Seawolves began their WCHA league schedule and went 0-6-1 in its first 7 games including a couple of embarrassing loses to Minnesota and MSU-Mankato. In some of the losses UAA played well. Beginning with Minnesota-Duluth UAA began a three series trend of losing on Friday and winning on Saturday. The final home series of 05 just concluded and UAA did manage to end the Friday/Saturday trend by losing twice to Colorado College.

The team is capable of playing well and has shown they can play well in about half of their games so far. Its a fairly young team with a new coach and many improvements are apparent. The penalty kill is much improved. Defensively the team is beginning to find an identity that should serve them well in the second half of the season. Offensively the team is having a struggle of immense proportions. After opening with 6 goals in their first game they've managed to average only 1.6 goals per game and were shutout 3 times. It's difficult to identify the reasons for this offensive horror show. There are talented and hardworking players (a combination that should be more fruitful) throughout the lineup. I'll try to provide some player profiles through the rest of the season.

Its been difficult and frustrating as a fan but looking with an optimistic eye allows me to still hope for better.