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Saturday, September 30, 2006

1st Exhibition: UAA 9 - USNDT 2

Great to see the team tonight finally on the ice in a competitive game. Oops. I'd written the opening sentence a week ago for this post. Unfortunately, tonight's game was really not that competitive. UAA finished it's chances. U-18's (unlike last night versus UAF) didn't. I expected to be writing about things that the Seawolves needed to work on but based on tonights game that's very difficult to do. Most importantly though to me was confirmation that UAA's freshman class should have some impact this season. Kevin Clark was outstanding all night. Josh Lunden scored an absolutely beautiful goal late in the game. Paul Crowder showed great vision with his passing. Trevor Hunt and Nils Backstrom both looked like veterans.

Charlie Kronschnabel opened up the scoring for UAA with goals at 8:41 from Clark and Backstrom (on a 5min PP as a result of a somewhat soft CFB that earned last nights player of the game Jimmy Hayes a trip to the showers) and then at 14:31 from Cartwright. At 16:47 Merit Waldrop put UAA up 3-0 on Kevin Clark's second assist of the evening. The U-18's answered at 17:07 on a clean breakaway with Ryan Hayes splitting the D and beating Lawson low on the stick side. A minute later Shane Lovdahl scored his 1st of 2 goals on the night with assists from Bourne and Smith. 4-1 at the end of the first.

Josh Lunden scored his first goal as a Seawolf at 4:50 of the second period on a beautiful pass from Paul Crowder and a second assist to Clark. 5-1 at the end of the 2nd period.

In the 3rd period UAA ran up the score against what a Fairbanks fan called the "glorified AAA Midget team" on goals from Justin Bourne at 10:56, Merit Waldrop lasered a shot from deep and wide in the zone at 12:29, Josh Lunden beat two U-18 defensemen to the puck along the boards skated deep into the zone past them along the goal line and stepped out front to easily bury the puck on the prettiest goal of the night at 17:04 and Shane Lovdahl added his 2nd goal of the night at 17:30 with a high wrist shot from the slot. The second U-18 goal was a carbon copy of the first with CJ Severyn splitting the defense at the blueline and breaking in alone to beat Olthuis.

Goaltending for UAA was solid with Lawson facing 18 shots in a just over 31 minutes and Olthuis facing 10 in the remaing 29 minutes. UAA's shot total was a bit low with only 25 shots on goal. In a 9-2 win you'd think all the credit would go to the offense but tonight the defense lived up to it's early billing with a very solid effort. 4 of UAA's goals came on the PP but they didn't give up a PP goal. UAA comitted 9 penalties and the U-18's had 6 total.

It's a decent start and was fun to watch but I don't think it is necessarily indicative of what we'll see this year. It was after all an exhibition game against a bunch of 17 year olds; right? Results next week won't mean a whole lot either as UAA entertains Western Ontario down the road in Soldotna.

The Waldrop, Clark and Beagle line was dominant tonight. Justin Bourne looked like a different player than last year. Merit Waldrop is hopefully taking a step forward to become a feared goal scorer. I tried to notice everyone but it's hard to notice what every player does on every shift. I wasn't disappointed with Jared Tuton but will have to watch him more. Ken Selby's wheels are absolutely as advertised. Nick Lowe was more involved offensively than I've seen since his freshman year. And Cap'n Kronch showed intensity and good finishing skills by picking a rebound out of midair to score. There were UAA players in the slot all night long. They controlled and possessed the puck for long periods 5x5 with crisp passing and smart play. The defense broke up rushes consistently at the blueline both 5x5 and on the PK. Adam Corrin had as good a game as he had all last year both as a penalty killer and at even strength. Mat Robinson was paired with Luke Beaverson on defense and I think I really like that combination. The team never looked tentative. The passing was crisp. The attitude on the bench looked great.

All in all a pretty satisfying start.

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's Too Wet To Plow

UAF's Alaska Nanooks were the U-18's first D-I victim of the year winning tonight at the Sully by a score of 5-3. The U-18's jumped out to a 3-0 lead by playing a crisp focused first period with very very good finishing. The first few minutes were a little bit tentative on both ends of the ice with UAF getting the only real chances that were handled pretty easily as the U-18 goalie was very very steady. The first period also found the U-18 down a man on 4 penalty calls (3 of them questionable). It seemed to me that their better anticipation and skating "off the puck" was a key to that control as it allowed them to be where the puck was going before it got there. I'd give #12 Jimmy Hayes the 1st star of the game. He was able to step around just about any UAF player he was skating against whenever he wanted. Twice in the first Wylie Rogers was taken to five hole school but didn't learn his lesson and was beaten the same way in the second before they rotated to Chad Johnson for the second 32 minutes. The U-18's capped their scoring with a 5-3 PP tally to get to 5.

UAF mounted a valiant comeback about midway through the 3rd that they can take away as a positive but it never looked particularly dangerous. Kyle Greentree was their best performer on the night but I noticed at least one Knelsen and a Lee both doing well.

All that commentary aside, the U-18's finished their chances. The Alaska Nanooks didn't. Lastly, I'd love to understand the ticket pricing for this game. If someone knows the answer email me because around 600 people were shaking their heads trying to figure it out.

I hauled the gear to the game but doubt that I'll go to the effort again. It wasn't cumbersome but there's not that much upside in the process. The camera I acquired seemed promising to me but it turned out to not really be up to the task. If anyone reading this and attending future UAA games wants to email me good pictures of any game action I'll happily post them here and fawn all over you with credit for supplying them.

Linkages

Before I go watch "Alaska" play the U-18s I figured I'd fill the void. I plan to take a sweet-riding Mac G4 Titanium and a digital camera to the game tonight and use it as a test for the season. I'm hesitant because having that gear will mean that I'll have to change my modus operandi as a fan. I can't jump up at a moments notice and scream obscenity filled tirades at the referee's with a computer in my lap. So I'll find out tonight if that is how I want to do this. I don't want to change my experience as a fan so I'm hoping just to use the computer to take notes so I can give a more accurate account of the game.

Now to the linkages. Eric Carlson up in Fairbanks has been posting on his Alaska Nanooks Hockey site much more frequently as the season gets closer. From following their recruits with their junior teams to giving a rundown of all preseason activities to righteously griping about Ticketmaster and getting tickets to tonights game. Eric is "The Shit" when it comes to the Nookies so I'll try to link him often during the season. I know all of us UAA fans are anxious to know the scoop up there. I didn't give direct links to the posts because there's just a ton of stuff you should go read.

In the WCHA; the Wisconsin Hockey Blog has been detailing (and perhaps bemoaning a bit) the losses that Bucky suffered from last year's NCAA Championship run. But Badger Backer has a grasp on reality even if he is sandbagging the teams chances a bit. I feel sorry for them, don't you? Over at Let's Go DU dggoddard recently celebrated the 1st Anniversary of his Blog and has been doing his usual excellent job of tracking alumni, dogging the Sioux, copying/pasting articles from established media outlets and shamlessly plugging the website of some cat named Todd who has turned from hockey fan into Anchorage strip bar critic.. DG's self-admitted thievery is refreshing. Hammy at the Golden Gopher Hockey Blog covered da gophs Media Day. Lucia hates hockey in football stadiums and thinks upperclassman will determine the WCHA standings; me and Donnie are on the same page there (that's a bit creepy for me). The post has details about the players and new positions they'll play this year. The long summer slumber at Colorado College Hockey Blog has ended as cchockey posted his News and Notes a couple of weeks ago. They wake up slowly at 6,000 ft but I'll assume there'll be much more info there soon. Meanwhile MeanEgirl has a series of posts detailing MTU's skating treadmill and interviews with incoming freshman Axtell, Bunger and Vlaisavljevich. Nice to see MTU gives access for such interviews. I guess the Houghton "established media outlets" probably suck at covering the Huskies. Out in Mankato they've been busy covering alumni NHL aspirations. Sadly for them its AHL for all but Backes will probably get some time in a Blues sweater this season. Down in Goon's World there is much consternation over CHN's preseason all-american list as well as some questionable pics of his retriever on his can't wait to see exploding feathers post. RWD has recently totally ignored her blogging responsibilities but appears to have returned to use physics as some sort of excuse for that laziness, practice some text formatting, and detail the qualities of new volunteer assistant Bill Watson; all in one post! Finally, Kevin Allenspach at the St. Cloud Times continues his thorough coverage of St. Cloud.

That's a wrap up of all the WCHA Blogs that I regularly check. Go have a read.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Inaugural MITCH Belt

From time to time I comment on things other than Seawolves hockey here. Today I'm knocking around on the internet and find this story by Melissa Repko from the Columbia Daily Spectator published on U-Wire about Columbia's club hockey program being suspended for nearly the entire upcoming season. I shook my head too many times to just ignore it. Coincidentally, I've decided to begin to expand my posting regime by giving out an award regularly that is broad in scope. I have to admit it wasn't my idea entirely. First, I have to give a big shout out to Let's Go DU for his annual "Bad Boys" awards/list. Secondly, I saw a show today on MSNBC (for the first time) in which Keith Olberman gave out awards for the "Worst Person In The World". My impression is that Olberman gives that everyday to some deserving person. I'd like my award though to be a little bit different so I take my inspiration from professional boxing (and the USCHO Fan Forum's Championship Belt thread). The deserving winner of the Belt will hold it until earned by some other worthy soul.

MITCH stands for "Most {I} Throughout College Hockey. Just an {I}? Yep. There are so many deserving {I} words from which to choose ... Ignorant, Insensitive, Imbecilic, Inhumane, Imperceptive, Inattentive, Inconsiderate, Insensible, Ill-Advised and whatever other {I} words as may be applicable. {I} words that do not qualify for consideration are words such as Intelligence and Innocence. I considered calling the belt CHIMP based on the preferences of a couple of bored (but helpful) Registered Nurses however, "College Hockey's {I} Mutha Pucka" seemed a bit too Boston U for this O.G. North Coast Posse member.

Therefore it is with great pleasure that I announce the inaugural MITCH Belt is awarded to Columbia University's Athletic Director Dr. M. Dianne Murphy for her quite simply outstanding injudiciouness. Dr. Murphy has distinguished herself above and beyond the call of duty by suspending Columbia University's club hockey program until January of '07 because a recruitment flyer containing the phrase "Stop being a pussy" was distributed on campus without proper departmental authorization. Congratulations to Ms. Murphy for her excellence in acheiving the nearly ultimate height of injudiciousness that she's reached. It's an impressive accomplishment for an offense that was deserving of a wrist slap.

Jon Kamran also of the Columbia Daily Spectator published this article on U-Wire detailing reactions and updating the situation. I have to wonder how long it will be until some other qualified candidate comes to my attention. It'll be an interesting process to determine if someone else's {I} should or shouldn't take posession of the belt. I'll be on the case but if you see something you think worthy please email me or leave a comment in the whatever is the most recent post and I'll look into it.

USNDT vs. UAA Preview

The U.S. National Development Team (USNDT) comes to town for two games at the Sully this weekend. This Friday night they play UAF and Saturday they face UAA. It'll be the first chance to see the "new look" Seawolves in a competitive situation. What? Competitive? Am I high or what? It's just an exhibition game. I'm fairly certain that the UAA coaching staff is approaching this game as nothing other than a chance to shake out lineups, evaluate their players and tune their "systems". However, there is no doubt in my mind that the players won't be taking any shifts off. I played sports. I was involved in "exhibition" games. I didn't play any different than any other game. So what does that mean to a fan? It means that you can ignore the end result and focus instead on being glad to see the kids on the ice playing the game. That's what this weekend is all about. It's the first chance to see the 9 new players. Unless you've been to a practice that is. I took a trip to the sports center yesterday to watch practice. I was still unable to positively identify enough players (the whole helmet numbers thing) to make many definitive statements about much. The one thing I will mention is that Beagle, Clark and Waldrop look like the #1 line to me.

In case you don't know already the U-18 NDT is the premier development team for USA Hockey. Some of the best U.S. born 1989 players are on this team. USA Hockey maintains this elite team as a development step for World Jr's and ultimately the National Team. The team plays a regular NAHL schedule as well as facing a variety of NCAA D-I and D-III teams throughout the year. They recently won the NAHL Showcase last week in Minnesota going 4-0 with total of 25 goals for and 4 against. They faced two other NAHL teams last Friday and Saturday and won both of those games (6-4 and 2-1); so they come to Anchorage undefeated. Their roster is filled with "future stars" according to "established media outlets". Only a few of their players aren't already committed to D-1 schools with most generally choosing the top programs. Both UAF and UAA will be facing a more difficult test than the Canadian U's that are traditionally the usual preseason opponent.

It's a first this weekend for UAF. They'll be playing their first home game at the Sully. Since the USNDTer's probably weren't thrilled with travelling to both Anchorage and Squarebanks in one weekend; someone accomodated them and worked out this arrangement. Don't be surprised if a similar arrangement occurs next year up north and UAA plays it's first home game in UAF's arena. That's just speculation of course but what else can a "blowhard" like me do.

Lastly, I had plans for better content this week but my status as a non-"established media outlet" (i.e... Blowhard) killed that. Hopefully, my resultant nonplussed attitude (which stem's from a very shortsighted label applied to me by the UAA Athletic Department) won't affect too much of the content here. More on all that hoohaw at some point in the future.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

A Minor Facelift

More readable? I tend to think so. I've had a number of queries about the format on the blog. With the font choice (which by the way I very much like) and the green backgound some readers mentioned they had difficulty reading it. I'd hesitated to change it before now because it requires editing the blog template and making sure where color was defined as #006600 is changed to #000000 and that #FFFF33 is changed to #FFFFFF and then assurring that the "ul", "h2" and on and on and on references are correspondingly changed (and it all just seemed a bit too much like actual work). I tried the #FFFF33 background but settled on #000000 because it was sort of like UAA's third jersey and just a bit too loud.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Practice, A Free Ford GT and Jealousy

A serendipitous peek at my email inbox gave me a pleasant little surprise. There was an official practice today at 3:15. I headed over and watched Damon Whitten put the team through it's paces. It was pretty difficult to determine who was who since not all the helmet's had numbers yet and a couple of helmet numbers I saw today aren't even on this years roster. The forwards were dressed in black, gray, teal, and blue jerseys and the defensemen were all in gold. I'd assume those were indicative of some sort of tentative lines but honestly between my less than perfect eyes and the missing helmet numbers I'm not even going to guess. There were the usual skating and passing drills but it was good to see that everything they did included the puck. That tells me that conditioning is pretty much complete and the team can focus on skills. Coach Whitten saved the cool drill for last by bringing both nets to center ice and placing them back to back each facing the side boards. Teams of two forwards vs. two defensemen battled to score. The one thing worth mentioning is that after a 15 minute 2-on-1, 3-on-1, 3-on-2 drill the forwards earned themselves 25 pushups by not putting many pucks in the net. After the final drill the defensemen got their chance to do the extra pushups thanks to the forwards getting more pucks into the net. The players looked to be pretty competitive during those drills and (in my mind) that can only bode well for the team.

On the way home from the practice I heard the first radio commercial for the Nye Frontier tournament. At the tournament Nye will be giving away a Ford GT worth about 150,000 dollars. Nice. To be eligible you must go to Nye for a test drive and they'll sign you up. I'll make a trip to their dealership tomorrow. Merrimack, Nebraska-Omaha and Colorado College will be here and I'll post some info about Merrimack and UNO (UAA's opponents) soon. But since UAA ain't playing the Tigers I'll pretty much ignore them except to mention that this season they are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their last NCAA championship.

Lastly, I got word today that "someone" in the WCHA had questioned whether or not Nils Backstrom was eligible to play. I'm unsure of who initiated the question but suffice to say that I understand all the proper documentation is in place and so any lingering doubts should have therefore now been quashed. The concern arose from initial reports that he'd dressed for a game with the professional level team from his club in Sweden. That initial report was wrong as stated by the University the day after they announced his signing. Apparently, that wasn't good enough for "someone".

An Open Invitation

Having blogged now for the second half of last season and the seemingly neverending offseason I'm really looking forward to writing here for my first full season. I've learned much and hopefully my writing has improved over time. The hardest thing about blogging though is making this place more than just someplace for me to spout off. Don't get me wrong. I'm all about spouting off and doing so here is great. What I'm saying is that it isn't always easy to come up with a good idea or angle to post. And expecting people to come here to read nothing other than my thoughts on the Seawolves would just be stupid on my part. One idea that will come to fruition later this season is a "Blog Swap" with dggoddard at the Let's Go DU blog. During one week he's going to do all the UAA writing here and I'll cover DU on his. In light of all that I've thought more than once to solicit other opinions and viewpoints from within the UAA community of fans. So consider this your invitation to post here. Write something from your perspective and then send it to me at uaafanblog@yahoo.com.

I'm genuinely interested to make this blog more like it's "subtitled" identity ...

"A Place To Share Information About UAA Hockey"

And sharing goes both ways doesn't it?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

A Little Bit of Ketch-Up

After the semi-incendiary title of the last post how could I pass up an annoyingly bad picnic pun for this one? The Blueliner's picnic was this past Thursday. There were plenty of burgers, dogs, side dishes and soda along with one or two good natured barbs as condiments. Campbell Blair and Damon Whitten were righteously out of town scouting/recruiting. Coach Shyiak very ably handled the microphone and the various introductions including the lovely wives of the missing assistants. He then espoused a great deal of confidence that the product we see on the ice this year is going to be more successful than last year. He talked some about the hard workouts and after giving us the descending daily puke count (I forgot the first day total ... like 13 guys? or 10?) he turned the mike back over and the players introduced themselves. Dr. Cobb was prompted to interject by a less than lustrous team exclamation that the Governor's Cup would be returning to Anchorage this year. The result was a couple of very clear exclamations that such would be the case. The players handled themselves as you'd expect young men would; with a couple being comfortable, more than a couple clearly not diggin standing up talking into a microphone in front of large group and some sounding like they're just damned ready to get on the ice.

The highlight of the event was a gentlemanly cadre of rookies seranading 7 year old Sara(h) with happy birthday (a rendition generously initiated by Chad Anderson). I'm not a music critic so there's no fear of me bashing their singing; there was however a time or two where I thought I just might have heard something remarkably similar to a squeak; maybe.

There'll be some changes this season at the Sully. A section will be cordoned off and designated wet. Finally, beer in the stands at Seawolf games! That'll make plenty of people happy I think. Does it make anyone unhappy? Maybe a couple of people will show up to games that wouldn't have before. Maybe it's a place I can sit without people glaring at me like I'm evil incarnate for yelling bullshit? In between periods will also be different story this year. No longer will there be just some radio station slinging t-shirts. People remaining in their seats will be entertained in various yet to be announced ways. A big "good on ya" to the Blueliners for changes that will help more people enjoy the games at the Sully.

Just a couple more weeks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Language and "Islamo-Fascism"

The College Hockey News Blog is reporting that this coming season the Boston University Dean of Students is planning to give the boot to hockey fans that use profanity. Apparently the student section for years has been giving the business to Boston College with profanity laced chants and cheers. Long time formidable hockey writer Mike Machnik covers the issue in his post with a series of relevant questions. The real problem in my mind are the few who complain vs. the majority who aren't offended and therefore don't express themselves. My natural tendency is to be crude, rude and socially unacceptable so I can't really let this issue pass without commenting.

My first reaction to organized cheering at a hockey game is ... I don't get it. No doubt they probably chant some funny stuff. But, the fact that it's premeditated or rehearsed etc makes it seem so Jr. High School to me. BU isn't the only school that has student sections that go in for this sort of cheerleading. In the WCHA the Wisconsin student section has a well-earned reputation for the same sort of thing. One example though that immediately comes to mind is from the Michigan Tech student section who have a heated rivalry (ala UAA/UAF) with Northern Michigan. NMU had a player named Bryce "Cockburn" (pronounced "Co-burn"). I'm sure you can easily imagine the sexually transmitted disease chants that occurred. Like I said such things are sorta lame but I'd definitely chortle if I'd heard them.

But it doesn't leave others chortling. It pisses them off. Dean's of Students and Administrators want to protect the reputations of their schools and maintain what they call a "family atmosphere" at their events. Here's why they're wrong to try:

Words are words. Intrinsically no single word has any more or any less value than another. Yet human culture has a long history of controlling words for one reason or another. Current culture dictates that there are "bad words" we shouldn't say. We all heard from our parents that it was inappropriate to use those words. The hypocrisy is that virtually ALL of us use those words from time to time. OK ... OK ... some ultra-conservative and/or religious folks probably have never uttered the word shit. My guess is that those people must say that they have to "eliminate their fecal matter". Maybe they're not so formal and instead say "poopy" or "doodoo". It's not the best example to make my point because most people just excuse themselves and don't reference their defecation at all. I briefly coached a U-16 soccer team some years ago and attended a tournament in Squarebanks with the team. At one point in a game one of my players slipped badly on the turf and went down on his butt pretty hard; he was surprised by the fall and said something my grandmother probably would have said if she'd fallen in such a manner ... he exclaimed, "Oh shit". The referee immediately gave him a yellow card. I was dumbfounded then and no less so all these years later. We all laugh at stupid fart jokes in movies and television; ever see the PBS show BoohBah? It's designed for young children and has very little actual language but does have an almost unending series of fart noises (PBS defines them as "fluttering power hums") to entertain the little ones (make sure your volume is on when you click the Boohbah link). Farts are funny but the process that creates them are off-limits? See? ... I'm so not getting it. You can't type the word "ass" on USCHO's fan forum but you can type STFU* or WTF** all day long. WTF is that about? I've had other fans at UAA games report me to the usher-nazi's because I said "kick his ass" or "you suck ref" or tried to start a "bullshit" chant. Those people wanted to insulate their children's ears from such horrendous language. I've raised a kid. When appropriate I explained to her what was wrong with a particular situation. I didn't try to impose my standards on others. I wonder; would they have reported me if I'd said "hey ref, you remind me of someone that is orally inclined to ingest large volumes of air" or "use all your physical abilities to deter that opponent" or "that call was reminiscent of bovine excrement"? I'll try to start a "bovine excrement" cheer this year and find out.

I'm likely to get some crap for making my next analogy but what the hell; I'm doing it anyway. There's a group of people in the world that currently don't care too much for western culture. They think it's corrupt and vile. They've even taken action to voice their displeasure with our corruption. They did so 5 years and 2 days ago.

Anyone really want to sit next to me?

*Shut The Fuck Up
**What The Fuck

Monday, September 11, 2006

Coming To Anchorage?

These are my thoughts regarding where to stay, where to eat and where to go if you are planning a trip to Anchorage to watch your team get beaten by the Seawolves. I haven't stayed at many of the hotels, but I have eaten at every restaraunt I've listed and spent more time than I care to admit in the various bars. If you come here though and don't get out of Anchorage at all then you haven't been to Alaska. I'd like to invite comments on this post from anyone with other suggestions or if you've been here before and really liked or disliked something then feel free to let others know.

Hotels:
There are three primary areas in Anchorage where you would likely consider staying if you're visiting for a weekend of hockey. On the "westside" (near the airport) you have a number of good choices. The Millenium Hotel is often the host to visiting teams. It's situated on Lake Hood the worlds largest floatplane airport (it's mostly not too noisy ... except for the occassional idiot cheap-ass pilot that over-rotate's his two-bladed propellor causing mini-sonic booms when the tips of the prop exceed the speed of sound ... get a prop with three blades!!!). Next door is the Best Western Barratt Inn and across the street is a Marriot Courtyard. The Millenium has the best amenities with good food and a nice bar. The Microtel just off International Airport road usually seems to have good winter rates with chain-hotel quality but you might have a hard time figuring out exactly how to get to it. There's a Holiday Inn Express nearby as well as a few other local places that I wouldn't stay. In the "midtown" area you'll find a fair number of chain hotels (Motel 6, Marriott Residence Inn, Marriott Springhill Suites, Hampton Inn, Hilton Garden, Fairfield Inn) with the usual clustering of chain restaraunts (Applebee's, Friday's, SeaGalley, LoneStar Steakhouse, Stuart Anderson's Cattle Company, Boston's etc.). The downtown area has the most choices for lodging ranging from the upscale Hotel Captian Cook to the classic large scale Hilton and Sheraton to the local quality of The Anchorage Hotel. In past seasons the Hawthorn Suites has offered weekend packages that include UAA tickets and dinner at Benihana's next door. Each of these three areas offer pretty straightforward access to the Sullivan Arena with midtown and downtown locations offering the simplest routes.

Restaurants:
Club Paris (Best Steaks), Corsair (Best "Fine" dining), Crows Nest (Top of the Captain Cook Hotel "Fine" dining), Fiori D'Italia (Best Itialian Food in the weirdest location in Spenard*), Glacier Brewhouse (if you like "brewhouses" then this is your place), Gwennie's Old Alaska (Large Portions for Breakfast, in Spenard*), Harry's (named after that old cat who wouldn't leave Spirit Lake before Mt. St. Helen's erupted ... who knows what the hell that has to do with Anchorage but it's a nice place with great burgers and never crowded), Hogg Brothers Cafe (another great Breakfast place), Humpy's Ale House (Halibut Taco's, awesome soups and 42,653 different beers on tap), Mooses Tooth (Pretentious Pizzas and the granola-crunching crowd), La Cabana (great Mexican food downtown), La Mex (Grande Margarita's, good food and it's in Spenard*), Simon and Seaforts (Great seafood downtown overlooking Cook Inlet) Sorrento's (Awesome Italian Food but small dining room), Tempura Kitchen (Best Tempura in town and its in Spenard* to boot!), Greek Corner (if you can't get through a weekend without your Stuffed Grape Leaves fix), Romano's (Good Italian). There are also just too many restaraunts serving Asian-faire to even begin to list them... just ask someone since everyone has their favorite place to get Szcheuan Beef and Anchorage's Pacific Rim location means it's all very authentic. There are lots of other good restaurants like Orso and Marx Bros Cafe but I recommend them only on reputation.

Nightlife:
Blues Central (Live Blues with food and booze), Rumrunner's (a bit of a meat-market with DJ and dance floor), F-Street Station (Best Calamari in the world, plenty of booze), Darwin's Theory (downtown hole in the wall booze joint), Bush Company (Typical high-end Strip Bar, no cover charge, reasonably priced drinks, plasticized women), Peanut Farm (Sports Bar with a million TVs), Chilkoot Charlies (20-somethings meat-market with multiple bars and themes in Spenard*), P.J.'s (my neighborhood bar in Spenard*, Booze, Strippers and Darts).

Touristy Stuff:
There's the Alaska Native Heritage Center and the various tourist traps downtown (buy yourself an Oosik) but if you want to see something other than Anchorage then you've only got two choices. Drive north or drive south. A drive north out of Anchorge presents a good number of potential points of interest. The first is the exit to Arctic Valley Road which takes you up into Arctic Valley offering alpine views and a great view of the Anchorage Bowl. Next you come to Eagle River which is a bedroom community to Anchorage that thinks it's a real city. Their main saving grace is the road up into Eagle River Valley which ends at a state visitor center. It's a beautiful drive any time of year. Further on from Anchorage the next interesting destination is Thunderbird Falls. A very short mile or so hike from the parking lot and you come to a pretty waterfall. Obviously the winter and summer experience here are pretty variable. The next cool spot is the road to Eklutna Lake. Its a beautiful drive ending at a spectacular glacier fed lake. 10 miles or so further up the main highway and you're faced with the choice of continuing northerly or going in an eastern direction. To the north is the city of Wasilla and then the road to Squarebanks. The other direction takes you to the city of Palmer and then east to Glenallen and eventually Canadia. Going east is a far more interesting day drive. If you just have one day to drive around and check things out then you'll probably prefer to head south out of Anchorage down the highway that parallels Turnagain Arm. It's possible at various times of year along this road to see Dall Sheep, Mountain Goats, Eagles, Beluga Whales and the occassional Orca as well as the chance to see a bore tide. The road leads to Gidwood/Alyeska which is the local ski-bum town (where you can take a tram up to the Seven Glacier Restaurant on top of the mountain or eat at the much ballyhooed Double Musky Inn) then to Portage Glacier which is apparently the most frequented tourist destination (though November to April the place is a bust). You can continue your drive around the end of Turnagain Arm and head up into Turnagain Pass (if you've seen the Avalanche footage from 1999 with snowmachiners running down the mountain for their lives then you've seen Turnagain pass). I'd recommend driving the road to Seward if you have the time and the weather permits; its a somewhat quaint little berg on Ressurrection Bay which is the gateway to the Kenai Fjord's National Park. If you don't have the time to leave Anchorage then find your way up to the Glen Alps parking lot in Chugach State Park for spectacular views of Anchorage but be warned that the final approach to Glen Alps is via Toilsome Hill Road.

*Spenard is the most colorful and absolutely coolest part of Anchorage.

Mark Your Calendar

The Blueliner Booster Club is sponsoring their annual BBQ/picnic this Thursday, September 14th from 6PM til 8PM at Kincaid Park. In the past I haven't managed to attend but I do plan to go this season. It's an opportunity to meet the Coaches and Players and eat some food; so, of course I'm going. I'll post an update here after the event.

The second date to mark on your calendar is Monday, September 25th for the first official practice at 2:45 PM. I'm definitely interested in seeing the coaches put the team through their paces in preparation for the first game of the season just 5 days later when the Seawolves face the U.S. National Development Team on Saturday, September 30th at 7PM. I plan to be at at least 3 practices that week and of course I'll post my observations.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Quasi-Pundit Prognostications

There have been very few seasons since I've been a Seawolves fan (1984) that I wasn't optimistic at this time of year. I always like to think that just about anything is possible. A favorable combination of circumstances and who knows what could happen? The consensus among the usual internet crowd is that UAA will finish at or very near the bottom. But then, that's the word every year; isn't it? We're used to that in Alaska on virtually every aspect of this place. It's a long way from the rest of the world and sometimes people just don't do their homework. The Seawolves have finished down there often enough though to, in general, warrant such predictions from outside. Naturally, I differ with the quasi-pundit prognosticators (nothing new in that). Here's why:

Coach Shyiak understands what is needed to compete with "the big boys". His years at Northern Michigan include coaching through heated high intensity rivalries with top D-1 programs. A single year behind the bench certainly isn't enough time to turn a program around in the WCHA (4-5 years minimum) but it is enough time for him to get a good feel for the right direction. He knows what sort of system's will work and won't work with the team he has. He's to be congratulated on bringing in a new staff with great credentials who bring their wealth of experience from other top D-1 programs; they'll have an immediate impact. In the hackneyed words of long suffering low paid small town newspaper reporters across America ... He's been around the racetrack before and shouldn't be underestimated.

There isn't a player on the squad that doesn't want to be there. Three regular players that didn't want to be here left. From the freshmen excited to skate their first D-1 shift all the way to the Senior class, they all want to be here. This years team will have perhaps the best overall attitude coming into the season since John Hill's first year. And they got to the Final Five that year. A good attitude should grow into some confidence. Confidence and a belief that the team can win are always huge factors. This is as (my friend and frequent commenter here) "Suze" calls it the "Will can defeat skill" argument. And she's right.

There's enough defensive talent and experience (by that I mean that these players would succeed on the rink at any other WCHA school). When Nathan Lawson was a freshman at UAA I called him the most talented goaltender in the WCHA. And that hasn't changed. He still is. There is every reason to expect that Nate "The Great" (I heard Lawson prefers that nickname but ya know what ... I like "The Law" better) is going to do everything he can do to make his Junior year his best. If he does it could very well mean an offer next season from the professional ranks that might be good enough for him to take. But I've said enough about "The Law" because I'm superstitious about writing about goaltenders. Seriously, I am. Look back through this blog. You won't find me pontificating as much about Nathan as I do about other players. Nothing against him ... Olthuis will get the same from me. Mark Smith and Luke Beaverson are proven defensive veteran talent. Luke came into his own the second half of last season and and along with Chad Anderson brings a lot of size on that end of the ice. They'll rule their zone this season. And I'd bet dollars to donuts that Mark Smith will get an All-WCHA nod this season. And oh yeah ... Lovdahl's got a rocket.

The Seawolves will have a better "goals for/goals against" ratio than they've had in a decade. Beagle, Waldrop and Tarkir will put up good numbers. Kronschnabel and Bourne will regain respectable numbers and some balanced scoring throughout the rest of the lineup will be the ticket; along with a defensive effort that will yield close to a 1 goal per game decrease from last season.

That's why they won't finish in the basement.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

A Short Video Break

Housekeeping for me doesn't include picking up my clothes. Instead, it is the straightening out of the various stuff I have on this computer. I'm a Mac user and Apple includes this brilliant little application called "Stickies" on every machine they sell. It's a great little tool for saving links without bookmarking them. I've usually got 10 or so of these little various colored notes on my desktop but doing my housekeeping this weekend I found 18 of these buggers. I started in on the housekeeping and find these four video links that I'd completely forgotten about.

This first three are links to Bernie Pascal's Inside The BCHL series. Clicking that will take you to an archive of video spots that Bernie provided for BCHL fans over the last couple of years. Last year he must've been on a UAA recruit video binge as he talked with 3 of this year's freshmen.

The low-bandwidth versions are downloadable but I am unable to post them here (but if some Blogspot-proficient person wants to tell me how I'll be deeply appreciative) or I would happily do so for my valued readers. The high bandwidth versions use a script from the site to stream them so I can't even hot link them here. If your interested in seeing what Trevor Hunt, Josh Lunden and Jon Olthuis had to say in the high bandwidth format then follow the link above and scroll down Bernie's archive to the one(s) you want to watch. If low resolution if good enough for you then click one of these three links to download the small one (around 4meg) to your computer: Trevor Hunt; Josh Lunden; Jon Olthuis.

Last and certainly not least is a video completely unrealted to UAA Hockey. Sometime after the end of the season it was announced that that St. Cloud TV viewers lost their regular bumbling TV announcer to a better job. His replacement hasn't been announced as yet but because of the staggering worldwide positive reputation of the UAA Hockey Fan Blog I'm able to provide the video submitted by their new guy which landed him the job. Impressive stuff.