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Friday, February 29, 2008

Seawolves vs Gophers: Friday Night

I couldn't be happier for Ken Selby. Of course I always get to the rink during the warm-up skate because it's my first chance to see who is and isn't dressed for the game. And as I walked out of to the concourse area the first number on a white jersey I noticed was #8 Ken Selby. Sweet I thought, everytime I've watched him play I've liked what I've seen. He was the first player I mentioned in every pregame coversation I had. And he was the subject of a text message I got following the game noting his good performance and advocating for "Player of the Game" status. I concur. Ken got on the scoresheet the first time tonight a little of 2 minutes into the game when he layed on a sweet open-ice hit which elicited a noticeable reaction from the crowd. Unfortunately, he might have had his stick in a bit of the wrong place and ended up getting a high sticking penalty. Thankfully, that wouldn't be the last time he showed up on the scoresheet.

Minnesota bounced out to an early 2-0 lead with a first rush of the game goal with just :27 gone. I don't know if you'd call the goal soft. It went in 5 hole off a suprisingly nice shot from sometime road cone Derek Peltier. He added the Gophers only other goal at 13:59 on the power play with a wrister from high in the slot that found Jonny O screened a bit but nevertheless had mustard and found the corner. UAA got back within a goal with just 37 seconds remaining in the period when Paul Crowder skated through center ice and unleashed a better than hip-high slap shot from just inside the blueline that handcuffed Kangas and had enough momentum to find its way across the goal line. It was a period that UAA clearly dominated despite the score. UAA had several good chances shorthanded with Ken Selby in the box and real did real well disrupting on the PK when Luka Vidmar sat down for tripping. Out of UAA's 12 shots in the period at least 4 were quality chances and UAA managed to keep the puck in the Gopher end for the majority of the period.

The second period was scoreless with some notable chances for UAA. They played great during a 2 minute 4x4 situation and Selby was in position to tie it up during a 2 on 1 rush but the pass was blocked by the Minnesota defenseman. Mostly the period was defined by both teams gaining the other others zone and the defenses doing their jobs and starting it the other way. Not too much action below the dots or in front of the net though I'd have to give the nod to Minnesota for winning the period. And credit Jonny O for keeping the Seawolves in the game with a couple of great saves.

The same sort of play dominated through most of the 3rd period as well, until with about 6 minutes left Ken worked the puck out from along the half-boards on the left side to clear the zone. Minnesota gained the puck briefly along the benches but Sean Wiles managed to chip the puck into a Gopher defenseman and the puck dropped in front of Ken at the blueline; with three quick steps into the zone he fired a laser to cleanly beat Kangas from about 40ft. No doubt about it. It was a goal scorers kind of goal. The joint erupted.

UAA started the OT with a power play and generated a chance in close that Kangas ultimately held. Following the power play it was much the same as the rest of the game had been with the teams exchanging rushes without generating many clean chances but Jonny O came up with a nice save in a real good game overall for him. The Seawolves had a couple of good desparation chances inside the 20 second mark after winning a draw in their own end following a Gopher timeout and clearing it to center and then carried in by Lunden who got off a nice shot and followed it with a deflection attempt from a Mat Robinson shot that was as good a scoring chance as any that preceeded it. I thought Josh Lunden was the most visible offensive player for UAA tonight. Crowder, Waldrop, Clark all contributed. Chris Tarkir looked really good tonight. He made a sweet rush wide where he stepped around the outside of a Gopher defender and broke in on the net that ended with a tight chance on Kangas.

I thought Josh Lunden was the most visible offensive player for UAA tonight. Crowder, Waldrop, Clark all contributed. Chris Tarkir looked really good tonight. He made a sweet rush wide where he stepped around the outside of a Gopher defender and broke in on the net that ended with a tight chance on Kangas. Suze said she thought he was playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and I'd agree. There were mistakes made here and there in the defensive end but I'd characterize the effort as mostly sound. They ended up clearing the pucks they needed to clear and/or blocked shots and more often than not started rushes with confidence and authority. I'm sure I could say something nice regarding most every Seawolf players tonight but eventually I want to get to bed since I started this late after a brief post game detour.

Lastly, I'm not one to try and second guess the coach here. But that said I've struggled to understand why Ken has only dressed 14 games in his first two season. He is from Winnipeg as is Kevin Clark so as an homage to their former Winnipeg NHL franchise I'll just say that Selby has "Jets" in his boots. Ken was arguably the fastest skater in Canadian Jr. A hockey in his age group. Since he has play sporadically over the first two years I've paid particular attention when he hits the ice so I could take note of what he's done. I try to do it with every player until I get a sense of what sort of player he is. And tonight I'd add that he plays with heart well as having great speed. I also think I've seen enough of him to say that he's been real good with the puck on his stick. The 4th line minutes tonight weren't what I call high either and Ken managed to be an impactful player in that limited role. Not to take away from any other forward on the team but in my eyes Selby deserves more regular chances in the lineup. There's any number of reasons that could have kept him out of the lineup as often as he has so rather than dwell on any of those I'd just hope that he dresses for every game that remains this season. Maybe that was some second guessing but so what. I don't do it much. I forgive me.

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?

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.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mania Madness Monday

The basis for much that we'd define as insanity is self-delusion. Sometimes that delusion is the result of a biological condition. The crazy dude's head has bad wiring ya know? But sometimes that delusion is manufactured by choice. The crazy dude's head needs to believe something that is completely false in order to bolster some separate but equally crazy belief. Sometimes hope can be a sort of self-delusion. That crazy dude can't predict the future but he hopes it turns out a certain way. That's three paths to variable levels of self-delusion. The biologically induced condition obviously being the most acute and the state of hope being the least. We can all forgive either of these two bookends of the state of insanity. The crazy dude with the bad wiring can't help it and the crazy dude with hope is just overly optimistic. But the middle condition; the crazy dude believing something false to support another false belief is less than forgivable. It's inexcusable.

Luckily my insanity isn't biological; I'm stuck with the least acute form of self-delusion ... hope. So sue me. Speaking of the Sioux; Goon down at the worst college hockey blog ever has this nice little delusional rant about Myles Brand as an (ironically funny) attempt to bolster the ongoing conspiracy theory that the NCAA is out to get UND. So in the name of good mental health I feel compelled (a biological condition I assure you) to beat down his horridly vapid assertions point by point.

First though; a brief explanation of the issue at hand. The University of New Mexico entered into a marketing arrangement with a casino located on a reservation. It's a little more complex than that but I said brief explanation. I'll leave it to you to read the entire situation as referenced on his blog.

Goon makes his first mistake in decrying the situation in his very first sentence. He says that "Myles Brand is at it again". I don't know how to tell Goon this but Myles Brand and the NCAA's inaction to address this matter can IN NO WAY be classified as being "at it again". They are "at" nothing. Their failure to address it can't be classified as "at it". It is ridiculous to assert it. It is a strawman argument. You say that somebody did something when reality clearly shows they did nothing. Omission of action is not action; it is inaction. So ... Myles Brand is clearly not "at it again". It is a convenient way for UND folks to twist reality to suit their conspiratorial bent. And that is all it is (except of course for being a totally disingenuous specious attempt at an argument).

The main point of the obtuse rant (which Goon unclearly attributes) from The Sporting News' blogger Matt Hayes is that gambling and NCAA sports is a bad thing and that New Mexico's arrangement is somehow exploiting the native people associated with the reservation where the casino is located. This is another strawman argument. The native people on that reservation decided to exploit themselves. They agreed (and probably courted) the casino's location in an attempt to give their members jobs etc. All governments exploit themselves in such ways for the benefit of their citizenry. I don't want to get into a big argument here about the morality of gambling and/or it's associations (in whatever form) with NCAA sports. Obviously, the biggest concern is keeping athletes sequestered from anyone that could possibly influence their performances. The University of New Mexico shouldn't have any problem along those lines. Next comes the funny part.

Goon has his panties in a twist about the whole thing because he is pretending that New Mexico is being hostile and abusive to Native Americans. He is saying that the if the NCAA is going to punish UND for their "hostile and abusive" behavior then they should punish New Mexico as well. It's nice to see him admit (through his own flawed use of logic) that UND's behavior is "hostile and abusive". That's a step forward in my book. Unfortunately, it isn't true that New Mexico is being "hostile and abusive" hence the reason for Myles Brand's inaction and indifference to the matter. The other deliciously ironic assertion about a University being associated with the bad boys of gambling has me rolling on the floor. Uncle Ralph (as well as being a naziophile) built a 1oo million dollar arena for UND with proceeds from his gambling empire. New Mexico's agreement will provide them with about 2% as much funding. If there was ever a time that Goon should give up blogging (probably this Matt Hayes guy too) it is today. Their shrill cries of hypocrisy have absolutely no basis; I'm fairly sure neither one of them actually knows the meaning of the word. Really. Change over to a hunting blog eh Mulder-Goon? Either that or stick to posting NHL fights from YouTube.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: What It Is

Thanks for the kind comments and text messages in reply to yesterday's post. I've been asked to point out that this coming Friday night is another of the "Green and Gold" nights. Any adult wearing "Green and Gold" can get free tickets for those kids under 12 in their party by going to the student desk at the Northwest entrance to the Sully. This being the last home series of the year it sure would be nice to see more butts in the seats. If you're a teacher, bring some students. If you're a parent, bring your kids and their friends. Minnesota's broadcaster is apparently sending their broadcast team to Anchorage for the games. So besides Doug Woog and Frank Mazzacco being in the joint it'd be nice if the place looked somewhat like Anchorage fans gave a shit about their team. Hell, bring Gopher fans; doesn't matter to me. Lets just get some butts in the empty seats. Bring a cardboard cutout if you don't have any friends. There might be one or two Gopher fans who care enough to actually stay awake until 10:30 to watch and I'm sick of hearing of teams fans talk about how empty our arena looks. Grab some homeless drunks off the street on your way to the game if you have to. Do whatever it takes ok?

Eight teams in the WCHA have 4 games remaining. UAA and Wisconsin have 2 games left to play. It doesn't matter what happens this coming weekend against UofM for UAA. 10th place is a lock. Michigan Tech is in 9th with 18 points and UAA has 11. The series does have some meaning for the Gophers and I'll talk about that during the week. My first question about the WCHA this year is; What happened to MTU? I really thought they'd have a better season than last year and early in the season they were 5-2 overall. Well, they've only scored 48 goals so far in WCHA games. That's three less than UAA. The big mystery for most WCHA watchers is; What the heck happened to Minnesota this year? Well, so far this season they've managed only 52 goals. Mystery solved. Duluth? At one point this season they were ranked as highly as 8th in Pairwise and they spent a long time in 3rd place in the league, now they sit solidly in 7th. 50 goals in the league. I suppose there is some consolation for Seawolf fans to see a fair number of other league teams that also had problems finding the net.

Who is going to win the league and host UAA in a first round playoff series? Right now CC is in control of that. They have a 4 point lead over UND with 2 games at a hungry Mankato and then a home and home versus DU. UND has a road series with Duluth and then host St. Cloud to finish the regular season. I'd tend to think that CC has a bit of a tougher task with two games against their primary rival and two on a teams home ice who really really want home ice. UND gets a team that is 3-5-2 in its last 10 league games and then hosts a relatively hot SCSU at the Ralph. Neither team has it easy per se but with the 4 point lead CC has, I'd be expecting that UAA can just about make reservations for Colorado Springs. Stranger things have happened though. If the two teams tie it's hard to say at this point who the tie-breakers would go to. Head to head they are 1-1 and they could end up with the same league records so ... who knows?

This coming weekend will be the last appearances at home in a Seawolf uniform for seniors Peter Cartwright, Merit Waldrop, Blair Tassone, Chris Tarkir and Luke Beaverson. I'll have a "Senior Tribute" post on Wednesday telling what these guys have meant to me as a fan over the last four years. That's another reason to get some butts in the seats this weekend eh? To show these five guys the proper respect that their 4 years of effort deserve.

I don't talk about alumni much (if ever) here but in case you didn't notice Curtis Glencross got traded from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Edmonton Oilers a couple of weeks ago. Oilers fans were at first wondering who he was. Now they're loving him for the same reasons we loved him. He's playing with huge heart and a chip on his shoulder. He scored his first goal for Edmonton the other night and added his second today against Colorado as well as being named 2nd star of the game (the 2nd time this season he's been a "star"). He has 8g and 9a for the season. Congrats to him.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

On the Fan Experience

One of the important things I've always strived for on this blog is to relate my experiences as a fan in the hope that it rings a bell of truth with other fans. Certainly I want to be a promoter of my team; a cheerleader of sorts. I want to find the positive things and give them focus. I want to show my "love" for the players and their efforts. I hope I do those last three things at other times and over the next two weeks I'll do some more of that as the season winds down. I'll have what I consider the most important post of each season with my Senior Tribute and I'll give out the UAA Fan Blog Season Awards to those individuals that I think deserve the recognition; for whatever that's worth. But tonight in addition to analyzing the loss to DU I will spend a couple of minutes detailing exactly what it feels like to be a Seawolf hockey fan.

The Seawolves played a better game tonight but a 2 goal differential was still the result. The hitting game was good. Overall, I thought there game was more of a skating up and down style than the Friday night game. I liked seeing that. I thought the defensemen did a better job carrying the puck up the ice as well tonight. While last night I characterized the difference as opportunism by DU off of over-committed aggressive efforts on the power play by UAA, tonight I'd credit the difference to more effective overall team play by DU in all three zones. Every Pio player did their job no matter what it was and no matter where it was. The Seawolves were straight up outplayed. They weren't badly outplayed. It could have been a one goal game but the discipline that DU showed means I don't think there was anyway UAA could have come out with a win. The Seawolves have lost a number of games this year that they otherwise could have or should have won. Tonight wasn't one of them. Jonny O had a good outing but what looked like a miscommunication between him and the defenseman on a 2-1 DU break lead to the final goal. Both Jonny O and the defenseman (I don't remember who it was and frankly it doesn't matter) were "looking" pass and Matt Glasser did a good job to sell pass before ripping it through Jonny O's pads five hole. The D-man didn't commit strongly to the possible pass and that indecision lead to Olthuis' own indecision and late reaction. None of that is a criticism; just an observation. As has been the case over the last dozen or so games the Seawolves couldn't find the back of the net. No excuses. The guys who'd normally be expected to lead with their goal production have been mostly absent from the boxscores the last few weekends. That's reality. I've got no solutions. Hopefully before the next series and the WCHA playoffs the coaching staff and the players themselves will find a solution.

Since the Seawolves inclusion in the WCHA we fans have seen year after year of finishes in the bottom half of the league. One year saw some noise made as Curtis Glencross, Chris Fournier, Chris King and Martin Stuchlik carried the team on their backs to a WCHA playoff victory against Wisconsin and a Final Five win over Colorado College. Other than that season it has been mostly disappointment in terms of league success. Every season has been a series of ups and downs (as it is for most any fan of any team) with the end result being the bottom of the roller coaster instead of the pinnacle. Tonight I feel that as much as I ever have. I sell optimism here every season. I've proclaimed every year on the Internet that this season would be the breakout year. More often than not this point in the year brings out those fans from other teams (who I've taunted and ridiculed ... with due cause mostly) to shit on the team. I'm well aware of my attitude and certainly don't believe I have anyone other than myself to blame for attracting that crowd. I'm not complaining here about it; I just want to say ... bust my chops. Don't bust this teams chops with your grave stomping ways. I'm still proud to be a Seawolf fan. I'd rather cheer for them than any hockey team playing at any level anywhere in the world. I'll live and die with them. So go ahead and leave your shitty comments. Just don't direct them at the team. Tell me what a boob I am for my proclamations of Seawolf domination. But don't you dare for second try to demean the efforts of this team that always plays with heart and pride from one of the two most difficult places in college hockey to be successful. It ain't a cake walk for UAA or UAF to succeed in Division 1 simply because of geography and it ain't easy to be a fan of either program. When UAA does it'll be sweeter for us UAA fans than it is for ANY of you other fans of other teams (except possibly UAF). Believe it.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Decline The Penalty!?!?!

Perhaps if UAA had the option tonight they'd have come out with a tie? Of course, it's impossible to say exactly what would have happened if such an option were actually available. But 2 shorthanded DU goals were the difference. Each of them were the result of UAA aggressively pressing on their power play and miscues that DU pounced on. What did I say in the preview? That DU had been opportunistic this season? Yep. They were tonight.

Once again the Seawolves didn't finish expertly on a number of decent chances. That isn't to say that DU didn't finish a couple of good chances of their own. Jonny O had a circus-like save that ultimately went for naught as DU cashed in shortly following it. How about a scoring line of Beaverson from Haddad and Wiles? Nice. Won't see that one too often I'd think. For the 11th time this season the Seawolves scored the first goal. Sigh. That is usually an event that would more often than not be a benefit to a team. But alas they've only won 2 games when scoring first.

Best of luck tomorrow night to the team. They played hard and with pride. That's about the best consolation I can offer. It was a tough loss.

Be sure not to ruffle Nancy Mannino's hair too much tomorrow night.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Seawolves @ DU: Series Preview

My intention was to have this done yesterday but obviously that didn't happen. My apologies for that. This isn't the most exciting series of the year in terms of opportunities for me to latch onto and bash something about the opponent. Don't get me wrong. I pretty much hate DU as much as any other team. They have some fans that are equally as obsessed with their team as any other opponent. Unfortunately for me, that fanbase doesn't really include any meth-smoking dunderheaded illiterate boobs like UND or paint thinner sniffing commies like Wisconsin or jersey-popping all-mighty jock-sniffers like the Gophers or even overly alcohol imbibed Bulldog nutbags (that means drunk UMD fans). The DU fanbase on the Internet includes old guys who know their shit and/or mildly funny fat guys. As an aging funny mildly fat guy who thinks he knows his shit I'd be out of line to pick on them. Don't get me wrong; they're not as boring as CC's Internet fanbase. So anyway, there's nothing there that I can latch onto; their team itself this season is also rather boring other than the big Trotter mystery. Gwoz did a pretty masterful job of aligning the stars in order to keep the exact nature of Trotter's transgression quiet until Montreal swooped in and took him off DU's hands. I could bust Gwoz's chops for looking like a smug ass behind the bench but I realize that's just his attempt at a poker face.

So what does DU have on the ice? In the net they've got the overachieving Peter Mannino between the pipes. He's played in all but one of DU's 30 games so far this season. There was some talk about him as a Hobey candidate this season but DU's recent slide has put that aside. I personally don't think the guy is any huge talent. He's serviceable. He doesn't have any world class quickness. He doesn't get up and down any better than average. I've always though he was just average. His numbers against UAA are anything but average though. He'll be tough as usual against the Seawolves this weekend. On D the Pios have one really talented blueliner in junior Chris Butler though if it isn't on the Power Play he hasn't been much of a threat to score this year. The Pios game though has been predicated on playing a team defense game with every skater filling an important role in their own zone. They've been fairly opportunistic in transition in the games I've seen on TV. The benificiary of that has been freshman Tyler Bozak with 14 goals so far. Sophomore "R's" (Rakhshani and Ruegsegger) are 2nd and 3rd leading goal scorers but the Seawolves will only have to worry about one of the "R's" as Ruegsegger is out this weekend with a tummy ache. Rookie Kyle Ostrow has bagged 9 goals this year and should be considered a threat as well.

The Pios put the biggest number of the year on the Seawolves with 6 goals in what I termed a Jekyll and Hyde performance back in December. In reviewing what I wrote it's clear that DU won both of those games by finishing their chances and UAA lost by it's failure to finish their chances. Not finishing is clearly UAA's achilles heel this season. There's no real need to say much more than that. If UAA is to win this weekend they need to put the puck in the back of the net more often than they've done so over the course of the season. Is there some magic formula to make that happen? I doubt it. Should they abandon their cycling game? Should they suddenly start trapping? Are there line combos that are going to make it happen?

I tend to think no is the answer to all those questions. It's too late in the season to implement any big philosophical changes in strategy. You've got to go with what you know at this point. The Seawolves clearly outplayed DU for substantial portions of the series here in Anchorage. They've had many such examples of that kind of play against some of the highest ranked teams in the country including CC and UND. This weekend its a matter of maintaining that high level of play for 60 minutes both nights. Being consistent doesn't mean being average. It has to be a consistent effort at the highest possible level. This Seawolves team is capable of that. They haven't quite achieved it but they definitely have the potential to do it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Truth of Metaphor

I love metaphors. As they go this one isn't complicated and my use of it isn't particularly creative. Nevertheless there is much truth to be found in the form.

The buzzards are circling the Pioneers and not only has the roof blown away and mules darted off to parts unknown, there's a sniper just over the hill waiting to fire. The Pios troubles began when Brock "Mule" Trotter got himself into some unknown trouble and apparently was being booted out of the wagon train when a French-Canadian superhero swooped down and plucked him up. Bad timing; because it all happened just before the Pioneers trudged their way into the land of the hostile and abusives. They circled what was left of the wagon train but a terrible zephyr blew in and it all turned into prairie nuggets. The aftermath of this past weekends storm in Grand Forks is yet to be fully known as Bruce "Sniper" McLeod has been busy watching footage and will probably announce some additional sanctions to the Pioneers.

It's been an entertaining couple of weeks in the WCHA. I've had more good laughs at the Fighting Sioux's expense than I can remember. I busted their chops last week by telling them to shut up about the whole Miami Pairwise situation. And now their goon-squad did me a favor and made all that whining go away. But of course it's been replaced by a drone of "we're not thugs" and then weakly backed up by a series of inane excuses attempting to justify the continuing lack of discipline at the most penalized D-1 hockey program in the country.

Whatever additional punishments are handed out to DU are likely to be relatively insignificant to this weekends series against UAA. At most I'd guess Brandon Vossberg will get a one game suspension. It's possible that Gwoz might have to sit at home one night. Other than that DU probably won't be much worse off than they already are. And believe me. They're pretty bad off. They're 3-6-1 in their last 10 games and two of those victories came with Brock Trotter in the lineup. They're struggling, they're reeling and they're looking for a new identity. More than anything else a good weekend against UAA would put the cover back on the wagon and give them some shelter. The Seawolves can't let that happen. Excuse the mixing of metaphors here but; there is bait in the water and it's time to rise from the depths and feed with fervor. Every bite the Seawolves can take this coming weekend will certainly be sweet.

I'll be back tomorrow with more conventional analysis.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Pain in the Neck

My neck was stiff and sore before this weekends series; if it hadn't been it would be now. God knows it must be a pain in the neck for the team too. Another game that they fully deserved to win but came out with the L. Argh. Frustrating to the max. Both games were relatively close I suppose. It was good to see the ADN point out that Friday's game was "non-descript". It was. Not a boring game per se; but there really wasn't any pizazz along the way. Jonny O was solid all night but got nailed with a hard luck freak goal that nobody I've talked to actually saw. That was the "highlight" moment eh? The next 10 minutes of play was flat flat flat as it really seemed to take the air out of the Seawolves tires.

Saturday night's game was a little more up and down but the Seawolves really dominated in terms of scoring chances. They were solid as they could be defensively. Bryce Christianson had a nice outing but faced a season low number of shots. He did get an immediate standing ovation and the biggest crowd response of the weekend for his total robbery of a Nodl shot. Don Adam gave more than a few UAA fans some neck pain with his robbery of a UAA goal when Jared Tuton's skate touched the crease on a goal from Mat Robinson. It was a ridiculous call. No doubt he had Randy Schmidt's "apology" goal from the DU/SCSU series earlier this season in mind when he looked at it. My understanding is that you can be "in the crease" prior to the puck as long as you don't interfere with the goalie. There was clearly no interference with a solid 2-3 feet between Tuton and the SCSU goalie. Then SCSU's 2nd goal on Saturday night came on a blown icing call. That's a lesson to play to the whistle I suppose. It did look like a couple of UAA players expected a whistle. What a pain in the neck eh? Sigh.

Nothing left to do but go out and win the next 4 games right? DU continues to be vulnerable and should be an opportunity for the Seawolves. We all know how UofM's season has gone so there's no reason to think anything other than that series will be a good opportunity for points. 9th place is possible. It's something to shoot for I suppose. I'll be watching upcoming UND and CC games closely as one of them is likely to be hosting UAA for the WCHA playoffs. Where would you rather see the team go for the playoffs? I know the coaching staff will say that it doesn't matter (when the time comes) and of course they'll be right. I'd like for UAA to draw UND personally. Another chance at beating them is appealing and of course I think the Seawolves could accomplish that.

I've said this in the comments section but probably not out here; this Seawolf team is as talented as any team in UAA history. Looking to the next two years I can't see anything other than great improvement. Why? Just look at the roster and you'll see why. Most of the talent I refer to are underclassmen. Clark, Lunden and Crowder are proven producers. McCabe, Parkinson, Grant and Daychief have all grown and chipped in reasonably. Tuton can be a force physically as we've all seen the last two years. Haddad has been solid and will be fully adapted to the college game next season. Wiles has made tremendous strides in his play since early in the season. That's six guys I know can score and two who'll be anxious to prove that they can. And here's a "junior to be" waiting in the wings (Brian Bales) that I believe will be an impact player. So seven potential goal scorers that are all a year older makes me a believer.

The blueliners are the best group of skaters that I've ever seen here and while we lost Luke Beaverson everyone else will be back next season and most of them will be here for another two years at least. Mat Robinson is a stud. Plain and simple. Here's a guy that can (and has) put the team on his back this season. Shane Lovdahl is da man in my book. He can skate. He might not have Robbie's wheels but he can get there. He's a smart player too. Kane Lafranchise is going to awe us in the next three years. I've already been "awed" by him. A healthy Backstrom is another guy who can bring it on the offensive end. Trevor Hunt will be a nice "stay at home" guy over the next couple of years with his strength even if he isn't quite 6ft tall. I'd bet pound for pound he's the strongest player on the team. There's every reason to believe that Bryce and Jonny O will push each other and compete for playing time. There could be a weekend rotation in the future for both of those guys the way it's been looking. They'd be an interesting tandem with Bryce being more "athletic" and Jonny O being "unflappable".

I'd been carrying a debt for quite a while from an Internet bet with "waterlover" from the SCSU fan base. I think we both expected I'd be paying it back down there at some point but he and two friends came up for the series this weekend. I learned a nice lesson. I'm not the kind of person (for whatever reason) that really seeks out fellowship. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy people but I'm also conscious to never step in where I might not necessarily wanted. So I don't invite myself. Just in my nature I guess. In any case, there was no avoiding the situation this weekend and I'm glad for that. Chad, Brock and Mark from SCSU were three really good guys. I enjoyed paying off my bet to Chad (and I think Chad agrees) and getting back to square one. The bets we'd made were years and years old (like 1999, 2000, 2001) but I made sure I never forgot them. And it's never really painful to pay off a bet by buying shitloads of alcohol since the buyer gets to participate as well eh? We had lots of laughs. I had a mild hangover. Job well done. The lesson I learned was to seek out that fellowship a bit more often. So I'll do so in the future. That's three times in the past three years that I've at least partially "hosted" some visiting fans and all three have been great experiences. Thanks to everyone from outside that I've had drinks with and talked hockey.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

SCSU @ UAA Preview: Hey Sue Fans, Shut Up Already

What? Sue fans, shut up already? What the hell does that have to do with SCSU and UAA? Nothing. They just need to be told to shut up. They're an irritating presence on the big series of tubes in general with all their constant complaining which stems of course from them overcompensating for their small penises and/or their Freudian desire to have a penis. Michigan and Miami are 1 and 2 in Pairwise and KRACH. Get some acceptance you whiners.

Conventional wisdom this weekend says that if you shut down Roe, Lasch and Nodl you have a chance to beat SCSU. I won't debate that. As those three guys have gone so has the teams record. They don't put up numbers and SCSU doesn't post W's. With that as a given it means that UAA has to shut down two lines both nights. How do you shut them down? Use your size and strength to it's best advantage. Lasch and Roe are 5'9" and 5'8" respectively. They both play with enough intensity to seem bigger but the fact remains they aren't big physical specimens. Nodl is not unlike his name; he has a reputation (even amongst the SCSU fanbase) for shying away from contact. He doesn't like to hit and he doesn't like getting hit. So if you're a UAA player and you see #9, #12 or #19 on the ice then hit them. Pretty simple stuff. And yes senior Nate Dey is also a legit threat to score but I'd say if you shut down the other three then Dey is going to find it hard to win a game all by his lonesome. So I've talked about 4 players and haven't even mentioned the best player on the Huskies this year. John Swanson was moved from forward to defense early in the season to shore up a pathetic SCSU defense. He has adapted well and given the Huskies someone that can carry the puck out of their own zone and quarterback the PP.

Perhaps the greatest threat this weekend is that Coach Motzko's steady drone over the last couple of years about how his team doesn't take penalties has had an effect on the collective psyche of WCHA officialdom. In league games they've been tagged with an average of 8.8 minutes per game. As proof of this assertion I offer that in the only 4 games they played that weren't officiated by a WCHA referee they averaged 31 minutes per game. So it's clear to me that if your PR machine drones constantly that your team are skating angels then it can be effective. WCHA referee's appear to be easily manipulated eh? Sigh. In any case, the Seawolves will have to stay out of the box this weekend because whether by brainwashing or reality the Bluffskies aren't going into the box much.

SCSU fans like to think their team is some sort of wheel and deal skating genius team. They are bolstered in that belief because they won a game against what everyone agrees is a wheel and deal skating genius team in CC. We UAA fans know that our team can skate with anyone so that isn't really going to be a concern this weekend. The biggest challenge for UAA is going to be scoring goals. In the last 12 games UAA has 25 goals (2g/gm). In the previous 16 games the Seawolves scored 45 goals (2.8g/gm). My favorite hockey radio guy of all-time was the NHL Colorado Rockies Joe Starkey. Whenever the Rockies scored a goal Joe would call it something like this ... "Wilf Paiement digging in the corner, comes away with it and finds Paul Gardner in the slot, Gardner shoots ... and scores ... OH WHAT A BONANZA!!!" It was a great signature line. Well ... the Seawolves could use some Bonanza action this weekend. 4 goals is the number they need to get to. Sure everyone in the league nowadays says "first to 3". But the Seawolves really need to break out of what I'd call a scoring slump. In the first half they scored 4 or more goals seven times. In the second half they've scored 4 or more goals only three times. The leading scorers need to come through this weekend. The upperclassmen need to come through this weekend. The underclassmen need to show they've developed beyond their class standing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

SCSU "Hot or Not": An Homage

With my well-known deep admiration for the practice of rating players by their looks today I happily present my own "Hot or Not" for St. Cloud State. I wish I could be gay for a a day. Then it'd be a much more pure homage to those female bloggers who grace the Internet with their opinions about male D1 hockey players looks. I tried, but alas, I can't. However my failure to attain gaydom-for-a-day will not prevent me from honoring the "Hot or Not" milieux. Since I'm really not able to judge the St. Cloud men's team, I instead present the St. Cloud Womens Hockey team:
#2 Abby Krause -- "Very Not Hot" -- You can see this chin coming around the corner before the rest of her.

#3 Diana Karouzos -- "Sorta Not Hot" -- The ability to eat corn-on-the-cob through a set of mini-blinds is useful in some rare circumstance but otherwise: Eeek!?!? @ them teeth!

#4 Jenaca Fredheim -- "Could Be Hot" -- A bit much perpendicular-to-the-head ear action. And "Jenaca"? Are we 'sposed to spray her into our mouth for minty freshness?

#5 Katie Kemmerer -- "Hotness" -- Pretty brown eyes. Well groomed. Attractive smile. And nicely proportioned neck. Must not be a Minnesota girl.

#6 Holly Roberts -- "Kinda Not Hot" -- Don't get me wrong here. I'm all about brunettes and I like an offset part in the hair. But without extensive rhinoplasty you'd probably have to look up and down and left and right as you talked to her. I didn't know a nose could give directions all by itself.

#7 Brita Schroeder -- "Not Hot" -- Take a look at Bob Motzko's picture and then this girl. Who cloned his droopy eyes onto this poor girl? She can filter your water removing lots of particulates though.

#8 Maggie Mickelson -- "Neither Hot nor Not Hot" -- I dunno. She doesn't make me want to turn and run I guess. I bet she reads a lot in her room alone.

#9 Brittni Kuyper -- "Not Hot" -- Jeff Gordon? Jeff Gordon from NASCAR plays women's hockey?

#10 Alecia Anderson -- "Freakily Not Hot" -- Wasn't she in some Lord of the Rings movie? What's with that coiffure? Get some sunglasses. Why do I think she picked #10 because that's as high as she could count?

#13 Felicia Nelson -- "Just Not Hot" -- Vampire teeth and ears that go 2 inches above her brow? I'd take her to a bar fight with me though.

#14 Laura Fast -- "Hot" -- Straight haired brunette with side part. Nice blue eyes. Pretty smile.

#15 Stacy Dey -- "Almost Not Hot" -- The 80's hair is just too much. I can't get past it. I'm not big on her nose. Parent shoulda named her Satur.

#16 Danielle Hirsch -- "Almost Not Hot" -- Just unappealing to me. Not my cup of tea I guess. I'd be worried she'd go all crazy legs and knock my goalposts over for no apparent reason.

#17 Marie-Michel Lemieux -- "Not Hot" -- Yikes. Her mouth is so out of proportion to the rest of her face that it makes it look like the bottom half of her face was grafted onto the top. Ever see those "if they mated" pictures on Conan O'Brien?

#18 Courtney Jesefson -- "Not Hot" -- Not to be mean here. But she looks like a rabbit.

#19 Amy Currier -- "Very Not Hot" -- Fargo. I don't think I have to say anything else. Less is more in this case.

#20 Carmen Lizee -- "Sorta Almost Hot" -- Maybe it's a strange call. After all she's got an odd chin and her eyes are sorta close together. But something about her is kinda sorta appealing.

#21 Sammy Nixon -- "Scary Not Hot" -- Can you say Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme? She was the former Charlie Manson devotee that tried to kill Gerald Ford. Did she lose her eyebrows somewhere or what?

#22 Megan McCarthy
-- "Not Hot" -- Who snuck the golf balls into this girls cheeks. That's just not right. Mole excision is a low cost procedure someone ought to tell her about.

#23 Michelle Moen -- "Cute" -- She's cute. What else is there to say. She isn't "Hot". She isn't "Not Hot". Cute. Nothing more nothing less.
So there ya have it. Thanks again to those who came before me in publishing this sort of evaluation. This is my single foray into this realm though. It wasn't a pleasant experience for me.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Trappus Interuptus

Listening to the commentary from the Mankato broadcasters this weekend was inspiring to me. Not in the way you might think. I was struck by how many times the color-guy (term used in the loosest possible context) mentioned how Mankato liked to play an uptempo game and UAA preferred to slow it down. I read a number of things here and there calling the games uninteresting or boring and how they had a lack of flow. These observations weren't from rubes; they came from people that follow the game and supposedly know the game. Well, the truth is they're either blind or just stupid.

So my inspiration was to provide a thoughtful analysis that would definitively show how Mankato's high zone trap was the key to disjointed uninteresting down-tempo hockey. I thought I'd begin with another description of the mechanics of their implementation of the strategy. Then I'd move on and give some clear examples of exactly how it affected the flow of the game this weekend. I'd point out the positives of using the high zone trap that Jutting has his team playing. Obviously, they're having success with it. I'd explain the recent history of the strategy and how it's use became so prevalent in the WCHA. I'd then go on to explain the negative connotations that keep the fans of these programs that trap continuously from discussing it openly. When I'm inspired and decide to write, I think in paragraphs and essay formats. For this I had six solid paragraphs planned. But then I remembered the most important rule in writing: think about your audience.

The nature of what I do here attracts two distinct groups of readers as far as I can tell. It attracts hard core fans who love the game but aren't necessarily concerned with the minutia of the game. My other (perhaps smaller) group of readers are those fans that truly know the game. So in both cases, nobody really benefits from another dissertation on "The Trap". I'd like to see other hockey minds on the Internet address the issue of the preponderance of "The Trap" in the WCHA this season. But nobody discusses it. Long ago John Donne eloquently told us that "No Man Is An Island". I don't fear being an island. On the contrary, I hope some of what I do here is unique enough in small ways to qualify for "island" status. From what I've seen this year Wisconsin, MTU, CC and Mankato are the four teams in the league whose primary game plans involve extensive use of "The Trap" both at home and on the road. SCSU trapped UAA when we played down there earlier in the season. I haven't seen Minnesota trapping to any degree. I haven't seen UAA trapping to any degree. DU? Not trapping. UND didn't trap against UAA that I noticed. I've only seen Duluth play twice and I didn't see them trapping. That's it for me though. I decided against a whole piece here about "The Trap" hence the post title. So onto the rest.

I don't know if it means anything that Andrew Hinkleman didn't write either of the UAA game stories for the ADN this weekend. Did he write either of the stories from the MTU series? Could the staff written articles this weekend in the ADN be any more negative in their tone?

I neglected to mention last Sunday the stupidity of Conoco-Phillips passing out blue ear warmers to UAA fans coming through the door for the MTU games. Blue? Are their marketing people really that dense? They're continuously assailing us with ads meant to undercut the most popular Governor in Alaska's recent history and their passing out blue ear warmers at a team who's colors are green and gold? Man, Okies are really dumb.

Anyone who reads me regularly probably knows I hate writing about goaltending. It's a superstition. But I'm going to set that aside today in the spirit of the "Interuptus" theme. First let me say that I like Jonny O in the nets. But there is no denying that he has some of the worst numbers in Division 1 hockey. Sorry Jonny. It's the truth. His save percentage is 64th out of the 70 goaltenders listed on collegehockeystats.net. Jeff Frazee has a better save percentage. I don't want to indict him here but honestly ... Jonny O has given up at least 10 softies this year. I think he has countered that with at least 10 great saves. But the softie/great ratio needs to be better than a net zero for a team to succeed. Bryce Christianson hasn't looked like a world beater yet but in the limited time he's played I'd estimate his softie/great ratio to be a positive number. Where does that leave us (other than the realization that the team would have a better record if the goaltending had been better)? I think Coach Shyiak has to play both of these guys alternately for the rest of the regular season and hope that one of them gets hot and then ride that guy in the playoffs. I'd tend to think that next season the job will be wide open.

I don't want to put the whole burden of the record on the goaltenders shoulders exclusively. The truth is that Jonny O hasn't exactly gotten much in terms of goal support. UAA is 37th in Division 1 in goals per game. Anyone besides me lamenting missed opportunities. You know? Those apparently wide-open nets that pucks sailed wide past? Hey, every team misses a few that they should have had right? It sure seems though that so far this year the Seawolves have had more than their share.

I liked what I saw from the latest blueliner Jeff Carlson. He skates well with the puck on his stick and kept his head up. A time or two he looked like a freshman but he definitely has the potential I'd hoped he'd have. I wish I could find someone in the lineup that was dogging it this weekend. But I didn't. I think I heard Shyiak say something about getting out-competed along the wall but honestly I think that was more a factor of positioning (i.e... "The Trap") than it was of any UAA player's effort.

Why did the Seawolves look like world beaters after Mankato went up 4-0 on Saturday? Because Mankato stopped trapping. I think Shyiak recognized that and called the timeout at the perfect time to rally the guys. The two goal response was nice but after the second UAA score, Mankato went right back to trapping. Without an effective countering strategy to transition out of their own zone and then through the neutral zone the offense just couldn't get going again. So there it is; an effective countering strategy to the trap. What is it? I mentioned it before the Mankato series. Smart tape to tape passing, smart skating and quality rushes. When a team traps you, the burden for beating it starts with the blueliners. After that it's important for the forwards to be effective in the opposition zone. You saw the games. You be the judge.

There's 6 regular season game left to get this all figured out. Any measurable success this season is going to have to be in the playoffs. 7th place isn't out of the question I suppose but that isn't success. Winning the playoff series and doing something noteworthy in the Final Five would be. At this point that seems like a reasonable goal for the rest of the year. I know there's enough talent and I'm not displeased with the effort. The team should still believe in themselves. A good weekend at home against St. Cloud should bolster that confidence. There really isn't anyone on the upcoming schedule that poses an unsurmountable challenge to the Seawolves. Perhaps its a good time for the players to remember running up the mountain in the preseason. They all made it. Time for some more of that eh?

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Ugly, Uglier, Ugliest and LetsGoMavs

Usually during the week I write more than I have this week. But knowing the proclivities of LetsGoMavs blogger Amy, I was pretty sure if I waited it out I'd have something good to post. You see, every week Amy gives her "Hot or Not" report on the opposition team. Can you imagine the crap a male blogger writing about NCAA Women's Basketball would get for rating the players looks? But alas, nobody really seems to get my intellectual abhorrence of this practice; so I'm not going to get into all that esoterica here. Instead, I'm just going to report her conclusions here. Seawolf Moms and Dads ... look what you've created:

Apparently only two sets of Seawolf parents have imparted "hot" genetic material to their progency. Congratulations to Bryce Christianson and Jared Tuton. Apparently Bryce is "rocking the hair" and Jared "looks like a bad ass".

Five of our Seawolf parents passed along a reasonable enough set of genes to warrant a rating of "just ok". Ken Selby has "the potential to be hot" and Brian Bales needs "short hair" to be hot. Merit Waldrop is "ok" but Amy is apologetic about his name. That's ok Amy; you don't need to apologize, I'm sure Merit's Mom is quite fond of the name. Amy's fixation on hairstyles continues as she thinks Sean Wiles "could be hot without the helmet hair" though she must like Trevor Hunt's hair as she thinks he "would be better with a smile".

The rest of you Seawolf parents have utterly let down the side. Though I'd imagine you are all fairly normal looking folk apparently you've created some not so normal looking kids (at least the ones playing hockey for UAA).
Kane LaFranchise- sorry about the Mr. Potato Head ears!
Luke Beaverson- hot name...ugly guy
Jeremy Smith- is it me or is his facial hair crooked? Or maybe his face is crooked? Odd.
Winston DayChief- ok, this pic belongs on a poster at the post office...
Kevin Clark- hey Archie, where's Jughead?
Shane Lovdahl- too femanine of a pose for me.
Nils Backstrom-blah. No color, no expression...blah.
Tommy Grant- looks like a rageful Karate Kid.
Craig Parkinson- nothing. Just uggo.
Chris Tarkir- what on earth is he doing to himself to make that face?!?
Paul Crowder- I think he spends more time styling his hair than I do!
Josh Lunden- seriously, did all these guys fall off the same ugly tree?!?
Luka Vidmar- this is why you do not smoke pot and style your hair like a porn star before roster pix!
Blair Tassone- just not hot.
Nick Haddad- just how many hits to the head has this guy taken?!?
Jon Olthuis- I bet it's his chin that stops the pucks!
Aaron Mayo- uggo
Mat Robinson- this may be his "I have to poo" look.
Brad McCabe- big nose, yellow teeth, dented forehead...uggo.
Peter Cartwright- ok, I'm running out of insults.
Matthew Gordon- has a weird Bobby Brady vibe...
So that's it Seawolf Moms and Pops; most of you failed miserably. I'm left but to say that I think the players ought to just chuck in the towel this weekend. You're all too damned ugly to win. It is somewhat satisfying (in terms of offsetting the "uggo" factor) though to this blogger that the wives of the Seawolf coaching staff are all super hotties.

And oh yeah ... Amy, nice Walrus picture. I really enjoy going down to Cook Inlet and feeding the Walrus. If you ever get a chance to come up here I'll be sure to escort you to this great place on the mud flats of Turnagain Arm and point you in the right direction. (Alaskans .. shhhhhh).

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Designated Rival Preview: UAA @ MSU-M

The WCHA mandates a 28 game league schedule. The WCHA has 10 teams. The WCHA has an unbalanced schedule. There is no way you can get 10 teams to play an equal number of times per season within that 28 game schedule. So several years ago in an attempt to develop some sort of consistency from year to year the league adopted a schedule suggestion from Don Lucia and hence the "designated rival" was born as a concept. Designated rivals are two teams that play each other 4 times EVERY season. Well lets face facts here. UAA's geographic isolation means we have exactly one real rival; and it ain't Mankato. Oh well, without changing the league mandated 28 games (which ain't gonna happen) this unbalanced schedule thingy (with it's manufactured rivalries) is about as good as we're gonna get I suppose. Familiarity breeds contempt? I suppose I'd ascribe to that time honored blurb. Because the more UAA plays Mankato the less I like them as an opponent.

If you recall I'd labeled Mankato as "Chuck Wepner University" earlier this season because of the seemingly unorthodox nature of Troy Jutting's game plan. I'll leave that label in place but I did review the two games from early this season and quite honestly they weren't overly unconventional in their play against UAA. Instead, they used a well-executed high zone trap and took every opportunity they could to engage UAA players on the puck. For those of you not familiar with a "high zone trap" it is simply the same thing as a "neutral zone trap" only moved forward into the high part of the oppostion zone. They made it a more effecitve strategy by combining it with an ethic of always moving their feet.

We can expect to see the Seawolves counter by carefully setting up in their own zone before a transition. That means you'll see a Seawolf defenseman standing behind his own net with the puck on his stick more this weekend than you've seen all year. The only times you won't see that is when UAA manages to make an effective 1st time pass off a turnover. The Seawolves will have to be sharp mentally this weekend. They will need to be patient and make good choices. They'll need to be aware of exactly where their teammates are at the beginning of any transition effort and they'll have to execute the passing game well. Otherwise, we'll be seeing the puck turned over right after gaining possession.

On the offensive end it will be classic Shyiak hockey. Get the puck in deep, cycle it and work it closer and closer to the net for chances. When the Seawolves do make that excellent first pass out of their zone we will likely see some good opportunities on the rush. If the Seawolves can make a couple of those rushes successfully then it should put the Mavs off a bit from their high zone trap. A good analogy is to think of a football team who's defense blitzes a lot. Get a couple of nice long gains with the passing game (or even with a quick QB draw) and suddenly they aren't blitzing as often. It's all about good execution this weekend. Every Seawolf that gains puck possession in his own zone is going to need to do his best Troy Aikman impression.

Both games will be on TV this weekend. So all credit to the broadcasters in Mankato, who unlike the folks in Grand Forks, don't think their broadcast rights are worth some ridiculous amount. An interesting tidbit here; Mankato is College Hockey New's "Team of the Week" coming off their sweep of stumbling DU. This is the third time this season (and second in a row) that UAA has faced the reigning CHN Team of the Week. November 23rd's TofW was Colorado College and UAA faced them on Novermber 30th/December 1st. MTU was CHN's TotW last week before playing UAA.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Dumb Shit Edition

I ain't about dumb shit. When something is dumb I just have to say so. Does this ugly plagarizing dumb shit bimbo have any friends? If she does they need to inform her about this garment invited quite a few years ago called a "Turtle Neck" sweater. Any non-transgendered (for those of you in Fargo that means men that had a sex change) female unlucky enough to be born with a grotesquely masculine neck like that really ought to cover it up. Please. You dumb shit ... get a modicom of sense even if you have to buy it from Pat Buchanan. And who are the dumb shits taking pictures of this Arayan nightmare and putting them in the media. Stop it you dumb shits. If I wanted to see a horror show I'd go to Friday The 13th part XXIV.

The next dumb shit thing is having a rule in a sport that allows a team to stop the game and ask for a review. I was flipping channels just now and saw the New England Patriots get a 1st down because a guy was running off the field and was 2 or 3 feet from the sideline when the ball was snapped on a field goal attempt. How stupid is that? Here's a sport where the guy running off the field had absolutely nothing to do with the outcome of the play and yet one team can "challenge" it and gain from the meaningless incident. Don't get me wrong here. I could give a shit about the Super Bowl and/or who wins it (I assure you I'm happier watching "How its Made"). But that is some dumb shit for a sport to have. I guess it is some sort of pandering addition to make all the whiney sports fans happy. The same sort of dumb shit is coming down the road when the NCAA adopts the ridiculous dumb shit of shootouts. If you're a sports fan and you don't have a sense of appreciation for what a tied game means then stick with the NFL or the NHL or the totally dumb shit sport of Crotch Scratching Tobacco Chewers (Baseball). Allow Division 1 hockey to reamain pure would ya? Please.

I'm mostly happy with some of the changes that UAA's arena audio guy has made. I like "Sweet Caroline" even if it is stolen from BU (but let's at least honor their tradition and play it only between the 2nd and 3rd periods eh?). I think the choices of songs between plays is better than in the past; Foreigner's "Cold as Ice" directed at the referee is a nice subtle thing. I also like that the audio guy recognizes at times to forego playing anything in order for the crowd to be heard. Props for all that ... BUT here is the dumb shit. Playing niggling little "waa waaaa waaaaaaa" after the other team scores is out of line. Playing a stupid "DEE-FENSE stomp stomp DEE-FENSE stomp stomp" clip has got to stop. The first is classless and weak; the second is just straight up dumb shit because it comes from a dumb shit sport. Please Please Please stop these. If you're the audio guy and reading this, I'm begging you. If you know the audio guy and read this then I beg you to intervene on my behalf. If we didn't play pretty much any of the non-musical clips I'd be happier. I really don't want to hear "You da Man" when Olthuis stops the puck; or "Buh Bye Buh Bye" when the opponent takes a penaly; or little nuggets from "King of the Hill" either. If it isn't music ... please stop. This isn't the ECHL. We're better than those sorts of dumb shit little blurbs aren't we?

Now onto a note to myself. Hey dumb shit, don't even seven breakfast sausages in one sitting. Yes I know they are tasty and juicy delectable little tubes of pig-meat heaven but seriously deary ... did you have to eat seven of them? Was your guilt about the starving children in Africa so great that you couldn't waste just one of them by tossing it?

Curtis Glencross was traded this week from the Columbus Blue Jackets to the Edmonton Oilers for overpriced defenseman Dick Tarnstrom. Oilers fans not familiar with Curtis' fine attributes were a bit confused about the move. So I sent an email to the fine CoveredInOil blog to educate them about exactly what they were getting. Hopefully, in the next year or so Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson will feel like a dumb shit.

Now for something that definitely doesn't make today's dumb shit list. UAA's coaching staff. In a conversation this weekend at the rink "dude from USCHO" made the case to me (and I whole-heartedly agree) that Shyiak et al have done a tremendous job in maintaining the team's belief in themselves. The players looked confident and they played confidently. All hail to the staff for keeping that level of confidence up there. We all know that a team which believes it can accomplish anything is a team that can accomplish anything. If you watched this team much this year I think you have to believe that they are more than capable of making a nice run down the stretch. Good on ya UAA coaches; Good on ya. You're all the opposite of dumb shits eh ... three smart cookies.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Seawolves Complete 3 Point Weekend

Tonight the Seawolves completed their first 3 point weekend since December 8th when they beat Minnesota-Duluth to wrap-up the 3 points at the DECC. The weekend increase UAA's conference points from 8 to 11 and leaves them 7 points behind Mankato who swept DU this weekend. The Seawolves head to Mankato next weekend for a what is now a very important series if UAA hopes to make any sort of move up the standings.

Tonight's game for UAA was a story of assists. Two absolutely great assists led to both of UAA's goals. On the first tally, Peter Cartwright was absolutely unselfish dishing a short pass to Jared Tuton who just had to bury it into a wide open net. Cartwright probably could have scored the goal himself but made sure of it with the little dish to Tuton. Very nice goal. Jared owes Peter a Snickers for that one. UAA's second goal came off an equally nice feed. Paul Crowder won the puck in the corner on a good forecheck and with the briefest of looks found a wide open Merit Waldrop in front of the net with a great feed. Merit had a bit more work to do than Jared Tuton but expertly deked Robbie Nolan and beautifully roofed the puck. A Snickers for Crowder is in order as well. UAA held the 2 goal lead until MTU scored at 12:42 of the 3rd and tied it with 4:31 remaining in the game.

In reviewing coverage of last nights game I noticed that Jamie Russell put the majority of blame for thier 4-0 loss squarely on his team's shoulders. But unlike Jamie's rationalization for his teams loss I'll instead credit MTU for earning the tie tonight. There's little doubt in my mind that the Seawolves didn't "click" as well tonight as they did last night. But I won't focus on that part of the equation. The Huskies picked up their play around the 30 minute mark of the game and slowly put UAA on their heels. The effective offensive game we'd seen from UAA couldn't get going with MTU's success moving forward. Ultimately, the game turned on that effort. Part of the difference was Russell's change from a neutral zone trap into a high zone trap for this game. The deeper pressure against UAA's breakout helped to force more mistakes and turnovers for MTU. Credit to Russell for moving his trap forward and basically catching the Seawolves off guard. UAA's defensive corps was unable to be as successful breaking out with the tighter pressure and consequently were put on their heels. That pressure created situations where UAA forwards were unable to mount effective efforts in the MTU zone since they'd spent more time clearing the puck out of their own zone. We saw the exact same sort of high zone trapping in the two games against Mankato earlier this year so I'd think that tonights game is at least an early look at what the Seawolves can expect next weekend. Breaking through that sort of trap will take some adjustments on the back line but I'm sure the staff will be working on that this week in practice.

There were some disturbing aspects to the Huskies play tonight. I suppose after being owned 4-0 on a Friday night you'd want to come out with more attitude and physical play the next night. Unfortunately, in my not so humble opinion the Huskies lost control with some cheap shots at the end of both the 1st and 2nd period. Not anything out of the ordinary perhaps so I won't bitch about that too much. However, there was an incident that should be considered an embarrassment for the MTU program. As MTU's fortunes were increasing but with the score still 2-0 in UAA's favor, Peter Rouleau had been forechecking deep in UAA's zone. His effort was unsuccessful and obviously frustrated at his inabilty to succeed and as he skated off for a change (with the play already on the other end) he threw a "HISSY FIT" and slammed the glass with his stick. Apparently, he hit it just right and the blow broke the glass causing an extended delay in the game while the pane was replaced. Obviously, referee Derek Shepherd didn't see the event as it was behind the play. But there is no doubt in my mind that Jamie Russell knows exactly who acted like a petulant little child. If Shepherd had seen it you could be assured that he would have issued a 10-minute misconduct. But he didn't. If Jamie Russell is the half the man MTU fans seem to think he is then he should have given Rouleau 10 minutes of bench time. He didn't though. So yeah ... I'm questioning Jamie Russell's manhood. At the very least WCHA commisioner Bruce McLeod should review the incident. I'll be emailing him. I would expect that sort of thing from a UND or Mankato player as they're notoriously undisciplined babies. But I had more respect for MTU before this sad display. The key word in that sentence being "had". If Russell indeed isn't a purse-carrier then he'll step up and do the right thing and bench Rouleau for the first 10 minutes of their next game.