Thursday, February 28, 2008

Seawolves vs. Gophers Preview

This weekends series has a distinct difference from virtually every past series between the Seawolves and Minnesota. The sun isn't shining out of Gopher players asses. There is much lament and consternation in Gopher fandom. A near constant stream of wailing from Dinkytown rooftops of "Why why why" can be heard on most every weekend. The Gophers have fallen flat on their faces this season. Early on they lost Ryan Stoa for the year. At midseason Kyle Okposo jumped ship in search of better stats in the AHL. Year after year Don Lucia's toughest job has been to manage the personalities of his Minnesota High School All-Star NHL draftees. Generally, he's just had to pick and choose amongst the dearth of "blue chippahs" and throw them out on the ice and he'd bag 25 wins. But this season with the same youth issues as everyone else in the league and those two important personnel losses tDon is having to go back to his roots and actually do some hockey coaching.

There has been the full gamut of criticism in Gopherland; from the reasonable assertions of an off-year in the increasingly parity-ridden WCHA to back-turning by fans all the way to calls for Lucia's head. Like any large grouping of "things" though it's mostly adhered to a bell-curve with lots of head scratching and sighing amongst the majority of Gopher fans. Long time Internet Gopher fans have mostly been smart enough to not provide other fanbases with too much ammunition and have even shown a sense of humor with regard to the season their team has had. Good on them. Perhaps a nice little lesson in humility was due eh? I seriously doubt we'd have seen the same sort of reaction in Slightly Less Than Dismal Forks had UND taken the downturn experienced by Gopher fans.

There are some similarities to note between the Gophers and Seawolves this season. The Gophers have lost 9 games by 1 or 2 goals this season. UAA has lost 11 games by 1 or 2 goals this season. The Gophers have 8 ties and UAA has 7. The Gophers are scoring 2.47 goals/game and the Seawolves are scoring 2.34 goals/game. Their power play is 13.1 percent and the Seawolves are slightly better at 14.1 percent. Lastly, I think most people honestly believe that both teams are indeed better than their records would indicate. The number of close games and ties both teams have would tend to support that belief. In the two games these teams played in the middle of November the Gophers scored 5 goals and the Seawolves scored 4 and the teams split the series. That's where the similarities end though as far as I can tell.

UAA is substantially bigger than the Gophs. It isn't the biggest difference in overall team size we've seen this year but it's significant. UAA is 2nd tallest, Minnesota is 10th tallest. UAA is 5th heaviest, Minnesota is 38th heaviest. The Gophers are coming off a series with Wisconsin where they seemed to get their offense on track scoring 4 goals both nights against the Badgers including 4 power play goals. The Gophers aren't a simple team to characterize as to overall style this season. I'd say that the one thing I've gleaned from watching them play and reading what others say is that they aren't necessarily strong along the boards. We can expect their power play to be dangerous with their best chances coming on passes to the weak side (backdoor). They don't have anyone that has seemed to be particularly dynamic coming off the blueline with the puck but I wouldn't say they aren't dangerous in transition. If UAA allows a cherry picker to float they could definitely get burned. I think the Seawolves learned some lessons about playing overly aggressive on the power play against DU. I think that lesson is to be a bit more patient and not push too hard. Against DU they got burned with a couple of overcommitments on the power play though to their credit those were potentially high reward situations with the team already behind on the scoreboard. One key to preventing that from happening again will be to get an early lead.

If the Seawolves can score first and then maintain their offensive pressure and make the Gophers go 200ft then they can be successful. The hitting game will have to step up to spur that offensive effort. Puck possession in the Gopher zone will have to be high. The cycling game will have to produce. UAA will need to keep their penalties down and they'll need to cash in on whatever extra- man chances they get. There's no big magic here to get a couple of wins. I think Shyiak will have to be on top of the line changes this weekend. Match ups will be important. The Gophers aren't rolling 4 equal lines. The Seawolf checking lines will need to be on the ice against the Gopher scoring lines. Again, there's no genius in that observation. Blair Tassone, Chris Tarkir and Jared Tuton have three of the best 5 plus/minus ratings on the team and the Seawolves will need them to shutdown UofM's #1 this weekend. The last non-genius thing I can say here is that the goal scorers need to score goals. Plain and simple. Clarkie, Lunden, Crowder, Cartwright, Waldrop and perhaps Parkie and Grant need to bury the puck.

I don't think there is much else to say. Some well-executed fundamental hockey is needed this weekend. Good luck guys ... at least you won't be blinded by all that sunshine that usually shines out of the Gophers asses eh?

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yup. looking forward to another weekend of "we outplayed them, we just couldn't score any goals...our goalie wanted that shot back". Last place is ours! Why?
Because of the above all season long. Getting tired of the same old "we're young" excuse. Bottom line, teams and coaches at this level are judged by wins and losses. The judge says Shyiak guilty, just like Talafous, and to some extent Hill, though Hill did get some playoff wins, something no one else seemed to have accomplished. Little wonder why the Sullivan Arena is mostly empty and quiet.

Donald Dunlop said...

Both the Seniors and Juniors on this years team were recruited by Hill and his staff. Shyiak doesn't have a team of "his" players yet and as such cannot be judged until then. To do otherwise is simply unfair. He can't be held accountable for players that he didn't recruit. Would you rather have had him do what it looks like is about to happen up in Fairbanks? Do you think he should have gutted the program and sent Hill's scholarship players home? That isn't what college athletics is about.

Give it two more years. That's just the reality of the situation. If Shyiak doesn't have home ice or playoff wins and/or Final Five wins and an NCAA appearance by then I'll be very surprised. And when that happens we might have to start worrying about Shyiak being lured away.

Unfortunately for those amongst us that are less than patient it might be difficult to ask for two years before judgement but I believe anything less would be patently unfair. I also recognize that stability is important and I'd ask people that think we ought to dump Shyiak who they think is out there and available for the job? Because I see NOBODY else.

Anonymous said...

ooh, I see it's time to take off the rose-colored glasses.

Anonymous said...

The really good players Hill recruited are gone now, run off by Shyiak! At other schools, players run off to sign NHL contracts. At UAA, they run to the ECHL. Just to get away!

Anonymous said...

i say if don lucia gets canned by minnesota, we fire shyiak and hire lucia

Anonymous said...

Lucia isnt going anywhere..But im sure everybody at UAA is feelin the heat..We cant switch Coaches right know thats not possible or Fair.It is probally fair right now to say with Jay Beagle, Billy Smith,Nathan Lawson,and Eric Walski things would be different but that is an internal Decision that Hurts in the short term but may payoff in the longrun ..A BIG MAY..A perfect World have everything hunkyDory and those guys would have stayed and everybody gets along for the program..The question will be Awnsered Next year if those moves worked and by late Season if things are going the Same its safe to start making a CASE on the Program and the Staff.. untill then lets give Coach Shiak and his staff our full support along with the team..Go Wolves

Suze said...

Umm, Shyiak did have a playoff win last year, in fact his team was the only team EVER to win a playoff game at the Mariucci.

Anonymous said...

At least UAA has their instate bragging rights back. Did Hill win even one Gov's Cup? Didn't think so.

Donald Dunlop said...

Anon@128:
So you're say that some of Hill's recruits didn't have a lot of personal character or dedication?

Lets please try to address reality here eh? Shyiak didn't "run off" anyone. Every player that chose to leave did so of their own accord and all for different reasons. Only one could be considered a player that had a difference in philosophy with the coach.

The point here is that Shyiak is due two more years (or better three). It's only proper and fair that he get those years so an evaluation of what he's done with the program can be fair.

This program has changed coaches TOO MANY times. I'd think Seawolf fans could recognize that.

Anonymous said...

um donald, how well do u know shyiak? have u met any of the team?

Donald Dunlop said...

I don't know Shyiak personally at all. I've met many of the players at the picnic's but don't seek them out other than that. I've had a number of interactions with Damon Whitten but wouldn't characterize that I "know" him either except to know what he has said to me about the program and his (their) support for what I write here.

May I ask why you ask that question?

Anonymous said...

I do agree that it will take a couple of years for a fair eval..but..There will be strong signs next year of the direction of things

Anonymous said...

Yes Hilly one the Gov Cup

Frontroguy said...

Pretty fair assesment Donald. A lot of inconsistancy from my club, and frankly I think it is my fault. A family moved into the neighborhood and after several cocktails asked why I was so into the Gopher hockey squad. After giving several reasons (after all, college hockey is the best thing ever...) I finished it up with, "We are kinda the New York Yankees of college hockey. We always are good, and if you are not from here, you hate us." I think I have brought the wrath of the hockey gods down upon my squad.

The one thing we have had fairly consistantly is goaltending/defense. When we figured we could not put up a 5 spot most of the nights, we clamped down on defense. Except for last weekend we had not given up a whole lot of goals. (well the Denver game too, I guess)

Similar keys to last year though. If I am coaching AA, it is get physical early, and keep your cool. After dealing with the nonesense of North Dakota, we have been a bit edgy. Things that would not have drawn a response, are getting a lot of physical attention. Peltier and Bickel have taken some dumb penalties from either being too aggresive or more often than not they are retaliating (and a little extra) and draw the call. Either way, it puts the team in a rough spot. Good luck Fri night, I will check back on Sat...

Donald Dunlop said...

FRG:
Thanks for both of your comments. Thanks for your respect and good luck to your team this weekend. I believe in the Seawolves and am certain they'll play with pride regardless of the outcome.

Ryan said...

Donald,

don't forget to be on your best behavior this weekend. The games are on FSN North, so you might be on tv =)

jjack said...

All of you blasting Shyiak after only a couple years at the helm must have forgotten about The Great John Hill's illustrious 1-win season in 02-03.

Suze said...

Exactly jjack. Hill's 02-3 team won their first game of the year against Fairbanks, and DID NOT WIN ANOTHER GAME THE ENTIRE SEASON!

Talk about killing attendance!

The fact remains that the U could do a much better job of promoting this team, and they aren't getting the job done.

Anonymous said...

Mazzacco and Woog will not be in Anchorage this weekend....

Anonymous said...

Anonymous who said "yes Hilly won the cup". Wrong.

01-02 UAA won 1, UAF 3
02-03 UAA won 1, UAF 3
03-04 UAF won the shootout
04-05 UAA won 1, UAF won 2, 1 tie

Hill never secured the Governors Cup once in 4 years.

Shyiak has won the Cup 2 of his 3 years.

Suze said...

Hill won't be here either. Chicken.

Ryan said...

The announcers are apparently in the studio announcing in Minnesota.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the boys for the come-from-behind tie tonight… Great effort to come back from 2 goals down and tie it up! Congrats to Ken Selby on his first goal…

I do have to call BS on coach Shayak though for the lack of ice time he gave Selby tonight. The kid doesn’t get to play all season, he comes out tonight and get about 3 shifts and a 10 minute stint in the “sin bin” for Backstrom’s misconduct. Then he scores a beauty of a goal to tie the game late in the third. What’s he get for his efforts?? A seat on the bench for the rest of the night! And likely a seat in the stands for tomorrow night…

It seems to me you would reward the guys who produce with more ice time, not a seat on the bench. Selby is one of the fastest skaters on the team, he has quick hands, good stick handling ability, and he can obviously score as he showed tonight coming in 1 on 1, using the D-man as a screen, and burying the puck… But apparently that warrants play in 4 games a year, taking every 5th shift on the 4th line. Maybe the coaches don’t like his defensive game or something (just a guess) but we certainly need something (someone) to jump-start the offence.

It’s fair to say, if any player has gotten the shaft by Shayak & Co. it’s Ken Selby… Give the kid a legitimate shot and play him on the top line just to shake things up.

p.s. The cycling game sucks… Note that neither goal tonight came off of the “cycle”.

Anonymous said...

Apparently Bryce Christiansen got hurt in practice today... He got hit with a puck just above the leg-pad and sustained a deep thigh contusion.

Get well soon Bryce!

Suze said...

About the cycling game, I agree. That can't be the only trick in the bag. It worked early on, but now teams know that it's ALL UAA does, and they shut it down.

I also agree about Selby. He scores the tying goal and he's not seen on the ice since. That simply stinks.

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