Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How to Beat a Tiger

Yesterday I gave you the reasons "Why" ... Today is the "How". On the Indian sub-continent when they needed to hunt down and kill a rogue tiger they employed elephants to help. The elephants size and strength was intimidating enough to keep the tigers at bay long enough for someone to crank off a head shot and turn out the lights on the miserable bugger. It is an apt metaphor for the Seawolves this weekend.

UAA is on average more than 10 pounds heavier than CC. UAA is #2 in height; CC is #40. UAA is #5 in weight; CC is #50. I have pointed out the size differences between UAA and their opponent in pretty much every series I've preview this season. I can't say that the Seawolves have used that size difference to it's best advantage over the course of the season. If there was an opportunity to bang the hell out of an opponent it is this weekend. CC is little. The Seawolves are big. I'm over-simplifying the difference perhaps but don't sell it short. Effectively utilizing their advantage in size and strength is the first of the several keys to victory this weekend. UAA has to hit in open ice, along the boards, in the corners and even in the hallways if necessary.

I believe the second key to victory is to play the best defensive games of the year. The Seawolves have improved their defensive play dramatically this season. The goals against total this season is the lowest in almost a decade. Shots given up per game are also dramatically down. CC's primary strength this season has been it's defensive strategy. First they trap a lot in order to disrupt the oppositions transition game. Second they pack it tightly in their own zone shutting down passing and shooting lanes then rely on their own excellent transition game to move the puck up the ice. This leads me to one conclusion. The Seawolves have to extensively employ the trap this weekend. When CC gains control of the puck in their end the Seawolves need to get into trapping position and deny the transition. When the puck makes it into the UAA end they Seawolves need to play the game defensively like they already know how to do. Blocking passing and shooting lanes and packing it in tightly is nothing new for the Seawolf squad. Defensively they've been good all season. So more of the same is necessary. The new thing will be the trapping. Trapping is pretty simple as long as forwards take that role seriously and drop back to the high zone or blueline quickly. When given a taste of their own medicine CC has struggled. Three of their four games against Wisconsin were close and they only managed a split against Mankato's high zone zone trap. Likewise when faced with MTU's trap they ended up with a split as well. They beat everyone else in the WCHA that didn't trap them.

The third key for the Seawolves is the most difficult one to accomplish. We all know that burying the puck hasn't been a strength for this years team. We've witnessed many many ties and many one goal games all of which were clearly the result of the Seawolves inability to convert. There is no useful suggestion which I can offer that will make the puck go into the net more often. So as the coaching staff has acknowledged and preached the team is just going to have to stay determined and keep at it.

If UAA can be effective in these three critical areas then Seawolf fans should expect low scoring very tightly played hockey games this weekend. That's how I see it. Beating CC shouldn't be some deeply complex mysterious thing. Hit them hard, early and often. Use their primary strategy against them. And dig deep to find the back of the net. That's what it will take. Get caught up in an up and down pond hockey game and the Seawolves will probably get burned.


Anonymous said...

Speed kills.

Donald Dunlop said...

That's why when the speed has be "governed" by an opponent using a trap it hasn't "killed".

Donald Dunlop said...

And don't underestimate UAA's skating ability.

Will said...

Hopefully we won't hear the same old cycle the puck down low in the zone all night. Great idea if we saw some goals out of that game plan. Puck posession is great the other team can't score but then when you don't score either, we end up getting burned by that one or two soft goals we seem to see every game.

The guys can do it. We know they have it in them if they just play 60 minutes of hockey and put some pucks on net. Good luck to the guys this weekend and make us all proud of the Seawolves.

Donald Dunlop said...

Awesome tiger pic eh?

Anonymous said...

I thought it was the CC Black Bears? What gives?

Donald Dunlop said...

I didn't want to disrespect our Maine fans.

Anonymous said...

compare the tiger photo with this one:

tigers rule!

Anonymous said...

The trap works only when the trapping team dumps the puck and forces the other team to go back and come back up the ice from deep in their own end, ala penalty-kill style...the trap will help only in those situations. It does not "govern" speed when there is a turnover in the neutral zone or when the "trapped" team comes up ice when the trapping team is in their oppoenets zone (d-men at the offensive blue line). Those "rushes" back the other way account for over 50% of opportunities in a game. The high trap will not affect that part of CC's speed at all.

Anonymous said...

I would not under-estimate UAA's speed. In fact I would not under-estimate this team at all this week-end. Go Wolves!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Donald, you talk about UAA's size too much. Being heavier doesn't put pucks in the net. If anything, the UAA players need to lose weight, skate faster, and get more skilled. Otherwise the losing ways will continue.

Donald Dunlop said...

Anon @ 708:
I am aware that trapping (either in the high zone or neutral zone) is only an option when the opposition is deep (behind the goal line) in their own zone to start.

If UAA turns the puck over during a forecheck there isn't an opportunity to get back into a trap before CC can move the puck out of their zone.

Yes, it isn't some all encompassing strategy that you can use like a zone defense in basketball. It is specific to the play. But in those cases where it can be employed it does "govern" the speed of the opposition. So it is something (using your 50% number as a basis) that you can use 25% percent of the time (or more if you don't turnover the puck in the neutral or high zone). The Seawolves have been reasonably effective for most of the season at getting the puck in deep. Employing any methodology that is available to disrupt the opposition's transition game is a good idea in my book. I don't expect UAA to play that way. I expect Shyiak to play the same game he's played all year.

I do talk about it quite a bit. But I think it's a significant advantage. UAA is big and can skate. They've been recruiting for size and speed. Grant, Daychief, Parkinson, Lunden, Crowder, McCabe, Tarkir, Tuton, Haddad and Wiles are all 6'1" or better and all bring damn close to 200lbs or better and do so on pretty damn good wheels. Look at what Curtis Glencross did with those tools ... even if you discount the goals he scored he made things happen with his physical play. It's a big task on the big ice to play that style but it's part of UAA's makeup and a stated goal of the staff to play that sort of game. I think they're best games this year were the ones where the physical game was being played effectively. So ... Yes ... I think they need to RUN OVER the teams where that advantage is pronounced.

And both of you. Please don't think I don't appreciate alternate views of the situation. I do so keep providing your views as well please. I sound bombastic and overbearing when I write. But that doesn't make me right all the time.

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