The UAA Seawolves finalized and announced their 2010-2011 season schedule today. This years WCHA rotation includes 4 games versus the University of Denver and Minnesota State with 5 games versus Colorado College and 3 versus UND. The Seawolves play newcomers Nebraska-Omaha and Bemidji State twice each. The games against UNO are in Anchorage and the games against Bemidji are in whatever podunk little Minnesota berg that Bemidji is located.
All other "usual WCHA suspects" are played twice. In an ongoing attempt to line the pockets of other WCHA schools UAA and UAF have invited North Dakota and Colorado College to their respective tournaments. This means that UND and CC will gain the two coveted "Alaska Exemptions" which will allow them to host additional home games and potentially increase their program revenue by hundreds of thousands of dollars. This leads me to expect that in future seasons we'll continue to see at least two WCHA teams and two CCHA teams every other season.
Personally, I'm not thrilled that at playing a WCHA opponent 5 times during the season. How boring is that? Because of WCHA scheduling restrictions we don't even get to play our one and only college hockey rival (UAF) more than twice a season and now we're playing the Black Bears FIVE freaking times?
So with that, the UAA non-conference schedule will include only three teams outside of the WCHA: UAF (twice), Air Force (once) and Union (once). Technically, the tournament games against UND and CC are "non-conference" events. What that all means is that UAA's PWR numbers at the end of the year will be heavily weighted to how the Seawolves perform against opponents in the WCHA.
The WCHA is already (as the esteemed Puck Swami says), "a meat grinder" so the concept of inviting WCHA teams to the two Alaska tournaments is wholly geared to filling the coffers of those WCHA schools. I can't imagine the NCAA created the "Alaska Exemption" so that the already rich WCHA schools can get even richer. I really think that UAA and UAF shouldn't be pandering to their leagues by including WCHA and CCHA schools as invitees. But I have no doubt both the CCHA and WCHA are pressuring UAA and UAF to do so.
I do like that from the beginning of December until the middle of January that the Seawolves won't have any road games. With the Xmas break where players typically go home for the holiday's it's a good thing that no additional road trips are scheduled. Good on UAA for that.
So other than my picayune bitching about lining the pockets of UND and Colorado College, it's a pretty typical WCHA 28-game schedule. The noobs (UNO and Bemidji) present some opportunities for UAA to gain valauable points in the WCHA race. Beating them both may be a key part of success in the upcoming season.
I'm looking at DU as not being nearly as strong as they were last season. CC is a coin flip as to whether they'll be improved, though I'm certain lots of prognosticators will have them ranked highly. The four games versus Mankato will as always present challenges. They should be a somewhat improved squad this coming season. As to the rest of the schools that UAA only plays twice; they better be prepared to take points whether the games are at home or away.
In other news, there is confirmation that Matthew Friese has rescinded his verbal commitment to attend UAA in either 2011 or 2012. He was already scheduled to play in the USHL during the 2010 season with Tri-City. He told Doyle Woody at ADN,
"I've played in Alaska my whole life and I want to get out and play Outside, and hopefully get a scholarship to play hockey Outside. Nothing against UAA. UAA is a great program and a great team. I'm a teenager. I want to get out and see what's out there.''
I don't consider this a "blow" to the program as there is plenty of time between now and 2011 or 2012 to replace him. Commitments at 16 years old are fraught with danger. More than one or two scouting reports I received had Friese as a solid player but not spectacular. It'll be interesting at least to see how he performs next season in the USHL.