Tuesday, January 27, 2009

To Edify Pie-n-Ear Nation

With some WCHA opponent fanbases it is necessary to adopt a certain tone and/or meter in order to write a series preview. Before a UND series, I've got to work myself into a rabid froth to make what I write intelligible to folks in Grand Forks. When SCSU is on the docket, it's necessary to ingest large volumes of lead in order to dumb-down the proper amount. For MTU, I should have piled on obviously unneeded words in my blueprint like some crazed engineer who has an uncle with a warehouse of adjectives and participles that he needs to empty so that anyone taking it apart would be clueless as to why it was built that way.

In DU's case, I'm not quite sure how to proceed. DU is apparently the most expensive WCHA school to attend. It's one of the two only non-state schools in the league. I suppose in a way, it might be described as a Harvard-like priced education for kids that otherwise couldn't get into a Harvard-like school. So does that mean I have to dumb-it-down for the DU crowd too? Nah .. they're smarter than a third-rate statey school in the middle of nowhere and they're smack dab in the middle of the most sophisticated WCHA city. Folks in Denver (and therefore kids that go to DU) can walk and chew gum at the same time. They are so overly-sensitive to criticism of the above picture official logo that they all want to return to a poorly drawn micro-offensively sexist cartoon character but I've got no truck for that whole queer issue; meaning I'll pass on it from a thematic perspective. So after all this pedantic rambling, I'm left with the option of writing pretty much the same way I always do.

This weekend the more observant DU fans will see a quite different UAA team than they've seen in the past. This years team has two primary identities. They are big. They can skate. The forward lines heights and weights read like an NHL roster ... 6'4" 210 -- 6'3" 200 -- 6'3" 203 -- 6'2" 190 -- 6'2" 198 -- 6'2" 202 -- and three other 6 footers.

For the last two years under Coach Shyiak the cycle game has been the strategy of choice. They Seawolves will continue to look to get the puck in deep and possess it while trying to work it to the front. But that isn't the lone offensive strategy. The Seawolves have become a better threat when countering than they have in the past. The number of goals in transition this year is up.

Players like #20 Paul Crowder, #9 Kevin Clark and #40 Brian Bales are using their smarts, quickness and skills to break out scorers like #16 Tommy Grant and #21 Josh Lunden. This past Saturday saw a renewed effort to put together a grinder/energy line made up of #27 Sean Wiles, #18 Nick Haddad and #36 Jade Portwood ... the three biggest forwards on the team and what I'm calling the "WHiP" line. Against MTU on UAA's Olympic-sized ice these guys were monsters beating MTU players to the puck and physically dominating whoever they were skating against. I'm thinking the smaller ice-sheet at Magness should help them to continue that effectiveness.

Paul Crowder is first and foremost a smart hockey player. I like to think he has one of the best backhand shots in the league. He is perhaps the most likely player to bust a teammate free with a brilliant pass. He can also play with a bit of an edge around the net. Mostly, he makes anyone playing with him better. That can be seen by looking at his linemate Tommy Grants production this season. Grant was a reasonable scorer in the BCHL with 36 in his final year of juniors. In his first season at UAA Tommy popped in 5. This year he ends up with Paul Crowder and at this point in the season he is the 2nd leading goal scorer in the WHCA with 14. It isn't all Paul per se that accounts for Tommy's improvement. He has learned to utilize his speed and strength on the rush to get into a good position for one of Paul's excellent passes. They are dangerous killing penalties too and have both setup the other for a shorthanded tally.

Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden are both juniors. They've been linemates at UAA for their whole careers. They've both flourished playing together (Lunden has 35 career goals) and know each other well. Brian Bales rejoined them this past weekend after skating together with them for a good part of the first half of the season. Coach Shyiak moved Bales to another line for his playmaking skills but that attempt has ended. Brian and Kevin are both natural playmakers but Kevin has also shown a talent for putting the puck into the net. These three guys will be a threat to DU everytime they're on the ice this weekend.

On the blueline I'd first note that #13 Nils Backstrom is having his best year in a UAA sweater. With a renewed committment to the defensive side of the game Nils has become a shut down defender. But as his sweet tip-in goal this weekend showed he can be dangerous in front of the net. UAA's captain this season is #33 Mat Robinson. Mat is 5'10" 181lbs. He is the quintessential small college hockey defenseman. He moves the puck up the ice deftly. He sees the ice well. He's got jets. He owns the hip check. #4 Kane Lafranchise is a smooth skating sophomore defenseman that is an up and coming WCHA all-league player at some point. He's got a heavy shot. He plays a smart physcial game. And he is also very strong going forward. Veteran junior #24 Trevor Hunt has matured tremendously this season. He has the confidence (and deftness) to burn a defender deep inside the offensive zone and I don't ever see anyone out-hustle him. In his freshman and sophomore seasons he grew into a strong presence in the defensive end. To see him add this new offensive element to his repetoire has been a nice surprise.

Now I'll talk about the most talented player on the blueline. #11 freshman Curtis Leinweber has had an up and down introduction to college hockey. From virtually his first shift I could see that Curtis had mad skills. With every game that passed I could see him becoming more effective and his early season stats point to it (7 assists in 5 games) before he was injured. After sitting for 6 games Curtis came back with an almost palpable manic-eagerness. I could tell he was excited to make something happen and he still looks that way everytime he hits the ice. He will. I think once he syncs his eagerness with his skills we'll see some great things from him.

Goaltending is a focus of a lot of fans. I'm not one of them. Bryce and Jonny O have given their team opportunities to win. Either the goal support wasn't there or a TEAM breakdown led to a soft goal at a crucial time. As with any goaltender they've each let pucks get past them that they'd like to have back. But combine that with the previously mentioned defensive lapses and you've got ugly statistics. UAA's goaltending stats are bad. It isn't a true reflection of either goalies abilities. They're better than their numbers. If the team in front of them plays up to their potential this weekend then Pio fans will see that as well.

I'll have something about DU for UAA readers sometime tomorrow.


Suze said...

Gwoz won't be on the bench for the Friday night game. It seems he communicated with the team via the press box after he was ejected last Saturday night. That is against NCAA rules.

Article is on the WCHA website.

Donald Dunlop said...

Vigilant UND fans spotted Gwoz wearing the headset and as unceasing as a North Dakota Zephyr rallied via email to make the suspension happen.

Lets face it ... there was NO WAY Denver was going to finish that game tied without George's help from above.

And by NO WAY I mean almost certainly would have.

Effect on this Friday's game versus UAA = None
Cost for covert comm gear for Friday game = $485
Entertainment value of UND fanbase's reaction = Priceless

Anonymous said...

Its nice to have Donald and the AA fans after a week and a half of the dirty UNDies...

Anonymous said...

Donald: I would think a man as anal as yourself would have a better grip on reality. The reality of this whole thing is that it is against the rules. Saying the outcome of the game would have been the same either way is pure speculation. Nobody can have an answer for that. The only thing that someone can say for sure is that the rules were borken. Mr. Belding cheated and got caught red handed. Should there be no punishment? You never cease to amaze me with your unwilling to reason behavior when it applies to certain teams.

seawolvesfan said...


Anonymous said...

Heres an interesting Stat on The Goalies...Take away the opponents Goals on the Powerplay and B.C. and J.O.s Goals against is 1.67 for the year..Just a thought if Talifousian (I hate to metion the T Word) type of Diligence was enforced in regards to taking penalties such as The first penalty that doesnt involve taking away a scoring opportunity then the player misses a shift...The next penalty he misses the period and the 3rd Penalty he sits a game no matter who it is would Drasticly emphasis a Team Commitment to address the tremdous issue that costs the Sea Wolves consistantly and with Draconian type of enforcement from the Coaches and if the Players Bought in it would at the worst be addressing a consistance issue...Doesn't Almost every body agree that 5 on 5 We are almost there??? This is a Solution definitely easier said than done and there are varibles to deciding on a good penalty vs a bad penalty but this would immediately take the team to a New Level if Done to any degree and I believe it can be done... What type of additional Cohesion would this bring to the players and Coaching Staff if everybody bought in and it was made a constructive thing to rally around...1.67 HMMM that means you score 2 Goals and potentially you could Win on most nights...When Goalies get under 20 shots a night and the other Team has 7+ powerplays with Future NHLers on it, Out of those 20 shots how many our Grade A or Rebounds off of tough Screens... There is no question out of those Shots it makes for very tough atmosphere to play in so I think for that and a few other reasons the G.A.As while Definitely need to come up are not a true indication of the play of our Tenders and by making a commitment with CONSEQUENCES STRICTLY ENFORCED for taking Penaltys is a team solution to a Team Game that would make a difference for the Program...

Donald Dunlop said...

It is riotously funny that North Dakato fans are demanding retribution for something that caused them exactly ZERO harm. In fact 99% of them had no idea Gwoz donned the headset until DU came out with a press release. Please describe the damages that George caused ... hurt feelings, twisted panties and what???

A one game suspension is about right for not actually causing any harm except for the dishonor he brought to his own program.

Go back to Chambers blog or DG's blog and harass them.

Donald Dunlop said...

I think anything to keep the game 5-on-5 is worth a shot.

Anonymous said...

Definitely Keep the Game 5 on 5 with Denver!!!

seawolvesfan said...

anon @

January 28, 2009 12:38 PM

you bring up a bad memory of talifuck: my dad and i went down to the sully for some tickets for the seawolves and to my great suprise coach is on the ice instructing the then 3rd goalie kurt johnson. while my dad and i walk around tyring to find our friend who works there we both hear him cussing and putting down kurt while scoring on nearly every shot(as it contiuned every other shot hit twine) and my dad shouted to coach " hey take it easy on him, dont go too hard" and talifuck replied "shut the fuck up" and took a wicked hard shot kurts noggin.

Anonymous said...

penalties: Every team in the wcha has 20 minutes in penalties per game. Simple solution put out your most skilled players to kill penalties. Every other team in the wcha does this, power play opportunties will come. Focus on killing of penalties.

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