I suppose if you're a Colorado College fan you're likely to think this is a turkey of a preview versus the title I've chosen. Everybody figured that CC wouldn't be anywhere near 1st place in the league this season. I think the highest I saw anyone of note pick them was around 6th. So, did everyone including me underrate them? Maybe ... maybe not.
They haven't exactly played a tough schedule. They opened their regular season getting a split with Northeastern at the World Arena. Northeastern is currently 5-5-1 with losses to foundering BU (4 wins), Maine (5 wins). Next they won and tied at Wisconsin ... not bad results but those games could be looked at as two of Bucky's poorer efforts. Next they hosted MTU and put up 12 goals in their sweep; CC scored 8 power play goals and 2 shorties in a series that saw 35 penalties called for 81 total minutes (only one major).
In their 3rd of 4 series at home they next hosted UMD. The Duluthians took the first game and tanked on the 2nd night in a penalty-fest that UMD won 51 minutes to 26 but lost on the more important goals for/against stat. The next weekend the Black Bears traveled to Mankato. They won the first night with a power play goal on a semi-controversial penalty call in OT. The second night CC cashed in on 2 of their 7 power plays for a 3-2 win. Last weekend they faced an opponent in common with UAA beating Bob Morris 4-3 and 4-1.
My analysis of all that tells me a couple of things. First, the Seawolves shit the bed versus Robert Morris. So the fact that CC beat them twice is no surprise. Second, their freaking power play is dangerous; they're 22 of 70 for a whopping 31.4 percent ... that's almost obscene. In games where the play has been disrupted with lots of penalties the Black Bears have done very well. But nothing they've done so far is anything I'd call impressive.
So I say they're definitely not as good as their 9-2-1 record would suggest. They've had the benefit of an early season with 10 of their first 14 games at home (that includes this coming weekend versus UAA). They haven't played Denver, North Dakota or Minnesota as yet. I'm not impressed.
They're not a big or small team. They've got 11 upperclassmen (8 seniors and 3 juniors). Four freshman forwards seem to have been shuffled a bit in and out of the lineup. The best player on the team is still senior Bill Sweatt but freshman Rylan Schwartz is currently 2nd overall in scoring. The once highly hyped Tyler Johnson seems to be coming into his own this season and is their 3rd leading scorer. Goal-wise speaking, senior Mike Testwuide is already more than halfway to his highest single season output with 6. Freshman William Rapuzzi may also prove to be a bit of an offensive threat as he's bagged 4 in the 10 games he's played. But I'm still not impressed.
The lack of impression they make on me doesn't automatically translate to a couple of Seawolves victories. The Seawolves haven't exactly impressed me yet either eh? So all the usual adjectives apply once again. The team will have to be disciplined. Staying out of the box versus these guys is paramount. CC has shown a good ability to cash in with the man advantage. I have to imagine that a focus on not taking penalties has been a watchword in practice and meetings this week.
No point in taking chances on marginal hits. Keep the sticks off the opponent at all times. The more 5 on 5 hockey that the Seawolves can play this weekend the better. This year's CC team are the latest version of skating halos with the lowest penalty minutes per game at 13.8 per. Referees know which teams take fewer penalties and so you can assume some tendency on their part to give the Black Bears the benefit of the doubt this weekend.
They're averaging nearly 35 shots a game but are giving up almost 31 per. The Seawolves are giving up 28 per game but so far have only managed 21. Which means that this weekend UAA players really need to find a way to get more rubber onto the net than they've done in any game this season. And they have to combine that with a defensive effort that limits the Black Bear's chances. That means blocking passing and shooting lanes and then giving up the body to block shots.
Of course ... this is the most important series of the year to date. Points are desperately needed. Yes ... I said desperately. I didn't want to characterize it that way but it fits. Our guys haven't won a conference game on the road yet. The team we just split with is just one point behind us in the standings. The team in last place just two points behind us has 2 games in hand. The team one point ahead of us in the standings doesn't play conference games this weekend so they'll have 2 games in hand. And the team 3 points ahead of us in the standings is at DU this weekend.
Points ... points ... points ... must be had this weekend. There are no mathematical eliminations of course this early in the season but hoping and/or planning for home ice really starts with some positive movement points-wise this weekend. Otherwise, I'd classify the Seawolves as being in a hole. And climbing out of WCHA holes is never easy. Hopefully, the players understand that; they just have this series and next weekend before they get a nice long break. They need to play these next two series as if they were the last two series of the season. Nothing less than 100% effort must occur; yes ... must.