Tonight I saw a Seawolf hockey team playing not to lose. I suspect that was in part by design. Coach Thomas watched Mankato tape and is familiar enough with them over the last two years to know that UAA would be facing one of the best all around squads he has faced during his tenure. And fresh off a successful defensive effort vs Penn State he set out with a similar strategy tonight.
But while the Seawolves were able to muster some offense against Penn State, tonight they weren't able to muster more than a dozen shots on the night. Twelve.
Playing defense first against a team who's game plan is to make you go 200ft isn't going to result in a flurry of offensive opportunities. And when that team is as offensively talented as Mankato, even Olivier Mantha isn't going to stop everything. And when that team gets 7 power plays, well you're going to be on your heels with the PK for a full quarter of the game and ain't nobody's legs got time for that.
Maybe Olivier Mantha deserves a rest. Jared D'Amico has to play. Mantha is the man but the guys up front (and perhaps the coaching staff too) may be taking him for granted a bit. I don't mean that they are consciously doing so, but just knowing so well that Mantha is going to play at that high level has got to have an unconscious effect.
How about some high zone trapping against these guys? Make them go 200ft and in the process force turnovers in their half of the ice and capitalize? Our guys always look good attacking in transition and pressuring Mankato when they have the puck deep in their end ought to create some chances. We've got quickness up front to do that (Jackstadt and Hubbs) as well as smart players (Anholt, Tatchell) to forecheck effectively on their own while the holding/locked players wait to pounce.
Well, that's what I'd do. What I think we'll see instead is Coach Thomas do everything he can to open up the game. I imagine we won't see the same sort of patient defense-first team effort and that we'll just try to run and gun with Mankato. That might not be a bad way to go. We've got enough talent to pop in 4 goals on any team on any given night. That's what I expect to see since nobody but me likes the Neutral Zone or High Zone Trap.
You be the coach. What would you do?