It's that time of year again when after this weekend we fans won't get to see some of our favorite players in Seawolves Green and Gold on their home ice ever again. It's always somewhat bittersweet to write these senior tributes because there's never a time when I didn't wish the NCAA had five years of eligibility in it's rulebook.
This year's graduating senior class is Brad Gorham, Curtis Leinweber, Jade Portwood and Dusan Sidor. Finishing 4 years of schooling combined with playing this level of hockey is an accomplishment to be hailed. These four young men represent the pinnacle of what being a successful NCAA student-athlete is all about.
Brad played college hockey as a freshman at Ohio State and after appearing in only 12 games there transferred back home to UAA. Since arriving Brad has shown maturity and determination. His physical play has been big even though at 6ft even and 190lbs he isn't what one would typically describe as big.
One of my first hockey impressions about Brad was just how successful and effective his poke check was. A good poke check is like anything else in this sport we love, it requires timing, coordination and even a bit of risk. Brad is as good stopping an opposition player at the blueline with a poke check as any defensemen I can recall.
Brad hasn't been any WCHA referee's favorite player if you ask me. He's been unfortunately tagged with more phantom major penalties than reason can explain. But none of that seems to have dampened his always focused and positive play. This year has seen him reach a statistical high with a goal and 8 assists but such things don't paint an accurate picture of his offensive abilities. Brad always rushed the puck with his head up and was never shy about carrying it right through the zone looking for a pass or opportunity to shoot.
According the ADN, Brad has accepted a job with BP versus pursuing a hockey career. I know I can speak for all UAA fans when I wish him all the best in this next phase of his life. We'll miss him on the ice.
There can be little doubt that this season Curtis Leinweber has been the most dynamic player in a Seawolves jersey. Curtis makes things happen in an instant and often at unexpected times. His confidence in his ability with the puck is obvious from the balcony. I have never seen him play better hockey than he has been playing over the last few weeks.
If Curtis is looking to pursue hockey as a career I sure hope there's an AHL scout out there somewhere who can sell his team on giving Curtis a good look. He could do really well in that league. He's become so strong and uses his center of gravity to stay on the puck while dipping in and out the frenzy of defenders he attracts and still manages to find a way to get the puck to the net. The crowd at the Sullivan knows when Curtis gets the puck that they might as well get on the edge of their seats; cos if they don't at first they probably will in a short time anyway.
It's been a pleasure to watch Curtis throughout his career and see his growth and maturity as a hockey player. His departure will leave a big hole to fill in the Seawolves lineup.
If there has been a harder working, more committed player in a Seawolves uniform over the last four years I'm hard pressed to think of a name. That certainly isn't meant as a shot at a list of guys in the recent past that have worked their asses off. Instead, it just highlights the extent to which Jade is willing to give of himself on the ice for his team.
Jade has been a positively disruptive penalty killer on ever penalty he ever helped kill. He's got good size at 6'3" and 210lbs and can definitely bang. His wheels don't match his size as he can pretty much get up and down the ice with anyone. He's been the best example that a coach could have of how to work the puck in the offensive end for possession. He may not have broken off the wall to the goal and scored as often as we'd all have liked but he's made it exciting nonetheless. With that said, a couple of his goals have been quite hightlight worthy.
Going forward I can imagine that Jade is the sort of player who'll have success wherever a team is looking for the kind of player he is. And any team that isn't interested in a power forward who'll do whatever it takes to succeed then they're a fool. Best of luck to him regardless of whether or not he pursues professional hockey. The character he's shown here in his play and his commitment to the team and education will serve him well regardless of the path he takes.
When a guy has been on a team as long as Dusan and only appeared in 3 games it would seem pretty tough to write about him as a hockey player. Yet it really isn't.
Dusan is the Seawolf player that every hockey team has. He's the guy that shows up to every practice and puts in the work. Work that makes every player on his team better.
College sports and hockey in particular are full of guys like Dusan. They are the guys who toil in anonymity yet is every bit a part of the team as first line center who's scoring 30 goals.
It's a crucial role and one I'm sure that no teammate overlooks. Guys like him are the engine that makes college sports go. They're in it the love of the sport knowing that individual glory isn't going to be part of their career. Thanks from me for all that effort and work Dusan; you have a special place in our fan hearts.
Congratulations to all four of these fine men on reaching the completion of their UAA hockey careers. They're all excellent additions to the list of hockey alumni who have given us fans all the joys and heartbreaks that go with being a sports fan. All the best.