I just can't feature absurd sports nicknames. The height of absurdity in sports nicknames for teams in the United States is two-fold; Lions and Tigers. Tigers? The closest Tiger to Colorado Springs is 10,000 miles away in Sumatra. So yes, Detroit has a double-dose of absurdity besides being located in the shittiest of shitty states. I suppose CC's adoption of Tigers is probably as old as the school. Back in the old days people were stupid. Isn't it time that CC come into the 21st century?
Sure, there are other ridiculous names too; Banana Slugs comes to mind. But at least Banana Slugs has a humorous origin. The University of California, Santa Cruz held a vote for a new name in order to better reflect some connection between the school and it's region. That's a worthy proposition in my book. But being as things are on a college campus, a segment of students managed to popularize Banana Slug and win the vote ... for one primary reason; the male Banana Slug has the largest ratio of penis to body size in the animal kingdom. And hey, isn't a big part of fandom just a dick measuring contest of sorts? So with that ... I think Banana Slugs > Tigers for the humor and irony.
Why do I care? I don't really. Then why bother mentioning it? Just to piss on their corn flakes. I'd personally be embarrassed to support a team with a crappy name too. And it's fun to see someone turn up to defend the name, they inevitably use some crap argument or just really on the "you suck" argument. So you'll only see me refer to CC as the Black Bears. It's a much more appropriate name in that it's reflective of the region and connects the University to it's community in an environmental-cultural way.
Now more about their ill-named hockey team. As I mentioned yesterday, CC began the season strongly (against prognostications) going 10-2-1 to start but only 3-6-2 since falling to the Seawolves in OT of the last game between the teams. There's no cosmic significance to that. The first half of their schedule was simply against weaker competition than their 2nd half. If I'm not mistaken they have wins against only two ranked teams; Wisconsin and St. Cloud.
In reviewing their schedule and numbers across the season, I'm left but with one conclusion as to the downward spiral for the Black Bears. They're a victim of Puck Swami's "WCHA Meat Grinder". They have had one short break from play (from Dec 12th - Dec 28) since October 3rd. I know you might be saying, "Hey ... everyone plays lots of games"; but honestly, most teams have had a couple of bye weeks at this point in the season.
They also have 8 freshman with a combined 104 games (only 3 of which have 11 games or less) and 4 sophomore regulars. CC doesn't have a bye week until the middle of February. They have had the luxury of playing a majority of their games at home so far: 9 road games versus 13 at home and 2 on neutral ice.
Their freshman goaltender Joe Howe has started 22 of their 24 games. He has decent numbers with a .911 save percentage and 2.66 goals against average. It would surprise me if we see junior goaltender Tyler O'Brien this weekend. Offensively, they are led by two distinctly different styles of forward. Speedster and talented left-winger Bill Sweat has 11 goals and 12 assists this season and grinder right-wing Mike Testwuide has 13 goals and 4 assists. Their 3rd leading goal scorer is forward Tyler Johnson with 7. After that they've got 5 guys that have scored at least 4 goals including the kid from Anchorage who has 6.
On the defensive side, the Black Bears are a mix of experience and talented youngsters. None of their D at this point have accumulated any numbers which peg them as offensive geniuses but with 12 goals between their top 5 they can't be discounted as threats.
Scott Owens coached teams often pride themselves on playing an up and down, racehorse wide-open style of hockey. This weekend though, Dave Shyiak should really not be surprised to see the Black Bears break out the neutral zone trap in an attempt to create and capitalize on turnovers. If he's done his homework, he'll know that the Seawolves haven't employed their own trap as extensively as rubes believe. He'll know that UAA wants to control the game with possession in the opposition zone and will use whatever methods to get the puck deep as are necessary.
I didn't see the games between the teams in the Springs earlier this year. But by all accounts, the Seawolves put on a clinic in the 2nd game. So I seriously doubt that Coach Owens is going to underestimate UAA in any way.
As always, special teams play is likely to be a factor. Limiting their chances on the power play by playing disciplined hockey is choice #1 as it's the easiest to control. They take the 2nd fewest penalties in the league and their power play is clicking at 22% for 2nd best in the league. It may be that UAA can take advantage of their 8th rated penalty kill. But I'd think that concentrating on scoring 5 on 5 makes more sense as a strategy.
The Seawolves need to ensure they play the tough physical game they know how to. UAA has about an 8lb per player average size advantage which while it isn't huge is substantial enough to be able to impose yourself on the other guys. I haven't harped on using that advantage as much as past seasons but if there was a weekend where physical play could turn the tide, it could be this one. They're feeling the WCHA grind, they're on their longest road trip of the season, they're not playing their best hockey of the season and they're going up against a physically intimidating team that hasn't played a game in it's own barn in 48 days. And it's parent's weekend.
In my book, that should spell nothing but bad news for the Black Bears.