Monday, January 01, 2007

First Post of 2007

It was a sweep and that's always nice but as I've considered the weekend I've got some observations that I think I'll add. Three good periods on Friday night plus 1.5 good periods the next night was enough to get the sweep but that 30 minutes of less than inspired hockey could be costly against a team with more than just a couple of scorers. St. Cloud has more than just a couple of scorers. This coming week of practice ought to include lots of reminders about maintaining the necessary effort for the full sixty minutes both nights. I wouldn't want to drone on too long about it but for two things.
1st -- There are 14 games remaining in the regular season.

Of the 7 remaining series 4 are going to come against teams that are within a few points of UAA in the standings. Which means the team is going to have to maintain the hightest possible effort in every single period for the rest of the season. Because more often than not their opponent will be doing that very thing.
2nd -- The 2nd half of the season is more important than the 1st.

Historically, the WCHA teams that peak in February are the teams that you'll often find in the Final Five championship game. Ask DU ... they went .500 in conference in February (5-1 in January) last year and didn't even make it to the Final Five. And I thought I was trying not to belabor the point about how important consistent play is.

My daughter commented to me about Trevor Hunt's toughness playing with a bum ankle he picked up early in the first period Saturday. I didn't notice when he stopped taking shifts but he was still dressed and on the bench at the end of the game. He came back onto the ice with the team for a stick salute after they'd already left and was maybe grimacing a bit but that sort of display of pride is always worth a mention.

I was pretty pleased with everyone's effort this weekend. I thought Shane Lovdahl played a great game on Friday night. He was punishing when he hit and contributed on the offensive end with a couple of rushes as well as some nice feeds for chances throughout the game. He was very solid in his own end; I certainly don't recall any missteps or mistakes that resulted in any chances. Nice work Shane.

Mistakes this weekend didn't turn out to be costly as both Nathan and Jonnie O were both in good form. It's good to see the platooning of recent weekends continue as it will be important for Olthuis' development as well as give Lawson both a little rest and incentive to be at his best when his turn comes up. Nathan is a talented and experienced goalie halfway through his 3rd WCHA campaign. His play as a freshman was outstanding but he suffered through last season on the same uninspired team as everyone else. He's returned to his best form more often than not so far this season but I have believe that he has better in him. If Nathan can play like he's been playing the last few weeks as well as stand on his head a few times down the stretch then we'll see some of the success I think is possible.

The team played really well on their own end of the ice all weekend and improved their overall PK percentage .846 which is approaching something more than just good. There will have to be a show of committment defensively from everyone on the ice this coming weekend. Everyone will need to body up, clog lanes and block shots. The overall PP percentage is .19 percent and hopefully the slight improvement this weekend is a sign of more in the weekends to come. The team moves the puck well but has I think they've been a little bit susceptible to a very aggressive PK. Maybe the puck ought to go out to the point every once in a while ... um ... like when half of the PK team is behind the goal line defending?

I think I'm starting to see more times when the 3rd and 4th lines exceed their "roles" in recent weeks. Matching up defensively against the other teams top lines and playing with "energy" have been the primary roles but those 2 lines (Tassone, Corrin, Tuton and Lowe, Cartwright Tarkir) are getting more and better chances as the season progresses. Scoring from the role players is always great to see.

Chad Anderson continues to play inspired hockey. I'm sure nobody hates making a mistake more than he does but perhaps the occassional mistake is acceptable when he's creating so much on the offensive end. Mark Smith has been steady steady steady in the back and is also bringing his offensive talents to bear. Did I say before how when Chad and Mark were freshman that I predicted both of them would become All-WCHA caliber defensemen their Senior years? This weekends quality just adds itself to weekend after weekend of great defensive leadership from both of these guys.

Luke Beaverson played his heart out this weekend and had a very memorable close in follow up scoring chance that almost went his way as he lugged his 6'5" frame through the crease. Nils Backstrom had a minor defensive lapse or two but also added a lot this weekend (the "beauty" pass setting up Paul Crowders goal on Saturday in particular) to the offensive effort. His skating style is so smooth that sometimes you really don't notice how fast he is going. Mat Robinson has all my respect for the way he playes week in and week out. At only 5'10" 174 he sometimes takes a lot of punishment from much bigger forwards behind his net but he's damned tough and makes a lot of people miss with his quickness. I'd say he has the softest hands on the Seawolves blueline and reminds me of Darren Meek with his ability to come away from the boards with the puck.

Happy New Year.


Runninwiththedogs said...

Donald, I wonder if the boyfriends will be on your site during this series.

Donald said...

It wouldn't occur to them normally. Unless they ... like ... read something somewhere that prompted them to the idea.

Runninwiththedogs said...

They are being mocked on the SCSU/UAA thread.

Donald said...

I'm mocking them (actually I will just ignore them as best as I can) over at Da Huskies.

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