No news is usually good news for your favorite Seawolves blogger. This early season off week has given me an opportunity to not focus continually on all things Seawolf. I pretty much have only even looked at the blog 3 times a day instead of ELEVENTY-MILLION as usual. That isn't to say I haven't still had Seawolves hockey on my mind. I have. So here's what I've been thinking.
This is a pretty good looking team that has exceeded my expectations in terms of both skill and grit. The team have played better defensively than I expected. The goaltending has been solid. The drop in penalty minutes is hugely nice. And even though results haven't been what we'd hope for; I'm left feeling pretty positive about the rest of the season.
I think it's most important to note here that I believe success in the WCHA for the Seawolves is defined by what is accomplished at the end of the season. Wins in March (and hopefully April) are much more relevant than wins in October. Especially for a team that is overall pretty young. Now let's look at some specifics eh?
Last season the team scored 2.42 goals per game and gave up 3.92 goals per game. This season through the first 8 games they've scored 2.5 goals per game and given up 3.62 per. It doesn't look like huge improvements at first glance but the differential is down almost .5 goals per game (1.5 down to 1.12). That's a tangibly decent number. If you take into consideration that (and I think we'd mostly all agree) the guys can definitely put more pucks in the net ... then there's reason for optimism.
The biggest improvement in the differential has been the goal against. Credit team defense for that. Committed play in the defensive end by all the players on the ice has improved from the first two games. Shot blocking numbers reflect that.
To delve a little deeper ... last season opponents put an average of 28.25 shots on goal and UAA managed 24.4. So far this season ... the Seawolves have gotten 27.625 shots through the opposing netminder and have let 25.375 get to their goalie. Again, not a huge difference but a tangibly nice turnaround from nearly -4 to +2.5 for nearly a 6 shot per game positive change in shot differential.
In terms of grit. We've seen one game out of the eight where our guys drooped their shoulders a bit and that was for less than 1/2 of the 2nd game against UMD after they got down 4-0. They have been in and competed hard in the other 7 contests. And yes .. let's mention it again ... all seven of those games were decided by one goal or ended in a tie. Yes ... I know those weren't wins and we all want to see wins but I'm not Doyle Woody ok? I cannot do anything less than focus on positive things. It's not in my fan nature to be negative.
Let's talk about penalties. Last season the Seawolves where whistled for a penalty 321 times in 36 games for an average of almost 9 penalties per game. Through 8 games this season the team has been whistled for 35 times for 4.3 penalties per game. A better than 50% reduction deserves no less than a FUCK YEAH. Keep that shit up guys. Very nice and well worthy of some 90's style "mad phat props".
Penalties last season killed the team. Eliminating half of them is very positive. Keep that up through the season and it will pay benefits. The fewer power play chances you give the opposition in the WCHA and the fewer goals they'll score. Last season the Seawolves gave up 1.25 power play goals per game. Through 8 games this year that is down to 1.0 per game.
Another reason to be optimistic is that after just 8 games 6 of our newest players have scored goals. 8 of the team's 20 goals have come from guys that didn't play last season. 7 of those from freshmen and 1 from transfer Scott Warner. That's 40% folks. There is good and bad in that number. Obviously it's nice to see our new players bust their cherries. But here's the rub, only one sophomore player has scored a goal. And the upperclassmen have only provided 11 from 5 players out of 8 of them. None of that is horrendously bad. But it's clear the upperclassmen have to provide more scoring and some sophomores definitely need to get on the board.
Let's talk freshmen (and Scott Warner) for a minute or two eh? Who wasn't impressed with Justin Kirchhevel's first two games? I'm led to believe that his fitness level wasn't 100% this past weekend. So with more fitness he should become even more effective. I'm not going to pump his tires too much here about being a goal scorer as I've seen freshman bag early season goals and then struggle the rest of the season. But his smart and gritty play were very evident in both neutral ice and the offensive end so we've got something to look forward to in him.
As to the rest of the class, well we've sung Jordan Kwas' praises a bit here and he's fully deserving of the hidden gem award eh? Who knew? Not me. His late addition to the squad is a blessing if for no other reason than his great stickhandling. Matt Bailey looks really comfortable playing at this level and will definitely be a contributor as the season progresses. Even though Mark Pustin hasn't scored a goal he has contributed offensively and his speed, energy and playmaking look to be positive influences. McLeod and Sproule have both been very solid. Wes is just going to get better and better. I don't think he looks like a freshman at all. Quinn is much more of an offensive threat than I'd imagined. As for Brett Cameron ... I really want to label him with having a shot release like Brett Hull. But I'll wait a bit for that. He's going to catch some goaltenders by surprise. I've already seen him release quality shots that other players would struggle to even get on net.
Here's the last thing I've been thinking about. When Kane Lafranchise returns and the Seawolves have all the blueliners healthy there is every reason to believe that this team will make a nice turnaround in the wins/losses department; mark my words, as the season progresses we'll forget all about the ability this squad has shown to come from behind (because they won't need to as often).
Lastly, watch the damn video. That woman is straight up serious. And she gets to vote on shit? The Constitution!!11!! ... The Constitution!!!11!! I bet HAARP tuk her jerb!!11!! For Fucks Sake.