I got my brain back a couple of days early. So I'm going to put it to use here and tell everyone what the Seawolves will have to do in order to make their trip back to Anchorage as short as possible. Yeah, um … they need to win. But I have lots more than that. Here's how they win two games this weekend … according to my precognitive analysis.
This won't be the same Maine team that lost to our guys and UA_ in the Kendall Classic. It'll be the same players and coaches but this Maine team is going to be hell-bent on giving their fans something other than the big fat ZERO they have at the front of their win-loss record. After looking reasonably good in an 8-3 drubbing of University of New Brunswick in their exhibition, it's been nothing but sorrow for the Black Bears.
3-1 loss to UAA, 5-2 to UA_ then a 3-0 shutout and a 5-2 loss to Union this last weekend. Cumulative score -- 16 to 5. That's 4.0 goals against per game and 1.25 goals for per game. The stats aren't pretty for Maine with the exception of their penalty kill which is 83.3%. Their power play is 5.9%.
This was a Maine team that had some expectations to be better than last year's 16-15-4 team. This will be a weekend with high motivation from Maine players to begin to show those expectations weren't just blathering Mainiacs but instead were reasonable. This is a series that for UAA is full of danger from a team that is going to compete much harder than anything they've faced this year and maybe anything they'll face the rest of the season. For the Black Bears, a ton of reputation and pride is on the line. And don't think for a second that UAA carrying a #20 poll ranking isn't a motivating factor.
It isn't often that the Seawolves have a target on their back coming into a series. This weekend they do.
Win Friday night and the Black Bears will come at you harder on Saturday. Don't win on Friday night and they've got boatloads of momentum to overcome.
I expect that the Seawolves will try to control the flow of the game early on Friday. We won't see a lot of forechecking from them in the first period. I don't think Thomas will go so far as to let the game come to them (as Wisconsin did against UA_) but I think we'll see an emphasis on defensive play first with a focus on staying out of the box. Supporting the goalie, clearing the puck and making Maine go 180ft should be the priority.
We'll have to pick and choose our moments to counter-attack and those will need to pay off. Scoring first will be big. If UAA scores first on Friday they can continue to dictate the pace of the game and make Maine push. Keep the defense sound and more opportunities to counter will come. They'll need to frustrate this opponent a bit and that may mean some tactical neutral zone trapping and/or even trapping high in their zone at times.
I think the Seawolves are the better, faster and more skilled team in this match-up. But I don't think they can just open the game up and depend on skills to tip the balance, particularly on Friday. Staying out of the box is of course always helpful and naturally when they have power play chances they'll need to find a way to capitalize.
Allen, Tatchell and Cameron need to be "ON" Friday night; these three guys can do both pretty and gritty, let's hope they show both and dominate. Red Gendron needs to fear our 1st line and they need to make him know why he feared them. If they can lead then everyone else will follow and I think we'll see some balanced scoring from the rest of the lines.
I've said it more than once and I might as well say it again. This Seawolves Hockey team has a 1st line and three 2nd lines right now. Secondary scoring (I don't like to describe it that way really) is likely to come from any of the other three lines and/or the blueliners.
I think we have the team to win both of these games. Winning either night is going to be a result smart coaching and players executing at their best in all three zones. The Black Bears are better than their 0-4 record and I've no doubt we'll see that this weekend. Dare I say that the Seawolves are better than their 3-0-1 record and we'll need to see that this weekend for our young men to have the shortest possible plane ride home.
I'm going to go out on a bit of a limb here (since I'm all predictive here) and pick Hudson Friesen, Matt Anholt and Brad Duwe to have a good weekend.
So that's me all looking into the future and stuff. Let's get the sweep and finish the non-conference schedule undefeated. The next home series is parent's weekend against Lake State. Who doesn't want their parents to come into the Sully that Friday night to watch their 5-0-1 boys play the Lakers?