Sunday, August 12, 2007

The 07-08 Junior Class

Brian Bales, Shane Lovdahl and Mat Robinson are the sum total of this years Seawolf Junior class. As I mentioned in the Senior class preview, they provided 21 goals to the team scoring total as Juniors. Setting that as a goal for this years Junior class might seem to be overly optimistic, but I have to say I don't think it is out of the range of possibilities.

Brian Bales is the biggest unknown for me. His numbers in the USHL steadily improved over his three years at Sioux City (11g-7a, 10g-14a and 20g-41a). He was Captain during 04-05 season and was named USHL Player of the Week twice. Then frankly something went bust with his BGSU situation (12 games in two seasons). I find nothing on the Internets to give me a clue as to why and I don't want to speculate. He played this summer in the SEHL and was something like 7th or 8th on the league scoring table and played the full schedule of games. I think the best case scenario for the team is if Brian produces somewhere near what Jay Beagle might have if he'd stayed. So why not 6 or 7 goals for him with 10 assists? The worst case scenario is that he plays in 12 games for UAA over the next two years. I'll hope for the first possibility.

Shane Lovdahl has a cannon. It's hidden inside his stick. In limited power play chances as a freshman he used that heavy shot and earned 4 goals with 9 assists. Respectable numbers for a freshman in a tough league. But Shane never got on track as a Sophomore and stuggled in the classroom becoming ineligble for the second half of the season. Assuming his classwork situation is under control I'd expect to see some of the same sort of upperclassman leadership from Shane this year. UAA's power play needs to improve this year in order for the team to have more success. Shane's shot is a quality resource that Coach Shyiak will need to look to in order to help improve the power play. Chad Anderson scored a number of good goals from the blueline last year but you know what? They were pretty much all wristers with eyes. Five goals and 10 assists seem like a reasonable goal to attain.

Mat Robinson meets the definition of the undersized puck rushing gritty defenseman. In his own end Mat is very determined along the boards and usually comes out with the puck. He's got soft hands and excellent wheels. He could play winger and would do so with aplomb. I've liked pretty much everything I've seen from Mat. He knows how to clear the zone with both quality passes and smart skating. He has the prowess to make rink long rushes and the speed to get back and cover. In his first two seasons I've seen Coach Shyiak leave the green light on for defensemen to jump into the offense. With the experience of his first two years I'm hoping that Mat has the confidence needed to insert himself offensively more often. Last year he bagged 2 goals and 7 assists but if he is able to find more chances this season he could easily triple his goals scored and double his assists.

Production from the blueline will be an important facet of UAA's play this year in order to have improvement from last years 10th place finish. Mat Robinson and Shane Lovdahl as upperclassmen should be in a position to contribute their share. So, I hope my assertion that this class is capable of producing as much as last years Junior class isn't completely out of left field. Around 20 goals? Why not? Sue me I'm optimistic. As with their Senior class teammates all three of these guys will have to contribute to team cohesion and attitude with their leadership on and off the ice. There are responsibilities that come with being an upperclassman. Let's all hope these three upperclassmen are up to it.


Anonymous said...

Can Bales even play this year? Doesn't he have to sit out the 2007-2008 season?

Donald said...

If a guy that played 12 games the last two years can't sit out the first five this season and then begin playing with a new team then there is something seriously wrong with the NCAA.

Anonymous said...

If Lovdahl is to be effective he needs to work on his skating speed. This is critical, since he has a lot to offer the team, and what he has to offer is what the team needs; scoring from the blueline.

Jeff said...

he is also a great forechecker. i think we missed that alot when he became inelligible and couldnt play

Donald said...

I don't think Shane's skating is all that problematic. Part of it is that the rest of the blueliners are all such excellent skaters. I think it makes an otherwise good skater look bad in comparison.

I don't recall anyone blowing past him. I think I'd characterize him as playing within his abilities mostly. Which means he maintains good defensive position.

But yeah ... the shot from the blueline is needed. Hopefully, more than just Shane will active in that area.

Anonymous said...

I don't think most people associate ineligibilty with not being made aware of NCAA rules when it comes to credit hours, but then again no one explained it when Shane was reported as ineligible. It wasn't that he didn't have a GPA that was exceptable, it was that he didn't have enough credit hours as a Junior. He became a junior at Christmas because while playing in the USHL he was going to turn 21 before the final two games of the play-off's, so he took college classes to maintain eligibility required by NCAA to play college hockey. He actually came to UAA as a mid term Freshman, which made him a sophmore before the end of his first year.

Donald said...

Thanks very much for that clarification.

I'll make sure no future references to Shane include doing his homework or anything like that. I should have remembered that someone mentioned to me that his ineligibility was "technical".

Its good to know that there aren't any worries in that department regarding him since he really is going to be important to the team this year.

Suze said...

I'm pretty sure Bales is going to have to sit out. Molle only played 3 games for UAA, yet he had to sit out last year.

Jeff said...

yea i think that's how it's going to go. i dont see how bales can be exempt from that rule. good point suze.

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