Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Steak and Potatoes

I'm going all over the place today. This post will take a while. I'm going to integrate it with cleaning the kitchen then making and eating dinner - steak and (as they call them in Scotland) "tatties". Now nobody can say I never did anything positive for the cultural enlightenment of the American public. You're welcome.

I'll get all selfish first. My efforts to raise funds for a Final Five trip are stagnant. So far the total has remained at $101.26 since the beginning of the summer when LetsGoDU blogger Damien Goddard used his marketing skills on the USCHO fan forum (albeit without my blessing) to put it at that number. Here's the irony: they hate me at that place. Ok; not everyone there hates me but I didn't ever exactly win lots of friends when I was busy lobbing grenades at the collective fanbases of every UAA opponent. That being the case; I'm somewhat ashamed that the score is USCHO fan forum readers $94.60 - UAA Blog reader $6.66. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed. I don't know if UAA will be there or not but there is no way I can finance such a trip at the last moment if the Seawolves make it this season. If I haven't raised the necessary amount (around 800 bucks) by the middle of February then I will not be going. If that happens and UAA gets to the Final Five then I guess we'll have to rely on the Anchorage Daily News to send someone. There's a link in the scrollbar above and a dedicated spot on the right hand column you can use to contribute. I hope you choose to do so. End of selfishness.

In the comments section of yesterdays game recap, I mentioned some of the things that I'd noticed the team might do well to improve heading into the WCHA regular season. The PK has been decent (but could be better). The Power Play hasn't exactly clicked yet and cashing in on those opportunities is always important in the WCHA. Penalties taken aren't exactly low either. I don't expect that penalty minutes will come down substantially next weekend as we face the perennially gritty Mavericks from Mankato. I'm sure I'll be calling them Chuck Wepner University sometime this week so get to googling and look up the reference if you don't get it. It ain't my fault you aren't from my generation.

When Eric Walsky was looking to transfer to the UMTC there was a gaggle of "pundits" here on Uncle Ted's Big Series of Tubes who weighed in. So while I was glancing and listening to the CC vs. UMTC game being replayed today on FSN, I hear Doug Woog saying something that confirmed what I'd said at the time. It's always creepy when me and the Wooger agree on something. He said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Walsky looks to be one of the most impactful transfers in the WCHA ..." that he can remember. Here's what Gopher blogger and reputed "pundit" Hammy had to say about Walsky back when it looked like Eric might go to UMTC:
In terms of any projected role, I doubt he'd be much different than what Jerrid Reinholz was after he left UMD after 2001, sat out a transfer year and then walked on at Minnesota. A lower line guy who would likely be looked upon as a role player and pitch in with a little offense from time to time. It worked out well for Reinholz since he played on a national title winner.
Walsky's playing on the first and second line at CC and scored the GWG in the first game of CC's sweep of UMTC this weekend. I'm just sayin. Someone should stick to "punditting" Minnesota high school players eh?

There were a lot of interesting results this weekend. As mentioned above CC swept UMTC. UMD came through with a fine sweep of Jan Brady State University. Coaching genius Bob Motzko apparently told the press he was taking the leash off his team and encouraging them to be "creative" going into the smallest rink in the WCHA against a bigger team. Not quite the brilliant strategy of the season I'd have to say. I'm thinking about applying for Motzko's job. Stay tuned for details. Michigan Tech did a number on Mankato. Those boys might be in a bad mood when they get to Anchorage this weekend. UND went on an east coast road swing and got fogged out at Conte against BC. They abandoned the game after two periods. Conte must be a dump. DU split at Notre Dame and one of the games was interrupted by a tornado warning. South Bend must be a dump.

How about them freshman? Five rookies have gotten their first collegiate goals in the first four games this year. That's a nice thing. Lots of freshman wait more than a few games to lose that monkey. Daychief and Parkinson have three each with Grant, McCabe and Vidmar with one apiece. Of the 18 goals UAA has scored so far this season a whopping 50% have come from the freshman class. That's a statistic you'd normally see from a team that is 0-3-1 instead of 3-0-1. It's a good start. No road trips so far has got to be a contibutor to the positive play of the freshman as well as the nice overall start. The schedule is pretty nice coming up too with the first road trip two weeks away followed by an off week before heading back outside. It should be conducive to good efforts from the squad.

Josh Lunden and Kevin Clark are nicely placed in the early season on the nationwide scoring leaderboard. It'll be nice to see if they are able to maintain that sort of standing. Some rookie kid named Turris is sitting at the top of the list.

Upon reflection my favorite player this past weekend was Mat Robinson. I say he was "da man". He was all over the ice both nights. His missed pinch (he was trying not to kill the snoozing linesman) did contribute to a 'nooks goal but I can't find fault for that. It was a good choice that just didn't turn out well. Luke Beaverson had a great series. He punished people and was effective on both ends. Shane Lovdahl had a strong series overall. Like most everyone else he made a mistake or two on Friday night but Saturday he was a beast with his hitting and shooting. The competition for playing time on defense is for real. Nils Backstrom didn't play Saturday night and his replacement scored a goal. I'd hate to be the one making those choices this season. Kane Lafranchise wasn't just solid both nights, he showed some flair with a couple of more than nifty passes and some excellent work along the boards. It's great to see every kid on the blueline be willing and able to move the puck up the ice. I have to say I don't think UAA has ever had this much talent and overall balance on the blueline.

Some might call Matthew Gordon's first outing a bit shaky. I'll call it a first outing. I was more interested to see how he looked overall than whether he stopped everything. Only one goal was "soft" anyway. I wouldn't change my earlier assessment of him. He gets up from the butterfly position to standing as fast as any goalie I've seen and uses his size to his advantage. He looked comfortable handling the puck as well. All in all it was a good learning experience for him and hey ... he got the win.

Ken Selby saw his first regular season action this year on Saturday night. Sometimes I'm a bit distracted being a fan to focus on one player so I can't really offer much of an assessment of his play this week. But he's definitely a kid I'm pulling hard for to make the lineup more often. I love skaters. And he can motor. Sean Wiles saw his first action on Friday night and I liked his reach and desire. I will say he looked a little bit like he was huffing and puffing coming off after a couple of shifts but it's good that he got a taste. A taste makes a guy hungry for another shot. The competition for playing time on among the forwards is just as real as that with the blueliners.

Now onto some props and some criticism. Props to the DJ at the Sully. His subtle choices like "Innocent Man" after a UAA penalty were great. There were several good ones but unfortunately I don't remember any other except that one. I think a couple of things he's doing might be interpreted unfavorably by a visiting team at some point so I hope he doesn't get in any hot water over them. I won't identify them specifically here though. They're funny but I'd bet money someone will complain at some point. Enjoy them while they last I guess. Introducing the team's parents before the game was just not a good choice. Anchorage fans are ALWAYS late arriving. Those introductions should have been made between the 2nd and 3rd periods. Personally, I was hoping to meet a couple of parents in the booster room before the game, then I was standing in there and started hearing Lyle introducing them; disappointing to say the least. Next year let's give the parents the stage they deserve and introduce them in front of something other than the arriving crowd 20 minutes before the game starts eh? Lastly, 38 percent of voters this week thought that if Fairbanks were a vegetable they'd be ... (insert drum roll here) ... flatulence inducing Broccoli. 21% said they'd be a once a year is enough Yam with 17% thinking they were either not kissable and/or useful as only a garnish. There ya have it.

There's work to be done. There's bigger challenges ahead. But who can bitch about a 3-0-1 start? Not me.


Runninwiththedogs said...

Um, Donald?

Technically, I'm a UAA Blog reader, not a USCHO poster, as I've been reading this blog practically since its inception, and rarely post on USCHO.

So, it's USCHO $94.60, Blog readers $6.66.

Donald Dunlop said...

Yes you are. However, you did contribute during the all-important USCHO week. Nonetheless - I'll make the change even if it ruins the drama.

Donald Dunlop said...


Nin said...

So I'm sitting at the Kohl and see the score saying UAA wins and I turn to my friend and said, "Oh yeah Donald is going to be happy they won the rivalry this year. I can't wait to read what his blog has to say" and she just gave me a blank stare like I was insane and that I was making up some blog and a guy named Donald. It was pretty funny but at any rate just wanted to let you know that I was rooting for UAA to win the all important rivalry.

Donald Dunlop said...

LOL. How surprised would you have been if your friend had said something that indicated she knew who you were talking about; like, "Gawd, I hate that guy! He's soooo mean!"

Thanks for the Seawolf support though! Always good to know people are hoping the 'wolves win! We still have to play UAF twice more to wrap it up but of course all we have to do is manage a tie on their ice!

steve z said...

Hey Donald - any idea why it seems like we are always behind when it comes to recruiting? If you look at Chris Heisenbergs recruiting website almost all other teams have lists of players comitted for next year. We have none... Definately can't complain about the caliber of players coming to UAA for the last couple seasons but it seems like we are living dangerously by waiting so long to get commitments when many of the top players are already spoken for...

Jeff said... hasuaa ranked 2oth in this weeks edition of the power rankings.

gcoulson said...

Wow, great comment on the recruiting Steve Z. Maybe a good topic for the Coach's Show, once things slow down in November and video footage is at an all time low I'll see if Tuttle can ask.

The only thing I can add to your post Donald is how Gordon needs work on his puck play. A number of times he went behind the net to play the puck, and found an angry Nanook waiting for him. At one point their were two Fairbanks players between him and the crease. That's never a good state for a goaltender to put himself in. I think during that play he ended up getting hit and losing his helmet. In retrospect, it did show some real guts to push one of the players out of his way and take his position back with his helmet rolling around on the ice. Gordon standing in goal, face naked. -"old time hockey, Coach."

If you missed the above action, check out this weeks "Coach Shyiak Show". There are so many hits (mostly Beaverson) that we can put a sequence montage together and highlight it on the show. My favorite is one where Beaverson lays a Nanook on his ear, just past the blueline, at the top of the circles, near the side wall. The Nanook is lying on the ice in a crumpled pile and Beaverson, (after hitting him mind you) actually takes his top hand of his stick, grabs his jersey with his thumb and index finger (still gloved amazingly) and gives his now wrinkly jersey a little tug. This motion pulls his jersey tight and straightens out the wrinkles. I guess a wrinkle on your "C" is out for fall. Who knew?

"The Coach Shyiak Show" airs Wednesday night at 8pm, GCI-Channel 1. Again before the game Friday at the Sullivan Arena big screen, (if you're there early). On GCI-channel 1 again just before the rebroadcasts. I don't get my Special events documentation until Wednesday, so the re-air on Friday's at the arena is contingent upon about 12 things including athletics department, sponsors, TJ the DJ, Lyle annoncements/mic checks, the pregame pre-production, etc. etc. etc. The students work hard on it for no compensation, so I like to play it as much as possible as a "thank you" to them.


gcoulson said...

oh yeah, I almost forgot, GO SEAWOLVES!!

Donald Dunlop said...

Steve Z:
Indeed a good question. I think mostly its a factor of getting behind with the coaching change as well as having more than a few unexpected losses/transfers.

It's got to be difficult for the staff to come in the middle of summer and start all over. Having two coaches in a 3 year period might signal instability to a recruit and his family. No doubt there were kids they were hoping to get that they didn't get because of that.

Bengtson is going to be a great one when he gets here. Perhaps he'll come in next year after just one year of juniors? I don't know if he'll be ready but from everything I've heard he is a real talented skating and puck handling forward. Lots of WCHA coaches want two years of juniors but honestly some kids are ready before that. Kyle Turris shouldn't have had to wait an extra year and he wasn't the only kid sitting in juniors that could have been playing last year (IMnsHO). If Wisconsin had accelerated him they could have had him for two years instead of the one they'll get out of him.

The staff must've really been scrambling last spring to pull this class out of their ass. They're sure looking good at this point with what they've done even though much of it was "late".

Another factor is that a kid might get approached by a school like UAA before he hears from anyone else. If the kid is a stud then he and his family can leverage the process to get into the best situation they think they can. Jason Gregoire is a good example of that last year. He "played" his cards and ended up at a school where he'll likely have a chance at a national championship during his career. That matters a lot to players. Again in his case, I'd think he could be playing college hockey this year instead of the USHL.

I'm a believer that the best kind of development in sports happens when the athlete is challenged at the highest possible level. While I'm not going to say that Kyle Turris was hurt by spending another year in the BCHL, I would ask this. Can you imagine how good he'd be as a sophomore this year instead of a freshman? I tend to think he'd be better.

That aside, getting "caught up" (in terms of having recruits signed earlier) is a daunting task. There are risks in evaluating 17 year olds. Are they peaking at 17? Every player develops at different rates. Mike Peluso is a good example ... he came to UAA as a draft pick of New Jersey. After his second year (I believe) they dropped him. He wasn't very good as a freshman. He wasn't much better as a sophomore. But by the time he became a Senior he was a full-on beast on the blueline. He "peaked" at 24. Some kids might be peaking at 17. If you look at UAF's recruit list I'd have to rate it as pretty risky compared to others who have that many early commits. Maybe it will work out ... maybe it won't.

All in all its a bit of gamble. I know Shyiak looks at a kids character as well as his skill. Character can be a predictor of success in that it gives you an idea of how commited a guy will be to his development. Some kids wrap up their committment and are so glad that pressure is over that they "coast" the rest of the way before going into college.

I know that's a bit of a rambling answer but just stuff off the top of my head.

Donald Dunlop said...

Thanks for the updates. I'll continue to promo the show here. If and when you have any good info pls feel free to email me or even just use the TEXTING WIDGET on the blog page to give me a heads up. Also please feel free to sign up at the Fan Forum in case you want to share something there.

Keep up the good (no great) work. I meant to come by y'all's desk up in the balcony and introduce myself this weekend but as usual other running around kept me from getting there.

Gopher fan in Anchorage said...

Walsky, did play very well Fri. Didn't see the Sat. game. Gophers played very bad this weekend, but losing Vanelli, Johnson, and Goligoski isn't something that can be fixed overnight. Although they really lacked offensive flow and intensity Friday. Congrats to the Seawolves on their fast start. Would be nice to see the Sully a little more full and people in Anchorage excited about real hockey and not the echl

Nin said...

Donald-I was be more than a little shocked if she knew who you were because she doesn't have internet access except when she comes to my house to check her email so she doesn't spend endless hours on blogs like us real hockey fans do.

Suze said...

I watched some of the CC/UM game and saw Walsky's goal. He did look pretty good. CC looks to be a strong team, and they are FAST. Of course I don't remember a CC team that wasn't.

Still, I wouldn't trade him back for any of our freshmen or sophmore forwards. :)

smj said...

steve z,

Last year, when asked about this at a coach’s lunch, before the home series with the Kato if failing memory serves, Shyiak was quite adamant that he was not going the earlier recruiting route. If I got it right, it’s just risky with 18 scholarships and few banners in the rafters. To my eyes, Shyiak’s claim that this is the most talented team he’s at UAA, seems to be pretty true.

At the coaches lunch this last Friday, Shyiak was quite forthcoming about UAA’s chances of winning recruiting battles with the Nations top 10 or 12 programs. It’s pretty much nada until we are regularly in the NCAA Tourney, play to a regularly sold-out Sully, etc. I haven’t heard this in so many words, but the strategy seems to be monitor, through the contacts network in large part I’d suppose, rather than spin their wheels. Given the results so far, I don’t see any reason to change, particularly given the way things are in the real world.

When talking to players and parents, I usually try to work in the “why UAA question”. The most common answers are: nice town, playing time without a couple of years collecting splinters in a suit, playing for Shyiak/Blair/Whitten, and playing in the WCHA. The coaching staff can’t comment now, but a signing period is on us shortly, and we’ll soon get some more names to chew over and eventually elevate to godhood amongst the sect of Donald. ;)

Kris said...

It might also be important to note that we might not have a lot of recruits coming right now because we have a large freshman and sophomore class. We have maybe ten athletes graduating in the next two years. Also, to mention that a lot of the late pick ups were probably due to the unplanned transfers. And those late recruiting pick ups have worked out fairly well, the verdict is still out on Gordon (with only one game) but Parkinson was a late pick up who is doing quite well so far.

Donald Dunlop said...


" ... names to chew over and eventually elevate to godhood amongst the sect of Donald"

I like it.

Seriously though, I think your observations/intuition ring true. The "elite of the elite" (i.e... the top 10-15 recruits) are looking for a school where they can contribute to a possible national championship.

UAA will definitely have to get some NCAA experience (and success) under their belt to attract any of those type players; as well as improved local support (the new arena will make UAA a perennial powerhouse!!).

My personal hope is that a local "stud" (Anchorage produces one or two of those top 15 players fairly regularly) who really loves his hometown team will decide to stay. If a kid is worried about national exposure so he can take the next step there is no better place than the WCHA; it doesn't matter which team you play for. If you're a stud you're going to get noticed in this league. Anyhow, a decision like that by a local stud will go some way to help convince other (local and non-local studs) players that UAA is the kind of program that can reach those championship heights with their help.

Success will breed more success. It's all a bit of a puzzle and you can't really force the pieces into place. You can get to an initial level of success without any of those "elite" recruits but the next step after that takes one or two of them.

steve z said...

Great imput... I certainly saw the coaching staff changes of the last couple years as a reason for the late recruiting also. I did think however that starting this year we may see some earlier recruiting commitments... The staff has obviously done a great job with the last couple classes of players, late or not. Even though we can't, for now, compete for the top few recruits each year Shyiak and Co. have done a great job getting players that are just below the "super star Jr." status (Kyle Turris).

A team full of A caliber players is far more dangerous than a team with one superstar though - Not to bring up the unspeakable (Aces)on this site but Davis Payne employed that philosophy with the Aces to the tune of a National title and a few other close calls... He said several times he would rather have a handfull of 20 goal scorers on the team that one or two guys capable of twice that. Worked well for them, maybe Shyiak is following the same plan.

On a more selfish note - I guess I'm just anxiously awaiting a little fodder for my hopes of a future national title...

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