Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Skinny on the Bulldogs

There's a favorite way for the worst of fans on the internet to express themselves about a situation like UAA is facing this weekend. There's always some "Joe Bumpus" who chimes in with the "If we want X ... then we better not be losing to a team like U of whatever". It's a simpleminded way of both elevating their team and demeaning the other. I know this because over the past five or six years I've seen exactly that crap said about UAA over and over. They say it out of both ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance because easily 90 percent of the these "fans" don't bother for an instant to learn anything about their opponent. (I'm going to stop reading the USCHO fan boards ... there really is almost nothing useful there save for the occassional insight by 10 percent of fans).

An example of ignorance (maybe it was just laziness) this week would be whoever wrote the press release for UMD. It's been corrected; but the original stated that UAA had been idle since being swept by UND in Grand Forks two weekends ago. And that came from the UMD sports information department. I mentioned arrogance because regardless of the situation you'd never get that 90% to admit that it's possible their team could lose. And then when they do lose; it wasn't ever because the other team played a good game. It's always because their boys had an off night or the referee screwed them. I suppose it's the nature of famdom. I'll give props though to the UMD fanbase because I've seen less of that over the last few years from them than any other school in the WCHA. The truth is (ask any WCHA coach) is that every single night in league play has a lot of potential to be a real battle.

I sound a bit resentful about it because in the past I've always (at minimum) given the other teams roster and their stats an extended look. Since starting this blog almost a year ago I've found it impossible to write about another team without doing quite a bit more research than that.

So here's the product of that research this week. Another boring look at another opponent. I'll start at the backend of the lineup. Freshman goalie Alex Stalock has been superior pretty much all season for the Bulldogs. He's very mobile and handles the puck very well giving UMD that "third defenseman" in the same way Nathan Lawson does for our beloved Seawolves. His GAA (a stat that reflects team defense) is a very respectable 2.62 and his .903 save percentage isn't shabby. He's athletic and more than capable. Of note on the blueline is the talented sophomore Matt Niskanen who has excellent offensive tools. He can skate, pass and shoot with the best of WCHA dmen. He's currently the 2nd leading scorer on the team. The rest of the blueliners and the team's overall defensive efforts have been good enough to keep the goals against average at 3.08. Up front the players that will give UAA the most trouble are likely to be sophomore Mason Raymond (4g-7a), sophomore MacGregor Sharp (5g-3a), sophomore Micheal Gergen (3g-3a) and senior Bryan McGregor (2g-3a). I managed to watch both of the UMD -UMTC games on FSN a few weeks ago and I was fairly impressed with the guys I've mentioned above. By all accounts the team is playing hard enough to satisfy their fans as to effort. Junior Matt McKnight is injured and won't play this weekend. There's much frustration though with the squad's inability to score of late but in early season game against UMass-Lowell they put the puck away 7 times and lit up Northern Michigan early in November for a 6 pack.

The Bulldogs are perhaps suffering from a bit of the ol' sophomore slump rather than the preferred super-soph effect. With 10 sophomores in the lineup regularly that isn't what Bulldogs fans were hoping for. In my early season look at the WCHA I noted that UMD "should" see an improvement from their 11 wins last season. Sporting a 3-7-3 overal record with just 1 WCHA win in their first 10 league games it isn't looking bright in Duluth. The biggest mitigating factor in my mind is that 6 of their first 10 league games have been against teams currently in the upper tier (UMTC, DU, SCSU). Facing what should be a determined and focused Seawolf team here at the Sully probably isn't the best situation for UMD to begin to put any sort of streak together. But fear not for them as the rest of their December schedule is filled with games against teams that could gain them more than just a few wins (even if it is mostly on the road). Stylewise the Bulldogs play a classic WCHA game combining hitting (an advantage on their tiny home rink) and skating. We shouldn't see any major surprises in strategy from Sandelin.

So that's that. I wouldn't exactly call what I've given here any sort of great scouting report but it's a helluva lot more than the ignorant/arrogant internet crowd will ever likely produce to back up their bombast. I'll have a "keys to winning" post tomorrow and give any updates I have about what to expect from the Seawolves.

1 comment:

beersong said...

Looks like a fair analysis of the Bulldogs. Hopefully I can make a trip to Anchorage one of these years for a series - I only have there and CC left! May the best team win!

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