Monday, March 28, 2011

2011 Seawolves Report Card: Part One


As in years past it's time for me to weigh in with some grades and comments about the season.  Actually, it's past time as I usually get to this earlier.  Fortunately, the delay was caused by the team's trip to the Final Five.  I'm not one to stick to some pre-formatted standardized grading methodology and every year I've done this, I've done it a bit differently; same thing here.  The first caveat is that I'm arriving at these grades subjectively and relatively.  What matters here is how I think the team performed in the noted areas based on my expectations as to their potential.

Offense: B
The Seawolves scored 89 goals this season in 37 games for a 2.41 per game average.  They did that by averaging 25 shots on goal.  These numbers are very close to the totals for 09-10 which were 2.42 goals per game for a total of 87 in 36 games on 24.4 shots per game.  This season however the scoring was a bit more balanced with 3 players in double digits compared to 1 last season.  Also, 20 players this season found the twine.  Last year 17 players managed at least one goal.

The power play accounted for 24 goals this year which was identical to last season's 24.  The percentage was increased slightly from 13.1% in 09-10 to 15.1% this year.

Overall there was a slight improvement offensively but I'd add that in the 2nd half of the season the team really looked excellent going forward.  Passing was crisp and much improved with tape-to-tape passes completed successfully much more frequently than in the 1st half or last season.  Speed in transition was good.  That said, there could have been better finishing.  I estimate another 10 goals scored at the right times and the Seawolves would have wrapped up a home ice spot and probably had a better than .500 record going into the postseason.

Defense: A+
This season the Seawolves gave up 106 goals compared to 141 last year.  That is a dramatic improvement.  Spectacular even.  In 09-10 the squad gave up 14 shorties to opponents; this season the total was 4.  Far fucking out.  Really, I said that.

The all-around effort on the backend by the entire squad was nothing short of excellent.  It only got better and better and better as the season progressed.  I said it somewhere along the line that I'd be surprised to find another Division 1 team that blocked as many shots as our guys.  I stand by that wholeheartedly.  The level of commitment defensively was as high as any fan could expect to see from their team. 

I'm not stranger to hockey games having watched probably at least 1,000 games live and god only knows how many others on TV.  And never before did a single team make me more cognizant that there are two ends of the ice in this sport.  The defensive schemes used and the execution of those by the players were both exceptional.

Goaltending: B
I'm very high on both Rob Gunderson and Chris Kamal.  They both did very well this season and grew into their game as the season progressed.  Both guys though I think are a bit vulnerable to being sniped high.  That's not a horrible criticism to lay on them as many goaltenders would have problems with some of the really talented scorers in the WCHA.  Experience will serve them both well as they each become a little more confident they should both be able to sneak out that extra 12 inches necessary to deny some of those snipers that beat them high this season.

With the criticism out of the way; it must be noted that both of these guys showed good maturity and poise.  You want to see a goaltender who is unflappable and both Chris and Rob were pretty damn close to being just that.  I'm sure both would credit the guys in front of them for giving them the opportunity to play as they did.  Last season, Johhny O and Bryce got bombed all too often by bad defensive breakdowns and got lots less help clearing 2nd chances.  There is room for Rob and Chris to step up their games and that's how it should be for rookies.

Coaching Staff: B+
Last season I gave the staff a C-.  I would have given them an A this year but for the lack of power play production.  The penalty kill was great at 84.9% for the season.  The transition game was smart.  The defensive structure was fantastic.  Breakouts were sharp and confident.  The team was ready to play every game it seemed.  Last year there were nights they didn't seem prepared.  

While I recognize that coaches can't finish for the players they've got to implement a power play system that produces.  So here's where I get to rail against the umbrella power play. I know I'll sound a bit old school when the fact is that the umbrella system is favored by so so many coaches and is virtually the only setup you'll see at the NHL level.  But it ain't getting it done.  

There was a time when power play goals got scored by methods other than wicked first timers from high in the slot and rebounds banged home.  Remember when guys would set up down low and find open back doors?  I know, I know ... penalty killing in the WCHA is ultra-aggressive but jeez other teams find a way to score more than 15% of the time.  Maybe it's just personnel?  I dunno.

Summary:
There was a shitload to be happy about this season.  Lots of that came in the 2nd half and especially in the stretch run.  But that is slightly tempered by a first half where the record was 5-10-3.  Granted that the lineup included a lot of rookies seeing their first action and that 9 of those 10 losses were essentially one goal games.  Nevertheless, it is what it is.

That said, there is so much quality in the 2nd half that will carry over to next season.  Again, the team will be younger than it is experienced but with leadership from the upperclassmen like we saw this year there is every reason to expect to have more success than we saw this year.  This is a team that is trending upward and the future looks bright.  

That whole "playing for each other" pervasive team attitude was beautiful wasn't it?  I hope the guys are all proud of each other and that positive attitude continues.  If it does, then we'll see something very special down the line.

I'll have individual player report cards in the next day or so as I get time to get to them.  But let me finish with an email that Dr. Cobb shared from a family in Minnesota regarding their experience with the Seawolves during the Final Five.
Mr. Cobb,
I would like to take the time to congratulate your hockey team on a fine season.  During the Final Five games on Friday in Minneapolis, I was at the game with my sons and their hockey team.  Sitting close by were a few players from the UAA team who were watching the game.  During the intermission, our players went over to talk with the players from Alaska.  The college players did not brush off the young players but instead talked to them and even signed autographs for the young players.  This has a huge impact on the young guys who went back to the hotel that night and while playing knee hockey were the Alaska Team when they played even taking on the names of the players.  This is a positive reflection on your University, program, and those players who made a difference in the lives of those young players.
 

Too often we hear the bad things about athletes and do not get to acknowledge the positive.  I just wanted to pass this along to you and say thank you to the players.   As a parent and a coach, I appreciate those players taking the time to entertain the younger players and create heroes for them.  Those kids will not forget this and neither will the parents.
Sincerely,

P. O.
Worthington, Minnesota
Awesome stuff Seawolves.  Way to represent.  Thank you all for an enjoyable season and congratulations on all your accomplishments.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

is kirchhevel having problems with his ankle? why didn't he play at the end of the year?

marooned said...

I'm betting that next year, the experts won't write this team off as a bottom feeder.

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

I think with Krich, it was maybe that with some conditioning problems/concerns. Next season I hope he's out there every game, he reminds me a lot of Steve Cygan and Curtis Leinweber.

Anonymous said...

heard kirch might need ankle surgery is this true? how was he this year

Anonymous said...

Schedule for next season is out

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

Link for schedule release:

http://www.goseawolves.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=13400&ATCLID=205125537

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

I like our home schedule, we have a three straight weeks away playing games spread out over Winter Break, then we got three straight home seris' before we hopefully break the curse up their in St.Cloud.

UAAalumni09 said...

Grant signs 2 year deal with NY Rangers

AKfan said...

I like that schedule, and I like that our exhibition game is local, maybe we'll pick up some Wasilla fans?

What's up with season ticket renewal? Contact Mary Beth? WTF? Aren't they even gonna mail out forms? It's bad enough they didn't do the renewals at the last game ... really missed the boat on that one when everyone was riding high ...

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

In the Kendall Classic, were gonna have to watch out for Clarkson, this season they were very good on the road and in neutral sites: 10-7-0 against the likes of St.Lawrence, Lake Superior State and Air Force. As for teh Brice thingy up in _airbanks, Mercyhurst didn't do soo bad on the road and neutral as well: 7-9-3.

Anonymous said...

will the team stay and skate this summer? i am from south dakota so thats why i ask about kirch jw how he is doing

Anonymous said...

@AKFan, season ticket renewals are also going to be mailed out.

arcticfox said...

ND fan @ 3:12 pm ~ When the Summer Elite Hockey League (SEHL: http://www.sehl.net/ ) was playing, quite a few of the UAA players played here all during June & July.

Last season the SEHL took a hiatus, but I haven't heard yet if they'll be back for the upcoming season. Anyone here know? If not, guess I'll go bug Larson & find out.. The league is fun to watch since it's a mix of players from Juniors to college to NHL and everything inbetween. Alaska residents who live here all year or players who come home for the summer, and others who enjoy halibut & salmon fishing and all the other awesome summer activities up here. :)

Seawolves Fanatic: I like the schedule too. But it's too bad that since the weekend of the Governor's Cup coincides with the start of Fur Rondy, that the Saturday night game couldn't be held in Anchorage.

Makes it nice for Fairbanks fans to see the game @ the Carlson Center, then come down here for the World Championship dog races and all the other things that go on during Rondy that Saturday & Sunday.

AKFan: (re: ticket comment) I wonder if Marybeth Wooden is related to Sullivan Arena Manager, Joe Wooden? I'm just guessing, yes.. but what do I know? :p

UAAalumni09: YAY for Tommy!!!

Anonymous said...

so the team has a conditioning program coming up? will kirch come back to sd for the summer even though we don't have ice..will he have an impact on how this team is next year

Anonymous said...

7:03 - my guess is that Justin will head home for the summer soon and will be back here next season ready to rock and roll. And as you said, make an IMPACT!

:-) Go Seawolves!

Anonymous said...

really my guess is that he will stay there this summer and skate? i didn't see any games this year..did he help the team at all? why didn't he play much this year?

Anonymous said...

i didn't see any "special" from him. he seems to have a lot of medical issues with his ankle and his shoulder. seawolves have a lot of incoming talent, we'll see if he gets any playing time at all next season

Anonymous said...

that's crazy because people earlier said that he will have an impact next year..was he hurt all year? i am from sd so i don't hear much about him anymore

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

You know of what I just thought off, whose going to be our captain next season?? Well we even have one, or just have a bizillion assistants?? D I know you like Chris Crowell, but I'm thinking Portwood, Warner and Currier as the top runners, then maybe Bruijsten, and Gellert as assistants??

Suze said...

I'd add Leinweber's name in there for the captain, he has done whatever the coaches have asked of him, from playing defense to forward.

Donald Dunlop said...

I'll chime in for maintaining the status quo. Seems like having no single player wearing the "C" didn't really harm anything this season. I know such a thing isn't typical in hockey but when I think back I've seen the extra responsibility a player feels or takes on his shoulders with that letter perhaps (and I stress the word perhaps) led to less production?

So maybe the opposite helped contribute to the really solid "team ethic" that the guys had this season? I don't think we can overlook how important it was that everyone (as they say) "played for each other". Does having a guy with a "C" change that?

Donald Dunlop said...

And I should add ...

I wouldn't object to any of the names mentioned.

Anonymous said...

that's crazy because people earlier said that kirch will have an impact next year..was he hurt all year? i am from sd so i don't hear much about him anymore

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

Ohh yeah Suze I forgot about Leinweber ; { I personally don't have a problem with the one "C" or four "A's", but our team is going to be a little different with the departing seniors.

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

Brad Gorham - C
Jade Portwood - A
Chris Crowell - A
Scott Warner - A

Courtesy of goseawolves.com:

http://www.goseawolves.com/ViewArticle.dbml?DB_OEM_ID=13400&ATCLID=205127279

A Seawolves Fanatic said...

Wishful thinking that Gorham will decrease his production of racking up teh penalty minutes??

Anonymous said...

That article does not say that any one player has the "C". It says "Shyiak, who will be entering his seventh year with UAA, has selected seniors Brad Gorham and Jade Portwood and juniors Chris Crowell and Scott Warner to assume the Seawolves’ leadership positions come September".

I'm a bit surprised this has been announced so soon.

Got my season ticket renewal pkg yesterday! Yay!!

Anonymous said...

Donald, lets see the individual report cards!

Anonymous said...

is mark pustin like kirchhevel? will those be two key people that could make this team even better next year? which one do u think will turn out to play more next season

Anonymous said...

I think its going to be Pustin, Kirchevel is injured again I heard, his ankle. Pustin had some good games this past season don't really know why he didn't get to play more. I guess we'll see.

Donald Dunlop said...

I am working on the next report card post. Should be done no later than tomorrow afternoon. Maybe late tonight. Just depends.

Anonymous said...

report card??

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