Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Seawolves A to Z

It seemed like a good time to review the performances of each player. For one reason, I haven't dedicated myself to doing comprehensive game recaps but instead have just been plastering my overall impressions. The second reason is that (believe it or not) the season is nearing the 1/3 mark with 10 games already gone. At 5-3-2, the Seawolves seem nicely positioned for a decent season if the results remain at their current rate. The 2-2-2 conference record puts them in a 3 way tie with MSU-M and UND at 5th. The statistics are a mix of good and bad. The power play is ranked #1 overall amongst WCHA teams however only Wisconsin has given up more goals than UAA but then again only SCSU, DU and Wisconsin have scored more goals than the Seawolves. Five Seawolves are among the top 20 on the overall league leader scoring table. All in all, as I said the team looks to be fairly well positioned for the final 2/3rds of the games. Now let's take a look at each player's performance alphabetically.

Nils Backstrom
If there was an unsung player award to be given out at this point of the season Nils would be high on the list. This season he has the perhaps less than enviable task of taking a leadership role in the defensive end. He has excelled in that role. Nils is essentially playing mistake free hockey. I recall no blunders or mishandles that led to any chances for an opponent. He is using his size and strength very effectively along the boards rubbing out forwards. On Saturday night versus MSU-M at one point when it looked like he was beaten, he smartly reached around and stripped a guy of the puck. It isn't the first time I've seen Nils exhibit this skill. To be behind a guy who has possession and to take the puck off the guys stick from such a disadvantage isn't something that one can teach. You can either do it or not. Nils can do it. He has been a big part of the shot blocking effort as well.

Brian Bales
Brian's transfer has been a shot in the arm for the Seawolves that it was hoped he'd be. He plays the most cerebral style on the team. He always has his head up and evaluates where he can best help the attack. I don't really dig the term but it's applicable to call Brian a "quarterback" for his smart passing as well as his ability to anticipate the play. He simply reads the ice very well both 5-on-5 and during a power play. He knows what is going to happen before it happens. Brian is tied for second in the assists column for all WCHA players. There isn't a person writing about college hockey that gave Brian any consideration as an impact player for the Seawolves before the season began. Today there shouldn't be a person writing about college hockey who would overlook his contribution. Brian "Brain" Bales is a fitting moniker. This all shouldn't take away from his tenacity and hustle. Brian is one of the most effective and dependable penalty killers on the squad.

Jeff Carlson
Jeff has appeared in one game. That's all I know. Anytime I've seen him on the ice I haven't noted any discrepancies. He can skate. He doesn't look out of place. I guess he's just having a helluva hard time cracking an already strong lineup on D.

Bryce Christianson
Bryce's early season record of 3-0-2 seems to put him on the verge of getting a crack at the #1 job in the Seawolves crease. Bryce is very athletic especially for his size. He gets up and down as well as any netminder. He has a very quick glove hand. He handles the puck very well sometimes adding that 3rd defenseman role for the team. On Saturday night, he floated a sweet pass over the opposition to a breaking player. Unfortunately, the player chose to try to catch the pass with a high stick. So the play didn't quite "click". But it's a sign of the good potential that exists in Bryce's stick.

Kevin Clark
Kevin is perhaps the favorite player among the UAA fanbase. His intensity is matched by his skills. His puck handling, passing and ability to score are his three primary strengths. But the aforementioned intensity earns him the fans adoration. At 5'9" you wouldn't expect to hear physical play listed as a strength. But in Kevin's case it is very applicable. He likes to dish it out. He is capable of taking it in return. And always he will right in the opponents ear. Kevin is a pest in the best tradition of a guy like the old Flyers player Kenny Linseman. All that said, I have a critical observation to add. Sometimes, it seems like Kevin is gripping the stick a little too tightly. He is a guy that wants to make something happen every shift. As a game progresses he can wind himself up a bit too much perhaps; he should remember that opposition teams are going to key on him and his line. Nevertheless, Kevin is a key player for the Seawolves. They are a much better team with him on the ice.

Paul Crowder
Senior Tim Crowder of the Michigan State Spartans is Paul's older brother (oops ... no he is not.  As a commenter pointed out Paul is the older brother). Since their days playing junior hockey Tim has been the more highly regarded prospect. In his 1st three season he put up number fattened by his teams success; 17g-13a in 05-06, 13g-10a in 06-07 and 15g-23a last season. In Paul's freshamn year (05-06) he outscored his sophomore brother by one point with 11g-13a. Last season Tim won the scoring battle as Paul managed just 7g-16a. But this year looks to be shaping up nicely for Paul with his 6g-7a versus Tim's 2g-3a. No doubt this all makes for some interesting dinner table trash talking at the Crowder house. Paul has stepped up his game this season in my eyes. He is playing like a man among boys at times. It seems to me that when he decides he is going to do something that there is little to be done to deny him. His determined treks to the goal mouth are becoming the norm instead of the exception. His physical game is equally maturing. He responds to being hit with more intense play. I'd peg him as being the MVP of the penalty kill. He WILL get some shorthanded points as the season goes along. Paul always surprises and delights as the architect of some unbelievable passes that leave us sitting in our seats saying, "Wow!". His 13 points this season puts him in a tie for 2nd among leading WCHA scorers.

Tommy Grant
Tommy is THE pleasant surprise of the season for the Seawolves. Prior to the beginning of the season the sophomore class looked to me to be somewhat crucial for the teams success. The departure of Daychief and McCabe threw a bit of wrench into the expected output that the sophomores would provide. But Tommy's timely finishing has filled the hole. His 7 goals are tied for 1st in the WCHA with Ryan Stoa and Eric Walsky. To my eyes, Tommy is exponentially more confident with the puck on his stick this season. His improved strength has added the phrase "strong on the puck" to his resume. His willingness to drive to the net both with the puck and without is the big reason for his goal scoring (and of course linemate Paul Crowder with great passes). Tommy and Paul have good chemistry together. He's a threat to bury the puck from both in tight and in the slot. He works hard on the cycle and he is ever vigilant for any opportunity to take the puck to the net.

Nick Haddad
Nick has been filling a couple of different roles through the early part of the season. He has skated on a number of different lines and this past weekend found himself skating with Brian Bales and Kevin Clark as Shyiak often double-shifted Clark/Bales switching with Haddad and Lunden. Nick's size and strength are keys to his play. Whatever line he skates on he makes space for his linemates by drawing and tying up oppostion players. Nick is yet to add his name to the scorers sheet with a goal but that will change as the season progresses. He'll find himself with chances and he'll finish some of them. I don't expect any sort of double-digit production from Nick. But he will fill whatever role the coaching staff defines to him and he'll do it well.

Trevor Hunt
Now in his third year it seems to me that Trevor has found his stride as a WCHA defenseman. His first ten games this year have been among the best ten games of his career at UAA. Trevor is actively carrying the puck up the ice in transition and is being highly effective in doing so. Trevor has been strong in his own end as well paired with Nils Backstrom. They are no doubt the top defensive pair. Trevor is no longer the leading penalty getter for the Seawolves but he could still take fewer penalties I suppose. As the season goes along his sort of consistent defensive execution will help the team succeed.

Kane Lafranchise
I can't help but say I love everything that Kane brings to the rink in furtherence of Seawolf success. Kane has all the tools you look for in a WCHA blueliner but perhaps the strongest attribute he brings is his grace under pressure. Whether its the opposition attacking or a series of chances in the offensive end, Kane is solid. He doesn't make mistakes. He always moves the puck to a position of advantage for the team. He sees the ice well and can cover any distance in a minimum of time. He can skate, shoot, pass and carry the puck at the highest level. He is always smart. As the season progresses I expect Kane to become an even more dynamic and effective player offensively.

Curtis Leinweber
I'm blown away by what I imagine that Curtis might do over his career at UAA. And that is after he has only played in 4 games which were interrupted by a groin strain. Curtis picked up 4 assists this past weekend versus Mankato. And all 4 of those assists were vitally important contributions. Leinweber is definitely the best Curtis to come to UAA from Alberta since Glencross. I don't think I'd offend any other player if I called Curtis the fastest player on the team. If he isn't then he is certainly the quickest acting. Curtis jumps on opportunities when they present themselves. He can skate and handle the puck well enough to make something happen when he does. Curtis had a coupla/three bumbles this past weekend. In all those cases, I could see the reason why. He was just simply soo excited to be out there; he was wound very tightly. As he settles in and gains more confidence the sky is the limit for him. Seriously, he very well could become a player that will make a difference in every game. Phenom maybe? We'll see. I don't mind saying his play has been phenomonal.

Shane Lovdahl
Shane is my poster boy for being a Seawolf. At times over his career Shane has found himself watching the games from the stands in favor of someone with faster feet. Far be it for me to argue with the coach but if Shane isn't the quickest player on the ice, his other skills are enough for me to want him in the lineup every night. Shane showed some of that value this weekend while playing up on the wing. He possesses one of the best sets of hands on the team. His stickhandling ability is exceptional and his foot speed is certainly more than adequate to allow him to stickhandle around defenders. He did so more than once this past weekend and has shown the same thing over his career. I always have an extra spot in my "fan-heart" for the local boys and a local kid in his last season is something worth noting. I just hope at some point during the season I get to witness his heavy shot burning some poor WCHA goalie from the blueline.

Josh Lunden
By the end of the season if Josh Lunden isn't leading the Seawolves in scoring then I'll be surprised. Josh has learned over his first two years exactly what it takes to put the puck in the back of the net in the WCHA. So far this season he has been putting those lessons to work and has bagged a fat 6 goals. Josh has continued his stellar power-forward style. He is relentless when the puck is deep in the opponents zone. He uses his size and strength to dominate opposition backcheckers and never forgets exactly where the front of the net is. Josh is seeing loads of minutes this season on the power play, the penalty kill and extra shifts. Along with Kevin Clark and Brian Bales, Josh and the #1 line of the Seawolves is a threat to score anytime against any team matched up against any line. The potential is there for him to put up more than 30 points. The closer he gets to 20 goals the better for the team this season and Josh is fully capable of being the first Seawolf since Curtis Glencross to accomplish that.

Tyler Moir
Tyler is the only freshman to have played in all 10 games this season. He has bagged his first collegiate goal and added a couple of assists. He has been a nice +3 for the season and has 10 shots on goal. Tyler seems to have adapted to the speed of the D-1 game. For other than the elite doing so is part of the freshman equation. Tyler hasn't put the rookie label behind him as yet. But I expect at some point during the season by his deeds, we'll all recognize that he is no longer a freshman. Tyler is the Shyiak prototype forward. He can skate well, he has the size and strength to do the hard work in the corners and has been having success doing so. For the 1st 8 games Tyler skated well and looked good with Crowder and Grant. This past weekend saw Sean Wiles move up for the opportunity to skate with the #2 line. Tyler's development is continuing.

Jon Olthuis
By every account Jonny O is a great kid. He is without a doubt one of the most unflappable goalies I've ever seen at UAA. Nothing seems to throw him off his game. I wonder if there is a downside to that stable attitude though. Jon is a big tall drink of water at 6'4" and takes up a big portion of the net. He plays the angles well and usually gets squared up to the shooter. Whether or not he is to "blame" though Jonny has given up a fair share of softies over the first couple of years. This year I haven't seen anything I would call "soft" in the same sense as last season. So far he is a better netminder than last year and I'll attribute that to the competition for playing time from Bryce. For now ... it appears the table has turned in Bryce's favor (I might be overstepping by saying that) but I have no doubts that if/when Bryce falters that Jonny O will step in and give us all reason to question if there really is a #1 goalie on the squad.

Craig Parkinson
Craig had an exceptionally nice freshman introduction to the WCHA. His 7g-9a lead all freshman and he was featured on INCH as a "player to watch" for UAA. I don't know what Craig's faceoff winning percentage has been during his career. I don't really know how well he did in that area as a freshman. But I sure have noticed him winning most of his faceoffs this season; especially this past weekend. Having a player on the team that can get that job done is important. Paul Crowder does good work on faceoffs, adding Craig to that list can't be a bad thing. I think that he should look to Josh Lunden as an example for success. Craig has much the same skill set as Josh though he is slightly smaller. But imitation of the game Josh plays will lead to success for Craig. They both have good hands, can skate and shoot the puck well. Josh takes it to the next level with his intensity and I see much of the same determined intense style from Craig.

Jade Portwood
It figures that I'd give a good nickname to a new player ("Wings" Portwood) and that kid gets hurt and is out for weeks. I like to think I would have been typing "Wings" all over the blog had Jade not gotten injured at the end of the Mercyhurst game. Honestly, it was a shitty play by Mercyhursts captain at the end of game. If I'd been his coach I would have stripped the captaincy off that kids chest for that kind of play. I understand that Jade is currently day to day which makes it seem that he might be playing this weekend in North Dakota. I hope so. He was showing promise before that injury.

Mat Robinson
Ok. I know this place sometimes seems like a Robbie love-fest. I can drone on and on about what a great player I think he is. We saw more of the same this weekend. Robbie never disappoints for effort. He may not play a perfect game every weekend but he makes such a judgement pretty close. This season Mat has done a little bit of everything and has done it all very well. You can't dock the kid for his skating; you can't downgrade him for defensive play; you can't say anything bad about his transition play; you can't find anything wrong with his puck-handling abilities ... to summarize: there ain't anything wrong with the guy. He levels guys with smart timely checks. He sets up scoring chances left and right with his playmaking. He is a showing all sorts of leadership on the ice. Robbie is "da man". Nothing else needs to be said.

Ken Selby
I love skaters. Let me rephrase that ... I love a guy who can burn up and down the ice. I doubt anyone on the Seawolf roster could beat Ken in a goal line to goal line sprint. I understand that Ken works really hard in practice. But for various manpower/roster reasons he hasn't seen a substantially regular role in the lineup. I always like what Ken brings to the party when he does play. I can only hope that the circumstances that keep him in the stands more often than on the ice resolve themselves in favor of him being on the ice.

Dusan Sidor
What can I say about a kid that has only seen one period of exhibition play so far this season? Not much. I did find a YouTube video calling him a "ninja goalie" for his way of getting set before a faceoff. I'm looking forward to see all that live.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy is a great story. He spent two years not even playing hockey at the end of his junior career. No colleges came-a-calling. He came home. Bummed around for a while then decided to go to school. He showed up at the rink to try out and earned himself a spot on the roster. He got into one game last year. This year he played in the first nine regular season games. Over the first couple of weekends it looked as if Jeremy and his linemates had earned themselves a permanent job. For four games they were the most effective forechecking line on the ice. I'd vote Jeremy as the guy I'd least want to fight. His intensity on the ice matches the intensity on his face in his roster picture. He just looks ready to eat babies. Unfortunately, I would expect that Jeremy's time on the ice will likely lessen as injured players return to the lineup. I have no doubt that when opportunities arise for him to get back onto the ice that his effort won't ever be a disappointment. Gawd .. I hope he gets a goal sometime! And I don't care who has to sit but he oughta be on the ice for both games against UAF.

Jared Tuton
I've said it before but Jared Tuton is a coaches dream. In his UAA career he has played EVERY position except goalie in a Division 1 game. This past weekend, Jared played center. I think he liked it. I liked the couple of back-to-back faceoffs he took where he got shots off on Zacharias. He left the ice with a huge grin. At center Jared had a little more freedom than playing on the wing. In other words, he was freer to create havoc. The kid likes to hit. Jared just returned from a broken leg so his contributions are just beginning. Expect him to paste plenty of foes to the boards. And if he can pot a few goals then ... BONUS. It sure must get tiresome for opponents to have all these 6'2" 200+lb forwards flying at you for 60 minutes.

Luka Vidmar
Luka converted to defense from forward the last year of his junior career in Chicago. Luka impressed me with his solid play on the blueline in his first year. He showed enough flashes in transition to expect that more often during this season. And so far that is exactly what he has brought to the ice. Luka has quality wheels and his passing improves game to game. His defensive play is solid. He's been a victim of the new rules enforcement a few times too often this season. Luka's participation in UAA's improved transition game is important and he is contributing importantly in that area.

Sean Wiles
Sean gets right in line behind Tommy Grant for the biggest surprise so far this season. Sean looks like a completely different player than last year. He looks bigger and stronger. He looks confident. He looks hungry. His skating is much improved. He uses his reach very effectively. Sean is yet to score his first collegiate goal after playing in a combined 24 games in his first two seasons. But it will come sooner rather than later with the way he has been playing. This weekend he showed he could "hang" with the big boys on UAA's 2nd line with Grant and Crowder. If he continues in that role look for him to perhaps score this coming weekend versus UND.

I apologize if as I went along my assessments tended to be shorter. It's no indication of anyone's particular importance so much as one of my growing tiredness. This took pretty much all day to complete. Granted it wasn't a continuous effort but the fact that it was broken up didn't resolve my desire to finish it.


Brandon said...

hey Suze, any chance my blog can get on your blogroll?



Suze said...

Brandon, not sure what you are talking about. Do you mean the link at the bottom of my USCHO posts? Or do you want it added here to DONALDS blog?

Donald Dunlop said...

I only have room for one UND related blog since my disdain for that team is beyond human comprehension. Anything more would be obscene.

I've chosen Dirty's Diatribe because he is the only Susie fan in the vast flat wasteland of North Dakota that has any sort of a sense of humor and his blog title doesn't have the Sue name.

Also you don't get on because you don't even know who is the author of this blog. That in itself is shameful with all the effort I've put in over the years to make Sewage fans hate me.

Anonymous said...

Ssometimes Donald your funny as hell

Anonymous said...

Paul is Tim's older brother, don't let the year in school for both of them fool you!

Donald Dunlop said...

Ahh ... my bad. You know what?... I thought about that when I was writing it and meant to check birthdates but never got around to it.

Anonymous said...

nice work, great addition to this blog

Anonymous said...

And then sometimes he is not funny.

Runninwiththedogs said...

Where is Z?

Post a Comment