Thursday, December 13, 2007

#1 Ranked DU: Chinks in the Armor?

The most reliable method of determining who is the best team in Division 1, KRACH has the DU Pioneers ranked at #1. The (useless) but more popularly quoted USCHO "Poll" has them at #4. The difference between the two is that KRACH uses objective math and the USCHO Poll uses subjective humans. In either case, it appears that the Pios look to be the most highly "rated" opponent to come to town this season. For comparison purposes KRACH has UAA ranked at #16 while the USCHO Poll doesn't list UAA anywhere among the 31 teams who received votes. Wow. That's a pretty big disparity eh? My point here isn't to beat up on the "polls" (even though they're stupid) but rather to show that pretty much everyone agrees that DU is a really good hockey team. Their record is indicative of that: 12 wins and 4 losses.

But all that said it; there are I believe some chinks in the armor that the Seawolves can take advantage of this weekend. Defensively the Pios were thought to be nothing spectacular before the season started. But so far in practice this season opponents have only notched 1.69 goals per game. That's a pretty stellar number. During the preseason the general worry amongst Pios fans was whether their defensive crew was up to the task. So far this season Gwoz has gone pretty rigidly with six blueliners in all games. Looking at the numbers would make think that these six guys must pretty much be "all-worlders". But I believe the truth is that they aren't "all that and a bag of chips". They've done a serviceable job. Most of the credit for the good GAA goes to Peter Maninno. He's started and finished every game so far in his senior season between the pipes. His save percentage of .934 is all the more impressive when you consider that he has faced more shots per game than any other WCHA netminder. There is no doubt he is playing the best hockey of his career so far this season. Seemingly no real chink there.

Offensively Pios fans had quite a bit to look forward to before the season started. Tyler Ruegsegger, Rhett Rakhshani and Brock Trotter all returned and are all highly-regarded for their offensive abilities. None of those three have disappointed as they are all producing top 20 numbers in scoring among WCHA forwards. Three incoming players looked to contribute offensively as well with Tyler Bozak, Kyle Ostrow and Jesse Martin expected to contribute. All three have done pretty well but Bozak is #3 for WCHA rookies in scoring. Trotter, Rakhshani, Bozak and Ruegsegger have accounted for 29 of the 46 total goals the team has netted so far this season. The overal 2.88 goal per game average isn't huge by any measure (about the same as UAA's). DU's power play has been less efficient than UAA's and currently sits at just under 12 percent. No real chink there either.

There's a bit of disparity in size this weekend between UAA and DU. The Pios are 30th in height and 20th in weight overall. UAA is 2nd in height and 6th in weight overall. It isn't as big a difference as we've seen in some earlier series but it's enough to make it somewhat significant especially since DU plays with only 6 defensemen. Is this the chink? Could UAA's big forwards wear down DU's 6 defenseman? It might be something for Gwoz to worry about this weekend. UAA rolls 4 lines consistently and all four lines utilize physical play to attempt to dominate zone possession. Coach Shyiak's cycling game might have one of it's best opportunities so far this season to be really fruitful. Having skated really well with one of the fastest teams in the NCAA (CC) I don't think UAA has to worry much this weekend about being outskated. I'm sure the Pios can skate too but it's unlikely they'll outskate the Seawolves this weekend. So that's the chink.

If UAA plays "it's game" this weekend, I believe they could expose that chink. Strong physical play is the mantra. Hit 'em hard and then hit 'em again and again. Wear 'em down. Keep the games close with the same good defensive play that we've been seeing and use every bit of the 200ft rink to tire the Pios legs. I think matching up lines will be important this weekend and while Gwoz usually does a great job in that department the home ice advantage of having the last change is in Shyiak's favor. Hopefully, he finds the combinations that best utilize that advantage this weekend.

One additional factor that the Seawolves might need this weekend is for the fans to be in the game. So as your sitting in your section this Friday and Saturday night I'm calling for readers to be proactive. Be vocal yourself and encourage your neighbors to be vocal as well. Let the Seawolves know you're behind them. Pump them up. I expect these to be a couple of very tight and very hard played hockey games. Sitting on your hands and watching isn't going to be helpful. Make some noise and pass it along. 4 points isn't out of the realm of possibility this weekend. Be a part of helping that happen with your support eh? Bring a friend. Bring two friends. The #1 team is coming to town; UAA fans shouldn't need anything more than that to get pumped up.


dggoddard said...

Nice article.

I think you will be blown away by DU's offensive speed. Our forwards are small, but very fast and our D-men are big and strong.

DU's team defense is the best I've seen at Denver. All six guys work to block and deny shots and angles.

dggoddard said...

Is that photo you in drag?

Donald Dunlop said...

I hope "all" 6 of those guys work their asses off this weekend. I hope UAA gives them plenty of reason to work their asses off. That will give UAA the best chance to win I believe.

DU's speed will not be an issue. UAA's blueliners are one of the fastest/best skating group of defensemen in the league.

UAA's forwards not only have size but they can motor as well ... So in this case we've got a bit of Newtonian Physics on our side .... F=ma (Force Mass times Acceleration).

Not me in drag. All that hair should have been the clue.

Anonymous said...

UAA is 2nd in height and 6th in weight overall

Only one team is taller and only five are heavier.

That being said, isn't this (and shouldn't it be) their M.O. every weekend?

I think tWolves are a lot better talented than in years past, but I don't think they can out-talent the DUs, CCs, MNs, NDs, etc (at least not this year).

Hit, hit, hit and wear teams down seems to have had success and seems to be the way to go from here on out.

Donald Dunlop said...

You're dead-on right about that. The physical game has been and continues to be an important part of Shyiak's game plan. When he got here they started counting hits on the stat sheet.

I don't think previous coaches had done so though historically UAA has been known as a physical team.

Suze said...

UAA has been a physical team, except when Talafous had them. Brush was definitely that kind of coach.

Anonymous said...

Donald I love your photos, hopefully this one will have the same effect as the gopher video and the toothy bulldog and translate into UAA points this weekend

Donald Dunlop said...

LOL. Thanks for the photo compliment. Today I initially searched for a picture with the term "chink in armor". I was surprised that I didn't get some results of chinese men in armor. In any case I didn't find anything I liked and it occurred to me that a picture of an attractive woman is never a bad thing so I looked for "chicks in armor" and found that one. I found a couple of others that I decided not to use (matter of taste I suppose).

Anonymous said...

I think that perhaps DU will also be blown away by our speed. It should be a great week-end of hockey, and hopefully this Christmas DU will be crying in their eggnog. Having said that, GO SEAWOLVES GO!!!!!

Anonymous said...

"I was surprised that I didn't get some results of chinese men in armor."


Neil said...

I doubt if UAA will be surprised by DU's "speed". Like some of the other teams we've played haven't been fast. It's the W "frickin"CHA! Most teams have fast guys - some more than others. Maybe DU will be surprised just how physical we are. Nothing like slowing a team down by making them swivel their heads a few times before hitting stride. Knock 'em Silly Wolves!

Will said...

The team has improved each weekend from the start of the WCHA schedule. I expect nothing less from the guys this weekend. We haven't seen a team yet that if we play our game we can't beat and DU shouldn't be any different. Four points this weekend is very possible as long as the guys bring their A game to the Sully. Section 213 will be the loudest section in the building. Go Wolves.

puck swami said...

There are plenty of chinks in the Pioneers' armor - they aren't very big, the power play is horrible, and scoring can be streaky. That said, they one of the best defensive teams in America, they are hot of late, and are 8-0-2 in their last 10 at the Sully. Lookinh forward to a good weekend of hockey.

Chris said...

Does anyone have any info on Jeff Carlson from Minnesota? I played with him in high school and wanted to know if he was going to play this year?

Donald Dunlop said...

I understand that Jeff is due to arrive in Anchorage sometime next week. He should be eligible to play as soon as the first semester is complete (if it isn't already) so perhaps we'll get our first look at him when UAA visits UAF at the end of the month.

Chris said...

awesome thanks

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