Thursday, November 30, 2006

How to Beat a Bulldog

In my limited experience with Bulldogs I've found that a good sized switch will usually do the job. When the continuous wheezing and spiteful pissing in the corner gets to be too much; go out to the backyard Willow tree and cut something about a half-inch in diameter (it should be small enough to flex but not so large as to break bones). After it thaws ... go to town on the ingrate (you feed 'em ... walk 'em ... buy them stoopid chew toys and they repay you by crapping in the kitchen the first time you run up to the store for some sour cream? ... Pffftt). Bulldogs are stubborn as hell and they just can't learn a lesson without a good beating. I know Cesar Millan would try all that dog/owner psycho-mumbo-jumbo to fix the dog's bad habits but with Bulldogs that is never the case. It isn't your fault: The lack of oxygen to their brains simply won't allow them to learn anything without some welts on their ass to remind them. Go ahead ... report me to the SPCA.

Hockey Bulldogs are a different story. Sure ... you can take a Willow switch and give 'em a good beating but the referee will send you to the doghouse. What kind of world is that? In order to beat UMD this weekend the Seawolves (By the way ... the most well behaved mythical dog-like creature ever) will have to do 3 things in my mind: involve the D offensively; convert on the PP; and maintain focus and effort.

Coach Shyiak and the players often speak about getting their "cycle" working well as a key to getting offensive pressure. The idea is to work the puck down low until someone can break to the front of the net and then get the puck to them. It's a sound forechecking philosophy and we've seen it work for the 'Wolves. With a couple of weeks off to work on it I'm hopeful that we fans will see a couple of pucks make their way back to the point. I know forwards historically don't trust defensemen. It's a carryover from youth hockey when most passes back to the D were fumbled and mishandled. It's brutal to watch defensemen standing on the points picking their noses. So the first key to victory this week is to get the Dmen more involved when the cycle is working the puck. UMD is a good defensively (positionally) in their zone and spreading the puck around the zone should help.

The second key is (as it usually is) special teams. The Seawolf PK has been especially good this season and the sort of comittment that penalty killers have shown will need to continue. Equally important will be UAA's ability to screen Stalock and have players in position to pounce on rebounds. Against UND Coach Shyiak seemed to know that putting pucks at Greico's feet would be a good strategy and doing exactly that created a couple of easy goals. I don't have any advice as to where Stalock's weaknesses might be but the kid is a freshman ... so there's got to be something he doesn't do well. I'll trust that the hours Shyiak, Whitten and Blair spend watching tapes will have revealed something. UMD has a nice percentage on the PP but honestly a large chunk of that comes from one game; the point being that there aren't any "special" worries on the kill.

The 3rd key this weekend is focus. 60 minutes of 110% on Friday night and 60 minutes of the same on Saturday. It's an important series in terms of points for UAA and every player is going to need to put out that sort of effort on every shift if the Seawolves want to improve/maintain thier league standing. I haven't seen much in terms of not being focused from the players during games this year (nice double negative eh?). Coach Shyiak seems to have everyone on the same page when it comes to playing hard for the whole game. With the extra week of rest sometimes a team can come out flat at first. That will be just the kind of opportunity that UMD will be looking for. It's a door that UAA can't afford to leave open.

The Skinny on the Bulldogs

There's a favorite way for the worst of fans on the internet to express themselves about a situation like UAA is facing this weekend. There's always some "Joe Bumpus" who chimes in with the "If we want X ... then we better not be losing to a team like U of whatever". It's a simpleminded way of both elevating their team and demeaning the other. I know this because over the past five or six years I've seen exactly that crap said about UAA over and over. They say it out of both ignorance and arrogance. Ignorance because easily 90 percent of the these "fans" don't bother for an instant to learn anything about their opponent. (I'm going to stop reading the USCHO fan boards ... there really is almost nothing useful there save for the occassional insight by 10 percent of fans).

An example of ignorance (maybe it was just laziness) this week would be whoever wrote the press release for UMD. It's been corrected; but the original stated that UAA had been idle since being swept by UND in Grand Forks two weekends ago. And that came from the UMD sports information department. I mentioned arrogance because regardless of the situation you'd never get that 90% to admit that it's possible their team could lose. And then when they do lose; it wasn't ever because the other team played a good game. It's always because their boys had an off night or the referee screwed them. I suppose it's the nature of famdom. I'll give props though to the UMD fanbase because I've seen less of that over the last few years from them than any other school in the WCHA. The truth is (ask any WCHA coach) is that every single night in league play has a lot of potential to be a real battle.

I sound a bit resentful about it because in the past I've always (at minimum) given the other teams roster and their stats an extended look. Since starting this blog almost a year ago I've found it impossible to write about another team without doing quite a bit more research than that.

So here's the product of that research this week. Another boring look at another opponent. I'll start at the backend of the lineup. Freshman goalie Alex Stalock has been superior pretty much all season for the Bulldogs. He's very mobile and handles the puck very well giving UMD that "third defenseman" in the same way Nathan Lawson does for our beloved Seawolves. His GAA (a stat that reflects team defense) is a very respectable 2.62 and his .903 save percentage isn't shabby. He's athletic and more than capable. Of note on the blueline is the talented sophomore Matt Niskanen who has excellent offensive tools. He can skate, pass and shoot with the best of WCHA dmen. He's currently the 2nd leading scorer on the team. The rest of the blueliners and the team's overall defensive efforts have been good enough to keep the goals against average at 3.08. Up front the players that will give UAA the most trouble are likely to be sophomore Mason Raymond (4g-7a), sophomore MacGregor Sharp (5g-3a), sophomore Micheal Gergen (3g-3a) and senior Bryan McGregor (2g-3a). I managed to watch both of the UMD -UMTC games on FSN a few weeks ago and I was fairly impressed with the guys I've mentioned above. By all accounts the team is playing hard enough to satisfy their fans as to effort. Junior Matt McKnight is injured and won't play this weekend. There's much frustration though with the squad's inability to score of late but in early season game against UMass-Lowell they put the puck away 7 times and lit up Northern Michigan early in November for a 6 pack.

The Bulldogs are perhaps suffering from a bit of the ol' sophomore slump rather than the preferred super-soph effect. With 10 sophomores in the lineup regularly that isn't what Bulldogs fans were hoping for. In my early season look at the WCHA I noted that UMD "should" see an improvement from their 11 wins last season. Sporting a 3-7-3 overal record with just 1 WCHA win in their first 10 league games it isn't looking bright in Duluth. The biggest mitigating factor in my mind is that 6 of their first 10 league games have been against teams currently in the upper tier (UMTC, DU, SCSU). Facing what should be a determined and focused Seawolf team here at the Sully probably isn't the best situation for UMD to begin to put any sort of streak together. But fear not for them as the rest of their December schedule is filled with games against teams that could gain them more than just a few wins (even if it is mostly on the road). Stylewise the Bulldogs play a classic WCHA game combining hitting (an advantage on their tiny home rink) and skating. We shouldn't see any major surprises in strategy from Sandelin.

So that's that. I wouldn't exactly call what I've given here any sort of great scouting report but it's a helluva lot more than the ignorant/arrogant internet crowd will ever likely produce to back up their bombast. I'll have a "keys to winning" post tomorrow and give any updates I have about what to expect from the Seawolves.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

RWD's Gauntlet: I Showered Afterward

When a foe throws down the Gauntlet there's naught left to do but pick it up. Such was the case earlier today when Duluth blogger-extraordinaire Runnin' With The Dogs issued the challenge. What else was I to do but submit to the cross-examination? Of course, it has to be known that RWD retained complete editorial control.

The "interview" was cordial at first; but as it progressed I sensed from the line of questioning that something might not be quite right. For hours it seemed (ok ... maybe it was only an hour), I was cajoled in an attempt to reveal some deep dark secret. The heat and intensity of the interview continued but even with my cranium and torso dripping with nervous sweat, I managed to keep those deep dark secrets where they should always remain. She has no idea I shave my head and wear shorts everyday regardless of the weather! I completely and totally hid those facts! I'm so proud of me.

Seriously though, go check it out and drive her page hit counter through the roof.

Pivotal Series: UAA vs. UMD

This weekend UAA fans will get a chance to watch the Seawolves cheaply. First, kids 12 and under can get in free if they're wearing green and gold. Second, adults wearing green and gold can get into the Sully for 5 bucks. To get this discount just go to the "student table" at the NW entrance starting one hour prior to the game. I'll be taking advantage of that deal. Getting in for one-third the usual price is too good to pass up.

This is the first pivotal WCHA series for UAA this season. Before this weekend UAA had important conference games but because they were early they didn't hold the promise this one does. If UAA can continue its good play and come away with 4 points they strengthen their position in the middle of the standings giving themselves the necessary placing to start thinking about finishing in a position for a home-ice playoff series. If they don't get 4 points it's back to square one in a lot of ways. There's a huge difference at stake. The Seawolves can be locked in a battle 5th/6th place or they can return to the lower echelon and fight for 9th place. Only 4 points separate them from that. One series is all it would take at this point. There is NO cushion. Pivotal is the best word for it and opportunity should be the watch word.

It's an opportunity because those teams close to UAA in the standings are both facing teams that are above them in the standings. MTU goes up against their namesake copiers (Huskies II). And CC has its first series of the year with 2nd place DU. CC isn't going to sweep DU. DU probably won't sweep CC. It's a rivalry thing. So , CC won't move up in the standings with just a split. Nobody has swept St. Bob so far this season and MTU has been getting it done with defense. Doubtless that MTU can sweep. Call that series a split and you see that the biggest opportunity in the WCHA weekend rests with UAA (unless you think Mankato has an "opportunitiy" against the Gophers). It's time for the second UAA series sweep of the year.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

WCHA: Team By Team

It was nice to have a couple of days off without having to find something to write about. Since the opening game of the season (Sept. 30th) I've made 60 posts. There's been a few days here and there where I didn't post anything and a few days where I made more than one. I didn't intend it that way but part of being a blowhard is keeping busy. With the Seawolves off-week there's been really only one thing I was hoping for; a release from the school detailing the recruits they've signed. But the UAA SID is all quiet on that front; I assume because they've been pretty busy with Great Alaska Shootout stuff. I expect since I mention it here that I'll end up looking impatient when they release the info Monday. Anything else that I've considered writing would really just be a rehash of all I've written in the past 60 days about the Seawolves. I'll get to the upcoming UMD series in the next 48 hours but before that I thought I'd pontificate about the WCHA. So ... team by team from top to bottom here's what I got:

Virtually indomitable. With the only blemishes on their record an opening season loss to Maine and 2 ties with St. Bob, the biggest question with the Gophers seems to be, "How many games can they win this year?". Without speculating about the NCAA's, the Gophers could win 34 games in the regular season. To do so they'd have to win every remaining game they play. It's possible ... but lets be realistic. They've got to have an off night somewhere along the road. It could be said their top two lines had an off night on Saturday against Michigan. And look what happened: The 3rd and 4th lines only scored 75 percent of their 8 goals against the #7 team in the country. Are they really that good? Yup. I don't think they'll win 34 games in the regular season but I wouldn't bet against more than 30. They play the foundering Mavericks next week before coming up against MTU and then they've got Alabama-Huntsville and the winner of Ferris/Mass then back to the foundering Mavericks. Will they lose any of those 8 games? Only if they have a very bad night. They're a lock for the WCHA regular season title unless they blow a head gasket (or pick up Phil Kessel on waivers). Bank on it.

Sitting pretty in 2nd place are the Pioneers. With no losses in November the Pioneers have got to be gaining confidence. In my mind there were a lot of questions to be answered as to whether the Pioneers could overcome the losses from last season. But their freshman are starting to produce at key times. Most of their veterans have stepped up their games from last season. And goaltending has proved to be solid. But indomitable they're not. I don't think it would be inaccurate to say that the remaining schedule for the Pioneers holds quite a few challenges that the first 2 months didn't. They've got 4 games to play against CC for one. They haven't played the Gophers yet and still have UAA, St. Bob, MTU, and UND to play (all of who look to at least "contend" for home ice). Gwoz has to be pretty upbeat about where the team is though with only 2 conference losses in the 8 WCHA games they've played. Can they approach the Gophers though? Um ... real unlikely. The Pioneers will face somewhat of struggle to maintain their 2nd place standing but I'd give even odds that they'll manage it.

North Dakota
On Saturday the 3rd place Sioux broke a 4 game winless streak with a convincing 5-2 win at Colorado College. But unlike DU the Sioux aren't proven yet. They split with a struggling Badger team. Swept MSU-M, took 3 points against St. Bob at the Ralph, got swept up here and split with CC (at the Ralph again). They'll likely not be able to "prove" themselves in December as well with games against Bucky and Tech. If they sweep those WCHA series then they'll just be on the cusp of proving themselves. They're young (but who isn't) and seem to have questions in the goal. Their normally good offensive output is a big question as well. Will their sophmore "phenoms" step it up and provide the leadership to keep this team in the top tier? Dean Blais always had a reputation of bringing his teams along to be ultra-competitive by the end of the season. I've heard the same thing about Hakstol but there isn't enough history there to give him that sort of credit. Could UND implode? Maybe. I wouldn't count on it. The better their sophmore "phenoms" play in the remainder of the season the better their NHL contract offers will be next summer. Not every "phenom" is getting the max signing bonus under the new CBA. If Toews and Oshie want that bad enough it might be the motivation they need to keep UND in the top half. If they don't produce then it's possible they could slip.

Jan Brady State University
Tied for 3rd place with UND, I think St. Bob has less questions to answer than UND. They had a helluva good couple of games with the "indomitable" Gophers and their freshman tandem of Nodl and Lasch have proven to be pretty dependable scorers. There is some inconsistency in the rest of the lineup that is driving certain bandwagon dufus fans crazy in Polaris-land. One week this contingent of dumbasses is singing their praises and the next they're decrying them as losers (to be fair ... there are 4 SCSU fans that are cool). That's what happens with years and years of choking when it really counts. Huskies II "seem" to be getting it done though. Goepfert is in good form and is the kind of goalie that could win ANY game for them. With only one loss in November and coming off a sweep of UMD in Duluth, St. Bob looks to go into the new year no lower than 4th in the league; but certainly no higher than 3rd since their only conference series in December is a tough MTU team. January will likely be their pivotal month (even though February looks tougher on paper). If they can come out of those 4 series (UAA, MSU-M, UMD, and DU) with 10-12 points they'll likely earn a home ice spot.

Colorado College
To be succinct and direct ... CC lost a shitload of scoring from last season's team. They survived a serious bout of strep and mono that threatened to pervade the team and they're sitting in 5th place 2 points ahead of UAA and MTU. They had an awesome November winning 5 of 6 games to earn that 10 points. They swept MTU in the Springs. They swept MSU-M in the Springs. They split with UND at the Ralph. Thats winning at home and splitting on the road. That's how you get it done in the WCHA. They've got 10 more home games and 10 more road games to go. The only WCHA opponent that has an upperhand on the Tigers is ... gee ... guess who? The Gophers. Even though they've had some nice success I'd have to put CC in the unproven category. For me it remains to be seen whether they'll surprise the pundits (as they have so far) or live up to their preseason billing as a team deep in the throes of rebuilding. Scott Owens has to be pleased though. It will be a challenge to earn home ice but I'd have to give them even odds at accomplishing that. If they do ... then I'd call their season quite successful. It ain't 1957 but hey ... so far so good.

A 4 win 2 loss November is nice and all but both of the two losses that UAA suffered were pretty critical. A loss to Wisconsin in OT hurt when it was a game that the Seawolves probably should have won. And the loss to MSU-M was worse in terms of the whole "points lost" argument. UAA has much to prove and a challenging December schedule will likely answer some of the quesitons. The biggest one being "Is UAA for real?". The sweep of UND was nice and all but let's face facts. It was only one series. The Seawolves were badly swept by MTU at the end of October, then split the next two series before knocking off UND. I believe UAA is "for real". But there isn't enough proof to make my belief a fact. UMD, CC, DU and UAF await in December. If UAA improves its win total to 12 by year end then they won't "surprise" anyone in 07. If they go 4-4 in December then they'll have to hope to continue to improve in order to "make noise" at the end of the year. Home ice? Possible. Probable? Ask me in January. But of course I'm convinced that the team is better than it's current record and looking at the remaining schedule I see almost 25 confernce points that they should earn.

Another team with the "Are they for real?" question dogging them. One thing that is for sure is that MTU is for real in a defensive sense. They've given up the fewest goals in the WCHA. And while their sophmore goalies have nice numbers the real story is the effort that this team has put out in supporting their goalies in their end. 4 of MTU's 8 points have come in the two wins that UAA gave them. 3 came against last place UMD and they managed a tie in two games at DU. The real Huskies though have by all accounts been playing good solid hockey. The "for real or not" question will be mostly answered in December. MTU next hosts St. Bob and Minnesota before going to Grand Forks. Get anything less than 6 points out of those possible 12 and the question will remain. More than 6 points though and teams currently ahead of MTU better play their best in 07. Once upon a time there was a Jamie that made some noise in the WCHA. Whether Jamie Russell can live up to Jamie Ram's legacy though is yet to be seen for this year. For now though MTU fans can be hopeful for not only the rest of the season but for the coming years as well. Home ice is not out of the question but remains a tall order.

Bucky. Bucky. Bucky. Having played 2 more games than 5 of the 7 teams above the Badgers in the standings doesn't bode well for the defending national champions. Everyone in Madison suspected Udubya would struggle to score but I doubt anyone would have predicted that at this point in the season there'd be only 11 teams in the NCAA that have scored less goals than the Badgers and none of those are in the WCHA. The good news is that 6 other WCHA teams have given up more goals and they broke a 6 game losing streak this weekend against Michigan State. If Jack Skille's return to the lineup is anything less than a Paul Kariya type season the Badgers will likely continue thier goal scoring woes. At this point I'd say home ice is a possibility but will take a Herculean effort. But of course efforts like that aren't beyond the realm of possibility. Will they get there? I guess that's up to everyone ahead of them in the standings ... particularly UAA and MTU.

Success this year for Mankato "may" be measured by their ability to stay out of the basement. Of course if there is some stumbling above them and the Mavericks put together any sort of run then they could climb in the standings. A miracle could land them in a race for home ice. But there aren't too many miracles in the last decade in this league. Not many at all. 8th place could happen. 7th even if the team can find some confidence but from experience I'd say that when you get to the 2nd half of the season and are in the basement, that confidence is something that can't be manufactured. Any major improvement is a very tall order.

Is it possible to talk about UMD's season without speculating about Sandelin's future there? Fairly or not, he got a lot of criticism a couple of years ago coaching what was supposed to be a "great" U.S. team in the World Championships. The struggles since Bulldog's run in 03-04 to the Frozen Four along with that Jr. coaching performance is dogging Sandelin. Lots of hockey folks would say it's too early to be calling for his head. I'd agree ... but I don't think evaluating him in those terms is unfair. He did have a helluva squad at the World Juniors and didn't seem to do anything to get that team to come together and perform like that could have. I think this years UMD squad has much more talent than Mankato yet look who they're tied with in the basement. Whether its a tactical problem or a motivational problem I really have no idea. But if I were a Duluth fan I'd be calling for his head if they don't climb out this year. Harsh? Perhaps. But can you really build a competitve WCHA team with 15 "gopher rejects"? With the number of Minnesota born players that he has on the squad I am reminded of Dean Talafous who seemed dedicated to bringing a similar lineup to UAA when he was here. Are there really enough Minnesota players to make UMTC (21), SCSU(14), Mankato(14) and Duluth (15) competitive? Let's face it ... there's a dropoff at some point and then you're just trying to be Goldy Jr. Didn't work out for Talafous. It won't for Sandelin either.

And so ... How will it look at the end of the regular season? Here's a blowhard's "guess" (grouped into 3 tiers):
1. Minnesota
2. Denver
3. St. Cloud
4. UAA
5. UND
6. CC/Wisonsin/MTU
9. UMD
10. Mankato

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Linkages: Thanksgiving Edition

What am I thankful for? I'm thankful that people take their own time to spew a combination of BS and heartfelt stuff on their hockey blogs. Why am I thankful for that? Well it gives me something to read when it's 4 below outside and they've replaced the Sully's ice with a basketball court.

Over at everyone's all-time favorite blog LetsgoDU has installed an ultra-cool scrolling banner to give everyone nice little updates. I dig it and I want one for Xmas. If I ever had an opportunity to steal it from him I'd do so in a NY minute. I wonder who he stole it from? In any case, when DG isn't stealing stuff (or bashing CC) he's a good friend to Al Gore by helping with recycling stuff and saving the earth. The new and the recycled (John Hill is still good for a laugh even if it is the second time around) are included in his weekly CHN column which is about not angering the hockey gods.

The CC blog earns a link with his first post since 1957 (kidding ... I kid the CC) discussing the weekends sweep of Mankato along with other observations.

Goon down in the great plains (nether regions) is still distracted by the lawsuit and all its various aspects. I think he was also distracted by a trip where he killed and ate bambi but I don't have a link. Hey ... not every blogger posts everyday. And I'm thankful for that too; else the world would be full of people like me.
Besides the razor sharp commentary she is becoming known for at UMD's message board RWD has her thanksgiving list up. UMD is the Seawolves next opponent and she has this awesome series called "The Gauntlet" and apparently I'm her next victim. So far this season she's humbled the aforementioned DG, FireHelmetGuy from gopherland, and sweet little MeanEgirl from MTU. She's decided that SCSU doesn't have anyone in need of humbling (my words) so she's skipping them this week. I tried to encourage her to throw down said Gauntlet to "The Pope" so I could read his colon-laced answers but she didn't bite (and who can blame her really). Meanwhile, MeanEgirl gives the real WCHA Huskies an A for effort following their tie and loss at DU.

Badger Backer on the Wisconsin blog posted his thoughts after the first loss to the Gophers this past weekend. I don't think the second loss made him jump ship but I doubt there was much happiness with being swept by their arch-rivals. Hammy at the Gopher blog took a break from his usual fare (recruits and mn elite/hs hockey) to analyze the Gophers.

Speaking of the Sunday win by the Gophers. Chris at Western College Hockey posted the video of the winning goal in the Sunday game and said "You Make The Call". Naturally, that enticed all sorts of folks to impart their comments (including me ... I said it was a goal) which of course devolved into a typical internet flamefest (me? in a flamefest? say it ain't so!).

Chris also does most of the writing over that Maverick Hockey Nation. He sounds a bit frustrated with the 06-07 season and is advocating using the season to build for next year and the years after. I know the feeling from last year. Things might be looking up here in Seawolf country but most of the schedule is still ahead and frankly MSU could still make a run; even teams that are looking good today will probably take some hits in the long season ahead. Who knows? Anyway, (in past years) I usually haven't thrown in the towel until sometime in February.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

WCHA Awards: Lunden and Lawson

The WCHA announced it's Player of the Week awards today. Josh Lunden was honored as the Rookie of the Week. Congratulations to Josh. His speed, strength and goal scoring ought to lead to more of these sort of awards as his career progresses at UAA.

Nathan Lawson was named Co-Player of the Week with Glenn Fisher from DU. Fisher only played one game on the weekend facing 31 shots in a 1-0 win vs. MTU. I'm not here to 'dis Glenn Fisher but ... PUHLEASE ... gimme a break. Lawson's performance was far superior.

It seems to me that "awards" are just about as arbitrary as polls. Co-DPoW? Co? That sure takes a bit of the "shine" off the award. Anyone care to guess which city is the home for the WCHA offices? That's right. Denver. I don't think any INCH offices are in Denver.

Nathan Lawson: INCH Player of the Week

Inside College Hockey has named Nathan Lawson their Player of the Week for his performance this past weekend vs. UND. His 56 saves on 60 shots was one of the keys to the sweep of the weekend series but I have to add that the 8 (or so) saves he made in the last 2 minutes of Saturday's game was highlight reel stuff. Congratulations to Nathan on this award he certainly deserves the recognition.

CHN Names UAA "Team of the Week"

College Hockey News has named UAA it's "Team of the Week". Pretty cool. But, I hear some previous recipients believed that receiving this designation was some sort of jinx. DU was last week's recipient but they did manage to go 1-0-1 against MTU (barely) so perhaps the jinx factor was just as overrated as UAF is. It's too late for me to look up who the other previous winners were but they apparently they didn't fair as well. In any case, being that UAA has the week off I'd have to say that the jinx will have zero effect and besides ... it ain't the cover of SI.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Best Walk-On Player Ever

Over at the USCHO fan forum there's a thread titled Best Walk-On Player Ever and unfortunately no UAA fans (that are allowed to post there) ever noticed or didn't think to post in it. But I've got a nominee for Best Walk On Player Ever at UAA. Captain Charlie Kronschnabel.

Charlie came to UAA after spending two years in the USHL with Tulsa then River City. In 115 games he scored 17 goals and had 13 assists. Not the sort of numbers that generate offers from D-I schools but Charlie didn't see himself giving up on hockey at that point. His dad played for CC in the late 70's. The grapevine went to work and UAA coaching staff invited Charlie to walk on.

In his first season, Charlie earned a spot and scored 9 goals with 13 assists. His second season saw similar numbers (9g-12a) and by that time he'd established himself as a solid two-way player. As it was for so many UAA players the 05-06 season saw his numbers dip to (4g-9a) while his effort maintained itself. Over his career at UAA Charlie has established himself as a key player on critical faceoffs (winning more than his share). To cap off a decent career Charlie was named Captain this season and has assumed that role with great aplomb. Charlie has shown himself to be an excellent leader both on and off the ice. His efforts are keying what could become a special season for UAA as they've matched last years win total just 12 games into the season. The team looks up to him.

I've searched my UAA memory banks and can't come up with a walk-on that ever had as much impact as Cap'n Kronsch has had at UAA. Best walk-on player ever at UAA. I say so. But I also say that a kid that walked on and rose to a Captaincy in 4 years at a WCHA school is worthy of consideration for best walk-on player ever in all of D-I.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Other Random Stuff

Chad Anderson is currently the leading scorer among defensemen in the WCHA (2g-5a). When Chad was a freshman I forecast him as being able to rise to All WCHA Team status by the end of his career. His early season results show he is capable of receiving such an honor by the end of this season. Paul Crowder, Justin Bourne, Josh Lunden and Chad are tied for 15th on the leading conference scroring list. Justin's 3 power play goals put him in a tie for 3rd with 4 other players.

An interesting way to look at the WCHA standings is to look at it in reverse. Ok ... thats not accurate ... it isn't reverse. It's opposite ... I guess ... (or something). Instead of counting points that a team has won you simply count how many points the team has lost.
1. Wisconsin (13 pts lost in 10g)
2. UMD and MSU-M (12pts lost in 8g)
4. St. Cloud (9pts lost in 8g)
5. UAA and MTU (8pts lost in 8g)
7. UND (7pts lost in 8g)
8. DU (5pts lost in 8g)
9. CC (4pts lost in 6g)
10. Minnesota (2pts lost in 8g)
Whats an abberation and whats a trend? Well I'd say the major trend is just how freakin tough the Gophers are this year. And Wisconsin has certainly dug itself a fairly deep hole it appears even though its early. Usually the WCHA breaks into either two tiers or three. Currently, it's Minnesota in one tier and everyone else in the lower tier. UAA's sweep of UND has put that team into a series this coming weekend vs. a surprising CC team that could be somewhat pivotal for both of those teams. UMD and St. Bob are the only other teams playing conference games next weekend.

Freshman Impact in the WCHA

Every year before the season starts there is a running internet argument (amongst those who think they know such things) about which team's incoming class is the best. This year was no different. I'm not going to link anyone or reference the conclusions that all those preseason mavens made. Instead, I crawled around inside the statistics. The season is about 25 percent complete. Statistics are starting to be more revealing. I've broken down Freshman scoring totals in this way: take the number of games freshman have played vs. the number of points they've scored and you get a sort of "batting average".
1. St. Cloud
.674 average (43games - 29points)
2. Minnesota
.651 average (86games - 56points)
3. UAA
.580 average (50games - 29points)
4. Denver
.470 average (67games - 32points)
5. CC
.354 average (62games - 22points)
6. MSU-M
.346 average (75games - 26points)
7. MTU
.333 average (27games - 9points)
8. UMD
.309 average (42games - 13points)
9. UND
.307 average (39games - 12points)
10. Wisconsin
.277 average (83games - 23points)
All pretty interesting. While there is little argument among those "in the know" that the WCHA is an upperclassmen's league; I think this analysis reveals a surprising impact that freshman can have. 4 of the top 5 teams in that analysis also happen to be in the top 5 of the current league standings. Again ... it's only 25 percent through the season. These numbers will be more interesting to look at later in the year.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

UAA Sweeps UND: 4-2

The UAA Seawolves have already seemed on the cusp of good things this season. First two weeks ago against Wisconsin the Seawolves couldn't quite turn the corner losing in OT on Friday but coming back on Saturday for the win. Then last weekend on the road they win an ugly game on Friday but fall short the next night. Learning from those two recent experiences the team didn't look tonight like it could be denied. The Sioux managed to change the pace of the game from last nights skatefest and the first period tonight was a typical WCHA "tight to the vest" hockey game. With both teams playing good defensively giving up only 8 shots apiece. The first third of the 2nd period was all UND with some long stretches of puck control in the UAA end. The Seawolves had only managed 1 shot when Nick Lowe found himself suddenly with the puck at the blueline. He promptly skated in and buried the shot high. Nick had zero points last year. He scored a beaut. Ya gotta be glad for him as he has ... lets just say ... been "snakebitten" on breakaways during his career. The goal managed to change the momentum enough that the rest of the period wasn't dominated by the Sioux. They scored the next 2 goals; the PP goal was a thing of beauty as the UND players lasered 4 passes back and forth across the ice for a Tic-Tic-Tac-TOE of a goal. It was however the only PP goal the Seawolves allowed in 5 chances on the night making the Sioux 1-10 overall on the weekend. Some valiant but otherwise mistaken Sioux fans behind the bench promptly started in with a sieve sieve sieve chant but spent the rest of the game on their butts as UAA scored the next three goals to seal the deal.

Another good team win all around. Nathan Lawson was SUPERIOR in the net in the third period. He faced made 8 saves in the final 90 seconds and each and every one of them was a game saver. He absolutely was not going to let anything past. He was a wall. Yes Justin ... we saw that you "have a little Captain in you" with that pose after the PP goal. Go ahead and pose ... are you turning into a sniper? I heard a number of other fans commenting about how effective Kevin Clark was tonight and he certainly is beginning to show what kinds of impact he can make. Kevin had more than a few scrapes tonight with Joe "Gaffney" Finley so I'd expect he'll have some bruises. I think the biggest disappointment for some fans is that Kevin doesn't do something spectacular with the puck every time he has it. Well ... just imagine how much he'll be doing with the puck by the end of the year(see that little behind the back pass that Backstrom almost buried?). He is to be congratulated for his virtually penalty free weekend (the one he took was no big deal ... just a stick in the wrong place) with a couple of goals to his credit as well. Jay Beagle is such a leader on the ice. I can't say enough about how impactful his play is. He's "the shit" on the PK. And his offensive contributions are evident on just about every shift he takes. I liked the Beagle, Lunden, Clark line tonight. Coach Shyiak has been changing things around a bit and I think those guys had some good chemistry. Crowder, Bourne and Waldrop looks to me to be a real good combination as well. Crowders puck control, Bourne's shot and Waldrops speed and nose for the puck could make them all a good fit for each other. I think Charlie Kronschnabel was "the shit" all weekend. He is a helluva leader with both his play on the ice and his attitude. I think his teammates really respond well to him. He didn't stop hitting all night and he's winning more than his share of draws (usually against the other teams top guys). Chris Tarkir played on a line with Charlie and Nick Lowe and had a good weekend I thought. He was more visible and impactful this weekend. Cartwright, Tuton and Corrin also added valuable shifts all weekend to contribute. Like I said. It was definitely a weekend when you look at every player and see them doing positive things.

And lest I forget ... How good have we played defensively? If you remove the 9-0 abberation UAA has given up 2.6 goals per game in the other 10 games. Everyone on the blueline did their jobs well this weekend. Every one of them contributed positively on an offensive play. Chad Anderson had the two nicest rushes and snuck a goal under Grieco's skates. His offensive contributions are growing each weekend. Mat Robinson played great tonight. Over and above his usual stellar"ness". He's getting an opportunity in Shyiak and Blair's system to live up to his potential which I think we'll see bloom as the year goes on. He skates and handles the puck so well and has great vision. And Nils Backstrom? He really has a good presence on the ice. He always has his head up. He can dispossess a forward from just about any angle. There were few (if any) situations this weekend where I saw a Sioux player outskate a UAA defensemen. Our blueliners can all wheel. Every guy on the ice this weekend for UAA shares credit for this sweep.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Seawolves 6 - Sioux 2

Tonight the UAA Seawolves put a nice little thumping on #3 ranked UND. The Sioux jumped out to an early 1 goal lead at 3:38. The Seawolves answered though just 1:53 later when Kevin Clark smartly carried to center on a 3-2 waited for the first sign of a committing defender and dished the puck square to Josh Lunden on the left wing. Josh took a couple of strides and fired a high wrister to the left side to beat Anthony "rebound" Grieco. Pretty goal. The Sioux would score their last goal of the evening at 9:48 to retake the lead but (in a period that saw lots of end to end action); the Seawolves knotted it at 2 when Chris Tarkir picked up his first goal of the year at 14:10 after a nice play by Nick Lowe to get the puck on net. Nick skated in and fired a low wrister from the dot to the wide side which Grieco had to kick out (he was too deep in the crease maybe) and Tarks just had to bang it home.

UAA opened the second with Paul Crowder's gwg on the PP just 34 seconds in. Paul stripped the defenseman halfway to the corner behind the line and spun out leaving him beaten then step out to enough of an angle to toss the puck through Griecos pads. It was a great effort and a pretty goal. Kevin Clark finished a goal made by Josh Lunden just 2:06 later; Josh was in deep and skated clear with the puck to make a stuff attempt at the corner. Grieco made the intial stop and the puck was knocked in by Clark. Then at 18:16 Justin Bourne added a power play goal with a "wicked snappah" that couldn't have possibly been any more in the corner of the net. Game over man.

Nathan Lawson was sharp in the net. During one of the 3 times that Hakstol pulled his goalie in the last 6 minutes Nathan had an opening for a shot at an empty net goal. He corralled the puck, took a look and fired it high but an outstanding effort to block the shot by a Sioux forward kept Nathan from what I'm sure he is ITCHING to do ... score a goal. I sit up top center ice and I could see the lust in Nathan's eyes from there. The PK was great all night shutting the UND PP down on all five chances. Jay Beagle continues to impress with his effort on the PK. It's a really valuable asset for the team and I know the Anchorage crowd appreciates that effort. The Cartwright, Corrin, Tuton line worked hard and created some chances for themselves with forechecking and cycling but I'm not sure they had a full night of shifts as the bench looked shortened a bit in the 2nd period. In any case, it was a good team effort all night.

I thought Mark Smith played his best game of the year. Luke Beaverson and Chad Anderson both played well too. Mat Robinson was his usual stellar"ness" and Nils Backstrom is just going to get better and better ... and maybe even better than that. Shane Lovdahl looked good all night contributing with some nice hits, blocked shots and an offensive chance or two as well. Coach Shyiak returned defensemen to the point on the power play and the Seawolves went 2 for 5 on the evening. That's a good result. Special teams are important eh?

One of the best players on the ice tonight for the Seawolves was 6'7" 252lb UND defenseman Joe Finley. If he wasn't giving the puck straight to a Seawolf in his own zone then he was committing a stupid penalty. There were more than just a few people near me that I heard shouting "We Love You Joe". And we did. God bless the poor bugger. North Dakota fans will be blaming Grieco but there was only 1 of the first 4 goals (the Clark goal) that he probably should have stopped. UND played better in front of Walski as well. Blame the nose picking defenseman (Chorney) that Crowder left on the boards. Yeah the same Chorney that pitched a hissy fit halfway through the 3rd and got himself an extra ten minutes for his peewee antics. It was nice of Shepherd to let him watch the rest of the game from the box instead of insisting he go to the dressing room.

UAA Recruits: Heisenberg Lists 2

Chris Heisenbergs recruit page list two new recruits for UAA. Defenseman Jeff Carlson of the NAHL's Southern Minnesota Express has committed to the team. Jeff has 5g-10a in 19 games so far in this his second season there. Last year he totalled 9g-27a in 56 games.. He's 20 years old and is 6'2" 200lbs.

The other listing is Winston Daychief of the BCHL's Cowichan Valley Capitals. Winston is a right-handed forward who is currently 11th in league scoring (and leads his team) with 14g-20a in 25 games. In his first season with Cowichan he scored 20g-23a in 60 games. He turns 19 on November 23rd.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Iranian Goalie and Execution

Some years ago (before life took it's current toll) I regularly played soccer. I actually grew up playing the game and didn't stop playing until my late 30's. In the 90's I primarily played for an adult team composed of Brits. Most of them (as did I for a couple of stints) worked for BP and the company provided some sort of sponsorship. I remember a practice that we had (and there were never too many of those) so it must have been at the beginning of the season. It was a bit of cool day probably in May and maybe even a little breezy and we were just sorting things out. We were playing a scrimmage at Balto Seppala park with probably about 9 a side and only one "real" goalie.

A good goalie in soccer has got to be heard by his teammates so it helps if he isn't shy and has a loud voice. Our "real" goalie that scrimmage was Ezat Zarasvand. He was an Iranian by nationality. He was by all accounts a fine fellow (as they say). I knew him fairly well as he was the first person I called to let him know that I'd turned in my notice. And he got the job. But all that aside he fit the bill pretty well for a goalie. He was about 6'3" and on the pitch he was pretty verbal. Each and everytime something went well (a nice pass, or a good header off a cross, or a good give and go ... whatever) Ezat would shout, "Good execution" or "Nice execution". Never a "well done" or "good pass" out of Ezat that afternoon. Well then ... after about 50 or so of these "execution" comments, my little English friend David Goodgame popped out with the long-awaited while entirely-obvious but deparately-needed, "Hey Ezat ... We know you're Iranian but could you please stop with the execution talk". An instant classic in my mind.

So that's the real reason for writing. Execution. A word that never comes into my mind without thinking of the story I just related. And a word that must also be in evidence on the ice this weekend at the Sully. Execution. Execution. Execution. Maybe the Seawolves can replace that mental image ... so that next week when I hear the word I'll think of the games vs. UND instead of good ol' Ezat.

UAA vs. UND: Keys to Victory

The story this weekend for the Seawolves will have many chapters. Obviously, "Skating" is going to be an important chapter vs. UND who once again have plenty of wheels. The "Goaltending" chapter is always of key importance in the WCHA; without which success doesn't find it's way into the book title. And lastly ... the chapter called "Special Teams" could once again be the most important. What will the authors deliver for publishing? I think it could be something special.

This Seawolves team is the best skating team I've seen in years. I can't name a sophmore or freshman that hasn't improved the overall team speed. Beagle, Robinson, Lunden, Crowder, Clark, Selby, Tuton, Backstrom and Hunt can all motor. Among the upperclassmen Bourne, Tarkir, Lowe, Waldrop and Anderson are all top notch. And I'm not saying that Kronschnabel, Beaverson, Cartwright, Corrin, Tassone, and Smith are not good skaters. If I had to pin the "worst skater" badge on someone I'd reluctantly award that to Shane Lovdahl. But in Shane's favor he does a helluva job in his end and if the opposition gives him the room he'll move the puck up the ice just as confidently as anyone. His open ice hits have been frequent and his ability to get the number of hip-checks he gets is surprising. And of course there is that rocket of a slap shot which in my mind is needed on the PP. So knowing that there's that many excellent skating players on the squad gives me plenty of confidence that the Seawolves come out on top of the team speed comparison.

Coming into these games the goaltender comparison seems pretty clearly to be in UAA's favor. The Sioux will be going with a freshman that has 4 games under his belt and won the WCHA weekly rookie of the week award by holding a team that scores 3.13 goals per game to 2.5 goals per game in a 1-0-1 weekend in their own barn. Nathan Lawson is a proven commodity in the net for UAA and he has been stable and solid in all his recent games. And as always he has the capability to rob forwards. His abilities to move the puck up the ice could be a factor this weekend if the up and down skating game develops. So even though I don't know if Grieco might be the second coming of Ed Belfour, I'm going with "The Law".

The most important chapter of this weekends book though is that "Special Teams" chapter. The Seawolf power play has been MIA for a while now. But the PK has been excellent as it's hovered near 85% for most of the season. Every penalty killer on the team has really shown committment; going down blocking shots, breaking up passes and pinning the puck on the boards. They've limited the number of good shots that anyone has gotten and I'd rank the two MSU-M goals that Wagner got last week as two of the only major breakdowns in that effort. Nathan never saw either of those because of traffic. Traffic that has been cleared in most cases this season. I get a feeling that perhaps the importance of the PP has been delivered enough that maybe the players are feeling a bit of pressure and responding by gripping the stick too tightly. There is one certainty about special teams play in the WCHA. And that is that both teams are going to get their chances. There's no doubt that for a long time WCHA refs have been in the "even it up" philosophy camp. So both teams will get chances to play both sides in the special teams equation and the one that comes out on the better end of that computation will often be the team with the best chance to win.

So if UAA does well this weekend in those three comparisons then I think it makes sense to think they have a good shot at having a 4 point weekend. Win at home, split on the road. That's the mantra right? The 'Wolves did the "split on the road" part last weekend. It's time to see the "win at home" part right?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

UND Preview: Run of the Mill

I wish that weekly previews would write themselves. I like to write about UAA and it's players. But each week I have to spend this time researching and writing about the team that UAA is playing. I suppose last week I got that wish when Chris and I wrote previews of our own teams and exchanged them. But damnit ... it wasn't enough. I'm sitting here pouring over weekly releases, cruising internet forums as well as reading other blogs and newspapers looking for something that (at a minimum) makes me appear glib or (at best) perhaps even prescient. But that ain't happening this week. Prepare for run of the mill stuff.

UND comes to town without one key player. Goalie Phil Lamoureux managed to avoid having to come here this week during this absolutely stupid spate of brutally cold weather. I looked at a weather forecast and about the time UND is leaving town after the weekend series these god forsaken 30 mile an hour winds might be over. Sort of ironic that the week I dog North Dakota for it's unceasing winds that we get our once or twice yearly dose. Lamoureux had established himself as the #1 goalie before he was injured and though he dressed on Monday he didn't actually practice so there wasn't any real chance he'd play this weekend. Freshman Grieco looks to do well though after being named WCHA rookie of the week on Tuesday.

Unlike last week's Mavericks the Sioux bring a boatload of offensive potential to the Sully. Both Senior Chris Porter and Sophmore Ryan Duncan have 10 points in 10 games (4g-6a, 6g-4a). Sophmore Brad Miller has 5g-4a in 9 games. And next come the two most talented players on the team T.J. Oshie (2g-6a) and Jonathan Toews (3g-4a in 7 games). Oshie and Toews are dynamic, talented and more than capable of schooling a defenseman that gives them even the smallest opening. The Sioux aren't a small team with 8 players that are 6'1" or better (dman Joe Finley is 6-7 252lbs). I'd give the remaining 7 an eyeball average of about 203lbs. For comparison UAA has 12 players (9 of them forwards) that are 6'1" or better with an eyeball average of about 208lbs. Interpret as you wish.

I'm looking forward to this weekend because I'm assuming these will be two games where we'll see both teams ready, willing and able to move the puck up and down the ice. I like UAA's chances if both games adhere to that assumption.

Lastly, the Siouxsports website admin did a great job changing UAA's team page and I'd have been remiss if I didn't mention that here.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Rise of a Phoenix

In 2002 Luke Beaverson was busy playing hockey for the Green Bay Gamblers in the USHL. A good number of scouts and coaches had watched him play. He'd impressed some of them and soon he was offered an NCAA scholarship. No doubt Luke was pumped about going to the much heralded North Dakota to play. So he spent the next season in the USHL developing and looking forward to 2004 when he'd be playing D-1 hockey. He'd been drafted by the Florida Panthers and playing at UND certainly wouldn't hurt his standing with the NHL folks. So Luke finished up his last year of junior hockey and then like a shot out of the dark UND changes their mind. They wanted him to play another year of juniors and then "maybe" he could come play for them the next year. They told him it was for his development. But the truth is that they'd overcommitted to players and Luke didn't fit into their plans anymore.

Big Luke knew he was ready to play at the next level. Playing another year of juniors certainly wasn't likely to do anything positive for his career. The rest (as they say) is history. UAA offered Luke a scholarship. He came. He saw. He liked. In his freshman year Lukes game was to hit and to hit often. In front of the net he was impassable. If an opposition forward went into the corner when Luke was on the ice they'd remember it. He played in all 37 games as a freshman and by the end of the season was a stalwart on the blueline. As a sophmore he played 34 games and continued his good defensive play; by the end of the season was showing signs of becoming an offensive threat as well. His confidence with the puck was growing and from time to time he displayed that confidence by adding the ability to carry the puck up the ice to his repetoire. This season he has taken another step forward and become both a force on the blueline as well as an offensive threat. In his first two full DI seasons Luke scored one goal and added 5 assists. This season in 10 games he has scored 2 goals and added 3 assists.

The Phoenix metaphor comes from mythology. Luke plays for a team now with a name derived from mythology. Some UND players will learn this weekend that reality and mythology are two different things. Myth's don't hand out bruises.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Siouxsports Fan Website & Forum

The unabated westerly wind builds momentum from the eastern edge of the Rockies across the great plains to constantly bombard the folks of Grand Forks. It's a condition that no doubt requires some acclimitization by the fine citizenry of North Dakota. I'm not sure how they accomplish this necessity. Obviously, not everyone down there does. First an example of someone who must not have ever stood in one place facing north (or south) and has avoided the venturi-like effect of the wind scrambling their brain. I found this helpful information on the Siouxsports Forum for those wishing to watch UAA games on the TV instead of just the webcast. Find a C-Band satellite dish and with the following parameters you can watch UAA games ...

AMC7 (137W)
3760 frequency
H polarity
25190 symbol rate

I'd looked for that information in the past and never found it on GCI's website so mad phat props to Sioux fan "iceberg" for posting it in their forum. Very cool beans.

Naturally, there's an example of someone in Grand Forks that has had their brains scrambled by the unceasing wind. If you check this link you'll find that John Hill is UAA's coach. That's sort of embarrassing if you ask me. At least it's not a total slight against UAA though. They list Craig Dahl as SCSU's coach and apparently Bob Motzko is still an assistant at UofM.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday Potpourri

It should be meaningless to readers but I've made the switch to bloggers new "beta" version. I was definitely not an early adopter in terms of making the move so there shouldn't be any noticable differences except that now I can "label" posts for indexing purposes.

On Tuesday at 11 AM on CSTV's website Coach Shyiak will be the guest for their "Tuesday @ the Rink" online chat. They accept questions in advance. You can submit a question as well as review the chat session at this link.

WCHA Notes:
The Gophers remain unbeaten in the league with a 4-0-2 record after this past weekend's two ties vs. St. Bob. Rubes, apologists and devotees are united in their twitterpation with the freshman class down in Minneapolis. Linebacker Kyle Okposo is the object of most of this misplaced love but their hearts are a beatin for little Jay Barriball as well who has already made many Gopher fans forget about Kessel. A fair amount of "who cares how our defense plays ... we'll outscore everyone" was prevalant prior to playing St. Bob but already I'd say that some of that has been replaced by "we better start playing defense" after the supposedly offensive challenged Bluffskies lit up Gopher netminders for 8 this weekend. While talented freshman are always a big story down there, the return of "Crazy Legs" Hirsch for his senior season will likely be a bigger story by year end.

Next door (to the west) the Fighting Sioux fans are consumed with trying to hold onto their hostile and abusive logo which is still under attack by the NCAA. UND filed suit last week and won a temporary injunction against the NCAA ensuring that their DII football team would be able to host a playoff game. Big surprise that a North Dakota judge ruled in their favor eh? They've got a long road ahead before they're allowed to host any future NCAA events and overcoming the NCAA's argument that their membership is voluntary still looks difficult. As for actual hockey the Sioux are getting healthy and at 4-1-1 sit just one point behind their arch-nemesis ("arch" in Sioux fans eyes anyway).

The Pioneers are in third place after sweeping Bucky in Madison this weekend. Brian Elliott looked brutal on the OT winner in the 2nd game as a soft tip caught him leaning the wrong way. There were a lot of questions and some doubt amongst the Pio faithful at the start of the season and for now at least they seemed to have answered those concerns with their 4-2-0 WCHA record. It's pretty much dramaless so far in Denver.

Michigan Tech, Bucky and St. Bob all share 4th place with 7 points though St. Bob has used 3 ties to get that number while Bucky and Tech both have 3 wins and 1 tie. Tech should be thanking UAA as two of their three wins came against the 'Wolves. Wisconsin has played well defensively and didn't deserve to lose 4 points this weekend. As the season progresses the consensus seems to be that "someone" will step up and start scoring goals. Hey, I've thought that about the team I follow which means that it ain't necessarily gonna happen. Tech is coming into a tough part of their schedule (DU, UMtc and UND in 3 of their next 4 series) and we'll all see once and for all whether they're "for real". The schizophrenic faithful in St. Trailerpark have gone from thinking Goepfert is the second coming of Christ to a Goat and back to deity. Which is it? Is there an internet site where fans can plagarize some consistency in their attitude?

UAA is tied for 7th (or last depending on the perspective you choose) with mono/strep ridden CC, MSU-M and UMD. CC has only played 4 WCHA games and would seem to have the upperhand in this grouping while UMD has struggled to only 1 win in 8 WCHA games. Consensus had CC struggling before the season started and with the viral situation everyone assumed it would only get worse. But Scott Owens has to be pleased that with all the challenges his team has faced that they're sitting at .500 in it's 4 WCHA games. I predicted that if UMD didn't improve from last season that Scott Sandelin would be the object of "fire the coach" discussions and while the UMD faithful haven't quite jumped off the Sandelin boat; a few of them are closely checking their ports of call. I've made it evident what I think about Chuck Wepner U so I'll pass on any further Maverick commentary (for now).

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Special Teams

The difference tonight was ... um ... you might have guessed it from the title; special teams. When you don't get any goals on your chances and you give up a couple it's not real likely that you'll come out with the all important W. I really don't think there's much else to analyze about the loss. Lawson didn't see either of the goals from the point but certainly played well enough to give his team a chance. The Seawolves did have their chances here and there but never established themselves on the power play. UAA was generally outworked in the second period. And as was the case last night; it was a mostly ugly game. I think I at least know why it was ugly.

In boxing the most difficult opponent is usually the guy that is uncoordinated, unorthodox and/or just plain goofy. I think that's much the same case with Mankato. It's a squad that comes at you from all angles in unexpected ways. That style helped the Mavericks win more of the little battles that add up during the course of a game. On the weekend the Seawolves were never really able to get "their game" going primarily because of that factor. There were a couple of times in the first period and a few more in the third where UAA was able to use their speed and establish their forecheck but those minimal chances didn't result in anything particularly dangerous. So ... if hockey were boxing then Mankato could be called Chuck Wepner. And tonight UAA was certainly not Muhammad Ali.

Speaking of Muhammad Ali ... who does that skinny little bitch Jon Kalinski think he is? At 6-1 170 does he really think he's tough enough to be talking shit on the ice? Just about any Seawolf on the ice could break that squirrelly twerp in half if they'd choose to. Maybe they'll choose to when MSU-M comes to Anchorage. We'll see. Hopefully, that cocky mouth-running disco-boy stays healthy until February 17th. Hey Jon ... just so you remember; you were pointing at Jared Tuton like you were a tough guy. He's #55.

A split on the road is never a "bad" thing I suppose and it's part of that "win at home; split on the road" mentality that a team must acheive to have success in the WCHA. Winning two games next week against UND at home will be another big challenge for the 'Wolves.

Friday, November 10, 2006

UAA Wins Ugly 3-2

I thought tonights game was disjointed, scrappy and otherwise just plain ugly. Nils Backstrom came through with his first goal of the season 31 seconds after the Mavericks had tied the game 2-2. It was a pretty physical game with plenty of good open ice hits. I can't remember a game when I saw the puck intercepted, passed poorly and bounced around as much as this one. It almost was as though both teams were playing a bit drunk. UAA looked good in stretches managing to "play their game" but more often than not a gritty Maverick team broke up or interrupted promising looking plays. I thought UAA looked faster in those brief stretches were the game wasn't bogged down. In particular there were a number of good chances where Seawolf defenseman carried the puck up the ice ... beat Maverick defenders wide and then pulled the puck back to the front for scoring chances.

I was pleased with the efforts of the upperclassmen as I thought Kronschnabel, Bourne, Waldrop, Cartwright and Lowe all contributed through their hustle. Charlie was also good on faceoffs I thought. Credit should be given to Mankato's PK as UAA hardly generated any good scoring chances even with a 5 minute PP to end the 2nd period. On the defensive side I thought Chad Anderson and Mat Robinson were the standouts though I'd give a shout out to Shane Lovdahl for his best game of the year so far. Smith and Beaverson were solid (shot blocking especially) but I have to say I didn't notice Nils as much (though he layed on a couple of nice hits) until he buried the game winner. Mankato's first goal came though when Nils was caught flatfooted at the redline and Kalinski broke in cleanly on Lawson. Nathan poke checked the puck cleanly off Kalinski's stick but it hit a skate and dribbled past him to his amazement. Lawson made a couple of stellar saves in the third period to help secure the win and should feel good about his efforts. He also kept his head and waited patiently during the goal review which was important to do.

Jay Beagle was the best underclassmen on the ice contributing with his speed, size and penalty killing. And Paul Crowder maintained his consistently excellent work with the puck while finishing nicely on a 3-1 break. Kevin Clark made an exceptionally smart play when he followed up a good forecheck by firing the puck low on a stickless Tormey that got through his legs and sat in the crease for Waldrop to knock home. Jared Tuton continued his excellent forechecking and physical play and helped generate a number of decent chances. I think the rest of the squad played well enough but nobody else's effort stood out in my mind. Props to every Seawolf who went down in his own zone to block a shot (and there simply too many good ones to mention any single player).

There was a bit of controversy when for the second time in the evening Jon Kalinski bowled over Nathan Lawson and the puck went into the net. However with the "Faux-lay" cheer still going the referee (who'd already had his arm raised for a major penalty when the puck dribbled into the net off Kalinski's skate) reviewed the play and correctly determined that Kalinski had charged Lawson before the puck crossed the line. The replay's on Mankato's broadcast showed the same.

If I were a Mankato fan I'd be a little concerned about how much Travis Morin tried to do by himself. On at least 3 or 4 occassions in the 3rd period he carried the puck into UAA's zone and was oblivious to any teammates waiting for a pass. I'm tempted to call him a puck hog but would instead characterize him as just trying to do too much by himself. All of the rushes I'm speaking of ended with him being surrounded by three Seawolves and a transition the other way.

The most important thing about this victory was that UAA came back to regain the lead so quickly after Mankato had tied it. When you do that on the road vs. any WCHA team then you've got a nice accomplishment to build on. It took a team effort to win the game and that's exactly what the UAA players did. They played as a team. I really have no idea how tomorrow's game might look but when you can get 2 points on the road it really doesn't matter if its gritty and ugly. Does it? Congrats to the guys. Go back out tomorrow and get another couple of points!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

A Fast Start Is The Ticket

What does UAA need to do this weekend to win? Get off to a fast start. MSU-M has scored only once in the first period of home games so far this season. That statistic provides the opening that the Seawolves need to take advantage of this weekend. High intensity in the defensive end, high intensity in transition and high intensity in the offensive zone. A complete effort in the first period Friday night could set the tone for the whole weekend. It means blocking shots and killing penalties if necessary. It means good breakouts and passing as well as defensemen using any opportunities intelligently. It means making pretty plays when you gain the Maverick zone and finishing finishing finishing. It means forward postioning that puts you in a position to pick up rebounds. It means connecting and not fanning. It means one period of hockey played as close to perfection as the team is capable of playing.

Of course one period out of six this weekend won't be enough. But getting out of the gate quickly and settting a tone of intensity might be the jumpstart the weekend needs. Of course UAA will need to continue it's good penalty killing. They'll need to put the puck in the net when they go up a man. All the same things I say here every week. They'll have to continue to compete hard since the Mavericks have a well-earned reputation for working hard. To accomplish all this the Seawolves will need to play "their" game. They'll need to continue to use their physical game to key opportunities. The Mavericks aren't a small team. They also have good size and strength so UAA will need to find ways to use their speed to advantage as well. When they don't have the puck the Seawolves will need to shut down MSU-M's top two lines (in particular Travis Morin). By all indications UAA should have an advantage in goaltending. Consistency from Nathan Lawson will be important to the effort. If he can repeat last weekends solid performance then the Seawolves could see a weekend with more than just a couple of points.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Post-Election Day Linkages

While rat-faced dickless little criminal twits like Tom Delay spew entirely specious Craig "hoping for a split" Dahlisms about the Democrats winning "because the Republicans lost"; I'll instead focus on more important post-election day college hockey stuff.

I should have included this link in my gleeful post about the media confusing UAA and "Alaska" in a poll. I suppose I could have indicted some bumbling USCHO staffer with the screw up along with my assumption that it was USA Today's error. As you can see it lists University of Alaska Anchorage but is linked to UAF's teampage while the record it displays is UAA's. The irony is sweet regardless of who screwed the pooch.

Next up is the future election of a Hobey Baker winner. Chris Dilks makes a case for Travis Morin at the MSU-M blog. Chris uses Travis' good early season performance as justification for his nomination but to me thats a bit like saying in June that independent Andrew Halcro had a shot at presenting the Governor's Cup to UAA at the end of the year. We all know (and Chris admits) the Hobey will go to a media darling from one of the bigger teams.

It's not quite Lincoln/Douglas but Running With the Dogs has another edition of her Gauntlet Series with MeanEgirl as the weekend showdown between UMD and MTU approaches. Look in the comments section of this post for another reminder from MEg that she's coming to Anchorage for the MTU/UAA series in January. By the way ... MeanEgirl's real name is neither MeanEgirl or MEg and for now I'm all about letting her hide whatever political foibles she is trying to hide.

Over at Goon's World there's a post about how St. Bob's media department apparently got busy with photoshop to scratch off the word Sioux from a picture they used. Pretty cheesy stuff from the Bluffskies but they've got to make themselves feel superior somehow.

Up north Eric Carlson has zip to say about the silliness of polls and the name change issue. I don't think Eric is interested in fomenting any sort of controversy so thank god there's someone like me in Alaska that is an instigator. Instead he is quite rightly focusing on UAF accolades and committments.

Down in Omaha there was a post sometime last week about the UAF name change. Naturally, I gave my .05 cents worth. Unlike most places; in Nebraska they like to elect former sports coaches to political posts. I wonder what Coach Kemp will run for when he retires.

Doyle Woody has an very good article in todays ADN about roommate selection. There's a focus on Cap'n Kronschnoring and how Justin Bourne puts up with it.

Lastly, the Seawolves have a revamped website. I've changed the appropriate links on my page even though I'm not an established media outlet. I'm so nice.

MSU-M Preview: I Didn't Do It

While pondering what to write and how my limited knowledge of the Mavericks would be exposed this week I received an email that saved the day. Maverick and WCH blogger Chris Dilks suggested that we each write a preview of our respective teams and exchange them. So faced with writing about a team I know well or writing about a team I don't know well, I opted for the easy road. What follows is Chris' preview of the Mavericks ...

There's really only two words you need to know: Travis Morin. Ok, you probably need a little bit more than that. Morin is having an outstanding season for the Mavericks so far. He's one of only two non-Ivy League players in the country that has a point in every one of his team's games. He gets very little credit, and looks more like a math dork than a hockey player, but he's a superstar on the ice.

Joining Morin on the Mavericks top line are two pesky kids from Alberta. Sophomore Jon Kalinski is probably the next biggest scoring threat for the Mavericks. He always plays with a lot of energy, and has pretty good stickhandling ability in tight spaces. His other linemate is freshman Kael Mouillierat. He's not a big guy, but he's always willing to throw his body around and play with reckless abandon. They are clearly the Mavericks top line, and play about every third shift, or every other shift if the Mavericks have good momentum going and want a goal, or if it is late in the game.

The second line has junior Joel Hanson, who has developed into a legitimate scoring threat, and two freshmen in Trevor Bruess and Ryan Gunderson. Bruess is a hard worker with pretty good skills. Gunderson takes the spot of speedy freshmen Zach Harrison who hurt his knee last week against Bemidji. There's a chance that Harrison could play this weekend, but it doesn't look good.

The third line is sophomore Mick Berge, freshmen Jerad Stewart, and freshmen James Gaulrapp. Berge has become an effective powerplay specialist this year. Stewart is still very raw, as he came to MSU straight from high school, but he was a football star in Minnesota, and it shows. He's very fast and very strong. Gaulrapp got into the lineup thanks to an injury to freshmen Jason Wiley, who may or may not return this weekend, but seems to have earned a place there. He already has 4 points in his first 5 games, which is about 4 more points than some people thought he would score this year. The fourth line has Kevin Huck, Kurtis Kisio, and Matt Tyree. Huck and Tyree are more grinders, while Kisio is a small playmaker. They have the potential to generate offense from time to time.

The Mavericks took a huge loss last weekend when top defenseman Brian Kilburg went out with what looked like a serious knee injury. Kilburg had been paired with Steve Wagner as the Mavericks top D pairing, which matched up with the opponents top line when at home. If Kilburg can't go, Lucas Fransen will take his spot. The second pairing is senior defensive defenseman Chad Brownlee, and freshmen defenseman Nick Canzanello. Canzanello loves to rush the puck up the ice when he gets the chance. The third pairing is Blake Friesen and R.J. Linder. They're serviceable as 5th and 6th defenseman, but do make mistakes from time to time.

This position hasn't been the strength that most people thought it would be. Sophomore goalie Dan Tormey has struggled statistically, though the problem has been more the team playing in front of him. Tormey hasn't let in many bad goals. He's just fallen victim to a lot of rebound goals, or bad turnovers, or screened shots. If the Mavericks can avoid bad mental errors, and let Tormey see the puck, he should be fine.

Special Teams
This has been completely hit or miss for the Mavericks. The Mavericks have the worst penalty kill in the WCHA, but kept St. Cloud 0 for 10 on the powerplay in their win at St. Cloud, and held Bemidji to 0 for 12 on the powerplay last weekend. Will the powerplay that went 5 for 15 against North Dakota show up, or will the powerplay that went 0 for 14 against Bemidji show up? If it's any special teams situation, expect to see Travis Morin on the ice a lot. Mick Berge has 4 powerplay goals on the season. The Mavericks like to keep a forward on the point on the powerplay, which is partly to blame for the 4 shorthanded goals they've given up.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Irony, Polls and TAFKAF

So ... I was going to wait til Tuesday to write about this because I hoped to include a couple of other tidbits but since they haven't developed I'm goin with what I've got.

Each week several organizations publish polls to tell everyone who the best teams in the country are. Of course they're essentially meaningless except to provide certain types of pudknockers with fodder for their little rants about where their team should be ranked and/or endless diatribes filled with mostly witless remarks about how meaningless the polls are.

So ... all that is pretty much irrelevant to my purpose here. Amongst all the hosers that endlessly debate the polls there is one agreement: USA Today's weekly poll is crap. This weeks "real" polls have UAF ranked. I'm all good with that. I suppose their sweeps of Air Force and Ferris St. plus a win and a tie on the road at UNO for a 6-1-2 record merit more than just casual consideration (even though they couldn't beat UAA on their own ice). So ... that's all irrelevant to my purpose here as well.

I'm writing because USA Today's poll has UAA ranked at #15. I've been silently tittering about that all day. Not because I think it has any relevance (my word of the day apparently). I'm laughing because I'm pretty damn sure that the folks at USA Today have totally been s'nook'ered by the UAF name change and completely got it wrong. I'll be generous to the voters in the USA Today poll and assume they correctly listed "Alaska" on their ballots. But the person(s) doing the grunt work simply didn't know the difference and put UAA there instead. Congrats to the UAF folks for causing confusion that gets them "dissed" in a national poll.

And finally just for the entertainment value (since I'm picking on UAF) ... the good folks over at INCH produce a regular feature called "found on a Cocktail Napkin" and this week they list ficticious ballot measures in honor of election day. This snippet is interesting ...

• Referendum UAA: Would change name of University of Alaska Anchorage to University of Not Fairbanks, Which is a Cold, Remote Outpost Where People Have No TV and Are Regularly Eaten by Abominable Snowmen.

Lastly the folks over at the College Hockey News Blog do their own top 15 every week. Guess who the number 15 team is? UAF ... sorta. Their list says "The Alaska Formerly Known as Fairbanks" or TAFKAF.

Is irony sweet or not? Oh yeah ... definitely sweet. Unless of course they actually did rank UAA 15th ... if that's the case then it's just more proof that the USA Today poll is crap. But I can't begin to believe that. UAA hasn't proven anything ... yet.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Seawolves Give Blogger Heartburn

The experience of watching UAA defeat defending champion Wisconsin tonight gave me heartburn. If every game turned out like this one I'd have to pony up for some Prilosec but luckily I've got a phat bottle of Tums Ultra here at home. The squad played well in most every facet of the game. Lawson was very solid in the crease and got excellent support when he needed it. Justin Bourne not only got a game winner in the 3rd period on a wraparound he also made a save on a Wisconsin wraparound chance in the 2nd period. Those two plays alone would have made him the 1st star of the game but just as he did last night, Justin contributed at both ends. There were no even strength goals in the game as the Seawolves did an excellent job limiting Bucky to 1 of 5 and managed 2 goals on their 4 power plays.

In the 1st period the Badgers managed just 6 shots on the chart but I only counted 5 (4 on their 3 power plays; 1 at even strength). UAA dominated the first period. It was just that simple but found themselves down 1-0 when Wisconsin scored at 19:00 while Kevin Clark was in the box for slashing (Coach Shyiak called it a selfish penalty). As a result he spent the rest of the night opening the gate on the bench. The 2nd period was much more even with both teams generating periods of dominance in the others zone. Cap'n Kronch's goal at 11:35 on the PP was a beaut beating Elliott high on the glove side from the top of the slot. Bourne's game winner came :33 seconds into the 3rd when a good wraparound effort resulted in a soft trickler through Elliott's five hole. UAA didn't sit back to protect the lead until there was about 5 minutes left in the game when the forecheck was lessened and three players stayed on the blueline. UAA killed off the 2 power play chances that Wisconsin had in the 3rd. Looks to me that Campbell Blair's efforts are paying dividends. The PK was excellent all night.

This victory was keyed by the upperclassmen. Justin Bourne, Peter Cartwright, Nick Lowe, Charlie Kronschnabel, Chris Tarkir and Merit Waldrop all led with their nonstop efforts. Ken Selby saw the most action he's seen as a freshman this weekend and accounted well for himself. Jared Tuton dished out more punishment with big hits all night and created much havoc in the Wisconsin zone. Josh Lunden and Paul Crowder continued their excellent play. Once again there was much to rave about in the defensive effort but I'd single out Chad Anderson's offensive contributions as special. There was a noticable change in UAA's power play with two defensemen manning the blueline vs. the forwards we've seen there so far this season. Chad had a rush tonight from deep in his zone taking the puck wide around a Badger defenseman then cutting in for a tight close effort on Elliott. It was the sort of play that was reminscent of Martin Bakula and easily could have turned into a goal. Up 2-1 late in the third UAA had a glorious chance to jump to a 3-1 lead but a Kronschnabel shot (on a big rebound from a Tarkir shot) rung solidly off the post after beating Elliott low on the glove side. Wisconsin pulled Elliott with just about a minute in the game but were never able to mount a close chance as UAA was good on faceoffs and scrambled to block shots and clear the puck. Tom Gorowsky threw a really cheap elbow at 19:54 of the 3rd that would earn him a night in street clothes if I were coaching the Badgers. I'd bet money (any takers?) he won't be sitting in the stands next Friday though. It was the same sort of late cheap shot I've seen over the years when Bucky has lost a game against UAA.

On the whole it was a good weekend for UAA. Though they lost on Friday in OT; but they scored a goal with an extra attacker to get the game to OT. And of course the victory tonight secured a couple of very important WCHA points. UAA sits in a tie for 9th with 5 teams above them having up to only 3 points more. A sweep down in Mankato could bump UAA as high as 6th place depending on other results next weekend. A sweep on someone else's rink is always a tall order but it will be important for UAA to get something down in Mankato against a Maverick team that got swept by Bemidji State this weekend.

EDIT: Here's a link to Andrew Hinkelman's story in the ADN ... oh wait. No it's not. Their website doesn't have one. A glitch I imagine. So for those of you without a paper version I'll retype a coupla things:
"That sent Wisconsin into a time wasting, no unecessary chances style of play, apparently content to see if the 1-0 advantage could hold up. After almost 10 minutes of trapping, mucking and grinding hockey to open the second period, the likes of which would put an insomniac hopped up on espresso to sleep, the Badgers took a penalty. That changed everything"
The rest of the story is the generally utilitarian (but good nonetheless) style typical of what you find in a newspaper account of a sporting event. But those three sentences above are deserving of a big pat on the back to our new UAA hockey reporter.

NUTHER EDIT: At 9:23am AST the ADN corrected the situation I described (@9:20) above and got the story onto their webpage.

A Brief Review of the 3-2 Loss

I was too disappointed to write anything last night. I watched a game that I thought UAA was more than capable of winning. I wasn't enamored. There were enough minor execution errors that even just a 50% reduction could have resulted in a win. Obviously, credit has to be given to the Badgers who pulled out a victory. No doubt there was a big sigh of relief on their part. They made substantially fewer mistakes with the puck and I think more than anything else that was their key to victory. I didn't think the Seawolves played their best game in the "collective" sense.

Paul Crowder was solid all night and it was nice to see Coach Shyiak say some of the same things I'd been saying about his strength on the puck. Josh Lunden showed more physical play that I think I'd seen so far this year. He had a huge hit in the first period deep in the Wisconsin end that was impressive. Jared Tuton played all night on the #1 line with Beagle and Waldrop and while his play was impactful in a physical way (lotsa good hits) I didn't think the line was particularly dynamic. It looked more like three guys playing hard individually since there's no way I could characterize Waldrop or Beagle's play as poor. Justin Bourne got to a lot of pucks with his hustle and certainly led the team in # of shots attempted. I thought Chris Tarkir played a good game. I'd thought he'd been less than visible in a couple of games this year but last night his play was impactful. Matt Robinson was noticably the best player in the defensive end. And that's not taking anything away from the rest of the defensemen who all did a solid job in their own end. Nathan Lawson played well enough in the net that I'd expect him to play again tonight but getting beat high on his glove side on the first goal was a surprise to me. Overall he did what he was supposed to do in terms of giving his team a chance to win. Kevin Clark looked good in places but also had a couple of times where he was awkward. I would credit him though with breaking up a couple of 2-1 rushes when he found himself the last player. He also made a couple of good plays in Bucky's end as well as getting two Badgers to foul him in the 3rd to gain PP's. I didn't look at the faceoff stats but I thought that the Seawolves won more than their share. The one stat for UAA that is a big positve is that 3 times now this season they've scored a goal while playing with an empty net.

I thought the flow of the game was a bit choppy but I guess that was just how and where the penalties were called. UAA had more PP chances and in the 3rd period had about 90 seconds of a 5 on 3 where they were unable to convert. To me that was the pivotal part of the game. Converting at that point would have given the team a huge turn in momentum. I thought UAA was overall the faster team. Perhaps my expectations are too high but I can't help but feel that last night was another 2 points that got away.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Friday Poetic Prognostication

I'll give this a try this week. If I like how it goes then I'll consider making it a weekly feature. The caveat is that I really don't know much about poetry (which will be obvious momentarily).

A cete of Badgers comes to town,
Red and white on skates,
Not the Tupolev 16.

Yet Engels and Marx are honored,
A collective on ice,
From each according to his abilities.

A great contest ensues,
Some Seawolves await,
Then back to Madison,
Sporting a frown.


UAA 4 - UW 1

UAA 6 - UW 3