Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New Recruit: Brad McCabe

The wizard of recruit reporting Chris Heisenberg added a new listing today for UAA. Alaska Avalanche forward Brad McCabe has decided to play next year for the Seawolves. Early announcements like this (before the school officially announces it's recruits) are his specialty and this one has come in time to satisfy my curiousity somewhat. I've been scouring Jr. A leagues trying to come up with any likely candidates which is why I posted the BCHL update yesterday.

Brad is 6ft 200lbs, he turned 18 in July and currently has 10 goals and 5 assists in 16 games for the Wasilla-based Avalanche squad placing him second on the team and 19th in the league. Coincidentally, the NAHL today announced 9 players on the NHL CSB "Players to Watch" list and Brad was one of the nine from that league. As you might imagine there isn't much internet information on him; but I did find a blurb from the 2003 USA Select 16 camp that said,
"Brad McCabe’s father Mike is an admiral in the U.S. Navy. McCabe of Washington, D.C. and Team Gold learned to play hockey in Alaska and has played on teams in California, Virginia and Washington…"
Additionally, Dean Larson told The Frontiersman's Jeremiah Bartz that Brad had his best performance of the season after a 5-3 win over Sante Fe this past week:
“Not just because he scored two goals,”

“He did a lot of other things that were very important. He played great on the defensive side, great away from the puck. He took his first step to becoming a complete hockey player.”
So ... a big welcome to Brad and best of luck the rest of this season with the Avalanche. I'll post some sort of update in a couple of weeks (before the official signing period) with anything further I can find out about Brad and UAA's other current recruit Kane Lafranchise. And thanks to Chris over at the Western College Hockey blog for the heads up on the NHL "Players to Watch" listing which I would have missed.

Answering Some Bullshit

As part of the INCH weekly conference previews for the WCHA Jess Myers often includes a "stick salute" for positives he views and "bench minors" for things that are negative. In last weeks column Jess gave UAA a "bench minor":
"For years we've wanted to see more games at Alaska Anchorage televised back to the Lower 48, but this season the Seawolf schedulers seem to have taken a step in the wrong direction. Friday night games in Anchorage now start at 7:37 p.m. Alaska time, meaning fans at Michigan Tech will have to stay up to 11:37 p.m. just to hear the first faceoff of their game on Jan. 19. Instead of going later, why not start some Saturday games at 4 p.m. Alaska time, so they'd be more attractive to TV folks in Minnesota, Wisconsin, etc., and perhaps give the UAA program some much needed exposure?"
So ... let me start by completely nixing the idea that anything other than a 7:37 start time on Fridays is a worthwhile idea. People in Anchorage work and need time to get home before heading out to the game on a Friday night. He notes that folks in Houghton will have to stay up til 11:37 PM to hear or see their team play in Anchorage. BooHoo. Any hockey fan that isn't willing to stay up late (or can't keep themselves awake that long) isn't much of a hockey fan in my book. Suck it up when you're team comes up here to play one weekend each season. Kwitcherbitchin ... if you're a fan it won't matter to you exactly what time on Friday night or early Saturday morning UAA beats your team.

OMG ... playing at 7pm on Saturday means that TV people in Minnesota and Wisconsin won't want to put the games on at 10pm? That's not a UAA scheduling problem. That's a problem with the viewers of those TV stations. If they were real hockey fans then they'd demand that their broadcaster's get on the bandwagon and show the games. Giving the Seawolves the blame is out of line. There's no onus on UAA to fix these alleged "problems". Any team in the WCHA could be broadcasting from Anchorage. THEY choose not to ... so in the future Jess ought to consider "bench minoring" the teams who's local audience doesn't care enough to get their broadcasters to pony up and show the games. Don't blame UAA. The equipment and facilities are in place. And when/if any broadcasters actually express an interest in broadcasting their games they'll probably find UAA willing to help by changing Saturday game times to something that will attract the sleepy whining throngs in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Monday, October 30, 2006

A Quick Look At The BCHL

5 of the top 10 current points leaders in the BCHL are not yet committed to NCAA schools. I have no idea if UAA is or has looked at or talked with any of these guys but based on their early numbers I'd think to varying degrees that any of them would be pretty good D-I prospects.

Tyler Bozak has 15 goals and 31 assists in 18 games with Victoria so far this year and is #2 in overall points but #1 in points per game. His power play goal and shorthanded goal totals are 4 each. Tyler is in his third Jr. A season and more than doubled his point production from his first year to his second. He is a 20 year old and on pace to more than double his 69 points from last season. He's right-handed.

Wade MacLeod has 21 goals and 21 assists in his first 20 games this season with Merritt. He has just surpassed his first seasons point total (41). He's 19 years old. 10 of his 21 goals have come on the power play and he's added 3 shorties as well. He's left-handed.

Tyler Ruel is a 20 year old in his 4th Jr. A season with his hometown Alberni Valley Bulldogs. In his first season he scored .6 points/game; 2nd season 1.1; 3rd season 1.0 and so far this season is scoring 1.8 per. He's right-handed.

Adam Presizniuk is a left-handed center from Calgary who's scored 16 goals and 17 assists in 20 games this season (his third) with Powell River. He scored 21 goals in each of his first two seasons. He lists his future goal as obtaining a university hockey schoralship. He turns 20 at the end of November and is left-handed.

Jordan Kremyr has 11 goals and 22 assists in 20 games in his 3rd season with Alberni Valley. He doubled his point production from his first to second year and is currently scoring at 1.7 points per game. He is 20 years old and left-handed. [EDIT: For whatever reason (I'm going with the eyesight excuse) I missed the fact that Jordan is already committed to Providence next season]

I know where the other top 5 of the top 10 scorers from the BCHL are going. They're all committed. But I wonder where these 5 guys will end up.

National Champs Up Next

So before I get started detailing why I think Wisconsin coming to town is the best possible situation for the Seawolves; I thought I'd reprint my congratulatory post for any Wisconsin fans that didn't happen across my blog last April.
The Pinnacle and The Rest of Us
It's all officially done. The Frozen Four is finished. And for the overwhelming majority of college hockey fans today is really no different from yesterday. One team won the championship and its fans have no doubt got to be seriously pumped. For the fans of 58 other teams the only solace that can be found is in waiting: waiting for the new season to start when all 59 teams start equal (on paper at least); waiting for another chance; waiting to see how it will all turn out; just a bunch of waiting. No waiting for Badger fans though. Their team won the championship (by a goalpost and 1.3 seconds). They're all feeling what the rest of us yearn to feel. Sure there are some of us non-buckybackers that know the feeling. DU fans had a couple of years worth.

But just as it is in every other sport we fans spend our money and time in hopes that we'll share in the pride that the pinnacle of fandom (a championship) brings. Most of do this knowing that it will likely take years of program building and disappointment and ultimately some luck before we can share that feeling. Yesterday Badger fans were in that boat. Today they're not. Today they are the ones lucky enough to feel that; 15 years since the last time they felt it; they should covet it; I would. I'm envious of Badger fans today but at the same time know that tomorrow UAA and UW will be equal (on paper at least). So congratulations to all the Badger fans who's years of support and belief have today been repaid by their team. Cheers.

Now onto this whole why the hell is the #5 ranked defending National Champions coming to Anchorage to play the re-tooled re-energized but unproven Seawolves a good thing? Because it is exactly the sort of opportunity that this team needs at this point in the season. They've played some good teams that might have just played average against them. The team now also has an ugly loss in it's collective psyche (and that's probably a good thing). It's an opportunity that is no doubt full of challenges. In order to seize the chance the team will have to play virtually flawlessly all weekend. They have to dominate in what Coach Shyiak has been calling "competing". They'll have to finish their chances (and those will likely be limited). They'll have to play their best two games of the year. That's why I think it's just the ticket. What could be better than to have the chance to measure yourself against a highly regarded team? Wisconsin comes to town after being swept by the team that they won the NC game against last year. They'll definitely be looking to this weekend to put that behind them and Coach Eaves is all about his squad getting some quality road time together for the sake of bonding. So it's all cool when otherwise competing interest's display some synergy ... right? The Seawolves should be happy to have to opportunity to prove themselves at home early in the season and the Badgers are happy to get the chance for some extended bonding.

Even though it's early in the season some statistical analysis is becoming relevant. On paper UAA and UW match up pretty well with both having PK's near 85% and PP's about 18% each. Bucky is 3-3-2 and UAA is 2-2-2. The Badgers beat and tied Northern Michigan, they split at home vs. UND then beat and tied UMD before the sweep by BC last weekend. UAA beat Merrimack and tied UNO before beating and tying UAF on the road and being swept last weekend. Bucky is scoring 2.13 goals per game and giving up 2.13. UAA is scoring 3 goals per game and giving up 4. Bryan Elliot has a Sv% of .927 ... Lawson and Olthuis are at about .850 if you combine them.

So this weekend some questions should be answered. Some doubts may be erased. Regardless of the results though we'll have a better idea of which of our hopes and expectations may be fulfilled through the rest of the season.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

What "We" Want to Know

So what is it that "we" fans want to know? We want to know if this team is going to break our hearts. We want to know if they're going to live up to some internet blowhard's word or if ultimately we'll be disappointed. And it's hard for us to forget. We saw what I'd call a decent start last season (1-1 in tournament and a split with Fairbanks) only to go out and lose 7 of the next 8 games to WCHA opponents by a combined score of 35 - 11. What's it gonna be? That's what we all want to know. Hows it gonna go? Well the honest truth is that in terms of statistics and numbers and quantifiable evidence there just ain't enough data to predict. But for whatever it is worth I'm much inclined to believe that the positives will greatly outweigh the negatives especially in terms of building to more success in the WCHA(sooner rather than later). So here's both sides of where we are ...

Six regular season games have past. There's been a mix of successes and failures with a measure of humiliation thrown in. We see the team playing it's systems at a higher level acoss the board. We see the crisp passing, the faster pace and the hard work. We see the committment defensively going down blocking shots. We see the highly touted youngsters doing many positive things both in terms of playmaking and goal scoring. In fact, there is much undeveloped potential among all the freshman and as the season goes along the benefits of those things will be evident. We don't need the good PK percentage to know the team is better in that area, we've seen them do it. We've seen the upperclassmen display leadership in all areas.

On the negative side of the equation I'd first say that finishing isn't what it could be. The close chances (the almost goals if you will) have been fairly frequent but conversion on breakaways and 2 on 1's would not be a proud statistic if you calculated it. Having witnessed the power play "clicking" I'm always a bit taken aback when one goes awry. And more than a couple have been so. The number of undisciplined penalties isn't particularly high and those have been by freshman whom I'd expect will learn the lesson of such things sooner than later. The last negative would be what I'd call utilitarian average goaltending overall but with enough indications that much more positive play is likely.

Thats where I think we are. Whatever it adds up to depends on how you do the math I guess.
By the way ... I think it's a great thing that Wisconsin is coming here after getting swept by BC. More on that next time ... and I'm not being sarcstic.

The First Official Correspondent

Late last week a UAA fan in Green Bay emailed me that he'd be attending Friday nights game in Houghton. He wondered if I might be interested in a report from someone at the game. I think I said "Hell yeah .." or something like that. This is one of the things I hoped this Blog would generate so I'm thrilled that it was offered. Big thanks to Jeff Boness for his contribution. I'm looking forward to the future as it sounds like he will be on hand in Mankato in a couple of weeks. Take it away Jeff ...

Jeff Boness
October 28th, 2006

UAA Fan Blog Correspondent
Green Bay, Wisconsin

Ok here it goes Donald; because of midterm papers and a project, I was only able to go up to the Friday night game which you have already described as brutal and tough to listen to as a UAA fan. The trip started with skipping 1 class and my freind Andrew skipped 2 classes so we could get there in time to stop at the Subway for dinner.

Andrew, his brother Zach (very questionable road trip music taste) and I piled into the car and started on this grand trip to Houghton. The 3 of us have never been there before and so this was going to be a great adventure... so after having to flag down an old couple on the side of the road (crossing in to Michigain and Wisconsin twice) and nearly getting killed in a head-on collision (with a red jeep liberty giving us the finger) we finaly rolled into Houghton set with high hopes.

Now the game ... well the puck was dropped and from then on out it looked like it would be struggle, UAA missed their checks, they ran into each other and knocked themselves out of the play. They gave up the puck on bad turnovers and some poor mental mistakes were made as well. I think some of the teams youth cought up to them and it being the first conference game I dont belive it is panic time. The Coach said, "Thats why we play on saturdays" as well after the game. The passing looked off and Tech just had their stick in every passing lane. I am going to try to stay as positive as posible; UAA had some chances in the first but could not capitalize and then after the bad turnover that led to the shorthand goal, they started to look flat and even more confused. I am not sure if it was playing in the Eastern time zone but they looked sloppy and did not communicate well. For the first time seeing them play live I was sad for I have watched the games on TV and they'd looked sharp: It was an "off" night. I cant put all the blame on the goalies, for they were left high and dry on many rushes up the ice and just got beat by good shots.

Bright spots ... (that were few and far between); even down 9-0 they did not stop fighting, even with a 1:30 left in the game Jay, Charlie and Bourne were playing their hearts out trying to get one and the other players responed to this and never gave up. I think even though they had very very off night they showed more heart than I have seen in a Seawolf team in a few years. I think they learned something valuable about the team. I must give Tech's goalie credit: he was not forced to work a lot during the game but he was forced to make a few briliant saves. And also ... I would like to thank MeanEgirl from the Tech hockey blog for help that she gave to me when I asked her about going to Houghton (she is going to be at the games in Anchorage so UAA fans be nice .. but give her a hard time as well).

I hope I thanked Jeff for his contribution profously enough that it encourages him to hit some of the other venues down there when UAA visits this season. In his email to me Jeff was a bit overly concerned with quality saying "... so if it sucks ..." ... well it didn't suck. I'd encourage Jeff to rag a bit on "Bad Music" Zach (purely for entertainment purposes) but otherwise I'm thankful for having a set of eyes to convey a perspective from the road. Does this mean I have a "minion"?

Saturday, October 28, 2006

A Tough Weekend

So since we're ignoring Friday's nightmare does that mean we should ignore tonights loss? There were more than just a few plays and situations worth noting so I can't ignore discussing those things. There are good lessons to be learned in a loss like tonights. The team answered the call. Getting trounced the night before didn't kill their confidence. They showed some heart and did indeed "redouble" their efforts. With a 2-1 lead in the second period and the ice tilted in UAA's favor a controversial goal was awarded to the Huskies. And though UAA would often dominate portions of the remaining game they weren't really able get to the sweet spots for shots. They had some chances but Nolan was also up to the challenge. The shot total is respectable but without looking at a shot chart I'd say that less than 25 percent of them were from those prime scoring areas. I'll credit the MTU defense for that. They were much more often in postion in their own zone than they were out. UAA's PK was good and didn't give up any of the goals. Coach Shyiak made a choice to pull Lawson with 2:32 in the game and I'd be commending that choice even if it hadn't led to a goal. He showed confidence in his squad and they rewarded him with hard work even after MTU got the empty netter.

UAA's forecheck was strong for the entire game as it has been so far this season. The Seawolves continued to transition up the ice with speed and passing. Backstrom looked good. Mat Robinson had an excellent game. Two of UAA's 3 goals came from the blueline with Smith and Anderson getting one each. And Jay Beagle's goal came as a direct result of UAA's 3rd defenseman Nathan Lawson. It isn't the first time his puck handling skills have had such a result and it won't be the last either. But overall like I said I have to give credit to MTU in their own end. They mirrored UAA's defensive play from the last couple of weeks and kept Seawolf players out of the best scoring areas and limited the good chances. It was good to see Ken Selby getting some shifts and he looked pretty good on the forecheck. Waldrop continued to look dangerous and Jared Tuton did some good things skating much of the game with Beagle and Waldrop. Lunden, Crowder and Bourne were strong on the puck all night long and managed to create more than just a couple of scoring chances. And oh yeah ... for my highlight of the game ... Jay Beagle killed off the last 40 seconds of the 5 minute power play basically by himself first fighting to keep the puck in the corner but losing it to a 3rd MTU player who shoveled it to the opposite side along the boards and when the wing picking up the puck along the boards bobbled it momentarily, there was #71 to take it away and push it back into the corner. Standing O for that from this blogger.

UAA certainly got no breaks from Randy "slow whistle" Schmidt and his crew. The AR called 3 penalties tonight. One a total phantom on Charlie Kronschnabel that killed a big rally from the Seawolves when they were looking dangerous. On the 3rd MTU goal; after an extended discussion with Coach Shyiak, referee Schmidt proceeded directly to the review machine but apparently found nothing to overturn the goal call in the whole 23 seconds he looked at the monitor. I'm not sure what the aspect that Coach Shyiak was questioning but was 23 seconds really long enough for him to see or was he just covering his ass? Schmidt's later failure to blow the whistle for a Seawolf injury (during any of the 15 seconds that UAA maintained possession and seemingly waited for a whistle) contributed to MTU's 4th goal. It was almost the sort of performance that booster clubs would pay for but on the flip side if UAA players hadn't been waiting for a whistle then the Huskies wouldn't have been able to create the turnover that led to the goal. Playing to the whistle (instead of thinking it will blow) is always the best policy.

So no excuses really. Overall it was a crappy weekend for getting points but could be an important weekend for character building and learning lessons. Hey ... there's another 28 games to go. And it only gets tougher with Bucky coming to town next weekend.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Character Building?

Tonight the UAA Seawolves got ...

... owned.
... their hats handed to them.
... their lunch eaten.
... pounded.
... trounced.
... atomic-wedgied.
... embarrassed.
... humiliated.
... wholloped.
... thrashed.
... raped.
... pillaged.
... slaughtered.
... their first dose of character building?

I like the last possibility best in terms of "spinning" a 9-0 loss but without a doubt the answer is all of the above. All credit to MTU. In the first period (when there was still a hockey game going on) they were opportunistic (scoring a short handed goal); efficient (.500 on PP%); hustling (the backbreaking 3rd goal) and timely (#4 goal with 15 seconds in the period). That was all it took.

What goes through your mind when you're on a team that just got destroyed? Lots of things. But there's only one of those things that matters now. There's a game Saturday night that is just as important as the one you just finished. I don't feel much like pondering all that so I'll end this pain by saying one of two things will happen Saturday night. Either the UAA Seawolves will look into their individual and collective hearts, redouble their effort and leave Houghton with some pride. Or they won't.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Is Houghton Boring or What?

Some weeks writing here is harder than other weeks. There'd be little or no satisfaction in writing this stuff if I couldn't find some way to make it at least minimally appealing or entertaining. Last week it was easy. Fairbanks is target laden for a smart ass like me. But tiny Ho-tun and a school with a great reputation which is dedicated to engineering and technology is pretty challenging to pick on. I don't even have a negative history with their internet fan base to draw on. I've monitored the USCHO weekly thread for any sign of total stupidity on which to blast them. And on that front? Nada. Too bad UAA isn't playing St. Bob. They're even easier than Fairbanks to rip on. So on to the boring analysis of MTU.

After last weeks sweep of #10 Vermont the WCHA's (real) Huskies may be finding some confidence and a new identity. Both of their goaltenders have played well enough that either can probably be counted on to do well. Defensively the Huskies are led by their one marquee player, senior captain Lars Helminen. Offensively, they're not exactly burning up the stats with a 2 goal/per game average so far this season. Coupled with a success rate of 3 goals per every 100 power plays they'd appear to not be a threat to blow anyone out of the rink. Of course it's early and statistics at this point are not necessarily that revealing. The Huskies will be a tough physical opponent on their own rink this weekend. They're young (14 underclassmen) and not small (12 players over 6ft). I expect there'll be lots of hitting since a physical game is part of UAA's game plan.

For success this weekend the Seawolves will need to do the same things that they've been doing. They'll have to put the puck in the net on the power play. The current 22% rate is very respectable but I believe it can be better. The penalty kill is also important and has been a strength in the first 4 games killing off 88.5% of opponents power plays. There's not much doubt in my mind that Coach Shyiak wants the team to play a strong physical game and that the team uses big hits to key their offensive chances. The forecheck has been strong often bottling opponents up. MTU won't have much chance to score if the Seawolves can keep the puck in the Huskies end all night. The mix of offensive contribution from UAA's upperclassmen (Bourne, Waldrop, Kronschnabel) and the youngsters (Beagle, Crowder, Clark, Lunden) is a strength as well. Transitionally the Seawolves have looked great so far this year with virtually every defenseman on the squad being capable of carrying the puck up the ice for positive benefit. And in their own zone the team has played solid by blocking shots and clogging passing lanes; giving their goalies support by allowing them to see the puck and limiting second chances. Lastly, its evident now that both Nathan Lawson and Jon Olthuis are more than capable of keeping the puck out of the net.

There sure seems to be a lot of chemisty and great attitude on this team. While 4 WCHA points this might seem like a tall order, I fervently believe that it's more than just possible. Wouldn't 4-0-2 look pretty nice? Without being able to watch this game on TV (they don't have such things in that part of Michigan) we'll all gladly listen to the WCHA's best radio man Kurt Haider this weekend.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jay Beagle: WCHA Offensive POTW

As predicted, Jay Beagle was awarded the WCHA's Offensive Player of the Week award it was (finally) announced today. In what is hopefully a trend this is the second week in a row that a Seawolf has received one of the WCHA weekly awards honoring their performances. Jay scored 3 goals on the weekend vs. UAF and added an assist.

Jay came on strong at the end of last season with Coach Shyiak often noting that he'd been the best player on the ice for UAA. This past weekend he not only scored goals but added physical play and more excellent penalty killing. In one instance maintaining the puck alone deep in the UAF zone when UAA was shorthanded to kill off an extra 20 seconds. Jay is becoming a proto-typical WCHA power forward with his gritty determined play and great finishing. Congatulations to Jay. Now go out this weekend and own the ice down at MacInnes arena.

Doyle Woody: Blogger

Anchorage hockey writing's big gun has joined the Blog world over at ADN. Doyle Woody has started the new Aces and Alaska Hockey Blog. His first few entries are full of the kind of good tidbits that you'd expect from a 23 year veteran of writing about hockey in Anchorage. The primary focus of the blog is the Aces but it looks like there'll be a fair amount of UAA commentary as well. I choose not to write about former UAA players for a number of reasons (mostly that a narrow focus on Seawolf current events means that I won't have to do as much research) so I'm happy that Doyle will be posting that sort of information i.e... where are they now stuff. He's taking comments as well which is also a good thing.

I've added a permanent link in the "Other Hockey Blogs" section and I'll try to link to anything relevant. So there's naught left except to say, "Welcome to the Jungle".
Here's a link to front page story on CHN on the UAA/UAF rivalry and this past weekends games. Also of note is that Jay Beagle's 3 goals and 1 assist was enough to earn one of the runner's up for INCH's National Player of the Week. At the time of this posting the WCHA hasn't announced it's players of the week but I'd bet dollars to donuts (and I'm not even a cop) that he'll earn the Offensive POTW award.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The Skinny on the WCHA

With the beginning of UAA's conference schedule it's a good time to examine some of the truth's about playing in this league.

1. Win at home; Split on the road.
This is a time tested formula that will land a team in the top half of the standings at the end of the season. If a team can finish by getting a big majority of points on thier own ice and then stealing points on the road it can finish with between 28 and 40 points. Which is a range of points that would put a team in the top 5 in virtually every season of the last 10 or so.

2. On any given night ...
The 10th place team can beat the 1st place team and so on. While this is a "truth" it isn't necessarily one that comes true frequently. However, it does happen frequently enough to give it a fair amount of credence. UAA fans know this as Seawolf history is replete with big wins even though they've often been mired near the bottom. Two years ago UAA went 2-0-1 against Minnesota but only finished with 9 conference wins. Three years ago 8th place UAA made it's only final five appearance beating 3rd place Wisconsin in the playoffs. I've only used UAA examples here but the record is full of similar examples. I wouldn't go so far as to say there is parity in the WCHA but the adage that "will can defeat skill" is alive and well.

3. The WCHA is an upperclassmen's league.
This is Don Lucia's favorite refrain. While underclassmen often do make big impacts it always seems that the teams with the best performing upperclassmen are the ones that succeed most often. Probably the best example of this is the 03-04 Minnesota-Duluth team. 6 of the top 7 scorers on that team were upperclassmen and they led UMD to the NCAA semi-finals. A look at the standings in 04-05 saw UMD drop to 6th and last year they finished 9th. While everyone would love to have Thomas Vanek, Zack Parise or Phil Kessel none of those guys ever became upperclassmen in this league before moving onto NHL careers. Are Junior Lessard, Evan Schwabe, Peter Senja, Jeff Panzer, Reggie Berg, Brian Swanson, Marty Sertich and/or a multitude of other top contributing upperclassmen getting rich in the NHL? No. But they all led their teams as upperclassmen to WCHA glory.

4. It's the toughest league in D-1.
This is pretty much a no-brainer. The WCHA has won the national championship 36 times in 54 years. The inter-conference records year after year show the WCHA's dominance. This year the WCHA is 16-7-4 against the other big four conferences. There are great teams spread throughout the other conferences but none of those conferences has really come close to the WCHA (especially in the last few years).

5. It sucks to go to Houghton (Ho-tun).
Situated further away from a major airport than any other WCHA city the travel to Houghton is a drag for every other team in the WCHA. Though I'm sure when you get there the 10,000 or so lovely people there make it worth the trip. But hey ... there's almost nobody ever murdered there.

'07 Recruit Update: Kane Lafranchise

Kane Lafranchise is currently the second highest scoring defenseman in the AJHL. After just 18 games this season Kane has 4 goals and 11 assists for the Spruce Grove Saints. In 60 games last season he had 7 goals and 13 assists so it's pretty clear he's progressing well. So far, Kane is currently the only "official" player coming to the Seawolves next season. It's still a few weeks until the NCAA's fall signing period and any announcement from the school. That's when we'll see the fruits of Damon Whitten and Campbell Blair's many recruiting trips. The Seawolves will lose 2 defenseman and 3 forwards to graduation at the end of this year. Many of the top "ranked" players in the various Jr. leagues are already committed to schools but there are still some gems that are as yet to make a decision for next season.

One player I've had my eye on since last season is Kevin Clark's teammate from last years Winnipeg squad. Jason Gregoire moved on this season from the Manitoba league to the USHL and it's reported that he is being recruited by UND, DU and Wisconsin. I'm thinking that Kevin Clark's presence would be some sort of "in" for UAA to at least get him to consider coming here. There is also a quality local goaltender that the staff might have talked with. Bryce Christianson of the USHL's Tri-City Storm is the son of former Seawolf Todd Christianson has a win and a loss in two games with a .886 sv%. The highest placed Anchorage kid in the BCHL is defenseman Cody Butcher who has scored 5 goals with 12 assists in 18 games for Merritt.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Governor's Cup: UAA 1-0-1

Tonight UAA played it's 3rd overtime period in its first 4 games and came away from Fairbanks 1-0-1. With it's poorest effort in a single period this year UAA mustered only 3 shots in the 3rd period but managed to hang on to force OT. Jay Beagle picked up his 3rd goal of the season (and weekend) to stake UAA to a 1-0 lead at 12:26 of the 1st period banging home a rebound from a Luke Beaverson shot. Jon Olthuis got the nod in net tonight and did a stellar job stopping 34 shots.

It was definitely a different game than last night. UAF played a better game and UAA's game plan was much more defensive oriented. The forecheck that had been in evidence on Friday night wasn't nearly as effective at bottling the 'nooks in their own end. There were periods when that was the case but it was infrequent. I thought it was overall a pretty ugly game and I'm just glad it's over.

I enjoyed writing sarcastic BS all this past week about FBX. I enjoyed the 6-5 OT win for it's uniqueness. I'm glad UAA leaves the C.O.A.R. having positioned themselves to regain "the cup" and all; but I'm looking forward to next week and the week after etc ... because all the upcoming games are truly more important than this weekends non-confernece games. The Seawolves travel to Houghton, Michigan next weekend to face an energized MTU team that just swept a good Vermont team (#10 in the country) in Burlington. I said last week after the tournament that it wouldn't get any easier and that is still true. The series at MTU will be the toughest 2 games so far this season. The "real" WCHA Huskies (i.e... not the St. Bob Bluffskies) will hit the ice against UAA sporting a nice 3-1-0 record and aren't likely to give up any WCHA points without a serious fight.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Governor's Cup: UAA Up 1-0

The Seawolves pulled out a 6-5 overtime victory tonight; winning at the Carlson Center for the first time in a 1085 days (October 10th, 2003) by coming from behind 3 times; first overcoming a 2 goal deficit in the 2nd and then a 1 goal difference twice in the 3rd period. With just 15 seconds left in the game and with goalie Nathan Lawson on the bench Jay Beagle knocked a loose puck home to send the game to overtime. In the OT period, Justin Bourne calmly (nay ... professionally) skated the puck left to right into the slot and fired a wrist shot cleanly through Wylie Rogers five-hole at 3:09.

UAF led 2-0 after the first period. Nevertheless, the Seawolves probably had the best of the chances in the period. UAA often dominated with great passing and puck possession in the UAF zone but they couldn't solve Rogers (who had 39 saves on the night).

In the 2nd period UAA continued to dominate by imposing their size advantage to once again gain control in the UAF zone for long stretches. A power play goal by Jay Beagle at 2:16 and an even strength tally at 15:27 by Adam Corrin knotted the game at 2 heading into the 3rd period. It was nice to see Adam get a goal early this year after he struggled last season.

Early in the 3rd UAA briefly gained the lead on the prettiest goal of the night as Paul Crowder dispossessed UAF defender Nathan Fornataro along the boards and headed deep into the zone then shoveled a pretty backhander wide to beat Rogers. It's great to have a player that actually knows how to shoot the puck from the backhand as so many modern hockey players seemingly can't. I can't say enough about how talented Crowder is with the puck on his stick. Down 3-2 though the 'nooks struck back quickly at 5:55 and 6:46 to regain the lead 4-3. Just less than 4 minutes later though Mark Smith tied the game during another long stretch in the UAF end. But less than 3 minutes later Nanook Lucas Burnett carried the puck into the UAA zone 1 on 4 and took a shot that wasn't much of threat and Nathan Lawson made a play on the puck that I imagine he thought was safe redirecting it toward the opposite wing. But none of the 4 Seawolves had made it to that side and Tyler Eckford stepped up for an fairly easy tally to make it 5-4. No doubt Nathan wished he had that puck back. I gotta say here at that point it sure looked and felt like days past when the Seawolves would often "get close" but ultimately not come out on top. A timeout with about 1:20 left in the game gave Coach Shyiak a chance to set things up and in the final minute with the extra attacker Jay Beagle came through for his second goal of the night to send it to OT.

From the "fan" perspective this game was so typical of UAA games in the recent past but thankfully the outcome wasn't typical. It was a huge relief to see this team come through in the clutch and win a tough game on the road in OT. Congrats all around to the Seawolves. Tomorrow won't likely be any easier. The number of penalties tonight didn't live up to my expectations with only 11 being called (7 on UAA and 4 on UAF); but special teams was important with UAF getting 2 PP goals on their 6 attempts. UAA was 1 for 4.

Justin Bourne had 3 assists to add to his GWG. Jay Beagle scored 2 goals and added an assist. Paul Crowder had 1 goal and 1 assist on the night. Chad Anderson picked up 2 assists. In UAA's first three regular season games they have put up shot totals of 30, 37 and 45. This is so dramatically different from last year that I'm honestly at a loss for words.
UAF's radio guy, Bruce Cech (see Bruce I can spell your name right) hasn't figured out in 4 years how to pronounce Charlie Kronschnabel's name. It's Kron-SCHNAa-bull. How hard is that? It definitely isn't Krunch-NUBBLE. I hope (but have my doubts) that Bruce learns how to pronounce the name. He is after all supposed to be a professional radio guy and continuing to pronounce it the way he does is complete and utter disrespect to the Seawolve's captain. This rant was sponsored by my daughter, who at 14 years of age is obviously more literate than Cech. Pull your head out Bruce and say it right. Who do you think you are? Doug Woog?

Dear TV production people in FBX. Do you think you could adjust the white balance, color saturation and contrast/brightness settings on your cameras so that we could actually see the puck on the ice? Some camera's were better than others but overall the quality was poor. Perhaps the director didn't notice?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage Sucks

It isn't tomorrow yet so I thought I'd spout off about something. Over the past couple of weeks I've noticed something. The Alaska Aces have their shit together. It's not like it was probably that difficult for staff in that organization to do so when the team on the ice won the league championship last year. But let me tell you specifically what I mean.

The Aces open their regular season home schedule tomorrow night against the Victoria "whatevers" who were pretty much the worst team in the entire ECHL last year. The Aces staff have done their job well indeed; they've wrapped up the two biggest media outlets in town. The ADN had a big spread midweek about the Aces. Their website even hosts player profiles on a semi-permanent fully-prominent spot on the ADN sports webpage. Over the last two weeks watchers of KTUU have been inundated with a couple of spots that could be defined as nothing other than a co-marketing agreement. You've got basically every familiar face that appears on KTUU mugging in the commercials for the Aces. What's wrong with that? They're a commercial TV station in business to make money. Why shouldn't they leverage the opportunity as the Aces official broadcaster? I suppose they should. Go ahead ... promo the hell out of the Aces. It'll get you more viewers; I'm all good with that. But why does that mean that on a Thursday night when the "KTUU Aces" are playing a marginal franchise in their opening game that the station completely ignores the UAA/UAF rivalry? Only one reason. They have absolutely ZERO integrity as "journalists". I realize that it's ridiculous to classify talking heads on TV as "journalists" but thats what they think they are. And in that vain they have intentionally failed. It's pretty much a direct spit in the face from Al Bramstedt to UAA. I won't forget it.

That's the last time I watch that shit station. From now on, I'll be watching KTVA Channel 11 who had a report tonight on the upcoming UAA/UAF game; I didn't manage to see what Channel 13 had. This season will see more success on the ice for UAA and when KTUU comes knocking I hope the school doesn't bend over backwards to accomodate them. Let me be clear about something; I'm not in any way indicting the Aces staff. On the contrary, they should be congratulated for a job well done. They've gotten the two biggest media outlets in town to give them lots of attention; that's their job. And I doubt anyone with the Aces wants to see UAA minimized that way.

The Calm Before The Storm

I'm not going to write tomorrow (unless someone sends me the "tip of the century") so I just want to wrap things up today. There's no big news from either school so things are on track hopefully for a serious rip-roaring Nanook ass-kicking. I once watched UAA beat some god awful team 18-0. I felt sorry for the losers that night. That won't be the case after this weekend. UAA could score a goal every 13 seconds against UAF and I wouldn't be bothered at all.

Inside College Hockey's Jess Myers reports in his weekly WCHA column that Doyle Woody has been reassigned to the Aces and will no longer travel with the Seawolves. Jess say's he'll miss Doyle. Judging by some of the comments here I'm sure a number of Seawolf fans won't be bothered by this news. But I've got two questions: Why in the hell couldn't the ADN make some sort of announcement or something? They're not exactly geniuses of public relations are they? My second question is more important; Who'll be doing the Seawolf games? I have no (and don't expect to acquire) any information about this situation. But I think it's kind of a big deal. Doyle wrote for UAA for at least the last 15 years and I think the paper's loyal readership deserves to learn about this from the source instead of from a hockey writer 3000 miles away. It's a bit confusing to me since Doyle wrote yesterday's UAA story. Maybe Jess is wrong? Maybe it's not a big deal if he is right? Maybe the ADN won't have many UAA stories; have the Aces scored another coup and added ADN to it's bandwagon along with KTUU?

The other story I read today was awesome. Dan Joling of the Associated Press (in your face ADN) wrote this story about the name changing up there. Dr. Cobb's comments are absolute perfection. Joling sees UAF's inferiority complex and points out how much more UAA is actually the "flagship" school in the state. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner deserves props for picking up and publishing the story. My suggestion is that the ADN hire Dan Joling to cover the Seawolves. Lastly, Justin Bourne quite correctly says, "Whatever, we'll deal with it on the ice".

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who Cares What They're Called?

The Seawolves aren't playing the University of Alaska-Fairbanks Nanooks this weekend. They're playing the UAF's "Alaska Nanooks". I gave my thoughts about the name change back when it happened. I'd heard that they wanted to change the name to University of Alaska-Alaska for best the emphasis of their whole "we represent the state milieux". Until someone pointed out that the University of Alaska-Alaska would leave them with the initials UAA and that might present a problem for vendors and shippers. Good thing they didn't go with that or who knows ... some team equipment they'd ordered might not have gotten there in time for the season. The University of Alaska-Fairbanks Alaska Nanooks ... not redundant at all. Yes. I'm rolling my eyes.

I believe there are a number of keys for UAA to come back from Fairbanks leading the race for the Governor's Cup. Obviously scoring more goals than UAF would be a good start. The 'nooks have scored 11 in their first two games. UAA just 8. Both squads have given up 4 goals. We all know that the teams swapped results with common exhibition opponents. That sure doesn't help give us any idea which team might be stronger this year. They're pretty happy with rookie Dion Knelsenchuk up there. His 2 goals and 3 assists are tied for the team lead and I'd expect from what I hear that he'll be placed there most of the season. Kyle Greentreechuk, Adam Naglichchuk and Curtis Fraserchuk are UAF's other main scoring threats but as often is the case in this rivalry, anyone might step up and bite ya in the ass.

For UAA to win they'll need to take advantage of their power play oppotunities and continue to limit their opponents chances by taking fewer penalties (not possible this weekend ... as there'll be PLENTY of penalties) and continue with the good penalty killing (as detailed in this ADN article). It's just that simple this weekend. Special teams will be the key. The team that combines the best effort on the PP with the best PKing will come out ahead. Recent history tells us that ... in the last three seasons the two teams have combined for an average of 35 penalty minutes per game. That's a good eight or nine penalties per team per game. Anticipating something similar this weekend would be prudent.

I see the Seawolves as being a fast team (overall it's perhaps the fastest team I've ever seen at UAA) and I'm curious if UAF's team speed matches up. These two games will somewhat be watershed events for both squads. It will be the most intense competition either has seen so far. If one team comes away with 2 wins this weekend I'd look for them to possibly do some damage in their early conference schedules. If one of these two teams loses both games it could give them some confidence issues. So while these games are important in terms of getting an edge on winning the Governor's Cup; they are equally important early season games that have the potential to effect either team in a big positive or negative manner.

Anyhow; here's UAA's weekly release. I don't see any evidence that UAF does a weekly release but here's a link to their "News" page.
Other Semi-Interesting WCHA Notes:
Can you believe that Denver's Glenn Fisher was "nominated" for Defensive Player of the Week in the WCHA last weekend? The kid had a good night on Friday only to turn around and give up 4 goals on the first 11 shots he faced on Saturday. The Pios won on Friday and lost by a 3 goal margin on Saturday. I guess someone thought he kept DU from going 0-2 and that was worth DPOW? I wonder if Peter Mannino "nominated" him.

Did you know that CC would have been the champion of the Nye Tournament if UAA had lost the shootout? I guess nobody told them. It appeared that the team left. They just weren't interested enough to stick around? Merrimack stayed. I hope they never invite CC again. Hey Ron Jeremy ... you're a class act. Not.

Mankato is 1-1 thanks to WCHA referee Brad Albers who obviously isn't from South Bend. His OT call to give Mankato a power play with about 2 minutes left was even criticized by Mankato fans.

Finally, there's not much interesting happening in St. Bob. So click this link (stolen from jimjamesak) for something 10 times better than bobbing.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Luke Beaverson: WCHA Co-D.P.O.W

The WCHA honored Luke Beaverson this week by naming him as Co-Defensive Player of the Week for Oct. 17-22. Luke had a goal and an assist for the Seawolves vs. Merrimack and was a +3 for the weekend.

I hope this is the first of many such weekly awards this year for the Seawolves on which I get to comment. Luke has steadily developed into a mature WCHA defenseman that can contribute huge positives on both ends and is surprising effective transitioning up the ice. I doubt this is the last award this season for Luke. If he plays the way he is capable of playing and has another injury free year I'd think we'll see his name somewhere on an All-Conference list. Congrulations to Luke. Well done. Now go make the Carlson Center your sheet!

Great Expectations

Chris at WCH calls the UAA/UAF rivalry the best in college hockey. If I'm not mistaken Chris is a Michigander so putting UAA/UAF over UM/MSU probably hurt as much as passing a kidney stone. As he notes there are a lot of great rivalries in college hockey; Minnesota vs Wisconsin, BU vs BC, DU vs CC and he righteously places UAA/UAF in their company. Naturally, there are arguments for any of those matchups to be considered the best rivalry. I doubt anyone in Boston would agree with him. But there are Dickensian plots and subplots throughout the UAA/UAF history. As independant's both UAA and UAF could have been considered David Copperfield. This year there was a little bit of a Fagin-esque turn with the great goalie pad controversy. Dicken's socialism is also alive and well. UAF gets more money from the state than UAA. In what world other than one described by Dickens would that be the case? The same sort of thinking put the capital city in Juneau. These cities wouldn't survive in anything like their current situations without all the money that the people of Anchorage allow to flow their way. We'd feel bad if that weren't the case. See ... in Anchorage we respect Dickens. In Fairbanks ... not so much. Have you ever visited the Ulu factories in Fairbanks? They're full of little boys and girls toiling away covered in sweat for 50 cents a day. Someone should look into that.

At one point in this series history the Seawolves and the Nanooks played as many as 8 times a year. Records have never seemed to matter. One year UAA only won a single game the entire season; that win came against UAF. My most painful memory comes on the second night of first series 3 years ago. UAA had won the first night in a game that it really didn't deserve to win. The second night UAA looked great. The line of Glencross, Kootenay and Bourne created chances every shift for UAA. With around a minute to go in the game I grabbed my friend to start walking to the exit. UAA was up by two goals. By the time I got to the other end of the Carlson Center UAA had lost the freakin game. I'd imbibed enough alcohol the night before that I didn't pay attention when Jacob Marley said something about ghosts. I fondly remember the "...chuk" years when every player on UAF's name ended with "...chuk" and if they didn't we added it. Fedorchuk, Pittachuk, Streetchuk, Klippensteinchuk, Ullrichchuk ... this year it's Greentreechuk, Knelsenchuk, Eckfordchuk and Rogerschuk.

There are number of things about Fairbanks that perplex us normal folk who visit. First is the fence along both sides of Airport Way. This street is the main drag and running parallel on each side are frontage/access roads (where the businesses are) that you can only get to at 3 or 4 major crossing roads. This stupid configuration means that you often have to travel in the opposite direction than you need to in order to get to the road that will take you where you want to go. No doubt if you live there more than a week, negotiating this stupid maze wouldn't be a big problem; unless you're walking. For first time visitors its got to be confusing as hell. Along that lovely road is another cause for confusion and consternation. Alaskaland. I'm still trying to figure out the concept and reasoning behind the development of that joint. I've lived in Anchoage for 22+ years and I'm still shaking my head about those two.

Coming next? Actual hockey content.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Not Dickens Part Two: Reality

In Part One we learned that 2006 Fairbanks Compost > 1960 Anchorage "anything". But you may ask how that makes Fairbanks better than Anchorage? What relevance is there in comparing 1960 Anchorage to modern day Fairbanks? I suppose it's only relevant to show that comparisons between the cities are hard to make. Lemme 'splain; when coming up with "livability" rankings I'd guess that most sociologist's use categories like "Culture", "Health and Welfare" and "Recreation" etc ... The problem with making use of that sort of data is that it isn't fair to Fairbanks and I'm all about fairness. It isn't fair because there are virtually none of those classic categories where Fairbanks might possibly come out ahead. It's a size thing. We're big. They're little. So does that mean bigger is always better? Plenty of people in Fairbanks would argue it isn't necessarily true. And you know what they'd be pretty much right. I think we all know that intuitively. It's really just about what makes sense to each resident. People who like Anchorage enjoy all the amenities that come with having 40 percent of Alaska's total population brings. People who like Fairbanks enjoy the quieter existence that they are afforded by their size and locale. But what fun is all that reality? None.

Preferred monikers for Fairbanks by Anchorageites? Squarebanks clearly comes in at #1. It's a dig at the lack of sophistication and general backwoodsyness up there. After Squarebanks its a mishmash of lesser (but descriptively revealing) names like Mudbanks*, Golden Fart City, and C.O.A.R. (Craphole On A River). Preferred moniker for Anchorage by Fairbanksans? Los Anchorage is #1 reference. But from what I can tell by doing a bunch of research on this thing called the Internet, Fairbanksans gave up after coming up with that one. Seriously, nobody up there ever thought of Wankerage? I've waited years and years and never once have I seen or heard anyone up there refer to us as Wankerage. I can only guess the laid back rural lifestyle is a complete and total drain on even a basic level of literary creativity. Maybe the heat from the gigantic compost heap has dulled their wit?
*I'd always incorrectly assumed that Fairbanks was named in a similar fashion to Anchorage. Anchorge is a pretty straightforward description of origin of the city. So I stupidly thought it was a reference to the "fair" banks of the Chena river. So "Mudbanks" is a complete and total farce it seems. In the effort to be thorough I did a whole bunch of research and I'm pretty sure I've found the guy for whom Fairbanks was named. And I'm not even going to touch the whole "transvestite" thing as it relates (or doesn't) to the Golden Heart City.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

A Tale of Two Cities: Part One

Charles Dickens I ain't. Nevertheless, (this week) I shall attempt here to throroughly examine, contrast and compare Anchorage and Fairbanks. There is a history of discordance in the discussions about which of Alaska's two biggest cities is the best. One problem is that there are so few "fair" comparisons that can be drawn. The lack of such equitable comparsions means that it's not possible to say definitively that one city is better than the other. Or is it? I'm gonna give it a shot, naturally. In order to do so I find it necessary to retard Anchorage's economic and cultural development to about 1960 while leaving Fairbanks in the 21st century. In 1960 the population of Anchorage was about 50,000. Depending on whether you count certain outlying areas around Fairbanks one can say that their current population is about the same.

Now we can make a more fair and balanced comparison between the two cities. In 1960 Anchorage didn't have anything nearly as cool as the Fairbanks Compost Facility. In 1960 (I'm pretty sure) there was no Fred Meyer in Anchorage. But Fairbanks has 3 Fred Meyer locations today (ok ok ... one of them is just a pharmacy). In 1960 Anchorage had one High School. If you count the one in Santa's hometown (North Pole) then Fairbanks has three. But to be fair lets not count NP. Fairbanks has 2 high schools. I don't even know if UAA was around in 1960. If it was then it was about as noticeable as a freckle on Conan O'Brien's ass. And today's UAF offers 163 different degrees which would no doubt far exceed the number of degrees that UAA offered in 1960.

So it's looking pretty grim for Anchorageites. When you examine both cities at common population points then it becomes clear that Fairbanks is a vastly superior town to Anchorage. I'll do my best the rest of this week to find other common comparators that will allow us to equitably judge which of Alaska's two biggest cities is really the best. Maybe by the time the hockey games get here I'll have established the answer definitively.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nye Tournament: 2nd Night Wrap-Up

CC vs. Merrimack
The Warrior's woes continued this evening with a 5-0 defeat at the hands of Colorado College. Freshman goalie Andre Brathwaite played well. Merrimack had a bit more oomph in their game tonight trying to regroup after Friday's loss. Anchorage kid Drew O'Connell was sharp in the net for CC and earned his shutout by keeping a couple of close chances out of the net. The Warriors were in the game until midway in the 2nd period when CC scored it's third goal. At that point there was a palpable drop in attitude and confidence on the Merrimack bench. Best player on the ice tonight for Merrimack? #26 Wilson. He showed heart and played hard even after many of his teammates had clearly given up.

With 4 minutes left in the game UAA had 3 things in their favor; they'd dominated much of the game offensively, they were going on the power play and the crowd was behind them. None of those advantages though could stave off a hard fought comeback by the opportunistic Mavericks. Scott Parse took advantage of a minor mistake by UAA's point man and scored a shorty to tie the game. I'm sure there are a lot of interesting things in the box score to analyze but I just honestly don't feel like pouring over the numbers. This was a game that UAA should have won. Yes. Jeremie Dupont was great in the net for UNO. Yes. UNO was determined and gritty in their own end. There were three extended goal mouth scrambles of which you'd usually expect one of them to go your way, but thanks to the ever scrambling Dupont (who often made 1st, 2nd and 3rd saves) and the gritty defensive effort, UAA came up short on each of those great chances.

For the first 2 periods UAA was clearly the better team on the ice. As was the case with CC, UNO's offensive chances were relegated to the power plays they had and to the occassional counterattack. The Seawolves were defensively sharp (as sharp as I've seen a UAA defense in years) all night never really lost their shape in their own end. They blocked shots, kept the lanes clear for Lawson and bodied up whenever it was needed. Since it's early in the season I'm not going to fret too much about just getting the tie. I know they won the shootout but it goes in the books as a tie and the purist in me doesn't really like deciding a game based on who has more snipers or who's goalie is better. But that's just me. In any case, Lawson owned the Maverick shooters and because of that the Seawolves walked away with snazzy new watches (I dunno for sure they were snazzy ... that's just an assumption).

Jared Tuton had a nice debut in my mind. I think I noticed him every shift he took. I was especially surprised with his speed. In the same vain I'm very impressed with Nils Backstrom's skating. I saw him catch up to more than one of UNO's little speedy guys so I'd have to say that his late acquisition can now be called an absolute COUP (a helluva good get) for the UAA coaching staff. He has the potential to turn into something special. He definitely doesn't shy away from initiating any contact (um ... he likes to hit). Trevor Hunt had a solid game after sitting out last night. He made postive plays at both ends of the ice with really few mistakes (and ya know what ... he's got real good wheels too).

Kevin Clark's debut was short but his second night was very productive. Josh Lunden knocked home a rebound from a Kevin Clark shot that seemed to go in at first (but maybe took a couple of bounces?)(maybe hit the post?). I haven't seen a replay. And in the second period Kevin popped in a Chad Anderson rebound. Jay Beagle was noticably more effective tonight and got a huge response from the crowd for killing off about 30 seconds of a power play deep in the UNO zone by himself. I thought Jay might have been gripping the stick a little tightly in the Friday game. Merit Waldrop continued to be dangerous and the line of Clark, Beagle and Waldrop is going to give a lot of teams a lot more trouble than they're expecting. Paul Crowder's play continued to be impactful tonight. I'd also guess that Chris Tarkir was gripping the stick a bit tightly all weekend but still managed to contribute some positive things.

Overall it's a pretty positve weekend for our beloved Seawolves. There is much that has improved (across the board) with this team. There was nary a person I talked to tonight that wasn't standing around mouth agape about the difference between last year and this. It's pretty heartening and all that (and here it comes) BUT ... from here out it only gets harder. Next weekend up in the Golden Heart City and then a mix of the usual mugs of the WCHA. It's a long season that has had a nice start and in my eyes has the potential to be special.

Nye Tournament: Seawolves vs. Mavericks Preview

UAA has a chance to win it's 5th Nye Frontier Classic Tournament tonight. The last win came in 04-05 vs. Minnesota. In 03-04 UAA won the tournament by defeating UMass-Lowell. The other two victories came in the early 90's. As for opponents UNO isn't the toughest foe UAA has ever faced in the tournament. But there's no doubt it's the toughest foe they'll face this weekend. Seriously, tonight's game isn't likely to look anything like last nights game. UNO brings a good counterattacking game to the rink. They transition pretty quickly and the UAA defense will have to be ready for that. The Seawolves will have to minimize their penalties but at the same time use their size to its advantage (especially in the offensive zone to create scoring chances). Nathan Lawson should expect to be a fair bit busier tonight having faced less than 20 shots last night. UNO will need more from it's Hobey candidate tonight in order head back home with a win.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Nye Tournament: 1st Night Wrap-Up

CC vs. UNO
The Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks have one person to thank for their 2-2 tie with CC tonight. Tiger forward Jimmy Kilpatrick was presented with 2 full feet of net late in the game with CC leading 2-1. It was the sort of opportunity that every forward hopes he gets late in a close game. Jimmy took his chance pretty well; he made good first time contact and sent the puck toward the net with lots of authority. Unfortunately for CC, Kilpatrick fired it on the only part of the net that Jared Kaufmann had covered. I guess you write that sort of thing off to it being early in the season? Nope. Not me. That was CC's third game of the season. Kilpatrick is a Junior. His team needed that finish after struggling to score the previous 56 minutes. UNO scored very shortly afterwards to gain the tie. It wasn't like CC didn't have a lot of chances. I counted at least FOUR posts hit. Additionally, they had a goal disallowed because a UNO player had dragged (and was subsequently penalized) a rushing CC forward into the net which was dislodged a nano-second before the puck crossed the line. Combine that bad fortune with a somewhat opportunistic Maverick team and overall it was a pretty ugly night for CC fans. I should be clear here though ... CC outplayed UNO at both ends of the ice ALL NIGHT LONG. They were both bigger and faster than UNO and used both of those advantages to full measure. I don't even want to say they lacked finishing because they hit those four posts. It was the kind of game that will probably leave a bad taste in their mouth. Best player on the ice for CC? Matt Zaba.

I think UNO is a very dangerous team when they get on a quick counterattack. Which is exactly the sort of play that broke rookie JJ Koehler into the CC zone who used good speed along the outside of the slot while fighting off a defender before he stepped in and put the puck behind Zaba for the tie goal. On the night I noticed Koehler and would give him props for a good game. I guess I was expecting to see more flash from a guy who got Hobey consideration last year but Scott Parse never really caught my eye. UNO should be happy with the tie they played hard enough that they deserved it.

UAA vs. Merrimack
In a lot of ways the UAA game had a similar feel to the first game of the night. I thought that UAA clearly was the bigger faster and more talented team. Cap'n Kronch scored a real pretty goal. And Justin Bourne opened up a hitherto-unknown can of sniper on Jim Healy. Josh Lunden's no-look between-the-legs-backward feed across the crease deserved a finish and I'm sure Josh won't mind that it was a Merrimack defenders skate that did the trick. Getting a goal (especially a GWG) in the first game is a big deal when you're a rookie; no matter how it happens (his was pretty so who cares about the luck). Nathan Lawson was solid in goal. Merrimack's two goals were both well taken. Paul Crowder continued to impress me with his ability to keep the puck on his stick and do something creative with it. I'm thinking he reminds me a bit of Ales Parez. My player of the game though for UAA would be Blair Tassone. All night long Blair worked hard physically at both ends of the ice. He was (as Kurt Haider pointed out during his broadcast) a "sparkplug" and everytime he was on the ice the tempo picked up. He also got a nice goal as a result of his hard work.

Eleven seconds into the first period Kevin Clark was called for a 5 minute CFB and shown the gate for the game. I think Kevin just got a little over anxious and let his enthusiasm get the better of him. It wasn't a dangerous check (there were two CFB's later in the game that were much more deserving) but it was the sort of check that an official is going to call 11 seconds into the season. With that penalty kill and two more subsequent penalties the Seawolves didn't look sharp overall in the first period. Chad Anderson's goal came about 20 seconds after Merrimack had killed off a penalty, UAA retained possession though and Chad carried the puck across the blueline from the point until he saw an opening and fired one (not a rocket, not a duck) into the top right corner. Luke Beaverson scored a goal on a very similar situation to CC's Jimmy Kilpatrick but the UAA junior buried his chance taking advantage of a badly out of position Jim Healy.

UAA dominated the 2nd and 3rd periods getting two PP goals (Lunden and Bourne) and one at even strength in the second (Kronschnabel). All three goals came in the second 10 minutes of the period. Brathwaite came in for Merrimack in the third and made some nice saves and if I were Mark Dennehy I'd start him against CC on Saturday afternoon.

I'll write some sort of a preview tomorrow before the games.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Gentlemen; Start Your Engines

The preseason is done. The exhibitions seemed to have come off without any major hitches. Now the REAL season is here. In less than 24 hours the newest version of the UAA Seawolves will hit the ice and the outcome will matter. The coaches, players and of course we fans all want the best outcome. Two wins this weekend would be a nice start. I've dished out lots of propaganda throughout the preseason; I've insisted in other forums (as well as here) that our 'Wolves would be a better team. I'm convinced it will the case. But there are different measures of "better". Winning just 7 games this year would be better.

But that's far away from the better that I believe the Seawolves will be this season. The WCHA is tough league. Every year the top teams in the league just "reload" no matter the losses they've suffered. This year there has been some "reloading" but possibly not at the level of past years. And it's exactly that which I think presents UAA with an real opportunity. The faster they come out of the gate the better. Virtually every team in the league had enough changes in the offseason to ensure the likelihood that they'll all require time to "gel". The closer the Seawolves are to playing at full stride while other teams are still "gelling" the better they'll take advantage of this early season opportunity.

Sports in general wouldn't be worth paying attention to if talent were the only factor in winning and losing. Equally important factors for success are the more intangible things; all the things that go toward giving a team "belief" in itself. What our veteran players have to say is important; and in every interview I've seen with a veteran there is mention of the great attitude in the locker room. If this years squad can put together some early success then they'll become more confident. With the acknowledged good attitude already present, that added confidence would have a direct effect on the win/loss column. The teams that win are always the teams that believe they can't be beaten. I believe the Seawolves won't be beaten this weekend.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

A Quick Roundup

Doyle Woody at the Anchorage Daily News wrote this article about Charlie Kronschnabel and Justin Bourne's off-season training. UAA made this announcement about TV broadcasts. Basically, every home game will be televised via tape-delay (10:30 that night and 1:30 the next day) and the games will be available on the web as well. I assume that the webcasts are as they were in the past and will only be available to GCI customers. If I were a parent living in BC coud I be a GCI customer? Hopefully, those folks can call and work something out with GCI. The webcasts are real cool but almost useless to local GCI customers who have a TV in their house. The school also posted it's regular weekly release today.

Lastly (and deservedly so ...) is this link to RWD's "hottie rankings" on her blog. It was actually difficult to type the word "hottie" (yikes ... now I've done it twice) for a couple of reasons. The first being that assigning values based physical appearance (especially if it were a man writing about a woman's team) would rightly be called mysoginistic. The second and more important reason is because the word "hottie" (not any easier to type that time either) is quite simply just so damned awkward sounding. Not that I can suggest a better word to use.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Nye Tournament: UNO Preview

Way back in "the day" when I lived in Omaha there was no hockey. There wasn't a junior team much less a college team. There was 'Husker football and more 'Husker football. If I recall correctly Nebraska's stadium became the third largest conglomeration of people in the state on Saturdays. Tom Osborne (as always) had the 'Huskers in contention every year for the National Championship and UNO had DII football. Creighton had Benoit Benjamin. In the summer there was heat and humidity; the rest of the time there was wind. A bit down from my Crawford St. house in Bellevue, Jon Jubert was busy getting his jollies trying to find kids to kill. Thankfully, he was a complete moron and got nabbed pretty quickly. I got married at the Sarpy County Courthouse. The license had two blanks after our names where we had to indicate our race; they had the gender filled in for us. The registrar was hesitant about accepting my birth certificate because it didn't say "England" anywhere on it. That fell by the wayside when I pointed out that my wife's Ohio birth certificate didn't say U.S.A on it. My favorite things about living in Omaha were Indian Cave State Park, Platte River State Park, Fontenelle Forest and the absolute endless possibilities to take a different road home than the one you took to get "there". In two years, we musta visited the Henry Doorly Zoo at least 20 times. What a great place; they'd just finished the Tiger buildings/habitat and Murphy (lowland Gorilla) had just gotten his own digs. They built the big Aviary while we lived there. Great Zoo; one of the best in the country, so you won't find me bagging on Marlin Perkins for stopping his boat in the middle of the Amazon to mess with some poor Anaconda just for the fun of it. They'd put that him in jail these days for harrassing wildlife wouldn't they? We saw Rush in concert at the Coliseum and The Police at Rosenblatt Stadium. The price on our 1100sqft house? $19,500. Coolest person ever to come from Nebraska? Harold Edgerton. Other fond memory? Watching some cat fly his P-51 from the side of the road between Bellevue and Papillion (pronounced PA-PILL-YUN). Most underrated thing to do in Omaha? Betting on the horse's at Ak-Sar-Ben.

Aside from all the reminiscing there's a hockey team now at UNO and it'd be nice if I'd write something about them so we all know what to expect. The first thing to know is that this team is probably the best team they've ever had since the program started. They're picked to finish high in the CCHA (5th) and have more than just a couple of guys that could score 20+ goals this season. The knock on them last year was that they couldn't keep the puck out of their own net. In their first ever NCAA appearance BU sent them home 9-2 and for the season they gave up 3.32 goals per game which was only about .5 per game less than UAA. They scored 3.56 per game though which explains their 20 win season. In terms of size UNO has 13 players listed that are less than 6ft tall. I'll be interested to see UNO's speed for comparison purposes. Players to watch include Sr. (#23) Scott Parse who scored 20 goals last year and will be a Hobey Baker candidate again this year; Sr. (#9) Alex Nikoforuk scored 13 goals; as well as Jr. (#8) Tomas Klempa and Sr. (#25) Bryan Marshall. The UNO fans have their shit together (with a bucket to put it in) very nicely with their own (nice) website called the Crimson Issue. I'm pretty sure that UAA must not ever have graduated any hockey fans that know HTML or else we'd have something just as nice. Some knowledgable UAA fan oughta take their lead and get busy. Wouldn't that be nice?

Coach Kemp was the guest today on CSTV's Tuesday @ The Rink chat series. I submitted the following question:
"What do you anticipate from your two opponents this weekend at the Nye Frontier Tournament in Anchorage?"
Coach Kemp's response:
"We expect it to be a very challenging situation, playing in that tournament. Obviously, Colorado College has been one of the leaders in the nation in the last several years, and this will be our first opportunity to face them in a game. We know they're a very skilled team, which will play a very up-tempo game, so that will be a challenging contest for us. The second contest facing Alaska-Anchorage will also be our first game against them. Both of those teams play on Olympic ice, and so, as well as facing our opponents, it will also be a challenge adjusting to the Olympic ice sheet. I've been very impressed with the way Alaska-Anchorage has run this tournament. It's very professional, and we're thrilled to have the opportunity to go up there and compete in a tournament that is so well run."
Coach Kemp also describes how the UNO tradition of throwing fish on the ice was born. UAA fans will definitely want to read that. I swear I didn't do it! Like I said a week or so ago I won't be providing any sort of Colorado College preview since UAA doesn't play them. But I will stop by UAA's practice either Wed or Thurs to have a look and I'll write something about them then.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Nye Tournament: Merrimack Preview

The Merrimack Warriors come to town this weekend for the Nye Frontier Tournament to play UAA in the 8:05 Friday night game and then face CC in the 5:05 game on Saturday. It hasn't been exactly the smoothest beginning to the season. Last week the school announced that last season's leading scorer, sophomore Rob Ricci was suspended for the entire 06-07 slate. Coach Mark Dennehy called it an unspecified violation of team rules; one that was apparently aggregious. Merrimack was UAA's equal last season in terms of goal scoring futility and the loss of their most talented goal scorer will definitely present some challenges. To Ricci's credit though, I understand that he is going to remain in school, continue to practice with the team and then suit up next season. If that wasn't bad enough Pat Watson a sophomore goalie has been suspended for the first 6 games. The two incidents were not related.

In 05-06 Merrimack finished last in Hockey East matching UAA's finish in the WCHA. They won 6 games last year. UAA won 6 games last year. Both Dave Shyiak and Mark Dennehy are starting their second seasons at the helm of their respective ships. Of course none of that means anything other than they're interesting parallels. I'd rate the players to watch as junior Hank Carisio (#23), freshman Matt Jones (#11), freshman d-man Brandon Sadlowski (#22) and freshman goalie Andrew Braithwaite (Sr. goalie Jim Healy had a .892 sv% last year in 23 games). Jones had 11 goals last year in the USHL for Sioux City and Sadlowski had 5g-32a for Fort McMurray (the AJHL champs) last season while Braithwaite posted a nice .908 sv% for Chilliwack in the BCHL last year in 53 games. Though it's somewhat worth noting that Braithwaite played 4 years in juniors so even though I'm saying he's a "player to watch", he likely isn't going to make anyone forget Ken Dryden (or Michel Plasse for that matter). Beyond that it's difficult to say much about a team that I really know nothing about. A look at the roster shows that it's not a big team overall with 8 players listed under 6ft. Compare that to UAA who has only 3. But on the big ice I don't see that as being any big advantage for UAA. I'd imagine though that some of the bigger teams in HE though push Merrimack around a bit on some of the NHL sized rinks in that league. Perhaps some nice Merrimack fan will happen across this and give us the real skinny in the comments section?

I'll have some sort of UNO preview next and it will likely be quite a bit longer since I'm more familiar with them. I even lived in Omaha for a couple of years (forever ago); as if that means anything.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Seawolves Downed 3-1

Justin Bourne provided an interview on Kurt Haider's pregame show and I have to say that he was extremely well-spoken. He talked about how important it was for the upperclassmen to lead. He used my favorite example of Curtis Glencross and how he was a lesson that performance will move a player to the next level. Justin deserves props for his overall bearing and great attitude about the necessary efforts to enable the team to succeed. Unfortunately, he got nailed with a CFB early in the first period and was shown the gate. With Beagle and Tarkir already not playing that left the Seawolves with only 10 forwards. It sounded to me as if there wasn't much chemistry and when UAA did manufacture chances the Western Ontario goaltender was all over it.

Kurt and his guest color man seemed to think it was a reasonably close game. That's all good and since the result is just as meaningless overall as last weekends win the important thing to take away is the lessons that can be learned. UAA has had two distinctly different opponents in their exhibitions and hopefully the coaching staff has seen a wide variety of play that gives them some indications about where the team can make changes and what things are working. That's what exhibition is all about.

I'd like to say that "so and so" played well etc... but that's not possible. It's obviously nice that Paul Crowder netted another goal and it sounds like both Olthuis and Rosett played well enough in net. I'd also imagine that Blair Tassone will be kicking himself on the bus ride back to town after not converting on a clean breakaway; but beyond that it's difficult to say much more based on just listening. I'm looking forward to seeing the team in two real games this weekend when UNO and Merrimack come to town for the Nye. I'll post a rundown on both of those squads this week.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Most Pointless Post Ever

With the UAA game some 18 (or so) hours away and my ill-advised accidental nap I'm sitting here bored. I've reviewed and read all the D1 results. I've looked at all the blogs. And so I've got a couple of things on my mind. The only game on TV here in Anchorage was the Minnesota/Maine game. It started here about 4PM and of course I missed the first goal since the Black Bears weren't considerate enough to wait for me to get back into the room. I didn't want to miss anything else so I jumped in the recliner. I grabbed the nearby blanket to get comfy and the scintillating action put me right to sleep. I woke up with 50 seconds left in the game. I think I'll watch all the Gopher games that way since it was the most enjoyable experience I've ever had watching Doug Woog.

Then I started in with the looking for other results. I went to the USCHO schedules/results page and it wasn't updated. I read a couple of news articles and looked at a couple of threads then went back because I wanted to see how the other WCHA teams had done. And here it was about 45 minutes after the Minny game had finished and USCHO didn't have an update. I forced my browser to refresh in case I was just viewing a cached page but alas no update. So I jumped over to College Hockey News schedules/results section and found all the scores posted with boxscores. The reason I mention all that is just so I can point out how much better CHN's schedule/results page is when compared to USCHO. The nicest part of their page is the compare feature which is a great way to get what they call "the tale of the tape" look at two teams before they play. I assume they're about an hour faster with results and boxscores because they don't bother to reduce/summarize the boxscores into their own format. USCHO condenses the boxscore and puts it in their own format creating the delay. Lastly, CHN has an awesome discrete radio link for each team. I used it for UAF's radio broadcast. So if you want timely complete boxscores then you want CHN. But go back to USCHO the next day so you can read their "recaps".

DU was owned 5-2 by Miami who won their first game in their new arena. DU was 1 of 15 on the powerplay. CC squeaked past the Air Force Academy 2-1. Wisconsin appeared to not skip a beat with a result that was decidedly reminiscent of most of their 05-06 season beating NMU 3-0. I dunno why they're worried about scoring in buckyland. Lastly UND pasted Quinnipiac 6-1. Tech, UMD and St. Cloud all defeated their Canadian opponents handily in their exhibitions. Wylie Rogers was still wearing last years pads in the 'nookies 2-1 win over Western Ontario.

Lastly, I'm half watching the sports report on one of the local channels and they were doing some baseball coverage (but I won't rant about how stupid that pasttime is) and I hear mention of a name that I had to double check for accuracy. Milton Bradley? I typed it into Google just to be sure. And there it was. Some poor sunuvabitch got tagged with that name? What the heck is wrong with people? Your last name is Bradley and you name your kid Milton? Unreal. Someone slap that mother. Slap her hard. Slap her repeatedly and then kick her in the shins a couple of dozen times. At least "Coco" Crisp is only a nickname. My apologies to any readers named Ford Lincoln Mercury. And yeah ... I'm in the dark with all things baseball.

Next post ... nuffin but UAA.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

A Coupla Updates

Goalie Pads Arrive!!!
In Anchorage. Yep. Word is that Wylie's pads have once again arrived at UAA. Apparently CCM or UPS is trying to send the UAF Alaska Nanooks some sort of message. But of course UAA staffers are (at the moment I'm writing this) certainly bending over backwards to make sure Wylie gets his pads. There's a thread over at USCHO with a bit of discussion and plenty of attempts at humor with varying degrees of success. Also, near the end of the UAA News thread the 'nooks equipment manager explained the first dysfunction:
As the equipment manager for the Nanooks, I am here to clarify to anyone interested about the goalie equipment. Alaska has never ordered from CCM/Reebok in the past. The factory shipped the pads to UAA because they were in the system. A mistake on their part. I learned they were shipped to UAA and so I called the equipment manager at UAA and he stated he had not see any boxes containing the pads and if He did, he will call (that is how you do it.) Upon further investigating, I spoke the people in the Athletic Admin office to find out if they had seen anything and at last a trail has been started. Indeed the pads were sent to there office, reviewed and determined that they didn't belong to UAA and refused the shipment. The problem is that UPS sent the boxes and to a relocation center in Independence, MO. The boxes have been sitting here for over 2 weeks and have just recently been found. We are expecting the pads to arrive today.
I would imagine Wylie should have his pads in time for the first Governor's Cup games.

MITCH Belt Update
Last week I presented the inaugural MITCH belt to Dr. M. Dianne Murphy for her injudicious suspension of club hockey at Columbia. Today I read that Columbia has reinstated the club hockey program after reconsidering the situation (ie... talking to all parties involved and getting the real story before jumping to ridiculously injudicious punishments). Congrats to Dr. Murphy; we'll see how long she holds the belt.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Western Ontario Mustangs In Soldotna

The Western Ontario Mustangs are up next for the Seawolves. They're up north playing on Friday night and on Saturday, UAA hosts them in Soldotna. The skinny on them is basically that they're composed of journeyman Canadian Major Jr. players (there's a few non-Major Jr. players but not many). They've played two games against other Canadian schools: McGill (lost 4-3) and Laurier (won 3-2). It had been misreported that they'd played Ferris St. last weekend;Ferris St. played Toronto. So what does that all mean? Should UAA beat them? I dunno. I don't even care. I just am glad there's a second exhibition game for Coach Shyiak to work with. Hopefully the game will be competitive in some way, so that he can see what he needs to see before the season starts. Exactly the scenario I would suppose Western Ontario's coach will be hoping for as well.

I'd imagine there hasn't actually been a "Mustang" anywhere in Ontario since um .... EVER. But if Colorado College can call themselves something from another CONTINENT then I guess it's ok for some Canadian's to associate themselves with the romantic traditions of the American old west. They've also got the whole "not having a conquered decapitated aboriginal for a logo" thing going for them. ...begintangent... Speaking of which; the North Dakota Attorney General is moving forward with plans to sue the NCAA. Yeah ... thats what they said 3 months ago. So file it. Quit telling everyone that you're planning on it. How much planning does it take? I thought it was a slam dunk? ...endtangent... So get your butts down to Soldotna and send me your thoughts about the game since I won't be there.