The first word that came to mind on the ride home regarding the game was nonplussed. I didn't think it would matter to me much if UAA lost and if they'd played a bit better then maybe that would be true. I wasn't impressed with the backchecking. The U-18's got chance after chance to put a stick on the puck in the Seawolves offensive zone that they should have been denied. That inability to put a positive stick on the puck in their own end cost UAA 2 goals. And straight out of last years playbook on the other end ... the Seawolves didn't finish on chances that they should have finished. In one situation it was one pass too many when a shot could have converted. Another Seawolf player was high in the slot with an solid opening but chose to carry it in a couple of strides and then the opening was gone. And later ... Brian Bales gets nothing but crossbar.
The lines were a bit of a mish-mash. Lunden, Bales and Clark looked like a quality combination. Brian layed on a beauty of a pass to a trailing Luka Vidmar for a pretty tic-tac-toe goal. Kevin Clark rolled in on a clean break from the blueline and gave a nice deke before going backhand and finding the top corner. The 2nd line was Grant, Crowder and Moir. As the game progressed these guys seemed to find a little bit of chemistry; at least they started looking good on the cycle. They had more than a few chances but I'm not sure they'll be a permanent combo. The 3rd line was Selby, Parkinson and Jeremy Smith. I'll give props to Jeremy for effort. He created an opportunity or two with his hustle. I don't know when if ever Jeremy has played wing so I hope he enjoyed it. He played like he was enjoying himself. But overall the line was ineffective and all three guys looked like they were "pushing". The last line was Portwood, McCabe and Wiles. I think the third and fourth lines both managed a fair bit of time in the offensive zone (and overall the Seawolves had a pretty big advantage) but the 4th lines chances were few and far between.
The primary disappointment for me though was the last 5 minutes of the game. This was the part of the game where there was no question that the Seawolves were putting out 100 percent effort and generated good chance after good chance with nothing to show for it. Not being able to finish while creating that many chances is a problem. It was THE problem last year so any evidence of it this season isn't welcome. I know it's just preseason game #1.
I couldn't have liked what I saw from Curtis Lienweber any more than I did. I watched him closely. He made a couple of mistakes defensively but overcame them immediately. He contributed hugely on the offensive end. My pick for play of the night would be the sweet little lob pass he layed on for a Josh Lunden breakaway. It was a great pass. Expect to see Curtis play a lot this season. Expect to see him on the PK and the PP. If last year you'd thought the Seawolves were "x" number of players away from being successful then I promise you the number is now "x-1" because Curtis is the real deal.
I really liked what I saw from Tyler Moir going forward. He is a fine skater and brings a load with him into the corners. I think he might have been a wee bit overwhelmed by the speed of the game. I say that because I thought he looked a little lost a couple of times on the backcheck and he just couldn't seem to decide where to be. I'm sure he'll adapt; when he does he'll skate in a lot of games no doubt. In the same sense, I liked what Jade Portwood did tonight ... when I noticed him. The 4th line though was admittedly a bit out of sync so I'll have to watch Jade more closely before I can gauge how much ice time he is likely to see this year. Daychief and Tuton won't be out for long and it would take some hella good performances to keep them out of the lineup. I was glad Sidor got in the game for the last 7 minutes or so. He looked fine but didn't face any intense tests.
The only other player I hadn't seen before tonight was Brian Bales. Everything I've said about him appears to be correct. He can both score and set up. He was in good places for his linemates all night. He backchecked aggressively. He put out a full effort worthy of a spot on the 1st line.
All in all it's good fodder for much thoughtful analysis by the coaching staff. One more preseason game.
Click here to see the pictures I took. They're not what I wanted or was hoping for. But I'm no where near giving up on the effort. I'll get better as the season goes along just the same way the team will.