Sunday, January 27, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Reality Sucks? Nah ...

If adversity truly does build character then the UAA hockey team has accumulated a boatload of it so far this season. Saturday night versus UND was the latest example. The Seawolves outshot, outskated, outworked, outchanced and in every way outplayed the Fighting Sioux. Obviously, they didn't outscore them though; hence ... Reality Sucks. Even without the nightmare that is "Instant Replay" the Seawolves probably still wouldn't have come out on top. UAA had it's first goal disallowed on Saturday night because Craig Parkinson was in the crease when the puck crossed the line. Let me say two things about that. Parkinson's presence in the crease was a result of continuing contact with a UND defender and the puck when in off a UND defenders attempt to clear it. Parkinson had NO contact with the puck after ending up on his butt in the crease. And consulting with the linesman on the Instant Replay call? I told you that Bruce McLeod was turning his referees into empty shirts with his apologies and suspensions didn't I? Well, that was example #1. Do you think for a moment that Anderson would have called the linesman in to review the play if he wasn't concerned about having Bruce second guess him? Hell no he wouldn't have. Nevertheless, they got it wrong. If Parkinson had anything to do with the puck going into the net then perhaps you've got a crease violation. But he didn't (a UND player directed the puck into the net!) and he was in the crease as a result of continuing contact with a UND defender. But like I said, if the ruling had been different the result wouldn't have necessarily been different. But that said ... wasn't it wonderfully karmic to bag a "real" goal just seconds later? And to see the Seawolf fans in the stands sarcastically "waving it off" was a thing of beauty! Good on ya's for that!

I was real happy with they way the team played on Saturday night. The were buzzing most of the time and often tilted the ice at the UND end. They pretty much hit everything in sight and today their opponent is probably thinking they are the Fighting Bruise as a result. But all that good effort and work couldn't overcome the 2 goal lead they spotted to UND. What a rough second start for Bryce. The first two real chances he faced in his second start were hellaciously good shots that would have been difficult saves for any goaltender. Not that I want to be over-critical here but he was a bit deep in his crease, if he'd stepped out and cut off the angles he might have had a better chance on each of them. But hey, he played solid the night before and there's no real blame in finding out if he could be a Cinderella. If you don't try you don't know eh? That said, I think he had no pressure Friday night and lots of pressure Saturday. Lesson learned for Bryce I think and with time I think he'll step up and be a valuable asset. He is athletic and definitely confident with the puck on his stick. Merit Waldrop was definitely the most effective Seawolf forward this weekend and if anyone tried to put the team on their backs it was Merit. He is so skilled and should have much higher numbers over his career.

Everyone played great. Saturday's game was a true team effort at 110%. There was a series where Seawolf after Seawolf carried the puck back into the UND zone where it truly looked like they could do anything they put their mind to. First Merit, then Robbie then Big Luke. Shave Lovdahl had a great series on both ends of the ice. Josh Lunden played with intensity. Paul Crowder was as determined as I've ever seen him. Kevin Clark was a huge pest and effective everywhere. Peter Cartwright, Blair Tassone, and Chris Tarkir all had good chances and played one of their best games of the season. Tommy Grant looked a quarter of a step away from being a dominant player on quite a few shifts Saturday. Craig Parkinson was shuffled around a bit from line to line and looked good in all roles including the power play. Nick Haddad and Sean Wiles seem to be rotating regularly and I'm pleased with what each have been bringing. I think Nick seemed more ready at the beginning of the season but Sean's has looked progressively stronger with each outing. Brad McCabe simply can't be called a freshman anymore. I really liked everything I saw from him this weekend. Which leave Jared Tuton who was perhaps only quietly effective this weekend but effective nonetheless. His energy and hitting game was in evidence and he generated a couple of chances as well. All in all, every forward showed some effectiveness this weekend. The team didn't miss Winston Daychief. That's not a knock on Winston's stellar play though. When his ankle is healed I'm glad I'm not the one that has to set the lineup. As for the blueliners; Kane Lafranchise stood out this weekend to me in the defensive zone. Like Brad McCabe I'd have to say he has "graduated" beyond being labeled a freshman. I can't wait to see how he develops over the next three years. He's definitely got All-WCHA potential at some point. Like I noted above Shane Lovdahl was really strong going forward this weekend and I thought he was very responsible in his end as well. He really has great hands and is effective with the puck on his stick in traffic. Mat Robinson is a stud. Do I have to go on? He is the most underrated defenseman in the WCHA; plain and simple. Speed, hands, eyes, hitting, passing, shooting, rushing ... he has it all. Luke Beaverson has turned into a great Captain. He is leading on the back line with a quality physical game. TJ Oshie did get around the outside of him for one goal this weekend but 9 out of 10 times it wouldn't happen twice. Quite simply though Luke's hitting game has been fabulous over the last 4 games. He is laying it on thick. Trevor Hunt was good in his zone this weekend and should be gaining some confidence going foward. He made a couple of good rushes with the puck and showed some smarts while doing it. I'm real happy with what I see from Luka Vidmar. He has really developed since the beginning of the season and I'd expect he is the next player in line to lose the "freshman" label. Great hands and is an effective shooter in the sense that he gets the puck to the net versus having his shots blocked.

So the reality so far is that the record doesn't look great. I know everyone is tired of the "this team is better than their record" speech. The record is the "Reality" right? Nah ... the "Reality" is that they simply are much better (that's right I said "much") better than the record indicates. The scoring will come. The record will improve. They'll win some games as long as they allow the character of these adversities to set in. What that will mean for the players is a renewed vigor and determination in each upcoming game. It might look like a setback. But it only looks that way. This team has every reason to continue to believe in themselves. A couple of dings on the record doesn't mean a thing. Next weekend is an opportunity as are the weekends that follow. One game at a time. Be confident Seawolf players. You are doing the right things and learning what it takes to overcome. You will have more success. I'm confident of that. The mountaintop is attainable. If you didn't believe that you wouldn't be here.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

What happened to Backstrom? Parkinson and McCabe are two fine player, can't wait to see Bryce get a few more games under his belt, he'll move Othius aside very soon.

Donald Dunlop said...

I can only guess about Nils. My assumption is that Shyiak is putting the defensemen in games that he feels are doing the best in practic. There's a lot of competition on the blueline for playing time. And that's only going to be increased now that Jeff Carlson has joined the team. I like Backstrom's style of play but that said ... he has made a couple of ugly mistakes in game situations. Perhaps Shyiak doesn't have the confidence in Nils?

Like I said ... that's all guessing and speculation on my part. It could be that Coach is giving him more opportunity to focus on the student part of the student/athlete equation. Or it could be that Nils has some nagging injury?

As far as Bryce and Jonny competing for playing time .... I welcome that. That said, Jonny is really good postionally and doesn't have any emotional highs and lows. He is consistent. If having Bryce competing for playing time decreases the (few) mistakes that Jonny makes then we'll have a good situation. Two goalies playing well makes a team better.

Anonymous said...

good blog post, donald i have to agree with you on everything except about waldrop, i really thought that he was hogging the puck a lot on saturday especially on that 2on1 he had with tuton in the 3rd.

Suze said...

If Merit hogged the puck once during the game, big deal. Look at the big picture. He was by far the best player and biggest spark plug on the team.

Tarks also tried a wraparound and hit the side of the net when he had a teammate right in the slot to pass to.

Mistakes and mental errors happen to EVERY team at some point. They played, for the most part, like a team. They didn't give up. Show that intensity this weekend and they'll get some important points.

Donald, I totally agree with you about Anderson's incompetence in asking the linesman for his opinion, and I stated that in the USCHO scores thread. That was lame, and Shyiak was clearly upset about it, with good reason. If it was that close that Todd coundn't find reason to disallow the goal "on his own", it should have counted.

Donald Dunlop said...

Interesting perspectives on Waldrop. I think it points out a fine line between a player "trying to make something happen" and one who is a "puck hog". I don't see Merit as a selfish player and from my experience playing soccer I'd say that sometimes you just "know" you can get it done without any help.

I think the guys that "know" that too often are probably puck hogs. But then again. It's a fine line. If a guys teammates come to think of him that way they won't pass the puck to him. When I played soccer if I made a pass to a guy and he kept losing it because he tried to do too much by himself then I'd stop passing it to him.

Some individual play is necessary and desirable. Oshie scored on UAA while "hogging" the puck eh? Maybe that's the difference ... if you hog it and score then nobody thinks you're a puck hog. A good example of that in my mind was Keith Street with the Aces. Aces fans think he was the bees knees. I think he was the greediest most selfish hockey player I've ever seen.

Anyway ... good comments.

Anonymous said...

I think Shyiak sold Christiansen to the wolves (no pun intended) by playing him two nights in a row ON THE ROAD IN NORTH DAKOTA. Bryce had a great game on Friday but the kid hadn't played a game in weeks - and that was Juniors... To play him two nights in a row on the road against the #4 team in the nation was not a good move.

After his solid effort on Friday, give him a week to recoup with a good game under his belt and you start to build a confident young goalie. Set him up for failure by playing him two nights in a row -yanking him from the game after 8 minutes - and you make him wonder if he can hang in the "W"...

Donald Dunlop said...

I have no doubt that Bryce wanted to play the 2nd night. It's totally back-seat driving second-guessing to blame the coach. I tend to believe that it's best to handle goaltenders by letting them know well in advance if they are going to play. But Shyiak is/was in a bit of unique position because of the Gordon injury.

Don't get me wrong here because I love Jonny O ... but his save percentage is one of the worst in the NCAA. I'm not indicting him here though but no coach can look at those kinds of numbers and not give something a try. Shyiak gave Bryce a try. Had it worked out then everyone would have been thrilled. But it didn't. There probably was a lot more pressure on Bryce the 2nd night. It's tough to anticipate that and/or exactly how a goaltender will deal with it.

Unfortunately for Bryce the next time he plays there'll be a bit of pressure on him as well. I'd guess that the coach will tell them that they are alternating this coming weekend vs. MTU. That no matter the result they'll both be playing. I don't think Olthuis is yet in a position to "lose" the starting job since the book is still out on Bryce.

Ultimately, it's a positive situation for the team. Both of these guys will want to play. They should both be focused. If they both play well, they'll both probably play. If one of them stands on his head he'll probably get more starts. But I wouldn't anticipate that for a bit ... maybe the team gets lucky and one or both really gets hot going into the playoffs. With a hot goalie and playing the way they did on Saturday (and quite a few other times this season) the Seawolves could be everyone's worst nightmare come playoff/Final Five time.

SIOUX 7 said...

After attend both games this weekend, I can say, that UND was out played for about 50 minutes on Saturday night, and that Lamearoux, stole the game away from UAA.

The upside is look at what the previous 2 teams to get swept by UND did in their next games. Mankato got a sweep over SCSU this past weekend, and MTU got 3-out-of 4 points from CC. SO, UAA should have a good weekend coming their way.

PS. Is a Seawolf just a nickname for a killer whale?

MeanEgirl said...

UAA definitely deserved better this past weekend. If they keep that play up, there's no question that the W's will start rolling in. I think they should continue the play of Saturday night AFTER this weekend. I'm pretty nervous about this upcoming series... =\

Anonymous said...

Lets see Richard Bachman come in and steal the show in NortDakota playing for UAA..Bottom line is the team has to score Goals.there is no Goalie phenoms that can wear the magic slipper.Any time you dominate a team like that on Sat you should have 3 goals plus..Did you see Oshies first shot..Absolute snipe show..First Round NHL Material There.. The second Goal was another great shot but the Defense was out of position and should have taken that Man..I think everybody was very suprised that Bryce got the Start Sat..Very risky move for a young Goalies Confidence but bottom line is there trying to win games. UH...Welcome to the BIG LEAGUES BRYCE..

Suze said...

If Shyiak had not started Bryce on Saturday, and Jonnie O struggled early, some people would have said "Bryce played so well on Friday, I thought he deserved the start on Saturday. Why didn't Shyiak start him?".

I'd hate to be a coach!

Anonymous said...

A little Seawolf Pride couldn't hurt right about now. Fan support is crucial to any team.

Suze said...

Unfortunately, fans in Anchorage are tired of so many losing seasons. I'll be there, as I have been the last 20 years, and I will encourage as many people as I can to make it to the games. But the team has GOT to start winning some games.

Will said...

Good comments Donald. I'm sure the players that check on your blog appreciate your continued support for the guys and the positive comments you provide. It would be interesting to know if the coach agrees with your assesment of how the team played over the weekend.

I'm impressed with the way the guys continue to play at the level they have for the last couple weekends considering they play good games but can't get the win and much needed points. At this point you have to start to wonder what it is going to take for them to get a win? It sure isn't because the effort isn't there.

Frustration sets in for the fans so at some point it has to also for the team or maybe we need to give credit to the coaching staff that they continue to get the team ready for another weekend. The team is playing good enough and continues to play at the level or above the other team that the law of averages has to swing to our side at some point.

We will be there to see if the team can put together three periods of hockey and get some points this weekend. As usual they will need to play will to beat Tech.

annabelle said...

Good comments Will.

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