Sunday, February 18, 2007

Lessons Learned Yet?

At the end of the 1st period Saturday night I was straight up flabbergasted. I had been wondering what Dean Larson was up to since leaving as the Alaska Avalanche head coach. I had no idea he'd sneak into Nick Lowe's jersey and play in a game for his alma mater. Seriously, Could Nick Lowe have had a better Senior Night game? Two weeks ago he picked up a puck in neutral ice and streaked into the Minnesota Gophers zone but instead of driving to the net or taking a shot he passed the puck. Maybe it was a 50/50 thing but it really looked like he had zero confidence. Last night when the puck got on his stick he owned it. His sweet rush wide on the left and then back across to the front of the goal and the authoritative finish was the goal of the night. It wasn't his only offensive highlight of the evening either. He had a sweet wraparound chance in the first and was the key to the sixth goal with his physical play in front of MSU's crease. Definitely one of the best games of his career but more importantly he played with confidence.

Nick wasn't the only Senior to play a big part in the win. Chad Anderson made the first goal with his rush and shot and was a constant offensive threat both deep in the offensive end or out on the blueline as his rocket of a shot power play goal showed. He had a close wraparound chance as well. Chad's been playing with confidence all year and having his best season. He's definitely going out with some style. The team tried to feed him late in the third to get him the hat trick but alas it didn't happen. Mark Smith was steady steady steady last night playing another mistake free game. Justin Bourne was an offensive force all night creating chances as well as do an excellent job backchecking and/or covering for d-man going deep into the zone.

There were other feel good stories with Merit picking up a well deserved goal on the weekend to go along with his otherwise excellent play. And hey ... Jonny O playing 5 quality periods of hockey in the net most certainly has to raise his playing status. Ken Selby saw a couple of legitimate scoring chances and his foot speed was apparent to me. Trevor Hunt played a real solid game after being out injured. Missing Kronschnabel and Lunden from the line-up created the need to restructure the lines and Peter Cartwright bagged a couple of assists as a result. I thought he played with more confidence as well. Kevin Clark was influential all night long. He got into Travis Morin's head at one point and goaded him into a bad penalty. Then Wagner decided he had to defend the 6'-2" against the 5'-8" Clark and was shown the gate for that error. Nice work Kevin! His power play goal at 4:27 of the first proved to be the game winner.

Blair Tassone had another good game and a few scoring chances as well. Jared Tuton continued to be a force physically and looked good all night. Jay Beagle's point production may not be where it could be at this point of the season but his value on every shift is big. His penalty killing efforts continue to be the best in the league. Managing to corral the puck deep in the other teams end is no easy task, yet each and every game Jay does exactly that by killing anywhere from 20 seconds to up to almost a minute by himself. Beaverson, Backstrom and Robinson all played well at both ends of the ice. Luke played a strong defensive game. Chris Tarkir had a more impactful game last night than I think I've seen for a while and I liked him on the line with Clark and Beagle. Adam Corrin continued to show good energy and physical play skating with Jared Tuton and Ken Selby last night. Ryan Berry played forward on Friday night but I didn't see anything but the third period and wasn't looking at any individual players so I don't really know how that worked out.

It's not like it should be hard for a group of young men to figure out what sort of effort they need to make to win in this league. The February has been defined by a poor effort one night then a better effort the next night. That should have taught the players. They must know now that if they play with confidence and execute well that they will get the "W" more often than the "L".

A sweep next weekend might be enough to keep the Seawolves out of Mariucci and/or the NHC for the playoffs and is a worthy short term goal. It's impossible to say who is going to finish in 3rd place as DU, CC and UND are all within a point and Bucky is only two more back of them. It's also impossible to say who is going to finish anywhere between the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th place teams though Tech and UMD both have games in hand over MSU and UAA. For UAA to finish higher than 9th they'd need to win the last two at UMD as well as have MSU lose both games against CC. And (less likely) if MTU fails to get any points in it's last two series (Wisc then Twinkietown) and UMD also loses it's last two games against Wisconsin UAA would finish 7th. There could be tiebreakers involved at any number of levels in the standings this year; UAA would have the tiebreaker advantage with MTU and MSU if it all went down like above.

It's always interesting to look at the tiers in the WCHA each year. This season it's turned into a three tier-league once again. But they're really close tiers without big separations between them.
1. Minnesota (37) (17-4-3)
2. St. Cloud (30) (12-6-6)
3. DU (27pts) (12-9-3)
4. CC/UND (26pts) (12-10-2, 11-9-4)
6. Wisconsin (24pts) (11-11-2)
7. MTU/MSU (21pts) (8-11-5, 8-13-5)
9. UAA (17pts) (8-17-1)
10. UMD (15pts) (6-15-3)
There's only three points between each of the tiers with DU trailing St. Cloud by only 3 points and MTU/MSU only 3 points behind Bucky. As an example of how much tighter the league is this year; at this point 2nd place St. Cloud has a grand total of 4 more league wins than 9th place UAA and only one more than 6th place Wisconsin.

How many games are left now? That's up to the players. Could be as few as 4. Could be 7 or 8 even; if they play with confidence the rest of the way (like they did last night) it's certainly possible.


Anonymous said...

congrats to the senior class for saturday night. hopefully this will be enough to turn the team around get 4 pts in dulth get confident for a play off run.

Anonymous said...

you little tenny boppers.. go lick a penis!!

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