UAA's opponent's this weekend for the Kendall tournament are Clarkson and then St. Cloud. The Seawolves have never played Clarkson. They play in the ECAC. Every player but one on the roster has eastern ties. I only troll BCHL, AJHL, MJHL, USHL and NAHL junior leagues so I only know something about one Clarkson player. I do know a thing or two about St. Cloud though. So I'll save them for last.
Their colors are green and gold; does that help? Overall, Clarkson is a bit taller and bit bigger than the Seawolves (just a smidgen really). They have 7 seniors on the roster of which 5 are forwards and 2 are goalies. They have 5 juniors with the following breakdown; 2 dmen, 2 forwards and a goalie. 8 sophomores with 2 of them dmen and 6 forwards. Lastly, there are 9 freshman on the roster with 3 forwards and 6 dmen. And we're finally to a player that I know something about.
Freshman Sam Lebrecque played last season with Nanaimo in the BCHL and was a hot recruit commodity. He's a small (5ft 7in) puck moving defenseman reputed to have a great set of tools; skating, passing, shooting and ice sense. He originally verbally committed to Michigan Tech but something or other went awry and he ended up at Clarkson. Clarkson fans will be happy. If he doesn't turn into a force in that league then I'll be surprised.
Is Chase Fuchs a good or bad name for a defenseman? They've got one of those. They've got a couple of brothers (named Zarbo). Their lead returning scorer is sophomore Allan MacPherson who tallied 8 goals and added 15 assists last season in 35 games. Senior (C) Jake Morley was close behind with 7g-15a and senior Nick Tremblay (A) bagged 9g with 13a.
They're fairly young on the back end. Only two of which are upperclassmen (for a total of 4) that have played Divison 1 hockey prior to this season. They do have their returning starting goaltender, Paul Karpowich who last year had a .912 save percentage and 3.05 goals against average.
How does UAA beat Clarkson? Well it's a little early in the season for a coach to rely on strategies and tactics really. Coach Shyiak will pretty much just be putting the lineup out he wants so he can see what he's got. He got some small idea of that last week but in particular this game against Clarkson will be the first real test. No doubt the core of the game plan isn't going to be a lot different than last year. Team defense and opportunistic offense when 5 on 5.
Special teams is of course always a factor so this will be a first view for us fans of whatever improvements may have been made to UAA's power play approach. It's been essentially the same umbrella for the past few seasons; that hasn't led to any great success with the extra man though. My only guess is that UAA may have some speed advantage or at least rink advantage with the big ice. Otherwise, there just isn't enough info to get a sense of how the teams matchup.
Onto St. Cloud whom I allegedly know something about. This year's Huskies II (cos MTU is the real Huskies) is surprisingly similar to last year's Huskies II squad. There's a solid half dozen guys that have the potential to score plenty of goals; senior Drew LeBlanc (and folks down there are twitchy about saying his name right ... for the record .. it's "Leh-Blonnnnn"), sophomore Cam Reid, senior Jared Festler, junior Ben Hanowski, and junior David Eddy are the returners who could bag goals and add to that freshman Joey Holka as a possible scoring threat and you've got what they bring to the ice this weekend. Zero defense.
Yes they have defensemen. And yes, they're reasonably decent hockey players. But Bob Motzko employs the same strategy as Don Lucia: Go forward ... the best defense is a good offense and all that. That style should play right into UAA's strength. The Seawolves commitment to defense extends all through the lineup and we saw prime examples of what is possible throughout the 2nd half of last season and especially down the stretch. Building on that finish is what this year is all about.