Sunday, February 28, 2010

Sunday Potpourri: Thanks, Olympics and "Teh Suck"

There's more than a few things which the pall of losing to the in-state rival unintentionally kept me from mentioning this weekend.  The sturdy brothers of the Kappa Sigma fraternity deserve the first shout out.  It can certainly be colder in Alaska at the end of February than it was on Friday night at 6pm when I showed up in line to collect some burger booty and a soda at the official tailgate event.  I'd guess it was a degree or two underneath twenty as the sun went down, yet the men of Kappa Sigma happily endeavored to satiate the lust of the many which free vittles doth create.  

There's always a Sullivan Arena-created stiff little breeze on the corners of that building on such an evening and Friday was no exception.  I know it chased me inside to eat my burger and gulp my Dr. Pepper before they'd allow me all the way into the arena.  So well done and hail (and all those other things fraternity men say to each other) again to Kappa Sigma for your stoutness and happy willingness to endure the less than pleasant weather conditions.  They were out there for at least 45 minutes after I trudged in.


Continuing the kudos milieux, props to all the UAA Booster Club members, students and other volunteers who each and every week engineer the various events, contests and entertainment surrounding the production of the games at the Sully. You are all doing exactly what I do here and doing it for less.  Your support of the games and team is important and necessary, yet you toil (unlike me) in complete anonymity.  Thanks for all you do.  Sometimes we fans gripe and/or moan about this or that with regard to some specific effort but do not allow those sharp critiques to dissuade you from continuation.  You ain't getting paid, so piss on us if we bitch; because in reality, we are out of line to do so.  Well done.  Keep it up.  And thank you.


And now a friendly note (which may seem overly critical but such is truly not intended) to all students manning camera's at university hockey schools everywhere.  I don't know who it is that is going around to Mankato, St. Cloud, UAA and UAF instructing camera operators that close-ups are a vital part of the trade.  Whoever it is, needs to shut up I suppose but each and every one of you can do your part by ignoring that part of your instruction.  Pretend you were sick the day they taught that?  

Hockey is not suited to that particular shot.  There is too much happening on other parts of the ice to focus on a puck holder in the corner too closely.  I know that it gives you good practice to hone your skills in that regard; and if your professorial directors were great at switching and/or had enough options to switch it would perhaps not be so noticeable.  

But ridiculously picayune minded viewers like me get bent out of shape if we can't see what we know we should be seeing even if it's only for 6 seconds.  6 seconds in a hockey game is a frigging lifetime to a TV viewer.  If this advice didn't actually sound as friendly as I intended, please pardon my written ways.  I honestly mean it in the softest way possible.  I recognize that you are all learning your trade and even that there is some pressure involved in creating a live TV broadcast that you know lots of people are watching.


The season winding down has felt a long drawn out process to me these last few weeks.  There may be some ancillary reasons for that but nevertheless it is actually coming to be.  This coming weekend are the last two regular season games and the last two chances we'll have to see many Seawolves play live.  Regardless of what happens this weekend the UAA squad is once again headed somewhere else for it's WCHA playoff series.  That has been the reality for a few weeks now.

The opponent is pretty close to being set.  I tried to run through all the various scenarios and with about 95% certainty I'm able to predict they'll be in Madison or St. Cloud.  One factor is whether the finish is 8th place or 9th place.  The other factor is whether UW or SCSU finishes in 2nd or 3rd.  There are some scenarios where UMD finishes tied for 2nd.  But that includes UAA finishing 9th and I don't believe that UMD wins the tiebreakers with UW.  Such a thing also requires that UW get swept by the Gophers (an unlikely result).  

The key to 8th place for UAA in all this convoluted imagining, is to get an equal number or more points out of the UMD series as Mankato gets out of it's series with SCSU.  Do that and we avoid the dreaded 9th place finish.  And yeah ... I know 8th isn't some huge leap above 9th.  But it does look a little better after the string of 9th's we've seen.  In no case can UAA actually improve it's point total from last year though.  23 points was last years total.  The Seawolves can only make it to 22 if they can sweep Duluth.

So who do we cheer for besides our beloved Seawolves this weekend?  The St. Cloud/Mankato home and home series is the only one that really matters.  So ... go Huskies II, or Bluffskies or St. Nothingelsetodoville or whatever you prefer to call them.  If they sweep Mankato and UAA sweeps UMD, we'll be visiting the national concrete center for the playoffs.  I think SCSU may present the best matchup for the Seawolves.  I know the team had some past success in Madison (bagging the only playoff series win and pushing it to three games another year) and there is that "never have won at the NCC thingy in play.  But that wouldn't exist except for one tenth of a second.  So there's that.

Really it's six of one and half a dozen of the other with respect to either opponent.  Winning the playoff series against either will be a tall order.  Definitely possible as far as I'm concerned but still it will require an exceptional effort.  I know the players are capable of it.  Time to worry about all that though after the UMD series though.


I've decided I'll be cheering for the Canadians in today's Olympic match-up for the gold.  I guess I like to think I'm more a citizen of the world than a nationalistic flag waver.  Truth is, I don't care much whether the Canadian NHL All-Stars or the American NHL All-Stars win.  No doubt it should be a great hockey game.  The preliminary round game was.  But for me, the professionalism in the Olympics is just a bit ignoble.  So why am I cheering for Canadia?  Because they always say "please" and "thank you" ... and they're usually sincere about it.

I saw too many of Bud Greenspan's "Olympiad" documentary series back in the 70's.  Through them, I came to understand the glory and honor of the simple competition between amateurs who gave their heart and soul to their sport for the sake of the sport.  I'm sure deep down professional athletes have the same desire to perform just for the love of/sake of competition, but it's just too damn hard for my now older and more cynical eyes to see.

There are many inspirational stories in the history of the Olympic Games.  The video below tells of my personal favorite.  Reviewing it just now to post here, swelled my heart.  Not only do I wish I were capable of penning 
"Today we have seen a young African runner who symbolizes the finest in the human spirit, a performance that gives true dignity to sport, a performance that lifts sport out of the category of grown men playing at games, a performance that gives meaning to the word courage; all honor to John Stephen Ahkwari of Tanzania."
That video is from the Greenspan series and when I saw it at 13 or 14 years of age it left an indelible mark on my sports psyche.  I did weep the first time I saw it.  I wept with pride for the man, pride for people who honored him by telling his story and even pride for people of Tanzania.  If there was one person who's hand I could shake and thank for molding my attitude about sport, it would be John Stephen Ahkwari.  It's a bit of a shame that they didn't credit whoever wrote that tribute.  It is inspiring as well.  

Long time readers will remember my references to this from some past post.  Continue to read here and there's little doubt at some point I'll mention it again.  There'll be nothing remotely that compelling or inspiring about today's Olympic Gold Medal hockey game.  But I'll watch it anyway.


There are some traditional things I do here at the end of the season.  Over the next couple of weeks expect my "Seniors Tributes" as well as my "Awards" and end of season report cards.  I'll follow all that with a final "Recruit Update" before beginning my off-season.  I'll likely weigh in on this or that during the off-season and of course if there is any big UAA news and you're interested to get my take then you can bet I'll post something about it.

I'm looking forward to writing this years Seniors Tribute.  This is the first UAA class whom I've covered from recruit-stage to their full Seawolves career and I hope I'm able to say something poignant about each player because they've all impacted me on some level as a fan.  And I'll miss each and every one of them.  So will the team.  They all leave a big hole (in one way or another) to fill.


Man, this weekend really was "teh suck".  Don't get me wrong (gawd I say that a lot don't I?), I thought Friday nights game was one of the more exciting games of the year.  The crowd was energized by having the opposition fans in the rink.  It was close to, if not the, best atmosphere of the season.  Both teams played a mostly wide open offensive game ... there was some trapping but it was limited.  The result was a crushing blow.

But on top of it (and I hesitate to mention it because honestly it's kind of disturbing) I got cyber-stalked again, this time by a UAF fan.  The exact same thing happened earlier this year by a UND fan.  I know I earn some sports hate from opposition fans with my disrespectful ways here but puhlease.  We're talking about a niche sport between NCAA teams here.  Let's have some perspective eh opposition fans?  I'm not writing for you.  I don't take you into consideration in any way, shape or form (I use that phrase a lot too eh?).  

Seriously, I write for my UAA Seawolves audience.  If you aren't mature enough to recognize that, then I implore you to never visit here again.  Please.  Thank You.  I am not in the least interested in your "hits".  My jibes, insults, disrespect and/or sports hate of your team is for UAA fans.  And thank you to those opposition fans that do read here and "get it".  I know I often paint you all with the same broad brush.  But such generalization is necessary for the meme.  Yo ... it's sports and fans here.  Not real life.  Don't come knocking on my front door with duct tape and torture devices.  Ok?

Ok.  Thats it.  I'm off to watch the game.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shyiak Tosses Water Bottle, Ref Tosses Him

I can think of nothing but the line from Conan The Barbarian after this game when asked "What is the best in life?", Conan answers, "To crush your enemies, see them driven before you and to hear the lamentation of their women."  Being on the wrong side of that is .... shall we say; ... not good.

Tonight's game turned on a couple of crucial moments late in the 3rd period.  Though down 2-1 there was still every expectation that UAA could make a go of it.  The guys were giving it their all but got tagged with a 5 minute major to Brad Gorham.  Didn't see the contact and there was no replay so I'll offer no critique of that call.  

But then early in the 5 minute penalty Tommy Grant broke fairly clean in on goal and was hauled down before he got to the crease by two pursuing UAF players.  No call.  At this point it's important to remember that earlier in the game UAF was given a 2 minute penalty for a play nearly identical to last night awarding of a penalty shot to UAF.  So when no call came on this second breakaway, Shyiak lost control.  

He tossed a water bottle on the ice and when the whistle blew he jumped over the boards and onto the ice to give the referee a piece of his mind.  At first, the referee just made him climb back over but after a brief conference they tossed him from the game and called a 2 minute unsportsmanlike on UAA.  That gave UAF a 5-on-3 power play and they didn't squander it.  Game over man.

There were other factors that contributed to the loss.  Unlike Friday night when UAA went 3 for 5 on the power play, tonight they only got the late power play goal with Jonny O pulled for a 6 on 4 advantage.  Had they scored on any of the other chances earlier in the game then the "crucial" moments might not have made such a big difference.  But they didn't and so it was.

Coach Shyiak has to man up on this and say, "It was my fault" or "This loss is on me" or something along those lines.  Anything less will be inappropriate.  And I won't be surprised if Bruce McLeod sits him for an extra game regardless of what he says.  I don't blame Shyiak for losing his cool.  Don't get me wrong.  I would have went ballistic too.

The first breakaway haul down was fully deserving of a penalty shot call.  When they did nothing on Grant's shorthanded breakaway ... man, that would have fried my ass if I'd been behind the bench.  So Shyiak has to man up publicly, it is only such a mea culpa that can do anything to even slightly mitigate the situation.

Sucks to get swept by the hobbits.  And I'm looking forward to a little WCHA referee payback next season.  OMG ... Did I just wish for WCHA referees to call a UAA game?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Seawolves Now 8-1-2 In Last 11 Versus UAF

The UAF Nanooks won their first game versus the UAA Seawolves in 4 years, 1 month and 27 days tonight.  They improved their record over that 11 game span to 1-8-2.  Whoever said, "You can't win 'em all" was right.  It had to happen sometime.  

Didn't look that way early on as UAA jumped out to a 2-0 lead playing a strong checking and fast skating game.  The Seawolves capitalized first on a 5 on 3 power play at 9:39 as Josh Lunden banged in a loose puck at the side of the net.  Then exactly one minute later Tommy Grant rifled a shot from inside the circle that Scott Green(eggsand)ham never sniffed.  About a minute and a half later though UAF cut the deficit to one with a power play goal of their own.  Three minutes and ten seconds later they tied the game.  Then took the lead for good just one minute and twenty-five seconds later.  End of the first 3-2.

The game was far from decided at that point.  With 5:57 gone in the 2nd frame Luka Vidmar was forced to pull down a UAF player during a 2 on 1 breakaway and the referees awarded a penalty shot.  4-2 for UAF at that point.  The Seawolves though put together chance after chance throughout the 2nd period outshooting UAF 10-4 but could only find the net once at 8:02 when during a rush Curtis Leinweber deftly slid the puck to a perfectly positioned Kevin Clark at the top of the slot.  Kevin made no mistake with it ripping a wrister to the top right corner.  Game still on at 4-3.  

The Seawolves continued to flurry throughout the period.  But when Tyler Currier was checked into Scott Greenham by a UAF player and did everything he could possibly do to avoid contact (including grabbing the crossbar with both hands) the referees called him for a contact to the head penalty.  A defensive breakdown by the Seawolves during the PK left a wide open UAF player with an easy goal to make it 5-3.  The game still wasn't over at that point.

Just :48 seconds into the 3rd Kevin Clark tallied his 2nd of the night and 19th goal of the season with a great tip on the backside off a Luka Vidmar shot.  5-4 at that point and definitely a tightly contested game.  The Seawolves continued their strong play through the next 14 minutes until another brutal defensive breakdown led to a UAF player standing alone 8 feet out, a nice pass and an easy finish made it 6-4 at 15:02 of the 3rd.  Inattention, lack of focus and nearly zero intensity following the ensuing faceoff though ended the game just :12 seconds later.

UAF was entirely and completely opportunistic in the win.  With less than 20 shots on the night they bagged 7 goals.  Bryce Christianson hadn't played since before the Xmas break but I thought he played fine.  I certainly wouldn't credit him with giving up soft goals.  Perhaps he could have been sharper on one or two.  I've no doubt he'd like to replay the penalty shot goal.  But anytime you have defensive lapses against a team that thrives on opportunism you're more often than not going to get burned.  And for me, that was the story of the game. 

It isn't that the backchecking was bad all night.  But when the errors came, credit to UAF for finishing those chances.  It was far from the most responsible defensive game for the Seawolves.  There was quality focus and lots of scoring chances going forward, but too often in their own end backchecking forwards simply failed to pick up their man.  

I'd have to add that more than a few good offensive chances for the Seawolves resulted in pucks shot wide.  If you don't put the puck on the net it ain't gonna go in.  Still though, I'm not unhappy with the efforts going forward.  There were lots of nice rushes from the D and passing was mostly crisp and intelligent.  If the guys can replicate that effort tomorrow night while not breaking down defensively then they'll come out with a split in this series.

A win by the Seawolves tomorrow night will create a shootout for the possession of the Governor's Cup.  I believe 3 of UAF's 8 Governor's Cups have come as a result of a split series with them winning shootouts to decide it.  None of UAA's Cups have come via that method.  With the CCHA using that entirely bogus method to break ties in it's league the odds would certainly seem to be in their favor at this point to win back the cup for the first time since the 05-06 season.  The Seawolves though just have to concern themselves with getting the win.  We've seen more than a few great efforts on Saturday nights throughout this season from the Seawolves.  I'm guessing we'll see another one tomorrow night.

Rivalry Game Day: Beat The 'Nooks


UAA Seawolves versus UAF Nanooks
Friday, February 26th 2010 7:05pm
TV: GCI Channel 1 Statewide (Tape Delay in SouthCentral AK)
Webcast Link: GCI Portal 


 Media Links


There are three events today worth noting.  At 11:30am in the Fine Dining Room of the Lucy Cuddy Center, the Blueliners are hosting the Coaches Luncheon.  Should be a great event.  There's always the typical Anchorage/Fairbanks jokes bandied back and forth.  No doubt the coaches will give glowing respectful analysis of their opponent while sandbagging their own chances somewhat.  It's $20 bucks a plate.

At 5:30 there are two pregame events at the Sully.  For $10 you can head into the Booster Room on the North side of the arena and attend an "Appetizer Social" replete with a pregame discussion with Dave Shyiak.  They usually have a good caterer for these sorts of things, so get in there and grab some fancy hors d'oeuvres before someone else does.

Or for free, you can just hangout outside the Northwest entrance and partake in the Tailgate Party.  Free burgers, hot dogs and soda will be served up by the always faithful and dedicated Kappa Sigma fraternity.  They did a great job at this season's Kendall Classic tourney.  And while the weather may be slightly more inclement this time around, the hospitality is sure to be warm.  I'll be there snagging at least one free burger, hot dog and soda.  At the Kendall, they were rocking some Tool ... so that was sweet too.  Why can't we not be sober?

All the volunteers and UAA staff worked hard this week to make all these events come together.  So make sure you thank them for their efforts if not directly then indirectly by attending all three of these events if you can.  Nicely done Blueliners, props to the Kappa Sigma frat brothers and as always well done Jane Pallister.


The most interesting initial thought I have about these two games is whether or not the referees will let these two teams play.  Being that the 'Nooks are apparently the NCAA's skating angels (fewest minutes) and UAA is apparently the Big Bad 'Wolves (most minutes), the reputations could come into play.  It's a nice contrast for an intense rivalry, but hopefully the referees don't think about it during the game.

Aside from that potential factor, of course goaltending will be a factor.  Naturally, with his good numbers UA_ fans would imagine Scott Greenham should have the upperhand.  But rubes often think a goaltender's numbers are a direct reflection of his talent.  They aren't of course, it's an equal reflection of the defense in front of him.  It would surprise me if Coach Shyiak plays Bryce instead of Jonny O tonight.  In either case, UAA's defense needs to be prepared to play responsibly and committed in front of their goaltender.

In any case, I'd be surprised if the Seawolves put a huge number of pucks in the net.  Don't get me wrong.  Such a thing is definitely possible.  But the 'Nooks have three years of disciplined defensive effort and experience to draw upon.  For UAA to crack that defensive effort, they'll have to skate through opponents i.e... keep their feet moving.  What few power plays the Seawolves receive, they will have to convert.  This is a must.  If UAA goes 0-fer on the power play they could find themselves in trouble.

UAA's penalty kill over the last few weeks has been rbetter.  Nick Haddad is back and is always a PK force.  Kevin Clark has for the 1st time in his career been playing effective and substantial PK minutes.  Both teams will lean on upperclassmen to lead them this weekend and the results may very well be determined by which set outperforms the other.  This will be the UAA freshmen's first taste of a real rivalry; maybe one (or more) of them will embrace it and make a statement about the next four years of UAA Governor's Cup Seawolves wins?

Size will be a factor, but probably not as much on Friday night as on Saturday night.  That advantage will become most evident in the 2nd and 3rd periods in the 2nd game.  UA_ should come out with enough energy on Friday night to be able to absorb any punishment the Seawolves decide to hand out.

I really don't know what to expect attendance-wise.  I'd bet that out of whatever number of folks that show up that there'll be at least 500 UA effers there.  The Freeze Out promotion's intent is to get UAA fans to be in white and they were selling cheap (but apparently nice quality T-shirts) at the campus bookstore for $5.  Hopefully, some of those will be available at the arena.  If you didn't get one of those then make sure you bring something white with you; as well as for the 4 or 5 friends you bring.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Que Orinar En El Oso Polar

Stolen Footage Cut From The "Danger Zone" UAF Hockey Promo

Here are some suggestions for those UAA fans in attendance Friday night with regard to proper treatment of UA_ fans who will unfortunately also be in the building:

Never under any circumstances should you ....
  • Give their penny loafers a flat tire ...
  • Do a farmer-style nose blow onto the blue/gold jersey holding up progress in front of you ...
  • Advise them where the beer section is ...
  • Tell them where the restrooms are ...
  • Chant ... "Nuck the Fanooks clap clap ... clap clap clap ..."
  • Give a large conglomeration of them the "double-bird" ...
  • Eat a double-bean burritto and save the gas until you're in a group of them ...
  • Laugh at their small penises ...
  • Grab their little stuffed white bears and rip the stuffing out of it without giving them $10 to replace it ...
Always try to be nice ...
  • Ask their name and then say, "Oh ... Charlie Sokaitis was looking for you I think" ... then point to the opposite corner of the rink and add, "He's over there" ...
  • Answer all questions smiling with the following Spanish phrase, "Que orinar en el oso polar" ...
  • From behind, tap them on the left shoulder as you pass them on the right ...
You know you're from Fairbanks if ...
  • You get lost in a Multiplex Theater ...
  • The blue book value of your truck varies according to how much gas is in the tank ...
  • You wake up with a black eye and a hickey ...
  • You think Sherlock Holmes is a housing development in North Pole ...
  • You think Genitalia is an Italian Airline ...
  • You pack a .44 Magnum when you visit the Alaska Zoo ...
  • You and your dogs piss on the same tree ...
  • The Salvation Army thrift store refuses your mattress donation ...
  • You ever got too drunk to fish ...
  • Your wedding reception included a beer brunch ...
  • You bring your own sacramental wine to church ...
  • You ever cut the grass and found a car ...
  • Your coffee table used to be a cable spool ...
  • Directions to your house include, "turn onto dirt road" ...
  • Your porch collapses and kills more than 3 dogs ...
  • You called 8th grade your "Senior Year" ...
  • Foreplay talk includes "There's no cars coming babe" ...
  • Your mom taught you how to sneak booze into hockey games ...
  • You come home from the dump with more than you took ...

How do you make a Nanook fan laugh on Friday night?  Tell him a joke last Monday.
Why don't Nanook fans eat soup?  They can't get it to stay on their fork.
Know how to save a drowning Nanook?  Take your foot off his head.
Whats the difference between a Nanook and a bucket of shit?  The bucket.
How do you make a Nanook fan's eyes sparkle?  Shine a flashlight in their ear.
I was at a bar once in Fairbanks celebrating another Seawolf victory and asked the bartender if he wanted to hear a funny Nanook joke.  He looks at me and says, listen dude ... I was on the rifle team at UAF, that big guy over there played 3 years of Hockey for the Nanooks in the 80's and the man next to you used to coach the Basketball team.  So do you really want to tell us a Nanook joke?  I said, "No I guess not, I don't want to explain it three times."
A Nanook fan went moose hunting.  Way out in the sticks he finds a beautiful naked woman.  She looks at him with bedroom eyes.  He gets excited and says, "Are you game?" ... she replies, "Of course silly."  So he shoots her.
What does the UAA Alumni say to the UA_ Alumni?  "Will the defendant please rise"
How does a Nanook puck bunny turn on the lights after sex?  She opens the car door.
What do they call a crime ring in Fairbanks?  The basketball team's starting five.
How do you keep a UA_ Nanook hockey player out of your driveway?  Paint a blue crease in front of it.
What do you call twenty Nanook fans falling from the sky?  Skeet.
How do you start a small business in Fairbanks?  Open a large business then put a UAF grad in charge.
What do Nanook fans use for birth control?  Their personalties.
Did you hear the UA_ library burned down?  Damn shame ... half the books hadn't been colored in yet.
What do you get when you put 32 'Nook fans in a room?  A full set of teeth.
What did the average Nanook hockey player get on his SAT's?  Drool.
How do you get a UA_ Alum off your doorstep?  Pay him for the pizza.
How do you starve a UA_ Alum?  Hide the food stamps under the soap.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Seawolves Snag Local Prospect Zack Rall

USHL Chicago Steel rookie defenseman, 17 year old Zack Rall (6ft 192lbs) has committed to UAA.  Rall is a former member of the unbeaten Five Nations Cup USA U-17 Select team from August of 2009.  In 33 games this season with Chicago, Zack has 0g-4a and 29 penalty minutes.

Zack played all of his youth hockey here in Anchorage and has been one of a small but growing group of players that have consistently been invited to USA select development camps over the last few years.  Zack is generally classified as an offensive minded defenseman.

Along with Matthew Friese, UAA now has 2 of the small number of elite level '92 born players from the area.  That's an important piece of the success puzzle for the Seawolves.  The more local guys we can get, the fewer that burn us when they get to other WCHA schools.

Based on his age and statistical development, I'd guess that Zack would show up on UAA campus no earlier than the start of the 2011 season.  Another year of USHL hockey is perfectly in-line for a player in his situation before jumping to the WCHA.  Congratulations to Zack and kudos to the UAA staff for snagging another quality local prospect.  With Zack's resume' he was no doubt offered by multiple schools.  It's great to see our guys win a recruiting battle even if I don't know for sure who they won it against.

Play hard and develop over the next season Zack.  We'll be following you here on the blog and will be excited when you hit the ice wearing the Green & Gold.

UAA Administration Is Hindering New Hockey Arena

I've languished in "we'll never get a new hockey arena-land" for quite some time.  But, information provided to me last week from Donald Leaver (aka Internet name "Wolfman") has given me a renewed hope that something could actually happen sooner than later.  Essentially, the UAA Adminstration is hindering a new arena from happening.  How?  Read on McDuff ...

There is both a complex and subtle set of circumstances involved here.  One is the always parochial Fairbanks versus Anchorage issues perpetrated by the University Regents.  This time it's a bit of a Fairbanks Life Sciences building versus Anchorage Sports Arena.  It always seems reasonable to choose education over sports.  And so, recently that's exactly what the Regents did.  They funded the Life Sciences building in Fairbanks and pulled the proposed "everything except hockey" arena.

As hockey fans that wouldn't really seem to affect us since that proposal didn't include a setup for hockey.  Right?  Perhaps not; now comes the complexity.  The Anchorage Daily News recently published this AK Voices from Jim Crawford (a guy I'd consider a typical Alaskan tight-wad conservative)

I've exchanged pleasantries (mandatory since I'm a commie ya know?) and a great deal of information with Mr. Crawford over about the last week that has convinced me to attempt to raise a flag here, create a rallying cry and/or get you fine readers involved once again.  I know I have made noise about this or that with regard to a new arena a couple of times.  Believe me when I say my primary consideration here was to not become some sort of "Boy Cries Wolf" blogger and try to get everyone all fired up without cause.  I'm hopeful, that there is cause for enthusiasm in this case.

This issue was brought to my attention by the always vigilant Donald Leaver in Louisiana.  I doubt there's a more remote alumnus following UAA issues closer than our dear Capt. Don.  He told me,
I constantly search Alaska Government and similar websites concerning UAA arena progress. After a recent search, I happened to stumble across Jim Crawford's intention through Crawford's blog input through the Anchorage Daily news. After contacting him about his intent, he gave me enough to bring this subject to light.
So I read the link Don provided me to the Crawford article.  An exchange of emails ensued with Don and before you know it I was involved in the aforementioned email exchange with Mr. Crawford.  The issues involved with the situation are fairly lengthy.  So please allow me to compress some things while encouraging you to fully read the links I've provided.
  • A group of investors has a plan to put an new arena for all sports (including 7,500 seats for Hockey and 5,000 seats for Basketball etc) ...
  • An official proposal has been in the UAA Administration's hands for nearly 2 years ...
  • The UAA Administration has given exactly zero official response ...
  • The arena would be located on the south side of Tudor and Elmore just blocks from (but not on) UAA's campus ...
  • No funds would need to be authorized by the State Legislature ...
  • The financial arrangement is called a "leaseback" ...
Now let me explain the "leaseback" arrangement, per Mr. Crawford ...
A leaseback property is built for use of another and leased by the owner/developer to the user for a long term.  Wal-Mart and the big box stores do it all the time.  The Seawolves Center will generate more income than required for debt service and expenses.  Constructed in a federal tax credit zone, it qualifies for a $20 million tax credit. 
Here’s a tutorial in leasebacks.  First, the development team estimates construction and development costs.  We did this two years ago for UAA.  Second, we identify the source and use of money for the project.  This Center has three sources of funds: 1. Private capital either borrowed or contributed; 2. Public contributions (currently zero); and 3. Increased program receipts. 

The Hickel/Crawford team’s Seawolves Center proposal provided UAA management with very detailed spreadsheets in excruciating detail for construction costs, time phasing and source and use of funds. 

Our plan includes community fundraising at $17.7 million.  We raise corporate and labor donations and sell box seats at the complexes, as done by other sports facilities.  We didn’t ask University of Alaska personnel to raise the money.  Our professionals can raise the cash and sell the box seats.  We have experience raising public and private dollars.

Third, we calculate the income.  We updated our budget in November 2009 to include the tax credit contribution through Alaska Growth Capital of $20 million.  There are no expenses to the State or the University for tax credits.  To UA, it is a $20 million gift, filtered through our leaseback.
Jim Crawford has a wealth of experience dealing with these sorts of development issues.  The above is excerpted from his next post on AK Voices which is not yet published.  I really won't hold it against him that he is a former chair of the Republican Party of Alaska or that his real estate development career has probably made him richer than Solomon.  I want to see a new arena happen so I'll jump in bed with the devil (no Jim, I don't think you're the devil, I'm just dogmatically liberal) to get it done.  

So here's some obvious questions.  Why the hell is the University withholding any comment with regard to this proposal?  It seems to me that they're protecting an internal preference here.  They think the best way to move forward is to partner with the Municipality of Anchorage in some sort of retrofit of the Sullivan Arena or in building a new facility.  Well?  

It's been two years since we knew we weren't getting a hockey arena for the Seawolves ... how the hell long does it take UAA and the Muni to get a legislator to submit a bill proposing such a thing?  I have to wonder if they really think the stupifyingly tortoise-like pace of the Alaska State Legislature is the process they want to wed themselves to.  

It surprises me little that the UAA administration would insist on going about such a thing in the usual manner.  There is nobody there with any balls when it comes to standing up to the Regents.  And this Crawford proposal is sort of an end run around the usual process where the Regents lobby Legislators for pet projects.  Can you imagine the uproar at the "Regents Ball" (or whatever they call it when they get together for their circle-jerks) if UAA were to sign a lease agreement without them having any say?

So in my estimation, we're not progressing with an arena proposal on any front for nothing other than little bullshit political games.  But we very well could be.  This is where you (my fine loyal readers) help tip the balance.  Jim Crawford, his associates and some already aware alumni are actively pursuing this option as I type this.  They have been for nearly 2 years.

Each reader here can help by contacting your legislators, gubernatorial candiates and current governor to demand that UAA openly examine this proposal.  I'd include phone calls to the UAA Administration but I fear those would be a complete and utter waste of time.  But if you want to try; the first person on the UAA list to call would be Bill Spindle.  He is Vice-Chancellor for Administrative Services and headed up all the previous arena proposals.  Nobody below him will be able to comment or tell you anything with regard to all this.  I doubt he will comment.  I meant to try to contact him but I'm not as efficient with my time as I could be.  So here's a link to the org chart if you are so inclined to contact anyone at UAA.

And a resounding yes to what is perhaps your first question here, Jim Crawford and his partner's would make a profit from all this.  But it's clear to me from my conversations with him that such is not the primary intent.  This is being driven by interested alumni that recognize their University is stalling for no good reason.  Mr. Crawford and his agents are facilitating the effort and have agreed that a fair buyout of the leaseback arrangement would be welcome anytime the legislature decided to appropriate the funds.  So in that light, this proposal does nothing but get the new arena built and operational probably years ahead of when some imaginary UAA/Muni arena partnership will come to fruition.  

Ultimately, UAA could be renting this proposed facility to the Muni.  The Sullivan Arena is well beyond it's best days folks. We all know that already.  So get off your asses and make some noise about this ok?  Here's a PDF from the State Legislature's website with all the necessary contact information.  I know many of you have written before and made similar phone calls.  I wish it weren't time to do so again.  But it is.  Without your fervent input this proposal will just die a slow death in the hands of the UAA Administation.

One sad thing here is that WCHA folks consistently label UAA as not seriously committed to their league and of failing to show the proper financial interest.  Our coach is paid lower than 8 of the 9 other coaches in the WCHA.  Our assistants probably make substantially less than their counterparts in the league.  The arena we play in is now 30 years old and falling apart.  The on-campus practice facilities are grossly overcrowded.  And that's not the end of the reasonable bitches about UAA facilities.  Well, the situation I've described with regard to this arena proposal sure seems to lend their jokes credibility.

I know a lot of people here like to blame Steve Cobb and I've defended him because he's expressed passion directly to me in support of correcting the above issues.  But at some point, he's got to be able to go to someone above him that holds the purse strings and convince them to open up the vault.  Else, we will continue to be the butt of "not committed" to hockey jokes around the WCHA.  Come on Dr. Cobb, be a zealot, get in some faces, piss your boss off, make some waves.  We're (and by "we're" ... I of course mean me) are begging you to become Don Quixote on this.  Tilt their fucking windmills a bit eh?

The truth is that every other rink in the WCHA now exceeds the Sullivan Arena in some way.  They are all either newer and bigger, or have been retrofitted extensively.  Bemidji St. which joins the league next year will be playing a new arena.  UNO which joins the league next year will be playing in a 14,000 seat arena and are actively pursuing a quality on-campus facility.  St. Cloud and Michigan Tech are working on or have completed massive overhauls.  North Dakota plays in a palace.  The Mariucci is one of the great rinks in all of hockey.  Duluth gets a brand spanking new arena next year.  

I don't express these facts as some sort of call to "keep up with the Joneses" but instead from knowing the reality of recruiting hockey players.  If you're 18 and you've got a choice between a dump in Alaska and a palace in North Dakota the answer is obvious, but if the question is a quality rink in Alaska versus a palace in North Dakota then we'll find more highly ranked elite players choosing Alaska.  That's reality.  Want to truly be competitive and not just pay lip service to the term?  Then some folks in the UAA Administration need to step up and do something positive versus playing whatever petty political game that is obviously underway today.

Get this done people.  I'm not the most erudite bloke to ever walk into the pub, but even I can tell a stale pint from a fresh one with only a quick whiff.  The Crawford proposal is a win-win.

UAF Roster Shenanigans

I noticed something very interesting early this season.  I've been holding my water about it.  But tonight I finally got around to working some random comparisons that leave me to draw no other conclusion than UAF's roster weights are complete bullshit.  

I've taken three other D1 rosters at random and noted the average weight gains from freshman to senior years.  Surprisingly, the percentage is quite low.  For example, Merrimack had just one senior this season with any weight gain from his freshman year and that was 10lbs over the 3 year period.  Not unreasonable at all for a hockey player to put on 10lbs in 3 years.  If you look around you'll see some variance in both directions with some players.  For example, Anthony Maiani at DU weighs 5lbs less as a junior than when he showed up as a freshman. 

However, when you look deeper at UAF's roster you see something amazing.  Shall I expound?  As a freshman Brandon Knelsen's weight was reported as 190lbs.  Now in his senior year he weighs 199.  Not out of the ordinary for a guy to gain 9 pounds in 3 years.  Let's go a little further shall we?  Dion Knelsen was listed at 180lbs as a freshman.  This season he is 187.  Ok.  As a freshman Dustin Molle tipped the scales at 214lbs.  This year he weighs 222.  Ok so ... 8lbs more.  Cody Rymut hit the UAF campus weighing in at 195lbs.  This season he is 200lbs.  All in all, that's a bit of a statistical variation from the norm but nothing to jump up and down about.

Well ... so far there's no jumping anyway.  But, I've got a little more data.

Bryant Molle has gone from 185lbs as a freshman to 210lbs as a junior.  Wow Bryant ... way to pack on the pounds.  25lbs in just two years for an athlete sure shows a dedication to the weight room.  Kevin Petovelo has gone from 180lbs as a freshman to 193lbs as a junior.  Another guy clearly dedicated to the weight room.  Dustin Sather appears equally engrossed by lifting weights as he's gone from 160lbs as a freshman to 175lbs as a junior.  

But those guys clearly don't hit the gym as often as their sophomore counterparts.  Cody Butcher went from 205lbs as a freshman to 218 as a sophomore.  Nice!  13lbs in just a year.  Justin Filzen outdid him in the weight room though going from 180lbs as a freshman to 194lbs as a sophomore.  As seniors, Butcher should top 240lbs and Filzen should weigh near 225lbs.

So do I believe any of that weight-room spew I just laid down?  Hells no.  Am I saying there's something nefarious afoot?  Hells no.  Then what?  Are they following Jim Schoenfeld's advice to Don Koharski and everyone is just going to "have another donut"?  Well maybe, over-eating is a well-known psychological response to the ever-present darkness that is the reality of winter in Squarebanks.  But I don't think it's any of that ...

I recognize that a couple of years ago UAF was one of the shortest and lightest teams in the entire NCAA.  It wasn't a pleasant identity to have.  Other teams knew just by looking that they would be able to employ a physical strategy to beat up on the little guys.  So Coach Ferguson took matters into his own hands, or should I say roster pen and rectified the situation.  Fudging weights on rosters is nothing new in hockey-land.  However, being so blatant about it is.  The Nanooks this season are the 46th shortest team in Division 1.  But suddenly they are the 4th heaviest team in Division 1? Puhlease.  That's just nonsense.

So regardless of what the roster's say;  UAA is still much bigger overall than UAF and can still go out and push the (now fat) little hobbits around.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Just The Facts Ma'am ... Just The Facts

The UAA vs. UAF Series:
Overall: UAA leads 80-48-11  At UAA: UAA leads 46-19-5  At UAF: 34-29-6
Governor's Cup: Series tied 8-8
Last meetings: The Seawolves shutout the 'Nooks 3-0 and 1-0
Under Shyiak:  The Seawolves are 9-3-2 against UAF
Current Records: UAF 14-9-9 UAA 10-18-2
Both games this weekend will be broadcast on GCI Channel 1.  For those outside of Anchorage the Friday game will be available live on the GCI Internet.  Saturday's game right's in FBX belong to B2 Networks and will not be available on GCI Internet.

There are several promotions and special events for this weekend:
Beat the 'Nooks T-shirts:
Get your official Beat the 'Nooks t-shirt for $5 at the UAA Campus Bookstore.  The idea is to have a "White-Out" at the arena with all Seawolves fans wearing a white t-shirt.
Subway Promo:
Any purchase at Subway nets the buyer a $7 off coupon for each tichet at any price level with a maximum of two tickets per coupon.
Seawolf Student-Athlete Alumni Reception:
Friday February 26, 5:30PM, Sullivan Arena
Please join your fellow Seawolf Athletics Alumni at a pre-game reception.  Appetizer reception begins at 5:30 followed by a game preview with coach Dave Shyiak at 6pm in the NE lounge.  Reserved Seat game tickets can be purchased for $10.  To RSVP the reception contact Tlisa Northcutt at 786-1211.
Tailgate Party:
Tailgate party begins at 5:30pm in the Sullivan Arena parking lot, free food and drinks provided, brought to you by the Tailgate Crew & UAA Athletic Department.  There will be a 6ft long Subway eating contest during the 2nd period intermission and Humpy's Rockband will play between both periods.
So there you have it.  The salient facts you need to know in order to maximize your enjoyment this weekend.  There are obviously good ways to get discounts on tickets if you don't have them already.  So grab some friends and turn up on Friday.  I'm not talking about 1 or 2 friends.  Grab 4 or 5 or 6.  Let's come close to filling the joint up a'ight?  Seriously, if there was a game that should or could be close to a sellout this season then Friday is it.  You know that local 'Nooks fans will be there in force and they're bringing a busload down from the Craphole-On-A-River.

Monday, February 22, 2010

That's A Wrap In The "A" & The "B"

The AJHL and BCHL have wrapped up their regular seasons.  Here's some info about how the various future Seawolves faired (Brett Cameron, Rob Gunderson, Wes McLeod, Quinn Sproule, Scott Allen, Sam Mellor and Andrew Pettitt).  The USHL and NAHL seasons continue until the end of March.  I'll recap future Seawolves (Matt Bailey, Matthew Friese, Mark Pustin and Derek Docken) in those leagues at that time.  The lone recruit outside of those leagues is Gustav Bengtson whom I'll include here.

Gustav Bengtson (F) - Sollentuna (Sweden)
Gustav's team (I don't know the club's "nickname") has just started some sort of demi-playoff round between the top ten teams in two different conferences.  Gustav is their leading scorer.  In the last 15 games he has 29 points on 13 goals and 16 assists.  He is reportedly in "excellent shape" and his play "really sticks out".  On the season, (30 games) he has 40 points by way of 19 goals and 21 assists.  Gustav will be joining the Seawolves this coming fall after being pushed back one year.  He was one of the earliest verbal commitments that the Seawolves program ever sought, committing while he was still playing Midget Major's in Utah.  He had some difficulties throughout his Junior A career but proved during his stint with Texas that he can contribute. 

Brett Cameron (F) - Spruce Grove Saints
Brett totaled just 31 games this season due to a concussion received in early November.  Brett was projected (not just by me) to be one of the top scorers in the league this season.  There wasn't much written about the injury so I must assume he continued to have concussion symptoms up until recently.  Brett was listed as playing in a few of the Saints last games.  Being on the Saints is a true blessing for a player like Brett.  As skilled as he is, the Saints really didn't need to push him back into the lineup.  Credit to Coach Steve Hamilton for recognizing that.  In his 31 games Brett scored 9 goals and added 20 helpers for .9 points per game.  Brett will be joining the Seawolves this coming fall.

Rob Gunderson (G) - Brooks Bandits
Rob had a reasonably quality season playing on a team that had the 9th most points in a 16 team league.  The Bandits went 28-27-1-4 overall and Rob went 20-17-1-3 for his part.  His save percentage of exactly .900 and gaa of 3.30 both put him at #14 in the league.  Described as talented and having good fundamentals, the numbers and comparisons don't do him justice (as is often the case with goaltenders).  Rob will be joining the Seawolves this coming fall and will likely see plenty of action as a freshman.

Wes McLeod (D) - Spruce Grove Saints
After being traded to Spruce Grove from the "B". Wes compiled 4 goals and 6 assists in 14 games.  Going to the Saints is a fantastic late season development for Wes.  He already had a great season of accomplishments filled with individual select invites.  Wes is highly regarded for his skating, shot and hockey sense.  The Saints should really get to the RBC barring any upset.  And any upset could be considered major.  They've been at the top or near the top of CJHL rankings all season.  They just set an AJHL record for # of wins and fewest goals against.  They're a powerhouse with a deep talented roster.  The competition level of a long playoff schedule should help Wes hone his blueline skills for when he joins the Seawolves this coming fall.

Quinn Sproule (D) - Okotoks Oilers
The Oilers finished atop of the South Division going 38-18-1 and will get a bye to start the playoffs.  During the regular season Quinn scored 9 goals and added 17 assists in 59 games to lead his team in goal scoring from the blueline.  In 08-09, he tallied 12 goals and 19 assists over 59 games.  There is no obvious statistical explanation.  Okotoks essentially maintained their GF/GA ratio for both seasons.  My best guess for Quinn's decrease in goal production would be that as the top veteran D man his coach asked him to be more defensively oriented this season.  The Oilers only tallied 23 goals from the backline this season, compare that to 39 for Spruce Grove.  Quinn joins the Seawolves this coming fall.

Scott Allen (F) - Spruce Grove Saints
Look for Scott Allen to appear at or near the top of the AJHL points leader board for most of next season.  Scott will be coming to UAA in 2011-2012.  His 25 goals and 26 assists in 58 games this season gave him the 13th most goals and 21st most points in that league this year.  Scott was the 5th leading scorer for the Saints.  The Saints look to return to prominence next year with a stable full of '90s, 91s, 92s and 93s already in their system.  Scott will almost certainly be one of the leaders on the ice.  A potential captain there?

Sam Mellor (F) - Trail Smoke Eaters
Sam was nominated by the league today for the Interior Conference rookie of the year award along with Beau Bennett and Joey Laleggia.  Bennett is a full year older and finished at the top of the league regular season scoring table.  He's a lock for the award.  But Mellor put up the 2nd most goals in the entire league by a rookie and was the class of his age group (92's) overall.  Sam notched 28 goals and added 35 assists while playing at team that is 13th out of 17 teams.  Sam will join the Seawolves in 2011-2012. 

If his development curve continues as it has over the last 18 months then I have to assume Sam will be at the top of the league scoring tables all of next season.  I really have no idea if anyone is trying to bring Sam in a year early or if such a thing is possible.  I had mentioned that potential as a measure to ward off any possibility that Mellor could be lured to the WHL.  There's no doubt he would be a target.  But I have some sense that he is committed to the college route.  So I don't think the folks in Trail will have to hate us for taking their prospect early.

Andrew Pettitt (F) - Powell River Kings
Andrew finished the BCHL regular season with the 5th most goals in that league.  His 36 goals and 25 assists gave him the 3rd highest point total on the Powell River squad.  The Kings finished in 2nd place in the Coastal Conference with the 5th highest points amongst both conferences.  Andrew is originally from Whitehorse (i.e.. Tuton's hometown).  This season he nearly tripled his points production from 08/09 going from .4 per game to 1.1 per game.  That's always a good sign.  He should be right up near the top of that league again next season.  He'll be wearing Seawolves green and gold in 2011-2012.

Governor's Cup Thoughts

So this weekend means the awarding of "The Governor's Cup".  Woohoo eh?  If you're a long time reader here then you'll recognize that I don't attach major significance to winning of that trophy.  I do realize though that many UAA fans along with the UAA Athletic Department do consider it significant.

It isn't that I don't want to see the Seawolves dominate their upstate rivals.  I do.  I fugging hate Fairbanks.  I fugging hate that half of their Governor's Cups have come on the back of shootouts.  I fugging hate the stupid fences on both sides of Airport Way ... just to cross that stupid street a pedestrian could have to walk nearly a mile.  

I hate that UA_ has the only Ocean Studies department in the University of Alaska system and it's 400 miles minimum from any actual ocean while Anchorage borders salt-water.  I hate that UA_ consistently gets more funding that UAA just to keep Fairbanks a viable city through welfare.  But there's no point in revisiting all that, my point here is that "The Governor's Cup" isn't as big a deal to me as it is to everyone else.  

I don't care that there is some trophy for they guys after sweeping those pukes this weekend.  I'll hang my hat on the sweep versus the trophy.  If either teams wins the thing via shootout ... it means NOTHING to me.  Using a shootout win to call yourself superior is no way to go through life son.  Plus, didn't that stupid trophy break a couple of years ago?  I'm sure I'm insulting whoever designed it.  Oh well, most likely a person from FBX had something to do with it.

I do get that Fairbanks folks wrap themselves up and measure their whole season by beating UAA in shootouts.  Just more proof of how whacked that place is if you ask me.  They actually think a shootout win is something more than a tie.  Just so you know ... Dwight K. Schrute is a UA_ fan.  That's verified.  Pam and Jim Halpert are Seawolves fans.

I couldn't be happier that the last Governor quit and won't be having any sort of association with the event or trophy any longer.  Not that the current Governor is much better.  If there was some way to eliminate the reference that would be great.  How about we just call it "The Alaska Cup"?  Why does some politician have to have something to do with it?  And don't even get me started about the University of Alaska Regents.  Their picture is in the dictionary right next to the word "useless".

It's likely going to be a tough week here coming up with some new angle to degrade Fairbanks.  Back in 2006, I compare/contrasted 1960 Anchorage to 2006 Fairbanks.  Fairbanks squeaked out the win in that comparison.  Yes, Fairbanks in 2006 was slightly better than Anchorage in 1960.  Last year it was fun and all to tag Coach Ferguson with the Butterbean moniker.  It actually wasn't mine.  But I did popularize it.  I hear Ferguson now grows his hair out and has lost a couple of pounds.  Way to go Dallas.  The year before I'd tagged their previous coach as Yoda.  That stuck too and was even funnier when he got tossed for using the force on coeds.  I covered many other Fairbanks foibles in this post.

So with all that, I'm debating how best to spew my hate-filled rhetoric for the Craphole-On-A-River.  Stay tuned I guess to see what I come up with.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Zero Point Energy

Results matter.  Much as I usually try to find positives, the bitter truth is that the score at the end of the game is the bottom line.  And bottom line this weekend, the Seawolves came up with zero points at a really important time of the year.  Yet, no time should be spent looking back at these two games.  Next weekend, the team plays for pride against it's only natural rival.  Beyond that, the only objective now is to go into the playoffs with some confidence.  Sweeping the nooks would go a long way to helping that sort of confident mindset.  The finish the home season with some success against Duluth and then ... who knows?

I don't know what I want to say about this weekend's performances.  Just ignore it and move on?  There are some things that maybe ought to be said.  There are some things that maybe ought not be said.  A lot of commentary about who did what right this weekend doesn't take the sting off the results.  And griping about this or that serves nobody well at this point of the the season.  We'll all get our say about those things at the end of the season ok?

The team is where it is.  They still have an opportunity to have some success to hang their hats on.  The Final Five still beckons.  In my book, the best chance for that to happen is through Duluth, Minnesota.  If UAA could choose a travel destination for the playoffs ... Duluth would be it.  The little ice sheet is tailor made for UAA's style.  The Seawolves have had some late season success in that joint.  There are a number of things that would have to happen for UAA to get to Duluth and it's possible from either 8th or 9th place.  

There's actually a scenario where two UAA losses to Duluth would guarantee a road trip to there.  Do you lose on purpose in order to get to their building for the playoffs?  Not a choice a coach really would consider ... would he?  There are other more likely scenarios though.  As I go through it, I see UAA travelling to SCSU as perhaps the most probable.  With UW being second most likely.  Going to Denver would be more palatable than either of those two.

It's a crying shame that this weekend's two losses mean that Mankato controls UAA's playoff travel arrangements.  They're only one point behind UAA now.  And they have eight points at stake with Denver and SCSU on their schedule.  UAA has only 4 points at stake when Duluth visits in two weeks.  There will be a mighty battle now for 5th place in the league between CC, UND and Minnesota.  CC and UND will both have a chance for some separation when they play this coming weekend.  Don't count the Gophers out as they finish with Duluth then Wisconsin.

Ok, I'll talk about the positives.  Number one for me was Kevin Clark's continuing ability to make things happen.  The goal he scored from his back tonight was pretty sweet.  From his back.  I repeated that like three times when it happened.  I didn't see the first goal on Friday night but his assist tonight on Josh Lunden's goal was a perfect little pass that Josh finished easily.  Kevin will continue to be productive down the stretch.  

I really liked seeing Kane Lafranchise rush the puck deep.  When he did so this weekend and found an option then scoring chances resulted.  Without an option he showed skating that could allow him to make a more aggressive move to the net for his own scoring chance.  Something good will come of it if it continues.

Lots of guys played with heart.  I don't think I saw anyone dogging it.  At least on Saturdy night they were in the game right up to the end.  Guys shouldn't feel down about the effort they gave.  

Crowell looked like he took a nasty bump to the knee when some scum cross-checked in small of his back to send him into the boards hard.  Interference they called it.  ... whatever.  Then :10 seconds later there's a make up call by the other referee to give UAA a 5 on 3 power play.  Just start getting it right the first time could ya refs?  Please.  I like a 5 on 3 as well as the next guy if my team would actually score on it but I'd prefer the right call in the first place.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday Game Day: Seawolves at Mankato

Friday 4:37PM (Alaska Standard Time)
Verizon Wireless Center; Mankato, Minnesota
Alaska TV: GCI Channel 1
Alaska Radio: 550AM w/ Kurt Haider


Media Links

Seawolves Lines For Tonight
Lunden - Gellert - Clark
Grant - Haddad - Bruijsten
Spencer - Naslund - Wiles
Portwood - Leinweber - Crowell
Backstrom - Tuton
Baldwin - Vidmar
Lafranchise - Gorham

I submit for your edutainment the absolute finest YouTube Mankato-related video to ever befall the college hockey interwebs.  Watch the video below ... watch it damnit.
@ :17 seconds we get to hear the delight at the discovery of a "wash menu" ...
@1:03 they actually ask if they stay in the car ...
@1:12 is secondary astonishment at the "wash menu" concept ...
@2:01 gramps again talks about staying in the car ...
@2:30 they discover it's going to pull them along ..
@2:42 an understandable claim to being the best video on YouTube ever ...
@2:50 til 3:45 undeniable sounds of murder come from the back seat ...
@3:55 gramps squeals once again in delight ...
@4:50 "are these florescent lights?
@5:20 "Ma" gets a "blowjob" ... cameraman fears "jet engines" ...
@5:40 "NOOO ... you don't tip 'em honey ...

How exactly isn't that the greatest YouTube video ever?  1812 views doesn't tell the story.  Doesn't matter if it's popular, popularity doesn't imply excellence necessarily.  How could you not be smiling while watching that?  You got to experience their anticipation and excitement at going through the auto-wash.  We got to share in their delight with the term "wash menu".  The scenes of the of the actual washing process on the car had me gripping my armrests tightly.  Now I know what critics mean when they say "gripping stuff"! Wow.  It was scary, delightful and intense ....  Thanks to Grampa, Ma, hidey-chick in the back and the anonymous cameraman for sharing this with the world. 

I'll leave the chatroom below up for the duration ...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Last Furlong

Gotta love a good horse-race.  Especially when you've got something riding on it.  Back in the day,  I spent more than a few otherwise empty Nebraska afternoons at the Ak-Sar-Ben track in Omaha plucking down 2 dollars bets.  We were thrilled to walk away from the track with an extra 40 or 50 dollars because that meant we'd stop for a quality steak dinner on the way.  And we never walked away with more than 20 dollars in losses.  9 races at 2 bucks a shot was the entertainment.  Betting on a horse, hoping for win, anticipating the start, watching the race and basking in the joy or disappointment all took about 5 minutes.

A hockey season lasts a helaciously longer time.  We bet on our horses more than 6 months ago and hoped for the best.  We analyzed the chances as the season start and evaluated if we'd made a good start.  We watched them win and lose some of the battles and watched them make a fairly nice move through the second turn.  And now we can see the homestretch ahead of us.  Where the team finishes now is both up to UAA's ability to finish strong and some other horse's ability to not falter.

So allow me to look at some of that before I preview this weekend's series against Mankato.  It's not complicated.  If you're a UAA fan, you by default MUST adhere to the following recommendations.
Against Minnesota - Though tied with 18 points, the Gophers have the upperhand on UAA in the battle for 7th place.  This weekend the Black Bears march into "The John".  Any points on the weekend for the upside down W's doesn't benefit our guys in any way.

Against North Dakota - North Dakota is 3 points ahead and has two games in hand on the Seawolves.  To catch them, UAA would have to sweep it's last 4 WCHA games and UND would have to do no better than 2-4 in their last six games.  It could happen.  But with whatever the actual probability is, it's never a bad thing to cheer against the thugs.  Did you know that UND has 5 of the top 20 penalized players in the whole NCAA.  Yep ok, they're not goons?

For MTU - In the one series that has absolutely no positive or negative connotation for UAA, the Pios host Tech this weekend.  Tech can get four points and still almost certainly not pose any risk to takeover UAA.  They've had a helluva tough season so use any pity you feel for MTU to cheer for them this weekend.  Knocking off DU would make the case that we UAA fans already know from our 4 game series with DU ... they're not the greatest assemblage of college hockey talent in history.  Go original Huskies Go!

Against St. Loud and Wisconsin - Just hope that they beat the living shit out of one another.  They're two of the three teams that UAA has some probability to visit during the playoffs but there is absolutely no reason I can think of to cheer for one or the other.  Wisconsin will be playing it's best hockey of the season down the stretch, make no mistake about that.  Going there for the playoffs would be a tall order.  Or maybe we go to St. Cloud?  Eek at that thought ... just because of um ... the uh... one "ugly stat" about um this whole not having won in that rink down there.  Is it petty to cheer against both teams?  Oh well ...
Now onto the actual preview for this series with our Official WCHA Assigned "Rival". I can't start a preview of Mankato without taking a couple of shots at Troy Jutting.  When you look up "beet red" in the dictionary, there's a picture of Troy.  No coach's face in the league gets as filled with blood as when he's arguing with a referee.  It apparently is some sort of gamesmanship and/or strategy for him to get the referees to come to his bench for minutes at a time game in and game out. 

I don't really have any issue with a coach working the refs.  It's a part of the game and common to all sports.  Jutting's antics though are overboard.  It was said on the USCHO weekly thread that the only person in Mankato that liked Jutting was his wife.  That was hilarious.  More hilarious would be for a UAA Seawolves player to skate past the Mankato bench and say something like, "Hey Coach, tell your wife to stop texting me."  I'm not suggesting that a UAA player do such a thing.  It would be classless right?  You know "class"  ... that word so often entwined with the word "hockey".  So let's hope nobody says anything like that to Jutting ... right?

The Mavericks have lost 10 games this season by a single goal to Duluth (3 times), Denver, Colorado College, Bemidji, Nebraska-Omaha, North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin.  5 of their 12 wins have been by a single goal.  5 of UAA's 10 wins have been by a single goal and UAA has lost 3 games by one goal to Denver (2) and St. Cloud.  I point all this out to exhibit the fact that Mankato looks to have been playing more consistent than UAA.  So there is no reason to expect these two games to be won easily.  It'll take "Saturday Night" hockey both nights for UAA to leave Mankato with enough points to help them progress up the standings. 

The week got started off with the news that Tommy Grant, Brad Gorham and Nick Haddad had been cleared to play.  Then we found out that Craig Parkinson has a lower body injury that will keep him out this weekend.  It's more good than bad news when combined I suppose.

From before now until the end of the season it's once again a series in which UAA's upperclassmen will have to assert themselves.  Both Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden need to produce up front, Jared Tuton, Trevor Hunt and Nils Backstrom all have to play mistake free in their end and contribute positively on transitions.

Kevin Clark has 8 goals and 6 assists in the last 10 games for 29 percent of UAA goals.  Kevin is playing at the highest level of his career right now.  He's scoring highlight reel goals and making highlight reel assists.  He's playing very strong minutes on the PP and PK and making a difference in both cases scoring.  I sense Kevin is enjoying his 2nd half.  Kevin's strength is in his joy for playing well.  When he's enjoying himself he can't be stopped.  If he is determined to keep having fun then he'll keep scoring.  Keep having fun Kevin, eh?  Just remember that goals are the babies of your happiness.  Be happy and they will happen.  Zen-ish?

Nils has been sharp as a tack defensively this year and dominates most any opposition forward on the boards.  Sharp as a tack continues to be needed.  Captain Jared Tuton has had mostly quiet year but his leadership is evident and his on-ice playing example has been super responsible.  I think Jared is one of the last ten year's great "team players" at UAA.  In his career Jared happily did everything asked of him as a player and whatever role he was filling he performed very well.

The middle of Josh Lunden's season was disrupted by an ongoing shoulder problem and it's now been some weeks since he returned.  Josh bagged his first goal last week off a pretty feed from Kevin Clark so hopefully busting that cherry will the key to a resumption of regular scoring.  Throughout Trevor Hunt's career here, he's shown he has a bit of a nose for the net and an ability to stick-handle in traffic. As a senior with only a guaranteed 8 games left to play in their college career it's up to each one of these guys to lead with their play and production.

There's loads of experience and talent in the junior class to contribute.  It's time for these guys to show the depth of their mettle.  These guys should all know their strengths after almost 3 years of D1 hockey.  So they need to express those down the stretch.  Grant needs to make things happen with his speed and chip in some goals.  Nick Haddad has to continue to be furious and effective on the penalty kill.  I've seen Kane Lafranchise play enough over the last three years to know exactly how dangerous he can be in transition.   It's a strength of his that he needs to be courageous enough to take advantage of and make some things happen.  I know Luka Vidmar has a good eye on the power play.  He needs to find that seam in the traffic and put the puck through it this weekend.  If Sean Wiles were to just "keep on keeping on" that would be a good thing.  When Wiles is ind "his zone", he often looks like he can't be stopped. So don't be then ... ok?

We can't expect, but it's ok to hope for the underclassmen to be difference makers down the stretch.  But a lot of those guys have come along well and even progressed surprisingly well against my initial less than fully positive assessment.

So in the name of reiteration.  The stretch run is a time for upperclassmen to step up and be counted.  It's time for one or more of them to be difference makers.  Don't make Kevin Clark take the team onto his shoulders.  

Goaltending and special teams are likely two big factors this weekend.  The more the Seawolves can stay out of the box while cashing in on their power play chances the more likely they'll post W's.  Nothing mysterious about that.

There will be no hosted live chat this weekend as I won't be in front of this computer viewing the games.