Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Tribute: The 07-08 Seawolf Seniors

This weekend 5 UAA seniors will skate their last shifts in Seawolf uniforms on the sheet at the Sullivan Arena. The old standby cliche that there is no "i" in "team" is always appropriate and something I've always ascribed to philosophically. However, there are always good times to single out individuals and sing their praises. Today is that day here on the UAA Hockey Fan Blog. This group of senior players has toiled for nearly 4 seasons in furtherance of team goals on a team that has finished in 10th place for 3 of 4 of those seasons. Their contributions are all underrated in my opinion. They each should have earned the respect of Seawolf fans for their determined efforts over the last 4 seasons. If there are Seawolf fans out there that don't respect them for going to class, playing with pride and representing our institution with class then they shouldn't call themselves a Seawolf fan.

These five guys (each in their unique ways) are great examples of exactly what NCAA Division 1 student/athletes are all about. I sometimes don't anticipate writing here with the greatest enthusiasm. Today that isn't the case; this is my favorite post to make each year. Thanks to each of you guys for your efforts during your careers. I can guarantee that I'll be standing to heartily applaud each of you when you are introduced this weekend. And I decry in advance anyone who doesn't do the same. I don't expect or demand that anyone other than me struggle to hold back a tear or two though.

Senior Captain Luke Beaverson is first alphabetically on the list. Luke came to UAA through a fairly unique set of circumstances. Originally, he was committed as a North Dakota recruit while playing at Green Bay in the USHL. After his second year of juniors the Sioux asked him to defer another year before joining them. Sensing their lack of commitment to him he told them no and went looking for another team and his future fate as a Seawolf came to be. Luke has been a great fit at UAA. He could be characterized as a classic stay-at-home defenseman due to his 6ft 5in, 220lb physical dimensions; but that would be a severly limiting definition in my book. His foot speed for his size is excellent and his puck handling abilities are overlooked. Luke has been a consummate team player filling whatever role he was asked during his career. As a freshman he was simply expected to adapt to the college game. He did exactly that playing in 37 games. Toward the end of his freshman year I sensed he'd grown quite a bit. During his sophomore season Luke played the majority of his time on the #1 defensive pairing and there was a clearly discernible elevation in his effectiveness in all aspects of his game. It was during his sophomore season that I called him the most underrated defenseman in the WCHA and pointed out his excellent play. As a junior (and an assistant captain) Luke came into his own. Coach Shyiak turned on the green light for the defensemen and Luke responded to that call with 5 goals. He showed us his heavy shot more often as a regular on the power play. My favorite moment from last season the 2nd game of the WCHA playoff series against Minnesota and was during the break going into overtime when some FSN blowhard asked him what UAA's strategy going into the OT would be and Luke grinned and said, "Win eh?"(EDIT: Luke's brother points out in the comments section below that it wasn't he who made that comment ... awww) It was Luke's shot 5:45 seconds into OT that made that statement come true when it found the back of the net. Pretty sweet memory. This season Luke was named Captain and has become an absolute stalwart in the back end with his responsible play. A good example being that he has an overwhelming lead in number of shots blocked. His bone crunching hitting of course is always a highlight and I'd bet dollars to donuts he has layed more of those on this season than at any time in his career. I'd anticipate that with some additional development and adaptation to the NHL style of play that Luke will skate in the show within a couple of years. They're always pretty conservative putting guys on the blueline in that league but Luke's style of play should build confidence in Florida's coaches and GM that he can get it done for them. Thank you Luke for coming to UAA. It's been my pleasure to watch you develop and in years to come I'll always remember you fondly and miss your contributions. Best of luck to you in all your future endeavors. And when you get to the show make sure you throw some love UAA's way when your interviewed by the media eh?

There is always a special place in my fan-heart for a local kid playing at UAA. And Peter Cartwright is no exception to that rule. A walk-on Peter has been somewhat of a role player his first three years generally skating on an energy or checking line. Peter though has always shown skill with puck handling and potential for goal scoring/making. Peter is one of (if not the) best face-off artists on the team. This season with his help has seen the best results in that important category for the Seawolves in a number of years. There have been moments in Peter's career when I thought that Dean Larson had somehow transmuted himself into Peter's jersey in mid-stride. As a freshman he bagged 4 goals with 6 assists in 28 games. In 25 games as a sophomore Peter netted just 2 goals and added one assist. As a junior he found the back of the net 5 times and added 7 assists in 37 games. This season Peter has seen significant time on the power play and as a result has career high numbers with 3 goals and 14 assists. He has also been a regular penalty killer and contributed one of the two shorties that UAA has bagged this season. I think Peter is somewhat of a mirror to the Seawolf team this year. He (like the team) is better than their statistics show. He has good hands and can handle the puck very well in traffic. He sometimes plays with a sharp edge and can use his 6ft 1in 200lb frame to good advantage in the corners and/or in front of the net. Peter is a better than average skater in terms of D1 with good speed and control in his boots. I don't have any doubt that Peter could make some money playing hockey professionally; whether that is just in the ECHL or up in the AHL will depend on what sorts of opportunities he gets and what he does when those opportunities arise. He may not be NHL material but there's no reason for him to give up playing hockey if he is so inclined. Peter adds his name to a long list of quality Anchorage hockey players that stayed home to play for the Seawolves. It's an honorable note on his hockey resume' and I'm proud to have watched him for the last 4 years. Good luck to you Peter in all your future endeavors. You represented your school with pride and class and I'll miss your efforts.

Chris Tarkir has always been somewhat of an enigma to me. As a fan I'm always looking for the next big thing. And when I watched Chris play during his freshman season I thought I'd spotted something that would make him the next coming of Curtis Glencross. Curtis' play at UAA was generally marked by his great physical play. In the same vain Chris seemed to me to have that sort of promise in his game. He skated through his checks. He didn't just finish them. In that first season as well he bagged a nice 6 goals and added 5 assists in 33 games. Going into his sophomore season I hoped Chris would turn it on and prove my pronouncement of him as the next GlenX to be true. He had a nice year leading the team in goals with 8 which wasn't quite GlenX-like though. He continued to show good physical play though and I had high hopes coming into his junior year. But progression statistically isn't always guaranteed in the hockey world and perhaps schoolwork as a junior was particularly difficult? In any case, Chris struggled to achieve good numbers during his junior year with just 1 goal and 4 assists in 36 games. No doubt it was challenging for Chris. During this season Chris has somewhat redeemed himself from the down year as a junior. He has notched 4 goals and 3 assists playing primarily on the energy/checking line in 29 games so far. Chris is fulfilling an important role and doing so with pride in his senior season. Chris' brother played at Northern Michigan so he isn't the first Tarkir that Coach Shyiak has gotten to know and coach. Chris has a real good release on his shot similar to Justin Bourne. His physical play (namely that tendency to check "through" a player rather than just finish) has continued this year. Like Peter Cartwright I'm not sure the NHL will ever come knocking at Chris' door but if he is interested he could make some decent money in the ECHL or perhaps AHL if he gets the opportunity. Best of luck to you Chris in everything your future holds. We're proud as fans that you'll always be an honorable Seawolf Alumnus!

Blair Tassone is this years Justin Johnson. Blair is a heart and soul kind of player that every team needs. He is a sparkplug. He plays with attitude. He hits everything he can possibly get to. He never stops moving his feet. He is the teams most effective penalty killer. He is the hardest working player on the team. In Blair's first two years in a Seawolf uniform he played in less than half of the possible games and was a healthy scratch in most of the rest. I can only imagine after his sophomore season that he spent the summer wondering if he should return. The roles that Blair could fill were simply filled by someone with more experience. I never really had to "sit the bench" when I played soccer so it's difficult to guess how it feels to work hard in practice but come up short in the coaches mind as to what you are able to contribute. To Blair's credit he stuck it out and as a junior he played in 24 games and the 12 he sat out were due to injury. He bagged 3 goals and a couple of assists. He grew into a regular penalty killing role and in more than a few games was THE sparkplug that fired up the team. He puts the GEE in Energy. In Colorado Springs after coming up short in an OT game (after they'd won and OT game the night before) Blair singlehandedly beat the snot out of the whole Colorado College Tiger team. Ok. That's an exaggeration. But from all accounts he was quite the whirlwind when that brawl began in front of the benches. On his junior team he was voted "Most Inspirational" and "Most Dedicated" and everything he's shown in his career at UAA would live up to that. Blair is quick and uses his solid 5ft 11in 195lb frame very well indeed. He's rocked plenty of worlds along the boards. I suspect Blair could find himself a role on an ECHL team and if he did that team would be damn lucky to have someone of his character, class and toughness. Blair is a Natural Sciences major so I'm pretty certain he hasn't exactly taken the easy route in terms of his studies. But that seems to be the kind of young man he is. Whatever his future holds I've no doubt that his determination will make him a success. Best of luck to you Blair in all you do in the future. It's been great to have you in a Seawolf uniform for four years. I'm proud of your stick to it attitude and what you've accomplished. You'll be missed.

Without disrespting anyone else on this list Merit Waldrop is clearly the most skilled player that the Seawolves will be losing at the end of this season. Merit's puck handling skills are impressive. His toughness is underrated as I've never seen him shy away from the physical side of the game. With 23 goals and 30 assists over his career at UAA I'd have to say that he only got about half as many points as he "should have" or "could have". I've called him snakebitten many many times and if someone counted posts and/or robberies by goaltenders then you'd find Merit at the top of that list. I've seen Merit take possession of the puck and give the other team a lesson in skating and puck handling more than a few times in his career. If there was a guy that didn't get but deserved a 20 goal season it is Merit. I suspect as Merit's career continues (and it should definitely continue) that he'll find a niche with someone and the goals will finally start coming his way. He has a good touch. He has good sense in all areas of the ice. And he's a bit gritty. I'd compare him favorably to a guy like the Aces Josh Soares in terms of potential as a goal scorer and playmaker. As a local kid he of course has always been one of my favorites but I know for certain that frequent commenter here and at USCHO "dude" is Merit's biggest fan outside his family. I got no grief with that. Merit's play has been admirable throughout his career. His snakebit status shouldn't be considered a black mark but instead a badge of honor. There's nothing I'd like better than to see Merit put together a dream final weekend against the Gophers in these last two games this weekend. And of all the seniors he would be the best bet to have a weekend like that. Of course I wish Merit all the best with his hockey future and post hockey life. My sense of such things is that he's another of this fine list that won't find success in life difficult due to his character and dedication. Thanks Merit. It's been great to watch you for the last four years.

Thanks to all these fine young men for their efforts over the last four years. I feel like it's a privilege to be a college hockey fan and witness the growth of kids into quality young men. Each and every 4 year player deserves so much respect from us fans. So when these great guys are introduced this weekend I sure hope there isn't a butt touching a seat anywhere in the rink. Like I said up top; you don't have to shed a tear (I'll be fighting them back as I always do on Senior Night) but get on your feet and applaud. They deserve it. Thanks guys! It's been our pleasure to watch you.


Anonymous said...

Great Post..Not many Local guys left..Hopefully that will change..All Class acts who are leaving..Best of Luck guys..

Anonymous said...

we will miss you guys congrats on the 4 years, GOOd luck in the future were ever that takes you. Seawolve pride and never forget us loyal fans and freinds

Jeff said...

I think of blair as the jay beagle of last year. Jay was by far our best penalty killer and i think blair really stepped up to fill that void this year.

Donald Dunlop said...

Thats a good observation and one I probably should have made as well. Since I didn't though I thank you for adding it.

Anonymous said...

I can't recall exactly who it was, but last year during the WCHA playoffs, it wasn't Luke that made that "win, eh" comment. I know that because he's my brother and I have the game on DVD. Anyway, Luke has really enjoyed his time in Anchorage. Thanks from MN.

Jeff said...

haha i remember that. That was josh lunden.

Donald Dunlop said...

Lukes Bro:
OMG you ruined such a good story! ;-) .... Well it wouldn't be the first time my memory failed me. Seriously, thanks for pointing that out. I'll go back and take that part out. More importantly, how old are you, what position do you play and what are your stats?

Anonymous said...

I realized afterward that I should probably have let the myth fester to legend status.

I'm 33 and can't skate to save my life.

jennifer said...

aahh, so its a family trait then?

just kidding!
i couldnt resist.

Suze said...

Just wanted to pass on my best wishes to all the seniors. You guys have given 4 years to the team and the fans, and I am one fan who will miss you all!

See ya at the banquet and good luck in the playoffs, you can do it! Believe in yourselves, we do!

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