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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Potpourri: WCHA, Politics and Free Tickets

This weekend was one of the few this season where all the WCHA teams played a full slate of league action.  So let's take a look around and see what transpired.  There were two series of high significance in the top half of the standings.  UAA's next opponent, SCSU had a weekend at altitude in Colorado Springs facing the Black Bears.  

In the first tilt, the two teams headed into the 3rd period tied at 2.  Then a bit of hell broke loose in one of the most religious cities in the U.S.  CC scored first just 19 seconds in.  SCSU answered 26 seconds later.  The game stayed tied until 7:39 when El Cloud took the lead.  A little over 3 mins later CC tied it at 4.  Then just 20 seconds later, Huskies II bagged the game winner.

Night two was an equal nightmare for goalies.  5 goals in the 1st (three for SCSU); 2 goals in the 2nd (1 for each team); and then 3 CC goals spread out through the 3rd clinched the 6-4 win.  The push means that neither team gained any ground in the standings.  SCSU has 26 points, CC has 25 points.

Duluth and Wisconsin split a pair just across the river from Superior, Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Gitche Gumee.  The Bulldogs got soaked by the Badgers 5-2 after being tied 2 each at the end of the 1st on Friday night.  There was no shortage of penalty calls as they combined for 18 (10 for Bucky and 8 for UMD).  Saturday night was all UMD as they shutout the Commies 4-0.  The teams combined for 21 penalties (13 for Bucky and 8 for UMD).  That split means UMD is still ahead of Wisconsin in the standings by two points with 27.

Denver used two different scoring strategies to complete the only WCHA sweep of the weekend.  On Friday night they bombed and chased Aaron Dell from the UND net with goals at 1:23 and 3:18 of the 1st period.  Dave Hakstol's blood pressure went through the roof and with his usual scowl and beet red face he gave his obvious #2 goalie the hook.  Didn't matter, UND's offensive incompetence the rest of the evening ensured the DU win.  

Of course, being that the games were in Hostile and Abusive Arena there were a couple of dust-ups.  But the sodbusters managed to keep control in the face of mounting aboriginal aggression i.e ... the dirty redskins couldn't goad them into a real fight.

On the 2nd night, DU tapped into it's god-given manifest destiny to roll the wicked godless Indians by allowing them to be overconfident in building a 2-0 lead early in the 2nd.  The Pios had the Indians exactly where they wanted them at that point.  They uncircled the wagons and outflanked the hapless native horde scoring goals about every 4 mins starting at the midway point in the period.  They completed the scalping of the squaws at 12:16 of the 3rd.

With the sweep DU moved into sole possession of the conference lead with 28 points.  UND's failure to get any points in their own wigwam leaves them 2 points ahead of UAA in 6th and just one point ahead of Rodentia who has 18.

Mankato and MTU split a pair of games in Houghton.  The OG Huskies redeemed themselves from a long losing streak capping the purple cows 4-1 on Friday night.  Unable to win fair and square on Friday night, the bovine decided to goon it up on Saturday.  But first, they paid off Friesma and Walsh (who likely live in Mankato) to call three straight penalties on MTU in the first period ensuring that the Huskies wouldn't be able to get into the groove and dominate.  

Then some typical Mankato thuggery went down at 13:38 of the 2nd and Friesma and Walsh earned their super-secret stipend from Juttings back pocket piling on an extra penalty to MTU from the dust-up.  And when the flatulent methane-producing cows couldn't cash in, the refs called a delay of game at 15:32 on MTU.  

Wow.  You know how many delay of games get called in the WCHA?  About one every 4 years.  Urea Hayes scored on the ensuing power play to go up 2-0.  And from that point, the referees swallow their whistles.  Convenient eh?  Those two bumblers are the worst referees in the WCHA.  Not because they're incompetent.  But because they're biased.

Mankato remains 4 points behind UAA with 13 points but does have two games in hand.  Tech is 7 points out of 9th.

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If you aren't already ignoring the pusillanimous blathering of MSNBC, CNN and Fox News then please allow me to ask you why?  Below is an example of all you really need to know about what is going on in this country.  In a half an hour 4 nights a week, Jon Stewart adroitly summarizes the bullshit that is this country's political machine.  Sure, Mika Brezinski has nice tits but does that mean you have to watch her vapidly sit by while her evil little rat-faced murdering pig of a co-host subtly spews the most vile tripe since Mussolini?

Why would you sit and cry with Glenn Beck night after night when the truth can make you laugh?  Seriously dear readers, if you want some news find a BBC stream or channel and you'll get actual news.  There is none of that on cable.  It's nothing but unadulterated Edward Bernays-style propaganda spew.  If you don't know who he is, then you understand nothing about how things work in this country.  Seriously, click that Bernays link and watch it.  I dare you.

And then after you've done that.  Enjoy the Jon Stewart clips.  He is without a doubt the best voice in this country for truth.


The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Speech Therapy
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis




The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Speech Therapy - Post-Racial
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis


And I should take the time to mention that the best other source for real information and news in this country comes from Amy Goodman at Democracy Now.  I know it's Mary's (the good woman I married in 1980 and who bore my wonderful genius daughter) favorite and I'm always impressed with the information that Amy uncovers and reports on.  If you hate the "mainstream" media then check out Amy.  She's one of the sharpest, insightful minds in this country.

Here's the latest show ....





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Here's some of my favorite things ... for no other reason than self-indulgence:

----- Music (or what's on my iTunes) -----
I like Rush, Pink Floyd, Queen, System of a Down, Tool, Ace of Base (that's right ... I enjoy some goofy Euro-Pop), Disturbed, Black Sabbath, Cake, Jethro Tull, Coldplay, Deep Purple, Creedance, Chris Isaak, Midnight Oil, The Eagles, ELO, Donald Fagen, Iron Maiden, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Frank Zappa, Green Day, Joe Walsh, Jimmy Buffett, David Bowie, Alan Parsons Project, Melissa Etheridge, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, The Killers, Dire Straits, The Allman Brothers, Blue Oyster Cult, The Moody Blues, The Cars, Neil Young, The Clash, Crosby Stills and Nash, Pearl Jam, Eric Clapton, Peter Gabriel, Queensryche, Fleetwood Mac, Dan Fogleberg, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Sublime, Stone Temple Pilots, Supertramp, Tom Petty, U2, ZZ Top, Weezer.  
There's lots of other one and two offs I have; the surprise you stuff?  Tiffany - I Think We're Alone Now --- Roxette - She's Got The Look --- Nena - 99 Luftballoons --- Kim Wilde - Kids In America --- Dream Academy - Life in a Northern Town --- Boomtown Rats - I Don't Like Mondays --- Bow Wow Wow - I Want Candy --- Ah Ha - Take On Me .... and other stuff you might laugh at me for having.
----- Movies (sort of in order) ------
To Kill a Mockingbird --- Being There --- 2001: A Space Odyssey --- Quest For Fire --- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest ---12 Monkeys --- Brazil --- Goodfellas --- Reds --- Pulp Fiction --- Lawrence of Arabia --- Fight Club --- Blade Runner --- Network --- Raging Bull --- Full Metal Jacket --- Highlander --- Forbidden Planet --- Breaker Morant --- BloodSimple --- The Thing --- Fargo --- The Green Mile --- Life of Brian --- The Holy Grail --- The Big Lebowski --- Dead Man --- The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951) --- The Man Who Would Be King --- Trainspotting --- The Usual Suspects --- Taxi To The Dark Side --- The Postman --- V for Vendetta --- Hoosiers --- The Best Years of Our Lives --- Serenity --- High Noon --- The Deer Hunter --- Seven Years in Tibet --- The Thin Blue Line --- The Killing Fields --- Hud --- Sunset Boulevard --- Red River --- Magnolia --- Harold and Maude --- American Psycho --- The Searchers --- Spartacus --- 12 Angry Men --- Koyaannisqatsi --- THX 1138 --- American Beauty --- Harvey --- The Truman Show --- Slingblade --- The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse -- Zulu --- Breaking Away --- Cool Hand Luke --- The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance --- And more ... 
...and no; they actually aren't in order really.  Of course, there are a lot of other good movies I enjoy watching more than just the one time.  But if any of the above happen to come on, I'm probably gonna watch them; even though I've seen all of them more than once already.  I'd also bet there are at least 10 titles that none of you guys have even heard of.  I kind of shy away naturally from anything that is too popular.
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Over the course of the next couple of weeks I need to figure out the best sort of contest to run in order to give away some free passes to the final three Seawolves games.  I'm not sure of the best way to do so.  Should it be some sort of trivia?  Honestly, I'm not loaded with old information about the Seawolves and making someone dig around in some archive to get the answer for a couple of free passes seems a bit much.  

Additionally, I'm fairly certain that most of my readers here probably already have tickets.  So, I'd like to figure something out where these passes get into the hands of people that otherwise might not go to the game.  Feel free to give me your suggestions.  I've got 8 passes.  Maybe I can get more if I ask really nice?  Should I give all 8 away for the UA_ game?  Email me or comment below with your ideas.  My first idea is to make it a UAA Fan Blog Trivia contest.  For example, I could ask, "Who is the UAA Fan Blog author's all-time favorite Seawolf player?"  or stuff like that which I've mentioned at some point in the blog's history.  Lemme know.

Lastly, allow me to apologize for not attending the "Skate With The Seawolves" event today.  I did have every intention of going.  And while I'm disorganized and lazy, neither of those was really the reason I didn't make it.  I hope it was a fun event.  I should have at least gone and taken some pictures for the blog.  If anyone has some and wants to forward them to me, I'd happily post them.  Updates as to how it was would be appreciated in the comments section as well.  I know lots of Blueliner Booster folks work hard to make these events turn out well.  They all deserve a pat on the back for their efforts.

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Here's some late additions to this post from the Skate With the Seawolves event at Westchester Lagoon.  Thanks to Neil (USCHO's "dude") for forwarding these.  Click on them for larger images.

Seawolves Enuff - Draft Picks NotEnuff


Let me start out tonight by saying that if you read anything anywhere that doesn't acknowledge what a truly great hockey game this was tonight then whatever you're reading is bullshit.  It doesn't matter who won tonight.  There were two hockey teams that played their asses off running up and down the ice, exchanging scoring chances and generally playing just awesome hockey.  It was fast-paced race-horse hockey; up and down the length of the ice all night.  Great hockey game.  Congrats to both teams for the effort.

I honestly haven't looked anywhere else since I just got in (12:07am) and jumped right in here to do this recap.  But OMG, really really quality hockey game.  One of the best I've seen in a long time.  If the Seawolves had lost I'd still be saying the same thing.  Both teams played quality hockey from my perspective.  The Seawolves really lived up to their potential.  On previous Saturday nights it might have been possible to say that the opponent play like shit.  But not tonight, if anyone says the Gophers didn't play a good hard game they're absolutely full of shit.

That game was as good as it gets in college hockey.  The flow was fantastic in all three periods.  It was wide open with good defensive play, good goaltending on both ends and plenty of forwards looking to cash in on chances.  

Thanks go to referees Scott Bokal and Brian Thul for letting both teams play.  There were a number of instances tonight that they left uncalled which were called last night.  But because they held their water the fans were treated to a truly quality contest.  All too often in this league the refs insert themselves into the outcome, so it's important to recognize them when they let two teams go at it without fucking it up with ridiculous whistles.

This was another nice team effort that showed a lot of character from the whole squad.  Congrats to all the boys.  Now, since I've taken a look around the interent, I'm going to point out two vastly different things.  First, allow me to appreciate "Jupiter" (the GPL Admin) for saying this on their fan forum:
"Where is the free video stream on the 'U' site? Oh that's right, they don't have that. They don't even offer a free audio stream. We can only get that when the game is on am1570, but not via the 'U'.... Face it, the AA video feed is lightyears ahead of anything the University of Minnesota offers."
It's not often that I find something reasonable and appropriate from an opponents website but Jupiter deserves a shout out for that.  Conversely, allow me to call out an complete fucking idiot from the same site who said:
"It's so frustrating to score 7 goals and then the next night score just 1 against the same exact crappy UAA goalie. I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything else. A chance to move into 6th place gone by the boards, probably for the rest of the season since we head to Denver next."
What a pucking futz.  That was posted by some masturbatory genius called "psych".  Let me suggest here that that particular fucking moron be banned from GPL for life for being a DUMBASS.  Here's the thing, Dear psych, .... um ... Piss on you and all your blood relations. You're a floater.  Only an extra heavy load of toilet paper could flush a worthless turd like you down the toilet.  You don't fucking deserve to watch a college hockey game.  I'd bet you aren't a Gopher season ticket holder but instead one of the typical bandwagon assholes that inhabit GPL.  Your hero is Jeff Dubay isn't it?  I'd fucking spit in your face if I ever met you.  You sicken me.  And your team deserves to lose every game just for having such a complete asshole for a fan.  (Anyone here surprised why they don't let me on GopherPuckLive?)

Ok then, back to how excellent the Seawolves were tonight.  Great to see Josh Lunden get a tally tonight.  I liked how smart he was with the puck on his stick and can imagine that he'll be some kind of force down the stretch with his mature confident play.  Did I say Clarkie's goal was a thing of beauty.  Oh yeah, I did.  And it was.

Kevin Clark is da bomb.  The shortie he scored tonight (game winner) was an absolute thing of beauty.  He beat Kangas with a great move and roofed a perfect backhand after setting himself up for the rush.  It was one of the prettiest goals of the year in my book.  I spoke briefly with Keith Morris tonight and made sure I thanked him for bringing Kevin here.

I can't say enough how great is was to see my team play a game with so few mistakes.  Passing was sharp.  Pass catching was sharp.  The physical game was in evidence when appropriate.  I think overall I'd have to give credit to the defensive effort for the win.

Can I say I love Nils Backstrom here?  Would that be weird?  I told his mom that last week and his play this weekend just makes me love him more.  He is definitely the most underrated defensive player in the WCHA.  Nobody got past him this weekend and that's not anything new.  He is ultra-responsible.  My next defensive shout out has to go to Kane Lafranchise.  His play all season has been steady but over the last few weeks he's lived up to what I'd hoped to see since getting to UAA.  He's also very underrated.  

Jonny O got lots of help tonight that he didn't have last night.  Backchecking forwards blocked more than a few shots.  With no disrespect to other forwards for their defensive efforts, I'd have to pump Jade Portwood's tires tonight.  He was a physical force along the boards and defensively blocked lots of shots.  Trevor Hunt played a more than solid game after being a healthy scratch on Friday.  He can be a dynamic player offensively and was excellent as always in his own zone.  Luka Vidmar had no flies landing on him in his return after being injured and deserves a mention for his quality play tonight.  

All that said, Jonny O played an exceptional game.  He came up with more than a couple of really big saves down the stretch to preserve the win.  In particular, a glove save he made on a 3 on 1 rush was spectacular.  He looked really focused and didn't give up any positioning.  Honestly, Jonny gives ground sometimes when he shouldn't.  But tonight he didn't.  He deserved the win.  He was a key player contributin to the W.

The line of Mickey Spencer, Daniel Naslund and Sean Wiles was really good tonight.  More often than not they owned whoever they played against.  They possessed the puck deep and worked the cycle but were also dynamic and creative when they were in the zone creating scoring chances.  Congrats to them on the good play.

Tommy Grant took a tough shot to the noodle in the first period when he carried the puck to the slot for a nice scoring chance.  I didn't see it clearly but I don't think there was any foul intent.  He was shaky going off so there has to be some concern regarding an sort of concussion.  I sure hope he's okay.  

Craig Parkinson had a solid game on both ends of the ice.  His defensive efforts may sometimes be overlooked by me, and I'm sorry for that.  He is an excellent example to his linemates and leads that shutdown line by example.

It's a bit frustrating to try to figure out what the difference is between Friday nights and Saturday nights but for now, it is what it is I guess.  
Don't forget that tomorrow from 1pm til 3pm is the Skate With The Seawolves event at Westchester Lagoon.  Please come out and bring your kids to enjoy the afternoon.  I know the players really enjoyed the turnout last year and hopefully everyone can turn out and make it another great Sunday.  I'll be there.  If I find my skates and find a place to sharpen them, I might actually skate.  So there'll be that to make fun of anyway.  

And oh yeah ... Shout out to MTU supah-fan MeanEgirl for answering the phone at 3AM during one of my few "drunk-dials" (even if I wasn't actually drunk) and talking hockey.  Donna from RWD is temporarily not "da bomb" cause she didn't answer.

Good night, and good luck.  Yes ... I love Keith Olberman. 

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mark Pustin Added to 2010 UAA Recruiting Class

Forward Mark Pustin (5ft 8in, 155lbs) of the NAHL's Fairbanks Ice Dogs has committed to the UAA Seawolves for the 2010 season.  Mark is the Ice Dog's leading goal scorer and is 2nd overall in points with 21g-30a in 42 games.  

His numbers this year put him at #3 on the overall league leader table. In his first season (08-09) with Fairbanks he scored 11g-15a in 46 games showing a nice progression in development.

Mark is a 20 year old (October 17th, 1989) from Northridge, California and came through the Southern California Titans Midget AAA program. 

Fairbanks head coach Josh Hauge called Mark "a highly-skilled, game-changing forward."  Western College Hockey Blog noted the same adding the adjective "playmaker"  with regard to Mark's All-tournament performance at the early season NAHL Showcase.

Welcome to the Seawolves Mark.  We look forward to seeing you in the Green and Gold next season.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Seawolves NotEnuff - Minnesota MoreThanEnuff

Nights like tonight are 'teh suck'.  Over the course of this season, I've seen more goals scored against UAA at the end of and beginning of periods than I ever remember seeing in a single season.  0.2 seconds before the end of the 1st and 32 seconds into the 2nd were the back breakers tonight.  Sure ... it was only 3-2 after those goals.  But without them, it would doubtless have been a very different game.

I thought all night that the ice looked soft.  The puck was bouncing a lot more than usual on the oft renowned excellent Sully ice.  No doubt the freon leak played a part in that.  Of course, both teams are playing on the same ice so it's not an excuse.  But it did affect the flow of the game.  There were crazy numbers of turnovers for both squads.  

The difference in the outcome though was special teams.  The Gophers had 3 power play goals and once again UAA gave up a shorthanded goal.  I'm pretty sure the Seawolves lead the nation in that category.  Isn't that 12 on the year so far?

The only bright spots I can come up with tonight are that Mickey Spencer and Daniel Naslund both had 3 point nights.  Mickey scored two real nice goals showing a great deal of poise on his second.  Naslund's game has been progressing real well so far in the 2nd half.  He seems to be finding a better groove and is using his size and stickhandling abilities to better effect than earlier in the season.  Mickey had a strong game all around on both ends of the ice.

Why did they lose so badly?  Jonny O didn't get enough help.  There were few blocked shots.  Jonny O didn't help himself either.  He let two real soft goals in.   And the Gophers came up with the puck in more of the little battles.  I'm also mystified how the Seawolves could win so many faceoff against DU and Michigan Tech, do a reasonable job against CC and then tonight win seemingly almost none.  Ok, "none" is an exaggeration ... the official total was 44 - 28.  Let's face it, if you can control the puck on restarts you give yourself at a nice advantage.

I didn't think there was much going on with physical play.  I can't remember any hit from a UAA player that I'd add to a highlight reel of hits.  That's unusual for a team that usually prides themselves on playing a hard hitting game.

I anticipated tonight's game more anxiously than any game this season.  I'm responsible for the depth of my disappointment because of that.  Honestly, I go to college hockey for the enjoyment of watching some quality play.  A game like tonight though just fucks with my mind.  Is it just another Friday nightmare?  Well, it is that.  Can the guys once again find some resolve and character for tomorrow night?  I sure hope so.  But you know what?  I'm not going to count on it.  

I'm going to spend the rest of this season just trying to appreciate the positives.  I want to see the guys win but I don't know how much more heartache I can take.  Yes, it's depressing for me.  I'm sure no Seawolves fan reading this is happy about the outcome.  But I take no solace in knowing I'm not the only disappointed fan.

I really don't know what else to add.  And if you don't have anything good to say, it's best to say nothing.  So nothing more it is.

So anyway ... here's the boxscore.  Good luck tomorrow night my 'Wolves.  I sure hope for your own sakes that you put a good Saturday night together again and salvage some pride.

Friday Game Day: Seawolves vs. Gophers


University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves vs. University of Minnesota Gophers
Friday January 29th, 2010 7:05 (AST)
Television: GCI Channel 1 - Live Statewide (10:30pm Tape Delay in Anchorage)
Radio: 550 KTZN - AM

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Other Media Links

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The Chatroom will appear below before I head out for the game ... about 6:15 or so.
There was news earlier regarding a freon leak that threatened to cancel tonight's game.  The leak has been resolved and the scheduled game time has been moved back 30 mins.  See ADN for details
Go Seawolves!!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Seawolves vs. Gophers Preview


The Gophers come to Alaska this week limping a bit.  Leading goal scorer Mike Hoeffel is out with mononucleosis.  Sophomore Nick Larson had ankle surgery recently.  Jay Barriball went out for the season before UAA and UofM met at the end of last October.  They have won only 1 of their last 4 games (10-7-1 since playing UAA in Minneapolis) and are approaching the "bleeding edge" of their fanbase's tolerance.  So there are surely some limping egos ... here's why.

With several years of sub-par Gopher results there has been a year long conversation amongst UofM fans with regard to Don Lucia's future.  The Goph's ply their trade inside a dense cloud of media coverage that is without peer in the college hockey world.  Here in Anchorage, there is the ADN, then me and a few other regular Internet voices.  The ADN? ... well ... you know.

In Minneapolis, there are half a dozen me's, multiple-hundreds of Internet voices and gawd only knows how many media sources (print, online and TV) in a metro area with 3.5 million people ... all focused like lasers on the Gophers.  And you know what?  Every single one of them is an expert.

As I think about it, all those NHL draft picks might be actually glad to get outside of that goldfish bowl and all it's visibility.  7 of 8 of their last games have been at home, the 8th was a short drive to St. Cloud.  Through those 8 games they went 4-3-1 and the media attention has been as thick as ever.  If I was a Gopher player ... I'd never pick up a paper or watch local TV.

I know in past years, that Don Lucia socialized quite closely with his friend and mentor Brush Christiansen when they're in town.  So that's got to be a good thing for him.  And hey, it's beautiful up here pretty much no matter where you stay in Anchorage.  Gaze east at the mountains and breath deep.  It's relaxing.  There are no media demands on anyone associated with the Gophers when they're up here.

So I think this road trip is almost certainly a good thing for them overall.  Cripes, Anchorage is so awesome that if they'd brought Hoeffel it probably would have cured his mono.

None of that though has any effect on the Seawolves.  They certainly could give a rat's ass that the poor Gophers are constantly under media pressure at home.  There will be no "Pity the Gophers" parties thrown by Seawolves.  In fact, I'd imagine that a certain amount of secret pleasure might be there.  The downfall of arrogance (and don't think for a second that label hasn't been earned over the last 40 years) is always a pleasurable thing to see.

Guess who is the leading point producer for the Gophers?  Tony Lucia.  That's right, The kid that sure looked like a marginal prospect when Pops brought him in is leading the team in points.  I really didn't want to call him their leading scorer.  Point producer seems more apt to me.  Look up "D1 Grinder" in the dictionary and there's Tony's picture.  Their 2nd leading scorer is quite a different story.  Jordan Schroeder is a true prospect in every way you might define one.  In his freshman season he bagged 13 goals.  That defines impact in the WCHA.  He's a talented 1st round NHL draft choice.

But this weekend, Seawolves fans will see a new player on the other side of the bench.  Just as UAA was able to add Brad Gorham at mid-season, the Gopher's added Jacob Cepis who'd transferred from the forlorn BGSU program.  Since suiting up, Cepis has 5 goals and 3 assists.  He will definitely be a dangerous scoring threat.  For comparison, think of Kevin Clark wearing that silly upsidedown W; Cepis is dynamic and can finish.  He and Schroeder are playing on a line together and certainly ought to be their #1 scoring line.  That said, there are 15 guys on their roster who have at least 2 goals.

My dark horse player on the Gopher squad is Josh Birkholz.  I always like a player with pure speed and Birkholz can fly.  Whatever Seawolves defensemen is on the right side when Birkholz is on the ice better be paying attention and keep their feet moving.  If this kid gets the puck with some open ice, he's a threat to get around the outside.  He's one of the faster players in the league by my estimation.

As I've thought about the intangible "fucking hate" factor over the last couple of days, I'm now leaning toward thinking that some displays of attitude this weekend are more likely than I originally thought.  I don't have a basis for that other than I've thought my way into it.  There were some fairly hardcore exchanges between these two teams and to be frank about it ... I'm fairly certain there was some "initiation" of that from behind one particular team's bench.  I've talked myself into thinking that some of those bitter feelings may very well not have mitigated with time.  So watch out for all that.

Hopefully, the Seawolves can play "professionally" and keep focused on the task at hand if those other distractions arise again.  Importantly, I hope Shyiak's potential exchanges with the referee's are controlled and limited.  I want to see the game called in the same way that Dave has expressed, but I have to admit that nothing Dave says this weekend is going to go any major distance to making that change happen.  So if he can limit those interactions to only addressing grievous errors that will be a good thing. 

As always, power plays and penalty kill efficiency is going to be a factor.  Mentioning and highlighting that week after week gets boring as a writer but it does have to be said.  All the other repetitive things should be mentioned as well.  Supporting the goalie by blocking shots and clearing rebounds is always important.  Generating possession in the Gopher's end with a strong cycle is another important additive property to be highlighted.  Smart heads up breakouts and sharp passing in transition are two other keys.  Skating through checks, winning pucks battles and blah blah blah ... right?  It all matters at this point ... if you want to win.

I think the Seawolves have a bit of an advantage in overall maturity.  The overall height/weight matchup isn't hugely in UAA's favor.  But I think the Seawolves know how to use their size to their advantage.

All in all, our guys will have to play two quality hockey games this weekend to come away with a sweep.  It's more important to focus on winning a Friday hockey game and worry about the sweep after that.  As I noted earlier this week, I think the Seawolves enthusiasm was perhaps a bit ungoverned and was a contributing factor to losing last Friday night.  So my new encouragement motto is for the guys to play professionally.  That means to get excited after something good happens rather than before or as it is happening.  This sort of professionalism ... this "governed enthusiasm" ... will lead to smart hockey and should enable two wins this weekend.

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On Sunday, the Seawolves host their 2nd Annual "Skate With the Seawolves" event at Westchester Lagoon.  The session begins at 1pm and ends at 3pm.  The first 350 kids to turn up will receive a Seawolves beanie.  I'm not exactly sure anymore what is considered a beanie.  But if you've always wanted your kid to have one then drag them down there with their skates.  The Blueliners will be providing hot dogs and drinks (hot and cold).  Hot Chocolate with Peppermint Schnapps?  Well ... I guess if you BYOPS.

The weather forecast looks pretty good for the event so you can't use that as an excuse for not going.  Me?  I dunno.  Maybe I'll go.  I won't skate though.  Don't get me wrong, I have skates (they're badly in need of some sharpening) but the last time I was on them was more than 10 years ago and I weighed about 50lbs less back then.  So .. um yeah ... if I can manage to go, I won't be skating.

Regardless of my presence (or lack thereof) this event is a great chance to put your youngsters out on the ice with some great hockey players.  And what 12 or 13 year old future UAA player could turn down the chance to cup-check Kevin Clark?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Josh Lunden's Return Profiled at ADN


The Anchorage Daily News has a story today which features Josh Lunden's return from missing the last 11 games with a shoulder injury.  Josh has consistently been a force from close in scoring areas during his career and brings a willing presence to go into (and stay in) those tough scoring areas.  With regard to playing on Saturday, Josh told Doyle,
"It felt good to be back. I only played in a limited role, just to get my feet wet and get used to the speed of the game again. I felt good conditioning-wise. I was just trying to help my linemates, and I felt like we had good chemistry."
Coach Dave Shyiak commented about his return telling Mr. Woody,
"He had two or three quality scoring chances and drew a penalty. I thought he was about half a step slow, which is natural when you haven't played in two months, but I thought he came away with passing grades." 
"We'll go day-by-day, game-by-game, and hopefully he gets back to his usual game soon. Obviously, our team benefits when he plays expanded minutes. At the same time, you don't want to give him too much, too soon.''
Most importantly though, Josh went on to add,
"There was a sense of urgency to get back on the ice, because it's my senior year and I want to help the team achieve goals we haven't achieved in five or six years now."
Josh along with his fellow seniors must be a force down the stretch.  Leadership and experience are two important cogs on the wheel of winning.  Hopefully, with a continuing full and healthy lineup the Seawolves can begin to make the sort of run that is necessary for post-season success in the WCHA.  Best of luck to Josh for a successful return this weekend.  Potting a couple of goals this weekend ought to make him feel back in the groove.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Crossroads Series: Seawolves vs. Minnesota



This weekend's series between the UAA Seawolves and the Minnesota Gophers has all the elements to make it big crossroads series for the season.  With wins, either team will position themselves for an opportunity (marginal but existing) to fight to host a WCHA home playoff series.  The opportunity doesn't come with high probabilities but a failure by either team to sweep eliminates the chance.  Win both games; then players and staff can still imagine achieving the home ice goal.  Lose both games; then you're playing for bottom half positioning to decide who's rink you visit come playoff time. 

By virtue of it's single point lead over UAA, combined with having two games in hand the Gophers do have a higher probability to accomplish that goal if they can sweep UAA.  If UAA sweeps the Gopher's they'll still need to snag 10 out of their last 12 points for home ice.  If the Gophers sweep, they'll need 10 out of their last 16 points.  If the Gophers lose both games, then they'd likely need 13 of their last 16 points to challenge for a home ice spot.  A good place to visualize these possibilities is by using the "what-if calculator" at this link.

So for the Seawolves there are twin motivations for winning this weekend.  It keeps the possibility alive that this group could host the first ever playoff series in Anchorage and it essentially eliminates one of the historically premier WCHA teams from getting home ice.  Both seem worthy motivations to this blogger. 

I often say in conversation that the regular season in the WCHA is like NCAA playoff hockey every night.  Tight defensive play is the hallmark of the WCHA.  Much as everyone is always excited about the dynamic offensive talents spread throughout the 10 teams, defense wins the WCHA year in and year out.  Over the course of a season it's never about who can score the most goals, rather it's about who lets the fewest in. 

Coupled with the crossroads nature of this series that I've described above, I think we'll see two relatively low scoring tightly contested playoff-style games this weekend.

Dave Shyiak is hesitant to jump into the neutral zone trap at home.  But even if he isn't clogging the neutral zone, a defensive focus to open the game seems likely.  Don't expect Don Lucia to be so hesitant with regard to trapping in the neutral zone.  There's no reason for him not to.  And if his squad has some success with it then UAA could find themselves facing that strategy the whole game.  All this contributes to my theory that these games will be tight and low scoring.

I'll be back late tomorrow with some discussion of Minnesota's strength's and weaknesses, how the Seawolves match-up and whatever else occurs to me about the action this weekend.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Sunday Potpourri: On Monday - One Flavor Only

Too early to look forward?  Not for me.  While Saturday night's win was worth some enthusiasm, some point(s) on Friday night would have made a big difference.  The task this weeked sounds simple.  Figure out how to play on Friday like you played on Saturday and then play that way on Saturday.  But as with anything else, it isn't simple.   First, you have to accept that there was some component on Friday night that you can correct.  Generally, we tend to think of that as some variation of the effort from the players.

Here's what I think.  UAA didn't lose on Friday because it tried to little.  They lost because they tried too much.  They seemed a little tight to start the game I thought.  Maybe overly-amped up for a game at home in front of a friendly crowd.  The passing was stiff and clunky from where I sat.  Over the next 10 minutes of the game, there was a lot of individual play.  The ol' "I just do it myself" mindset encroached. 

Then with 1 second to go in the period CC takes a penalty and the guys have the whole period break to find the determination to score.  And all that tightness becomes apparent during the power play and so the Seawolves pressed harder, then when a really really quick guy jumped on one of the tight passes.  The virtually the same exact situation happens for a shortie at the beginning of the third. 

So there it is ... I'm thinking the guys were just wound up too tight.  Maybe the key this week is to govern the excitement a bit and be professional in your overall approach to the game at hand.

Winning at home in the WCHA = Success.  So with only 4 home games remaining (Duluth comes up for the last weekend of WCHA action), what has been learned must be applied.  There isn't a player on the ice for UAA this weekend that didn't learn more than one lesson.  The coaching staff saw some examples of good things from the players that can be reinforced and repeated.  All of that needs to be defined, quantified, reinforced and locked into mental and physical memories.  So now onto the forward looking portion of our show ...
The Battle for 7th -
The Gophers are 1 point ahead of the Seawolves and have played two fewer games.  A series sweep would put UAA ahead of Minnesota by three points.  With the Gophers having two more games to play that isn't a particularly comfortable lead.  Certainly nothing for anyone to hang their hat on.  St. Cloud and Mankato are road trips that UAA will be taking and road trip points are always difficult to come by in this league. 
A UAA sweep would also help toward a somewhat thin, but possible chance for home ice.  And the flip side Gopher sweep would give them a bit more reasonable chance at hosting a playoff series.

The "Fucking Hate" Factor -
Last time these two teams played wasn't pretty.  I think everything that happen can be tracked to the Leddy incident and Jordan Schroeder losing an edge. The Leddy hit happens ... between periods tDon rallies the guys with a something like a "not in our barn" reference and just a couple of minutes into the next period Schroeder loses an edge with a Seawolves player challenging for the puck. It was dust-up-city regularly from there.   

I don't think some events from a couple of months ago will really be in the forefront of many players.  There's too much reason to focus on the task at hand to look back into the past.  Both coaching staffs will be reiterating that to their teams this coming week.  Any dust-ups that do occur will have their own natural causes but I think that's when the past rises to intensify things.
I think that's enough to make this series compelling on some level.  If the Seawolves can govern their adrenaline levels slightly then I think we'll see two hockey games that look much more like this past Saturday night than Friday.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Andrew Pettitt to UAA: Powell River's Leading Goal Scorer

Andrew Pettitt  (5ft 11in, 180lbs ... Oct. 22nd 1990) the BCHL's Powell River Kings leading goal scorer (29g-20a in 46 games) has committed to the Seawolves for 2011.

Andrew is from Jared Tuton's hometown of Whitehorse in The Yukon.  He has increased his point per game production from 08-09 (his first year of Junior A) from .4 per game to 1.1 this season.  That sort of progression is a great signal of a player's development curve.

Andrew played in the Dec. 12th BCHL All-Star game.  He currently has the 6th most goals in the BCHL this season.  Powell River is 2nd in the B's Coastal Conference with a 28-13-1 record.

In the Powell River New Release, the Kings Head Coach and General Manager Kent Lewis said,
“In his second year in our program Andrew is developing his raw talent into becoming a goal scorer. As he continues to improve the Seawolves will have a player who should help them with offense that can be hard to come by.”
I had some inkling that UAA might be looking at Andrew earlier in the season when someone dropped his name to me earlier this season.  He looks like a nice addition and sure ought to be one of that league's leading scorers next season.  Welcome to the recruit list here Andrew.  We'll keep track of you and hopefully point out some outstanding moments for you the rest of the season and next year.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Seawolves 2 - CC 1

The Seawolves came back nicely from last nights tough loss to CC.  Ron Jeremy (er ... uh Scott Owens) recognizing UAA's equal skating and ability to dominate his team 5 on 5 came straight out of the gate tonight running a full time neutral zone trap in an attempt to control the speedy Seawolves transition game.  Nevertheless, time and time again Seawolves forwards broke into CC's zone and skated around the outside of the some slower footed CC defensemen.

The Seawolves on the whole this weekend showed they were stride for stride as fast as the oft mentioned "speedy" Black Bears.  I doubt there can be much denying that Lee Sweatt is flat out one of the finest skating, speediest forwards I've ever seen in the WCHA.  His bro has great wheels too. But there are 3 Seawolves who are damn near as fast as him and 5 Seawolves that are faster than CC player other than Sweatt.  Grant, Selby, Wiles can motor like Sweatt and Clark along with Lafranchise, Backstrom, Hunt and Leinweber give UAA an overall speed edge on the much ballyhooed Black Bears.  I'll not bother mentioning the smattering of other quality skaters for CC.  They have a coupla-three other guys with jets.  But a bender like Testwiude couldn't outskate any current Seawolf.

Once again, the team showed a strong collective character with this solid win.  With a bounce or three the final score could have been dramatically higher in the Seawolves favor.  There were two posts and numerous other chances that were within inches of crossing the line.  Olthuis was solid all night and made a couple of game saving spectacular saves in the 3rd to preserve the win.  Every skater contributed something worthy during the game.

As I was driving home I had take notice of Kurt and David's excellent assessment of the play tonight from Jade Portwood, Craig Parkinson and Ken Selby.  They were outstanding all night long with their possession game and often controlled the puck deep in the CC zone.  David also properly mentioned Jade Portwood's effort on the penalty kill and I of course concur 100%.  Suze and Mr. Suze and me especially noted their play in the 3rd.  I know they got a rousing ovation of appreciation from the fans for that great shift.  And it wasn't their only good shift ... maybe I should say OWNly since they definitely pwnd whoever they skated against.

So as good as that all was, and with no intention to take any of the shine off, their finishing was kinda brutal.  Um ... no not kinda, it was wholly brutal.  They easily could have added 3 goals on the night but for their finishing.  Loosen the grips a bit this week in practice guys, be relaxed when the chance comes and excited after you finish.  Getting excited before you score overwhelms the focus you need at that critical moment.  Some goals next weekend  from ya'll would be sweet.

Dave Shyiak gave these guys extra shifts a few times in the 3rd period.  Props to him for recognizing their contributions and backing it up with a show of confidence in them.  They played important shifts down the stretch that directly contributed to the win.  Between the 1st and 2nd period Dave used a couple of words worth mentioning, he said "not" and "dynamic" in a phrase; I'm betting at the end of the game he'd rephrase that.  Portwood, Parkinson and Selby were really opportunistic and they developed their chances with dynamic play.  Some goes for every other line tonight.

Nice play by Sean Wiles driving to the net and dropping the puck back sweetly for Alex Gellert to finish with a calm smart shot even when he musta known Mike "big bender" Testwiude  was about to nail him.  Great job on the game winner which puts Alex at two game winners for the season now.  Before tonight I might have said that Mickey Spencer had been somewhat outplaying Alex so far this year.  I've been impressed with Mickey's tenacity, physical play and thought he was above the development curve I would have expected.  But now Alex leads the team in game winning goals.  He had a strong series against DU and his contribution tonight pulls him even in my book.  Josh Lunden's strong first game back tells me that both Alex and Mitch Bruijsten will benefit from having Josh on their line.

How great is Kevin Clark?  Man oh man ... on the ice so far this second half of the season there isn't a single Seawolves player that has done more in terms of leading-by-example hockey than Kevin since the break.  Not to say he wasn't a huge offensive contributor in the first half.  He was.  He's an exciting player everytime he gets on the ice.  He's always smart with the puck and sees everything.  He can find his linemates stick through just about any traffic.  I also sense that Kevin knows his 4 year career is winding down.  I think he's got some goals (100 points) that he'll for sure get to but more importantly, I bet he's got some goals for the team that he'd rather accomplish.  Kevin is just straight up on fire in my eyes.  It is exactly the sort of play from him that will contribute to the kind of success that would be great for all the Seniors to contribute to and experience.

I think that Nils Backstrom was the Seawolves best defensive player all weekend.  I've never been dissatisfied with Nils' play.  He's always been one of my favorite players but this weekend, he was super responsible in his end, he was physical along the boards and in front of his net.  Tonight in particular he took advantage of several chances to rush the puck and when he choose to get involved offensively it was effective.  He was a clear leader on the penalty kill as well.  All in all,  his play this weekend was as good as Nils has looked during any weekend of his career.  When "din moder och fader" come from across the pond I guess it makes a guy want to  play his best.

Kane Lafranchise had an excellent game tonight as well.  He's always steady on the backend and tonight he also took advantages of some opportunities to try to make something happen offensively.  Drew Darwitz played mistake free hockey in Trevor Hunt's absence.  Let's hope Trevor isn't banged up, he's been a dynamic force offensively and that sort of play will be needed down the stretch.

Jared Tuton played a lot of quality minutes and owned just about every situation that was presented to him in his own zone tonight.  His strength, experience and overall emotional leadership will be key cogs down the stretch.

With 3 goals in the last 4 games, Tommy Grant has to be considered "off the schnide" and of course that will be important going forward.  I'm thinking late January and February have been Tommy's best months typically over his career.  So here's to hoping he continues to score.   He hasn't yet nailed one of his "trademark" goals lately but he should be confident that those will come.  Because they will.

Sean Wiles has developed a mind staggeringly ton as a hockey player since his first year.  On just about every shift he took tonight he was as dangerous a threat as any player in the game.  I initially thought he hit the corner of the crossbar and the post on brilliant shot in the 1st period.  His great setup I described above were not the only other dangerous chances in which he was involved.

It occurs to me that through the first 6 games since the break that the Seawolves have found their identity for this season.  They're now officially in my mind the WCHA team that every other team is going to "fucking hate" to play.  Yes, the adjective use of the F-bomb is well warranted.  There was lots of malevelonce between CC and our guys all weekend.  You know Michigan Tech hates us now.  And DU, their coach has openly expressed how much he doesn't want to play us again.  Yeah, they hate us in DU.

"Mad Phat Props" (I know it's outdated) to my man Kurt for pointing out that our TV people ought to be showing these scrums instead of cutting away from them.  If this production is going into Minnesota next weekend you'll get more negative reaction from all those folks down there watching than you could possibly get from whoever or whatever it is mandating or directing or causing you to cut away.  It needs to stop.  FSN shows it, FSSN shows it.  Charter shows it.  Getting it?  Every other broadcaster in the WCHA shows it.  And on top of all that ... it's pretty much impossible for me to defend.  So please, someone somewhere get that straightened out.  And oh yeah, just a personal choice here I guess ... but the cutaways to the goalie rushing off the ice and to the empty net just means we aren't seeing the actual action at those points.  That's frustrating to a experience viewer.  I'm just sayin ...

Here's the boxscore.

PS.  Sorry about the chatroom.  My "nap" today started and ended late when I woke up just 35 minutes before gametime.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CC 6 - Seawolves 1

I'm all about trying to focus on the positives after a tough loss.  Tonight there are a few positives.  It's hard to see them at the moment through the butt whooping though.  I'll write more later as I've just stopped in to make a pit stop.  I will say that for pretty much the 2nd half of the game, that the Seawolves outplayed CC when it was 5 on 5.

It'd be crazy to make much of it but, UAA scored the only 5 on 5 goal of the night.  It was a frustrating offensive night for the guys in green and gold.  The Seawolves power play couldn't generate anything.  And the power play gave up two shorties.  The other 4 CC goals all came on the power play.

The first half of the game for UAA was pretty much a nightmare.  But somewhere along about the middle of the 2nd they managed to build some momentum and then played with emotion and intensity that had been absent.

That's about all the time I feel like taking right now.  I'm going out for a beverage.  Maybe it'll help me discover some insight about the game that isn't obvious to me right now.  Maybe it won't.  If not then I'll just end by saying that a two-game series is a blessing.  Because, there is nothing I'd want more if I'd played tonight than to get another chance tomorrow.  Let's just hope all the actual players feel that way.

I do think one of the referees had some marginally inappropriate behavior at the end of the game.  He was actually leaning over into Dave Shyiak's face while vociferously arguing with him.  The kind of ignorant referee arguing you see in stupid baseball games ya know?  I thought professional referee conduct meant that you either skate away or toss the coach out of the game?  I know if I'd been in Shyiak's shoes I would have had a hard time not flattening the jerk.  But that's why I'm a loudmouth blogger and not a D1 hockey coach I guess.

So there it is ... for now.  When I get back, I'll be deleting any comments from opposition that aren't substantive or that I deem inappropriate.  And just so you know, I deem lots of stuff from opposition fans as inappropriate.  So make a point or don't waste your time.

Friday Game Day: Seawolves vs. CC

 

University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves vs. Colorado College Black Bears
Friday January 22, 2010 7:05PM (AST)
Television: GCI Channel 1 Live Statewide (10:30pm Tape Delay in Anchorage)

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Other Media Links

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I'll put up the "low-rent" version of chat before I head out to the rink later today (below).  So all you out-of-towners have that to look forward to!  There is no preview in the Anchorage Daily News today.  I provided a link above just for smartassery purposes.  As I mentioned earlier this week, it's been 48 days since we local fans have watched the team live.  As the day goes on, I know my anticipation will grow.  Don't forget it's Parent's Weekend.  Their Parent's will be introduced at some point.  Remember to stay in your seats between periods for their introduction and show your appreciation. Go Seawolves!

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Who Are The CC Black Bears?





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.

Kevin Clark: WCHA Offensive POTW




Kevin Clark received the Western Collegiate Hockey Association's Offensive Player of the Week award (January 11th - 18th, 2010) for his series performance versus Michigan Tech University the past weekend.  It's well deserved recognition for perhaps the most tenacious player in the WCHA.

Kevin is typically a difference maker for the Seawolves regardless of his offensive output.  When he isn't scoring goals, he makes his linemates better by providing assists.  In addition, Kevin  always plays bigger than his 5ft 9in frame and wears his heart on his sleeve.  He is tremendously adept at the mental side of the game (i.e... giving 'em the business).  His speed and stick-handling skills are top-notch, he has great vision as well.  Quite simply, he's got all the skills.

Kevin notched 4 goals and added 2 assists over the weekend.  On Friday night, he assisted on the first goal making it so easy for Tommy Grant ... that I could have scored it.  He added an empty net goal as well.  On Saturday night he notched his first hat-trick and sandwiched another beautiful assist to Tommy Grant.  On the 1st goal Kevin broke in off the wall, gave a little hitch-step deke before finishing.  His 2nd goal came on the power play then he opened the 2nd period with the pretty assist to Grant before adding his 3rd goal a minute and seventeen seconds later to put UAA up 4-1.

Kevin's performance led the Seawolves to their first sweep of the season.  Here is a link to the WCHA's announcement of the award.  Congratulations to Kevin.  Here's to hoping that he finishes the season in the same style that he's begun the 2nd half.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Separation Anxiety


... and for your viewing and listening pleasure to go along with 
the title and mood here's "Nell" ... 
a Korean Emo-Band with "Separation Anxiety" ... 
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Four-million one-hundred forty-one thousand eight-hundred seconds (4,140,800) is more or less the amount of time that has passed since UAA Seawolves hockey fans last witnessed their team on the ice and will witness it again this Friday at Sullivan Arena.  Big numbers mess with your head ... I know.  Ok then ... is sixty-nine thousand and 30 minutes (69,030) better?  Do you prefer one-thousand one-hundred fifty and a half (1,150.5) hours?  For me, forty-seven days twenty-two and a half hours (47d, 22.5h) just doesn't quite encompass the feeling of it.  Yes, this Friday when the puck drops not only will almost 48 days have passed; the year has changed.

Man oh man ... does it seem like forever or what?  The last time we saw the team at home they were leaving the ice and probably looking forward to their holiday break.  The two results versus St. Cloud would lead one to believe they weren't focused on the task at hand prior to their break.

I think I can say though without a doubt ... that they were focused on the task at hand during both of the last two weekend road series.  Sure, they only came out of Denver with 1 point but we all know they played better than that.  Even Jowls knows that.  4 points was exactly what the team needed before getting to Houghton and escaping from middle-of-nowhere upper-U.P. with 4 points was quite satisfactory; even if MTU might have deserved more than 0 points.

Now I find myself wondering exactly what local fans are going to be treated to this weekend.  Are we perhaps going to see a team that is so glad to be home that they aren't as focused as they need to be?  Will the fact that it's parent's weekend help ensure that the guys are focused?  Everyone wants to impress Mom and Pop don't they?

I also wonder what sort of attendance will greet the team.  Typically, mid December games seem to be poorly attended.  I glanced at the past few years and that seems to hold true.  The first games back after a break though aren't mind bendingly successful in terms of butts in seats.  So, at least on Friday, I certainly don't expect to see more than 4000 in the rink.  In 05, 3800+ showed up for a Mankato game after about a 40 day break.  Every other year in the past 5 have been substantially less.  So perhaps there'll be around 3500.  That disappoints me.  I hope it doesn't disappoint the team or parents too much.

So my point here is that the team can't count on fan support to motivate them this weekend.  I wish it were not the case, but it is.  Our usual 3500 can make a decent amount of noise, and they're without a doubt a solidly knowledgeable core group.  But it's got to be slightly less than truly inspiring to the players.  So I ask myself again ... is this group of Seawolves going to be focused enough on the task at hand to be successful?

What is success this weekend?  Does the team "have to" get 4 points?  I think so, while a win and a tie would have value, it won't do what is needed for the Seawolves to continue to climb up the league table.  The Gophers are ahead of UAA by 3 points and have two games in hand.  They have a home-and-home series with St. Cloud this weekend.  After taking 3 points from UND last weekend, I'd have to expect them to come away from the St. Cloud series with some points.  And who is the next opponent at the Sully after the "Black Bears" this weekend?  The pesky Gophers.  Without a 4 point weekend versus Colorado College this weekend, the Seawolves won't necessarily have the opportunity to move past the Gophers in the standings.  That would be a shame.  So yes, success this weekend equals sweeping CC.

I'll look at the hows, whys, therefores etc ... in more detail in the next post.  But here's a little taste ... CC wasn't supposed to be great this year.  They jumped out of the gate and surprised everyone but have had little success since their last win versus UAA.  The Seawolves nabbed a 3-2 come from behind OT win in the Springs after getting throttled 5-0 the night before in the two games between the teams back at the end of November.  The Black Bears are 3-6-2 since then ... but started the season 10-2-1.