Win at home and split on the road. That's the WCHA mantra for finishing high in the standings. We didn't do that either of the last two home weekends, but the offsetting value of the very different lessons learned versus Bowling Green and Ferris cannot be denied.
On Friday night our boys made themselves victims of referee who was already geared up to make a role for himself in the game. It happens, refs have egos. But I suspect the bigger factor in all those calls against UAA were the UAA players. Coach Thomas made it pretty clear that Seawolf players put themselves in the position to get called and told how they reviewed each of the penalties with the players. That turned out to be a perfect coaching strategy for Saturday. It's a lesson well-learned that shouldn't be forgotten over the course of the season and possibly making Friday's OT loss more important/valuable than Saturday's impressive win.
Over the last two series this Seawolf team should have learned that they can go toe-to-toe with anyone. They have no reasons to be less than confident in themselves and their teammates. In three out of four games they outplayed two teams who were more highly regarded. I'm not one to place a lot of stock in who the unwashed college hockey pollsters prefer as top teams but that aside, the Seawolves got it done against expectations.
A disciplined approach to preparation which keeps a focus on the lessons learned will allow application of those lessons which in turn will build success over time. In other words, knowing how to avoid taking penalties, knowing the necessary effort one must give to get a win in this league and practicing your ass off with those lessons in mind will equal a winning record this season.
Believing in oneself and one's team is the preferred state of mind for success. There's lots of signs that the Seawolves are strongly trending toward that state.
Let's talk a bit about the league. UAA sits in a 4th place tie with NMU ... behind MTU, Mankato and Ferris. Tech has played 10 games for their 12 points. Mankato has played 6 games for their 10 points. Ferris has played 8 games for it's 8 points and both UAA and NMU have played 6 for their 7 points.
Mankato was the preseason favorite and they sure look to be the strongest team in the league. They've had some out of conference woes but are 5-1 in league games. Count on them to win the league, count on them to be in the top 10 poll-wise as the season progresses. After them, I think it's really pretty wide open. MTU isn't as good as they were billed ... perhaps I could have said "yet" and I'm going to guess they'll be in the mix at the top come season end. As for 3rd through 8th? It's really just guessing at this point. The Seawolves are currently well positioned but Ferris, BG, NMU, UA_ and UAH are far from out of the race for home ice (there's lots of hockey to be played obviously).
UAA's good showing in non-conference is already and looks to continue to be a boon for it mathematically. RPI and St. Cloud (maybe the best team in the country so far) have both played strong in the early season and our games against them have UAA's strength of schedule in a good place. In another month or so the number of iterations necessary to make KRACH valid will have occurred. It's early to attach any mathematical significance to UAA's current #16 position. The games against Penn State this weekend will factor heavily into the equation and we'll start to see more meaning in the numbers.
Blake Tatchell leads the WCHA in scoring with 4 goals and 9 assists. Matt Anholt, Jeremiah Luedtke and Tad Kozun are all in the top 15 league-wide. Tad Kozun's six goals is tied for 1st in the league though when measured as gpg he sit's in 4th while leading the league in power play goals with 4.
3 of the top 5 scoring freshman in the WCHA are Seawolves. Jeremiah Luedtke, Mason Mitchell and Wyatt Ege have all produced nicely. Before the season started, it was clear to me when reading various previews that nobody had done their homework on UAA's rookies. In my book, I had us as one of the top classes of freshman ... I think now we clearly have the best freshmen in the league.
Isn't it fun to see Wisconsin sucking eggs? The amount of over-pumped chest-thumping noise out of Madison over the last 15 years was pretty tiresome. So excuse me if I revel in their horrid play and misery. I don't feel bad for them or their fans. BIG Ten hockey is a bit of a joke all around at this point.
CC looks to be well on their way to permanent misery. Do I feel sorry for them? Nope. Let them sit in last place forever in the Butt Hurt Hockey Conference. Won't bother me. In. The. Least.
Time to finish up by singing the praises of a Seawolf player that I've already not mentioned enough this season and that I'll probably continue to take for granted at times. Olivier Mantha is one of the best goaltenders in Division 1 hockey. Other guys get more press and there's even a bit of "journalisitic hyping" of certain goalies. I did say at the beginning of the season that much of UAA's success will be directly related to Mantha's performance. And so far, that's holding up.
This team though is capable of winning games without Mantha in the net and/or if he has a bad night. Still though, the guy is so super steady that it's easy to overlook his contributions. He's at .914 with 2.4ga ... and that's with the team playing a couple of stinkers in front of him this season. I love that he's from a place called "La Tuque" (and that there's a place in Canadia called "La Tuque").
I think the next time Olivier gets a shutout we fans should litter the ice with our wool knit caps. It could be the start of a cool tradition. He'll be the first NHL'r from La Tuque and when he gets his first NHL shutout it'll be cool to see all the tuques tossed in his honor and know we started that.