Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Potpourri: Random, What's Left and Mr. Blue Sky

Tough weekend on which to end a season.  Perhaps even a bit tougher weekend on which to end a career.  I pondered a fair amount looking for some way to describe these two playoff losses.  I don't want to try to take anything away from Bucky here, I recognize they're a damn fine and deeply talented hockey team ... but I'm not sure that was the difference this weekend.

The "kids" in today's culture love to point out arbitrary events in life with the phrase, "That was random." And to me, both of those games sure seemed to fit the bill.  For me that started with the first goal of the series.  How many goals can you remember a Seawolves player scoring with some random non-goal-scoring part of their body?  My head started spinning as soon as Michael "I'm all right with God" Davies' shoulder acted as puck-richocheting vehicle for the verification of randomness in our Universe.  I call it random, Davies likely thinks it's his faithfulness to a deity and lots of people would call it lucky.

In a sport where the primary object of competition can sometimes act more like a pinball than a hard piece of disk shaped rubber, "lucky" goals abound.  But I can't for the life of me remember a couple of games where the Seawolves came out so badly on the wrong side of the randomness.  You would think Yahweh or the Uncertainty Principle of the invisible Quantum Universe might assert themselves in UAA's favor once.  Lee Baldwin's ripped shot rang the post as loudly as I've ever heard a post ding would have been a perfect candidate.  Whether fate or randomness, if the other guys can get such breaks then why didn't we.  Baldwin's shot wasn't the only "bad luck" the Seawolves had to deal with.

And then even when things were seemingly going well, Bucky would get a break and bury the chance.  The Seawolves though never seemed to get their payoff for their hard work.  I know there's an accurate description.  Good teams make their good fortune.  There certainly is some of that in this weekends result.  Like I said, I don't want to take anything away from the Badgers.  They're honestly likely to go very deep into the NCAA's.  Then again, they definitely got their share+ of good bounces and nice breaks.

With all that in my head, it's not easy to analyze much else from the series.  If there was a game that UAA could have won ... surprisingly it's the one they lost by the bigger score.  But it seems that in getting much more flow going forward (versus Friday's offense), the Seawolves lacked a bit in their own end at crucial times ... nay ... at random times.  See, I can't get past "how" the losses occurred.  

The Saturday game wasn't over with less than 2 minutes to go when Bucky went ahead.  They had responded nicely to UAA tying the game and were mounting some good attacks.  Baldwin gets righteously tagged with a hooking penalty and Wisconsin gets it's first power play goal in twelve tries to go up 3-2.  But the game wasn't over.  UAA just has to survive the last minute and a half to get to the locker room and then randomness rears it's head.  Bryce gets called for a trip because he has his blocker on the ice after deflecting a shot wide and a guy skating through his crease falls over his arm.  As soon as that fucking idiot zebra (Mason or Thul) blew that whistle, the game was over.  

All referees make mistakes, they're human.  But this random mistake at this random time effectively ended the game.  One minute it's 3-2 and the Seawolves have played their best period of hockey out of the first 5.  26 seconds later, with just 38 seconds left in the 2nd period and it's game over man.  On a blown call.  Not that I wouldn't dispute any of a fair number of bad calls this weekend.  But none of them turned out to be costly.  Until this one.  Man, that was the most abritrary and capricious slap in the face of the whole season.  A ridiculously bad call.  

Listen, Bucky was loading on the pressure there at the end of the 2nd period.  They were posssessing and pushing deep, they were holding the zone and generating multiple chances.  This is exactly why referees call penalties at those times.  They are subtlety influenced by the action in the game.  They see one team generating chances and something inside them clicks to call a penalty in that teams favor.  Doesn't matter which team it is, it goes that way (in favor of) for the Seawolves too.  Sometimes, it is indeed the hard work of a team that makes the other team foul them and many such calls are entirely legitimate.  This one wasn't though.  And it decided the game.

Note: no "blame" on the refs in that.  Like I said, you could deconstruct multiple bad calls in every single WCHA game to show how they are wrong.  It happens.  Referees are human.  I'm just lamenting this single call, at this particular part of the game which I believe was the death knell for the Seawolves season.  Random.


So that's my perspective on the weekend.   There's a lot of work to be done in the off-season to become one of those teams that makes it's luck.  I'll be examining some of that in upcoming posts.  I'm going to wind down my writing season over the next week or so.  Here's what is planned/upcoming:
  • UAA Hockey Fan Blog Awards
  • Report Cards
  • Dave Shyiak: A Comprehensive Review
  • Final Recruit Updates
  • A Look Ahead
The 3rd piece will be my critical look at Dave Shyiak's performance in his first 5 years.  It is a year earlier than the fairest possible time to do such a thing.  I've long stated here that 6 years is the proper time frame for such assessments.  I still hold to that pretty much.  If after his 6th season Dave hasn't shown some positive progression in term of success then its fair to have the discussion.  So in the case of me writing this review, consider a "pre-evaluation" evaluation.  In any case, I see it as perhaps the most important post I've made here and am approaching it with that sense in my mind.

Feel free to email me your thoughts.  I want to try to be reflective of ideas, criticisms and just the general fanbase's emotions when I write it.  Thanks in advance.  What's left seems like work to me, so your input will be valuable.


And here's my suggestion for next year's Theme Song ...  because it's a happy sunny day song and we all need a little more ELO in our lives.  And oh yeah, it reminds me of being 17 and driving around in my 1974 Mercury Capri, jamming this song on a sunny day with the sunroof cranked open.  This makes me feel like I've ended today on a positive note.  Yay, I can sense spring coming.


Eric said...

Don, there were two other points on Saturday night that didn't help...the early whistle on what would have definitely been a UAA goal, and the rink long outlet pass made by a UAA d-man that hit a linesmen (jesus christ dude, it came from the other end of the rink, get the hell out of the way!) and bounced directly to the badgers for a 3 on 2 that led to their second goal. The Seawolves have to play their best hockey and be the recipient of some bounces to be able to pull off a series win against UW. For most of the series, they didn't do either.

Anonymous said...

Final Five set up:
St. Cloud

Interesting how there was not an upset, since 1-5 in the season rankings made it.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I ment to say UMD , not CC

dsack said...

What a surprise that a WCHA game is decided largely by the refs, that only happens about 85% of the time.

Anonymous said...

What sucks is, that with Clark leaving, how can we even dream about being any better next year? Maybe Donald and his eternal optimism can shed some light on it.

kelly. said...

I don't understand your reasoning that a coach needs 6 seasons before he can be judged effectively. In all other major college sports 4 seasons is the benchmark, the thinking is that after your 4th season, your first group of recruits are seniors and have been there all 4 seasons playing in your system. Why do you think Shyiak deserves 2 more than the norm? I do think this is a talented team and he has brought in some good players. But the team is completely undisciplined on the ice (leading the league in PM) and inconsistent from one night to the next. That is on the coach. Its his job to prepare his players for each night and instill discipline. Both have lacked all season.

Donald Dunlop said...

Well, then .... maybe you spend a year running the full-on Jacques Lemaire Neutral Zone Trap on everybody in every game for the full game. Maybe squeak out a few more close games that way.

I say buckle it up ... clog the shit out of it. Do it all year long. Spend the entire year teaching your team how to keep the other team from scoring. Then maybe the next year you've got a foundation to open up your style a little and think about being truly competitive.

Don't talk about winning or losing in practice next year. Make it the goal every game to keep the other team from scoring. Think of nothing else.

Donald Dunlop said...

It's a fair question that I've discussed here before. I'll try to summarize my position briefly. Essentially, it's two-fold. Recruiting and uniqueness. This years senior class were first recruited by John Hill's staff.

Next year will be the first full year with all his players. There are regional challenges to recruiting here that are unique as well. That gets a full year to overcome ... it's only fair.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm not versed enough on the in and
outs of running a hockey team to say
anything about that but I do know that
I've been feeling the piercing sting in my
heart about this season. I think that is
probably because of the closeness our
family has felt to this class of fine young
men. I hope they all know how proud of
them we will always be even if they lost
the game. Their character will be defined
by their tenacity to never quit, even when
that is the easy way out. There is one
other point I would like to make. I bet
the gophers feel quite a bit of pain too,
could you imagine having to watch 5
other teams play for the trophy on your
own home ice? For me, that eases the
sting just a wee bit.
Go SeaWolves, and we'll look forward
to seeing you all again next season
whether you play on our team or at
a higher level.
A Seawolf Fan...

wolf fannn said...

great season all around for some players...Kevin Clark had a tremendous senior season and really stepped up, good luck to him in the future. lunden played strong on his comeback, nils and jared played solid as always, sean wiles had a great 3rd season and improved his numbers generously. Kane Lafranchise had a great junior season and not only improved his point total but established himself as a great two way dman. Jonny O will be missed and I was happy he got to play as many games as he did and he did a great job! Good luck Jon! looking forward to next year!

Anonymous said...

I'm not too worried about next year. We thought this year would be great, and although there were definitely a lot of great games, the season did not end as we hoped it would. There is a lot of talent remaining and coming in, so keep positive and I'm thinking we could be pleasantly surprised.

Anonymous said...

Is the team coming home tonite,
let's have a few people at the airport to welcome them.

Anonymous said...

I believe they are coming in tonite at around 9:30. You'd better check. An airport welcome would mean a hell of a lot to the boys.

Anonymous said...

they dont get in until after midnight..heard about 130am or 200am

Anonymous said...

once again i see that Kevin Clark dissappeared in the playoffs

Suze said...

Clarks lack of scoring wasn't for lack of trying. They were mugging him all night long, and mostly got away with it.

Can't wait to hear where you are headed next, Kevin.

Anonymous said...

We'd like to meet the guys, what airline?
What time? And where? Anyone know?
Thank you very much,
Seawolf fans

dggoddard said...

College hockey recruiting is different than NCAA hoops or football. Hockey recruiting classes are filled two to three years ahead of time and a majority of players don't come to school until they are 19 or 20.

What is hurting UAA recruiting the most is the arena. A new barn on campus and a collegiate atmosphere at games would hopefully net an upgrade in recruits & keep a few more local boys in town.

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