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.