Monday, November 26, 2007

The Tales of Two Birds

This coming weekend two kids from Anchorage playing for le tigre come home under completely different circumstances. Drew O'Connell graduated from Service High School and went to the Sante Fe Roadrunners of the NAHL then to the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL. Eric Walsky went to East High and was the Alaska High School Player of the Year before moving onto the River City Lancers of the USHL. When the time came to choose a college at which to play, Eric chose UAA and Drew chose CC. I don't know if UAA had recruited Drew. Goaltender openings don't happen every year in a D1 program so it's possible the kid would have chosen to stay home if he'd had the choice but saying that; I do seem to remember hearing that UAA was recruiting the #2 guy in the BCHL that year, so UAA may or may not have been talking to him. In any case, they both moved onto D1 with high hopes of succeeding. Neither has reached the heights that they probably hoped for though.

At Waterloo Drew had a nice save percentage of .906 and a gaa of 2.53 and won the USHL Rookie of the Year award. All in all very promising stats and accolades for an incoming Division 1 goalie. However, those were the best numbers of his post high school career. I've followed his career at CC with some interest and I can't remember Owens ever saying anything publicly that would help Drew become more confident. In my book, Owens has let this kid down. After his difficult freshman year (where Owens virtually ignored the kid) Drew suited up for his 2nd campaign but a combination of hot play from Matt Zaba (36 games) and no confidence from Scott Owens limited his action again to only 8 games. And now as a junior he is faced with fighting for playing time with a freshman who by all accounts is standing on his head most nights. No doubt it's been a frustrating experience for Drew playing at CC. Will Drew play this weekend? I'm sure he'll get the start one night; if Owens doesn't start him I'd be surprised ... Drew deserves a chance and if he doesn't get a start I'd tell him to look for somewhere else to play if hockey is the most important thing to him. It seems he is doing well in school so perhaps he can take getting a good education as some solace. If there was ever a situation for a kid that was tailor-made to jump start a career it would be this weekend. If he can dominate a game in his hometown then maybe he'd finally get a little respect from CC coach Ron Jeremy.

Eric Walsky is a player most of us UAA fans have lots of familiarity with. As a freshman he suffered a couple of injuries that limited his playing time but everytime we saw him play he brought something special to the ice. I guess it was Doyle Woody who labeled him as being able to "stickhandle in a phone booth". Very true even if my attribution is incorrect. We saw much the same in his second year but it seemed Eric always had difficulty finding someone to be the recipient of his passes. It was unknown to me at the time but apparently Eric wasn't happy playing for new coach Dave Shyiak that year. There was much finger-pointing and consternation when Eric was denied a transfer to rejoin John Hill at UMTC. In particular, I believe that John broke the NCAA contact rules and tried to lure Eric. My guess is that Dr. Cobb suspected something along the same lines when he denied Eric's request. At that point Minnesota fans immediately jumped to the "he sucks anyway" line of reasoning while at the same time decrying the denial. In any case, Eric found a home at CC. In his first 10 games in a CC uniform Eric has 5 goals and many CC fans are excited about his addition to the team. They see the same things we UAA fans saw. A player that can dominate a shift with individual puck possession. Yet it seems that Eric might be having the same problem finding someone to pass to at CC as he is yet to have an assist on his stat sheet. Regardless, this is a kid that has got to be seriously pumped to return to Anchorage to play in front of family and friends against his old school. I find it equally likely that there are a couple of UAA players that will be more than happy to see Eric on the ice this weekend.

To me those are two pretty compelling stories for this weekend. How will these two returning birds do on their arrival back at their hometown roost? How will fans greet them? I wouldn't begin to predict any major drama arising from this situation though. Who knows? I'll be interested to see what if anything transpires. The last potentially compelling story is that the last time these two teams met there was a fight at the end of the game resulting in a boatload of DQ's and 1 game suspensions for both squads. Will anything from that night carry over to this series? My first guess to that question would be no; but again ... who knows?


Anonymous said...

UAA had seriously pursued O'Connell! I remember an article in the ADN way-back-when with Drew saying the hardest phone call he's made in his life was calling Hill to tell him he was going to CC.

That made 2 goalies CC lured away from UAA as the Seawolves also brought Zaba to Anch for a recruiting visit.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure what you mean by saying that some of the Seawolves will be happy to see Walsky on the ice. If it is a remark commenting on some sort of betrayal that they may feel, I wouldn't count on it. As far as my experience is concerned, Walsky still has friends on the team. They might enjoy competing against their friend but I don't see any vengeance or any thing like that.


You probably already know but... I found your goaltender!

Nice professional start!

Suze said...

Couldn't Utah at least show a picture of Lawson in a Grizzlies sweater? Sheesh.

I see he already has 2 minutes in penalties!


I wasn't even paying attention! I didn't realize that he was in Phoenix before!

He had two 'Cats in front of him before but they're more offensive minded d-men - Brian Yandle and Chris Murray.



His first pro game was AGAINST Utah! He stopped all 27! He only had two bad outings and those weren't that bad. The rest look like very nice performances.

Ha, ha... he took a tripping call! Nice!

Now he has Trevor Smith (another of our 'Cats) putting up points for him.

Donald Dunlop said...

Anon @1:19
I didn't mean anything other than in a competitive sense. Just like I imagine Eric will be pumped ... several UAA players will likely be pumped.

That's all.

Anon @ 11:36
My memories for such specifics are ... lets just say ... not as sharp as they once may have been.

Anonymous said...

The UNH Men's Hockey Blogger Guy:

The Phoenix fans sure didn't say much good about Lawson.

Anonymous said...

Drew did graduate from Service, he played for Service, we went to Steller.

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