Friday, February 02, 2007

Preview For Gopher "Rubes"

With a fanbase that is as broad and diverse as any in college hockey there are few characterizations that one can make which actually stick. Generalizations are never really fair to make but would anyone debate that UND fans are the most sensitive fans to criticism? Or that UAF fans suffer from a little brother complex? No generalization is perfect just by their nature. University of Minnesota fans in my experience are (on the whole) the least knowledgable fans about other teams. Let me be clear, I'm not saying they don't know anything about hockey. Hell, it's not a complicated sport and if I'm capable of spewing hockey cliche's with some amount of accurracy then so are they. It's ignorance though I'm talking about. A failure by the fans of "America's Team" to bother to learn anything about any other team. This post is intended to rectify that. At least for any Gopher fans reading my blog.

I'll start with the offensive potential that UAA brings to the ice. Coach Dave Shyiak throws two solid scoring lines onto the ice each weekend along with two role playing lines. I wouldn't classify either of the scoring lines as #1 or #2.

First is Lunden, Beagle and Clark. Josh Lunden is a freshman winger who spent last year as a member of the highest scoring line in the BCHL. Josh is a power winger who uses his body well and can skate with the puck. He's 6'2" 195. Sophomore center Jay Beagle (6'3" 210) can definitely motor and is probably the best penalty killing forward on the team. He likes it in front of the crease. Expect to see him there. On the other wing is freshman Kevin Clark (5'8" 160). Kevin is a real nice playmaking pest in the tradition of guys like Ken Linseman. He exceptionally quick and is always a threat to turn just about any situation into a scoring chance. This line is capable of good counter-attacking and creativity as well as being effective along the boards cycling the puck. They've tallied 23 goals this season and added 21 assists.

The next scoring line is Bourne, Crowder and Waldrop. Senior Justin Bourne (6'2" 190) sets a pace on this line with his leadership both statistically and on the ice. His efforts this season have been dramatically better having already surpassed his point total from last season. Justin can get off a wicked wrister from any spot. He uses his experience to his advantage. Freshman Paul Crowder (6'3" 202) is very strong on the puck. His play all around the opposition crease both in terms of playmaking and finishing is always excellent. He's got great vision and a great backhand shot. Paul was member of last season RBC winning Burnaby team. Junior Merit Waldrop (5'10" 186) rounds out this line. Merit is an excellent skating winger who shoots the puck well. Throughout his career I'd say he's been more familiar with the posts and crossbars than any other Seawolf. He can be creative with the puck as well as plaster someone on the boards. His 13 assists this season show how he's growing as an effective playmaker. They've tallied 20 goals and 42 assists so far this season.

The first of the two role playing lines is Tarkir, Kronschnabel, and Lowe. Refer to yesterday's post for other information about Charlie K (6'4" 201); after all how much else can I say about the "Best Walk-on Player" in all of college hockey? Charlie is "The Shit" for his efforts and as Merit Waldrop said in today's ADN,
"His presence is so big -- he's our captian. You remember how he broke his leg, what he went through and stayed out there. We all respect him for that. He's a great guy and a great player. He'll be a difference in our games."
Nick Lowe (5'11" 200) is a wheels guy. He skates, he hits and is another excellent penalty killer. Nick has spent a fair amount of time last season playing defense which speaks to his adapability as an important role player. He's often a threat to get a breakaway but lacks finishing flair. Chris Tarkir is a kid I often compared to Curtis Glencross over the last couple of years. While his play is reminiscent (all out with no fear) his numbers haven't made the Glencross comparison valid. I'd call this line a possession line who's job is to keep the puck on the positive end of the ice. They've contributed 5 goals and 13 assists so far this season.

The "4th" line is Jared Tuton, Peter Cartwright and Corrin/Tassone. Freshman Jared Tuton's (6'1" 191) speed was a pleasant surprise to this blogger. He's a Lunden-style power forward who hits with seemingly more weight than he carries. I expect a lot more production from Jared as his career progresses with UAA but the role he's filling is no less valuable to the team. Peter Cartwright (6'1" 200) returns to the 4th line after trying to fill Charlie's role while he was out injured. Peter can skate and shoot. As part of this "energy" line he is excellent on the forecheck and a valuable asset as a backchecker. Adam Corrin (6'1" 203) and Blair Tassone (5'11" 193) round out this line and both contribute exactly what they're asked. They bring "energy" in every way they can. They forecheck their hearts out. Good defense starts by keeping the puck in the opponents end while matched up with their best line. These guys have been getting that part of their job done well so far this season. Over the last few weeks Corrin and Tassone's efforts in particular have impressed me. Their hard work might frustrate a couple of gopher goal scorers this weekend. Look for these guys anytime Okposo and Stoa are on the ice this weekend.

The Seawolves can bring offense from the blueline this year. Combined they've contributed 17 goals and 30 assists. Seniors Mark Smith (6' 191) and Chad Anderson (6'4" 218) have each notched 5 goals. Both can rush the puck effectively. Anderson has 10 assists and has shown intelligence in his shot choices favoring smart wristers over the slap shot. Junior Luke Beaverson (6'5" 228) could be considered a defensive anchor for the Seawolves. He is a strong physical player in his own end. This year he's increased his worth to the team with some strong offensive rushes and has 4g and 4a to show for it. Sophomore Mat Robinson (5'10" 174) is this squads "Brian Rafalski". He has a great ability to come away from the boards in his end with the puck. He isn't a punishing hitter but if a forward looks down Robbie will put him on his butt. His hipchecking abilities are appreciate by Seawolf fans. Mat can be a playmaker but I'd say his passing from his own zone is his biggest strength. He made a pass in a game last year that I called the best pass I'd ever seen made by a Seawolf defenseman so I know he sees the ice well. Freshman Nils Backstrom (6'1" 200) joined the team just days before school began this season. Nils showed his potential early in the season with his excellent skating and playmaking abilities (1g-7a). He's talented in his own end and capable of dispossessing oppenents in surprising ways. He isn't shy about the physical part of the game and has real good vision.

What should Gopher fans glean from all that information? They should know the Seawolves are not only big up front but that they can skate too. They should see that UAA's transition game has potential to be dangerous. They should be aware that creativity not only exists but will likely make it's presence felt. They should know I wish I had this up earlier today.

4 comments:

Dude said...

Do you think that Gopher Fans even care about knowing anything about the opposition? I doubt it. But it's a great piece for everyone else to read.

rolo said...

Excellent post. As a Gopher fan, I'll admit that since the Gophers mainly recruit out of Minnesota, we mainly follow Mn hockey players, and know very little about players from other regions. That said, I generally like to check out opposition's sites to get their perspective as much as possible, and this article was by far the best I've seen this year. Well done.

Donald said...

Too bad that team didn't show up Friday night. Makes me reticent to write anything like that again.

Goon said...

Generalizations are never really fair to make but would anyone debate that UND fans are the most sensitive fans to criticism?

Disagree with you, Gopher are worse, when ever they lose they blame it on being a fluke or that they were missing 5 players or something to that.

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