Monday, August 21, 2006

The Sophomore Class

Shane Lovdahl, Adam Corrin, Matt Jolly, Mike Rosett, Mat Robinson and Jay Beagle are the 06-07 Seawolf Sophomore class. Leaving Rosett out of the discussion (only for the moment), 4 out of these 5 returners played a full load of minutes in their rookie season. Lovdahl played 30, Corrin played 30, Robinson played 35 and Beagle played 31 with Jolly skating in 8 games. It's a veteran class. A veteran class that got to fully experience the awesome joy it is to be on a team that won six games last year (5 of them were here ... that's nice ... sigh).

I'd imagine part of being a freshman on a WCHA team is a sort of deer-in-the-headlights glaze that's got to come over you a time or two playing in some of the road arenas in this league. Whether it's 10,000 automaton-prairie-susies (and it's thousands of images of a decapitated aboriginal adorning the Italian marble) interrupting the national anthem with their "and the home of the Siouuuuuuuuxxxx" crap; or the redundant spelling lesson from apparently repressed elementary school teachers escaping their corporate responsibilites at the Mariucci (hows that go? M-i-n-i-s-o-d-a?); or when the inevitable result of beer, brats and way too much cheddar in Madtown turns out to be cheerleading???; or even the beer induced rabble from St. Nothingelsetodoville overstuffed into a concrete mausoleum causing all the Polaris satin jackets to rub together and chirp like crickets; they're all distracting enough to make a rookies eyes go "What the fuck?". So what I'm saying is ... "What the fuck?" time is over for these guys. They've been there and done that. No more deer-in-the-headlights right?

I may have slightly overstated some characteristics of travel in the WCHA but the experience these guys gained last year should turn into benefits this season. Coach Shyiak at one point last season used the word "best" when commenting on Jay Beagle's play. A nice pat on the back no doubt for Jay in his first year and he certainly deserved it. He's got size and agility and really came on strong the second half of the season. I'd have to say that he looked like he figured out how to get himself into scoring positions much more often as the season progressed. His "off the puck" play was stronger and stronger as the season went on. I'd think he could earn himself a spot on the number one power play by the midpoint this year. There's definitely 15 (or more) goals in this kid that really need to show up this year. I'll use the Glencross comparison again and say that Mr. Beagle is capable of becoming that sort of player for UAA. Curtis Glencross did so during his sophmore year at UAA. He blew up. Here's to hoping Jay makes me forget Curtis and becomes the example. I didn't see him dogging it on many (if any) shifts last season and that tells me he has the desire. It takes that sort of heart and will to raise the level of every other player on the team. 15 goals could easily be called an unusually high expectation for a sophmore that only scored 4 goals as a freshman. Beagle though, should be the exception. But even if he manages 10 goals and continues to grow as player that'll be just fine too.

Shane Lovdahl's rookie season was a bright spot among the freshman class as well. And though he doesn't possess great speed he does have one of the hardest shots in the WCHA. Shane was also very responsible on defense (for a freshman) and all those games he played give him clear veteran status as well. Shane has some things to learn yet and I'm interested to see how Blair Campbell's coaching impacts his playing style. He seems well-suited to the stay at home role which is probably a good thing since more than half of UAA's other defenseman are quality skaters who like to carry the puck up. Shane keeps his head up and has good rink vision. His sophmore year should be more productive as I'm sure he'll see lots of power play time to take advantage of that rocket shot. Shane knows what it takes to win a team championship after being part of the 04-05 Cedar Rapids USHL championship. Who knows ... maybe UAA will be in contention in the WCHA when he is a senior? I wouldn't expect a huge increase in Shane's 4 goals and 9 assists except to say that it will be in proportion to the increase the team has in power play goals.

The freshman I was most excited to see before last season started was Mat Robinson. He came out of Calgary with all sorts of good buzz about his abilities as a skating defenseman. And in the first two games at UAA he put up 1 goal and 6 assists (1 goal and 2 assists in the exhibition vs. whatever Canadian school we played and 4 assists vs. RPI). His season total? 1 goal and 6 assists. I don't think its unreasonable to think that Shyiak probably asked Mat to play a defensive role last year. The fact that he played 35 games means that Shyiak likes the kid and the way he plays. I hope Shyiak also likes Mat's offensive upside. The kid has great eye-hand coordination and is as smooth a skater as UAA has. I mention his eye-hand abilities because frankly ... Mat is "Mr. TakeThePuckOffYourStick" ... he's quite possibly a poke check genius and he positions himself on the boards in his own end to steal the puck and skate away. In the RPI game Mat made a cross ice pass from deep in his zone that was definitely one of the best passes I've ever seen made. He has the best rink vision on the team and could grow into a powerful quaterback-style defenseman in all situations. Obviously I don't think that the role Mat played last year (in the last 33 games) really gave him a chance to be all I think he can be. Hopefully this season we'll get to see him put his best skills to good use.

Adam Corrin struggled to score last year after coming to us with reasonably good numbers in Manitoba the year before. It can be difficult for a freshman in the WCHA to adapt. Besides the deer-in-the-headlights "effect" the league is quite a bit quicker than any Jr. A league. Adam is a good skater and saw regular time as a penalty killer last season. He did well enough in that role but just never seemed to get on track 5 on 5. Though what could we expect from the 4th line on a team that only scored 68 goals? In my mind Adam just needs to gain some confidence. His experience last year (30 games) should contribute to that. If he doesn't find the confidence early he may find himself competing with a freshman for playing time. Matt Jolly is a difficult case to predict. In the limited number of times he played he didn't seem out of place. How much ice time will he see this season is a big question. The team won't be as deep up front as it was last year. Hopefully, Matt keeps in shape and ready until he gets his chance.

What is there to say about Mike Rosett? The kid goes from Junior B hockey to a walk-on backup role at his hometown school and unexpectedly gets called on to play. There's no doubt that first night at the Sully when "Rosie" relieved an injured Lawson that he had his deer-in-the-headlights moment. And in the 5 games he appeared in he put up an .897 sv%. It wasn't a number that would earn him any honors but nevertheless the kid did the job he was asked and looked solid to me. Hopefully he'll look good enough in practice to provide competition for the #2 spot with rookie goalie Jon Olthuis.


Suze said...

Another great job DTP. These sophmore player have a lot of talent, let's hope we see them play to the top of their potential this year.

I have no doubt that Beagle has the drive and desire, too bad he was sidelined in the UAF and a couple other games with that eye injury. Let's pray this season is one with few of those injury bugs going around.

Anonymous said...

when will you be done the freshman class???

Donald said...

I'm sure I'll get it done by Monday.

Suze said...

Looks like you'll have a Swede to add to the freshmen ... take a look at this website:

Red Wings 9th round draft pick.

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