Thursday, February 26, 2009

2008-2009 Senior Tribute

I enjoy watching my team play hockey. I'm grateful that I've seen almost every single minute of hockey the Seawolves have played this season. Thanks to the folks that hooked up the GCI deal for that even if that is someone at GCI (whom I generally dislike as a company). UAA fans are lucky for getting to see so much of their team. Lots of other WCHA fans don't get to see their team nearly as often as we do. Awesome stuff but, watching on TV isn't nearly the same as a live game. Even in a half-full Sullivan Arena there is a palpable excitement that just doesn't exist watching a game on TV. So I'm a bit jealous of UAA fans this weekend that are road-tripping to UAF. I wish I was because Saturday night is the last chance to see this group of Seawolves live. Those of you going to Fairbanks get two more live games. Of course there's probably a few of you that will get to see the team live in Duluth and perhaps even follow them on the road for the playoffs. I envy you as well. So before I sit down and watch my last live game of the year I wanted to take today to express my thanks to three guys that I'll probably never get to see play hockey live again. This year's Senior Class is one of the smallest in my memory. 3 guys: Shane Lovdahl, Jeremy Smith and Mat Robinson are all winding up their NCAA careers. Wow. 4 years goes so much faster when your a 48 year old fan than it does when your 30. Sigh.

Shane Lovdahl
Shane has had an interesting career at UAA. He came in fairly highly-touted. He had a great career with Cedar Rapids in the USHL where he was a fan favorite and still holds the club record for points by a defenseman in a single season. As a freshman Shane hit the ice at UAA and showed much promise. His 4 goals and 9 assists were a quality addition that season. He showed fans that he had a cannon hidden in his stick. His sophomore season was shortened due to a niggling NCAA rule about the classes he took. Apparently, he took and passed the minimum number of classes but somehow or another he was declared ineligible and had to sit for half a season.

As a Junior Shane began to show another side of his game. His soft hands became evident especially in the offensive end of the ice. There were times I thought Merit Waldrop had donned his jersey as he put moves on opponents that were quite simply sweet. This season Shane has certainly had perhaps his most interesting season. He has played more at forward than he has on the blueline. The departure of two forwards early in the year forced the move and Shane answered the call. The work he has done at that end has been overwhelmingly positive regardless of his point production. It's the sign of a consummate team player to fill a role as a fourth line forward during your last season. Shane is a class act. He's been tagged as not having the quickest feet but I don't subscribe to that as a negative for him. He's smart and his stick skills are so far above average that his foot speed isn't an issue.

Over the next couple of years I'd expect Shane should be able to find a path to some sort of AHL career. His physical play and abilities on the point (i.e... cannon of a shot) would benefit any AHL team. The NHL could be a possibility for him but honestly he's probably a bit of a longshot. That perhaps might be exactly the sort of personal challenge he thrives on and I hope he makes me wrong. Thank you Shane for giving me the pleasure over the last four years of your efforts for the Seawolves. I've enjoyed watching you and have always wanted to see you succeed. Local guys like you are very important to this program and always among my favorites. Best of luck with the remaining season and your future career whether it includes hockey or not.

Mat Robinson
I was excited to have Mat join the Seawolves from the first time I heard he was coming. Mat came to UAA from the Calgary Royals in the AJHL and was very much anticipated as every scouting report tagged him as an excellent playmaking puck-carrying defenseman. The scouting reports were exactly right. He is the very definition of an undersized blueliner that can really "bring it". Mat is speedy, smart and one of the best passers I've ever seen on the blueline.

In one of the first games I saw Mat play he made a cross ice pass from deep in his zone to the opposite blueline that absolutely took my breath away. I can still see that pass when I close my eyes. Nothing came of it but it was so absolutely perfect that at that moment I knew Mat would be a very key player on the team. Mat's scoring contributions may have been modest when compared with some other NCAA blueliners but I wouldn't trade him for anyone. He hits like a frigging freight train. There is nobody in the league who can compare to him when throwing a hip-check. I couldn't begin to count the number of opponents I've seen flipped over by Robbie when they might have otherwise broken in for a chance.

This season we've seen the culmination of his growth as a player. He leads with his play. His patented rushes from his own goal line up the ice are almost always productive. A blueliner flying past opponents with the puck and creating something offensively is a thing of beauty and Mat has created more of those than anyone in a Seawolf uniform since Martin Bakula. I'll miss Robbie greatly. Best wishes to him in his future career. His size might create some concern for potential pro coaches but if he gets the right opportunities I could see him in the NHL at some point. Thanks for the 4 years Robbie, you've been a stud in your time here. It is my greatest hope that someone at the next level recognizes that.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy is an absolutely great college hockey story. If I had press access and was getting paid to write I'd nab Jeremy for an interview and let him tell his story. By almost any measure this is a guy that perhaps shouldn't be playing Division 1 hockey. Jeremy had an extended 4 year junior career. After 3 years in the USHL this undersized defenseman got no offers from any school. So he moved on to play an overage year in the NAHL and became a big fan favorite in Youngstown as an enforcer. I doubt there is a Seawolf player that would want to drop the gloves and face Jeremy. He's tough as nails. Just look at him. He oozes hard-ass. He had 198 minutes of penalties in his final junior season.

With no college offers Jeremy came home to Anchorage to get on with his life. He enrolled at UAA but walking past the rink was too much for him. He got in touch with the coaching staff, laced em up and showed them enough to earn a roster spot. Jeremy is one of a couple of hundred guys playing college hockey who are absolutely responsible for keeping the sport going. These are guys that toil in near complete anonymity. They show up to every practice and make their teammates better. Look at any roster in the NCAA and you'll find a guy like Jeremy. Some people might refer to them as benchwarmers but that's such an unfair term. They are team warmers.

He likely isn't going to play professional hockey unless he gets a spot as a fighter; and honestly ... what pro team hires a 5' 9" fighter? So I'm guessing this is it for Jeremy. When the Seawolves are done for the year I'd guess Jeremy will be done for his career. In his first year Jeremy saw action in 1 game. But this season when the 2 guys left an opportunity presented itself and Jeremy took that bull by the horns and rode it hard. Early in the season he was a monster on the checking line. He hit everything that moved and hit it hard. And he came oh so close a few times to nabbing his 1st collegiate goal. I can't think of anything sweeter than for Jeremy to nab that first goal somewhere in these last few games. I'm not sure if his broken wrist is healed completely but I doubt that would stop him from playing if given the choice. I hope he makes it back into the lineup this weekend versus Fairbanks. As a local kid I can imagine there'd be nothing he'd like better than to play against them.

Saturday night is Senior Night. Be there to show your appreciation for these guys. College sports are special. Being a successful student/athlete is difficult at best and every kid that gives us fans their best on the ice while doing classwork deserves a standing ovation for their efforts. Get to the rink and join me on Saturday. I'll be standing ... and as always on Senior night, I'll have a tear in my eye.


Anonymous said...

I would hope the fans at the sully would give the three seniors a standing ovation, this will be there last chance to play at home. To all the seniors wish you all the best.

Anonymous said...

Have to admit.....I didn't wait until Saturday night to shed a tear. Great write up, Donald. these guys are gonna be missed as they are the heart and soul of this team. NOthing would be sweeter for these guys than to kick UA_'s ass this weekend. Standing O for these guys is in order Saturday night as they deserve that and so much more. I hoping the Sully will be filled to send these guys off in style. See you all Friday and Saturday nights. Nanooks are going DOWN!!!!

Anonymous said...

Nicely done.

Suze said...

Great job Donald. You have a special talent for writing, and I always look forward to your articles on the seniors!! Well done.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Seawolf Seniors and awesome article, Donald! Best of luck to Shane, Jeremy and Mat in whatever the future holds for you guys. You will be greatly missed by all Seawolf fans. It's been a helluva ride. Have fun this weekend, keep the Cup in A-town and beat those dirty bears.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the right on writup Donald. You guys are definitely class acts and I have enjoyed watching you. Good luck to you, kick some bear but this weekend.

Anonymous said...

another well done piece...thanks

Seawolves... your mission
Have Butterbean simmering so bad he pulls his johnson and tosses eggs and greenham to the Wolves.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great write-up on the seniors well deserved recognation. All three guys willbe missed. Looking forward to kickin some UAF butt tonight and tomorrow night.


Anonymous said...

butterbean is growing his hair out. It looked like the makings of a "skullet." Good luck with that Bean.

Suze said...

Shyiak said on the pregame show that Wiles is out for the season, and Leinweber is out for a few games.

Anonymous said...

Good job SEAWOLVES!!!! ! Although you won, it was a snoozer of a game. You need to start scoring goals. Really you do. There were glorious missed scoring chances. The special teams played well. Great penalty killing in particular. Good luck tomorrow!

Anonymous said...

Good goaltending, good penalty kill and crowder and clark are finally clicking on the power play.
Uaa finish them off early tomorrow and off to minnesota-duluth, let's not forget to give the seniors a standing ovation tomorrow.


MeanEgirl said...

I'm gonna miss Lovdahl.... :(

Suze said...

So nice to see Smith out there for his last collegiate game at the Sully.

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