With the end of the various conference tournaments yesterday, good mathematics places the Seawolves as the 17th best Division I team out of 58. Bad mathematics places the Seawolves as the 20th best team. Good mathematics says the Seawolves played the 2nd most difficult schedule of all teams. Bad mathematics agrees.
The Seawolves were mathematically better than a fair number of traditionally high finishing or higher profile programs such as, St. Cloud, Maine, BU, Michigan State, Cornell, Northern Michigan and Ohio State among others. The fifteenth and sixteenth teams just ahead of UAA? Minnesota and Wisconsin. UAA's most frequent opponent this season was CC and they finished mathematically in the 13 hole.
There are two ways to look at the fianl league standings in my mind. One is to be happy that a team which wasn't expected by many to do that well, did pretty well. The Seawolves finished with 26 points which was just two short of hosting a first round WCHA playoff series. In their last 19 games they compiled an 11 win and 8 loss record.
Playing well at the end of the season is something every team in this league strives to accomplish. And the Seawolves can be proud of themselves for doing so. They went 5-1 over their last six games and none of those games was on home ice. That's far from anything to sneeze at regardless of the league opponent.
The second way to look at the season is to think what might have been. Had the Seawolves just won three more games they might have hosted a WCHA first round playoff series and possibly been in the NCAA tournament. The first of those three was the early season tournament game against Union. The Seawolves spotted them 3 goals in the first 13 minutes before coming back to even the game with just over 13 minutes remaining, then giving up the game winner with about two and a half minutes remaining. Due to Unions good record through the rest of the season, if UAA had won that game the factors in the math would have been beneficial to the Seawolves. Non-conference games are VERY important.
There were multiple WCHA games where the Seawolves essentially lost their chance at hosting home ice. The 3-2 home ice loss on a Friday and the 2-2 tie the following night versus Mankato jump out of the schedule at me. A 4-3 loss against St. Cloud at home and the 2-2 tie against DU at home also loom large in the WCHA standings race.
But more importantly than the standings and rankings; this team learned valuable lessons for next season and established themselves as a team to take seriously next season in the bid for home ice in the WCHA playoffs. And the staff honed a strategy that will serve the the team well going forward. Next season, the squad will have 19 returning skaters with only two of those guys not having gotten a decent amount of ice time this season.
It'll only be a small group of seniors to lead but 8 juniors will round out the upperclassmen and bring leadership. 8 sophomores will contribute their experience to the underclassmen side of the equation with what looks to be overall a damn fine group of freshman. And damn fine may be understating that a bit.
There can be little doubt that this years squad took a nice sized step forward which makes next season's outlook fairly bright indeed. There'll be nobody looking past the Seawolves next year.
A valid question each off-season is whether or not the returning roster will look exactly as it does at the end of the year. In other words, we gonna lose anyone we aren't expecting to lose? It's always a possibility I suppose. Looking up and down the roster, nothing jumps out at me. But last year nothing jumped out at me and Lee Baldwin jumped unexpectedly.
You can never be certain, personal decisions by individual players can't really be anticipated. But for now, there's no reason to think that any specific player expected to return won't do so. Let's just cross our fingers I suppose that things remain as they are. It's obviously a very tight group of guys and any unexpected losses would be a shame.
Speaking of shame. An average of 3319 folks turned up to watch the 17th best team in all of Division I hockey play each game this season at the Sullivan. That's 53.5% of capacity and 22nd overall out of 58 teams. Shitty programs like Massachusetts, Mankato, Ohio State, Vermont, Bemidji, Mass-Lowell and Cornell put more butts in seats than the Seawolves fans. Hell, even UAF put 3118 in their crappy metal shed every night.
I think that flat out sucks. Lots of people blame the program for bad marketing. I don't think any amount of good marketing would have changed that number much. Winning is supposed to take care of it. But the 2nd half had only one decent sized crowd that I recall.
There was a buzz in the city at the end of the season and had we gotten that much coveted home ice spot, I'm sure the building would have sold out with no problem. I wouldn't have considered that any big deal. I would consider it a big deal if the regular season attendance would get up to where it really should be. At least 5K every home game. And that's at least. If little bergs like St. Cloud, Grand Forks, Colorado Springs and fucking Bemidji can fill their rinks then an alleged "hockey town" like Anchorage sure as shit ought to be doing it as well.
So go slap your neighbors for not turning out. This program and the players deserve far better treatment from hockey fans in this town. And I'm not talking about the fight fans that show up for the Aces. I'm talking about people that know the game. If you take the time to compare "NHL prospects" that show up at Sullivan Arena over the course of the season. There are more playing in the WCHA than the ECHL. The college game is faster, more exiciting and doesn't turn into gong show bullshit ever.
Best of luck to the seniors leaving the squad. We didn't get to see Kane Lafranchise play this season but he's landed on his feet and is doing well with the Aces since joining them. We will follow with great interest to see what the hockey world has in store for Grant, Parky, Haddad, Vidmar and Wiles. If you missed my Senior Tributes to these guys then click on their linked names above to do so.
There's still time for you to lend your voice to the efforts to have Mike Peluso's #24 jersey retired by the Seawolves program. The HOF committee accepts nominations through the end of the month. Just email committee chairman Chris Green ... firstname.lastname@example.org ... to add your voice. I know many UAA fans have already done so. I know also some hockey fans in Minnesota added their voices to this effort so I want to thank them as well.
Peluso is a guy that added great honor to the program through his accomplishments as a professional. He is the only Seawolves alum with his name on the Stanley Cup and is likely to be the only 4 year UAA player to achieve that for quite some time to come.
Yes, Curtis Glencross, Jay Beagle and perhaps Nathan Lawson might all accomplish it one day; but none of those guys were four year players were they? Beagle and Glencross played for two years each here and hence my pride in them as alums just isn't the same. Nathan Lawson played here for three and so I've got a little bit bigger place in my fan heart for him.
If there is anything that I accomplish through this blog that brings me a higher level of pride than helping to have Big Mike's number retired, I just can't think of it. So please, add your voice to the effort if you haven't.
As a follow-up to his piece that ran in the ADN last week regarding putting ice in the proposed new campus sports arena Eric Tuott was on Mike Porcaro's radio show on KENI on Friday. You can listen to the podcast by clicking this link. The show is an hour + in length and Eric's portion begins at minute 34.
Give it a listen. We all know that the best solution for UAA Hockey is to get out of the Sullivan Arena and get our boys playing on the campus. Eric's solution isn't the optimum solution. Honestly, it falls a bit short of what we really need. But that said, it's a big step forward from anything that looks like it will happen as things are now.
The optimum solution was killed off a few years ago. Another good solution was ignored by the UAA administration in favor of whatever grand plan the muckety-mucks see as a future solution. They are happy to maintain the status quo of playing at the Sully until they can politically wrangle their apparently secret grand plan into action.
I want to take a moment here and once again thank everyone who donated to the effort here on the blog this season. My enjoyment in writing here and maintaining this blog is greatly enhanced when I know that it's appreciated. In general, the numbers of readers I see coming here helps me achieve satisfaction but honestly, getting some compensation for the time I spend doing it is a big deal to me. It's a great gauge for me as to how you readers feel about the efforts.
I haven't decided how best to move forward and may or may not make what I consider major changes going into next season. We'll see, I'm going to try to evaluate how best to provide the content and still achieve some compensatory feedback. I'm considering a number of ways to do that. The "donation model" I currently use has some serious drawbacks in my mind. I'm averse to putting advertising here but I suspect if I did it would have been close to matching the donation total. Of course, putting advertising (depending on the methodology) could be more work for me.
Of the $1167.00 total you see there are a couple of readers who made up more than 20% of the total with their dual generosity. I like the "community mindedness" of the donation effort but am less than thrilled with it's results. Don't get me wrong, I am deeply appreciative of every penny that was contributed. But only 29 people "chipped in". I assume that there are at least 200 regular daily readers here. So does that mean 171 people just don't care? I guess I'm not sure. I read stuff on the internet that I'm thankful for and don't click donate buttons either ... so there's that.
I hope none of that sounds ungrateful. I'm thrilled with the overall community as it's grown this season. The number of different folks participating here is great. Any changes I make in the future will take into consideration maximizing reader participation. I recognize that the current structure of posting here sometimes interrupts the flow of that participation. One new post often kills a conversation on the previous post so I'll make some sort of effort to alleviate that.
Lastly today, I want to thank JJ for coming on board and bringing us the nightly post game interviews. Just from my perspective as a fan, it's great to get to see what the guys and the coach have to say after a game. As far as I'm concerned he's a natural at the interviews. It adds hugely to the blog content and for that I'd like to find some way to more personally thank him ... and I will do that for you JJ; you have my word.
Thanks also to the staff at the UAA Atheletic Dept for their assistance in making the blog go well this season. In particular Dallas Baldwin, Jane Pallister and Dr. Cobb for their information and help whenever a question needed an answer and/or some special arrangement for "this or that" was needed.
And as always, thanks to Richard Leary for all his efforts in supporting me and JJ. Richard is "The Man". Thanks also to all those other volunteers that make things go at the rink. The Blueliners as usual did a great job with their end of things.