Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Do or Do Not ... There Is No Try

Included I have a picture for you. Suggested by a comment yesterday it was. A poll too started I have; of it a true Jedi must avail themselves. Known the truth must be. If think you the picture accurate be, then vote you must. If think you the picture inaccurate be, then vote too you must. The way of the force it is; And yes the answer think I. The younglings when learn the truth might by storm take the CCHA. Clouded is the future, but the only hope for it, he is. Skating more laps envisioning I am, and a youngling frustrated there be. Seen in his eyes the doubt, and says Coach Yoda, "Do or do not ... there is not try". If happened it hasn't, be patient it will. In the den of the rival, behind the bench I see Seawolf fans many, pictures of Yoda holding they are.

The Seawolves tied they are with Boston College for lead in the nation in number of games tied. Ok, all that Yoda talk is a bit tiresome at this point. UAA and BC both have 5 ties each to lead the nation. Good thing, bad thing? I tend to think good. Shows how close we've been in 5 games that we didn't lose. I referenced it before and this is the time of year when mathematics of ranking teams starts to become more accurate. I was looking at KRACH today and saw a pretty interesting thing. 7 of the 10 WCHA teams are ranked one after another starting at #13 Minnesota, #14 UMD, #15, Wisconsin, #16 St. Cloud, #17 MSUM, #18 UAA and #20 MTU. Quite the cluster and confirmation (if the league standing weren't already enough) of exactly how much parity exists in the league this year. Conversely, you might prefer to look at it as how much WCHA teams beat up on one another. I'm betting the end result is only 3 WCHA teams in the NCAA's. Unfortunate but true think I. Oops ... Yoda snuck out there again.

Only 8 series remain for the Seawolves. First is another bye week then a trip down to Colorado Springs followed by hosting the Badgers at the Sully. Then it's off to the great windswept flatlands for a series at the Ralph. Michigan Tech visits then the squad is off to Chuck Wepner U before St. Bob comes up. Then back to the Colorado front range and Denver to play in front of their morgue-like crowd. The last regular series of the year is when Minnesota comes to town on Feb 29th/Mar 1st. So that's only four more weekends of hockey in Anchorage. Unless ... the Seawolves earn a home ice series by finishing 5th or better. With only 6 points separating 3rd from 10th place it is completely wide-open as to which teams will finish 3rd, 4th and 5th. I can envision hosting Minnesota in the last regular season series for UAA and having that series be something really important. Of course, lots has to happen to make that eventuality turn into a reality. But wouldn't it be sweet to have something on the line against the Gophers for the last series?

Except for 10 minutes this past weekend there wasn't a ton of stuff on the ice to get excited about. The games reminded me of the two earlier in the season versus Mankato. Lots of close checking play and neutral zone action with very little pretty hockey. Oh well, at least this time the results were reversed. There is a lot of work to be done in the second half because the team lost so many points in the first half. We should have gotten more out of the Mankato series, as well as DU and CC. We'll likely need a couple of sweeps at home and will have to continue to get points on the road. So far this season the guys have gotten points in every WCHA road series but have only managed one point in our barn. Yikes. That sounds really bad. I guess if we hadn't really been "in" all of those home games going into the 3rd period then I'd be worried about that stat. Every team that is coming to the Sully for the rest of the year can be beaten and/or swept.

I think it's just a matter of the Seawolves playing with confidence and belief in themselves. For the 2nd half every guy is going to have to look into the mirror every day and tell themselves, "Yes we can". The opportunity is there waiting to be taken advantage of. I think it is going to have to start with the upperclassmen. Having toiled through some tough times our Senior and Juniors should really know that this season is different. They've got to see that there is a lot of talent in the underclass that just needs their leadership in order to develop their own belief. So far this season the leadership has been great. It hasn't been often that Tassone, Tarkir, Cartwright and Waldrop weren't showing leadership through their efforts but those guys need to step it up another notch now. It's the stretch run and each game they play will be another game closer to the end of their college career. Go out with a bang fellas. Each one of you brings something unique and valuable to the overall effort. Each one of you is already playing the best hockey of your careers at UAA. You can each contribute and lead. I love the maturity you've shown and the leadership of your play on the ice. No doubt the younger guys look to you for leadership. I know you can help make it happen. You should know it too. Don't doubt. Do or do not ... there is no try. If you "do" then the rest will take care of itself. Your belief and attitude will seep into the rest of the team. Be the leaders of the first Seawolf team to bring a WCHA playoff series to the Sully. I believe you can. And I guarantee the joint will be packed if you do.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

UAA Undefeated in Non-Conference Again

With a 2-2 tie tonight for the second straight season under Coach Dave Shyiak the UAA Seawolves finished their non-conference season undefeated. In both 06-07 and 07-08 the team posted a record of 4-0-2 in non-conference play. Both seasons included records of 3-0-1 against archrival UAF.

It wasn't a good hockey game. It wasn't a horrid hockey game. I guess it deserved to be a tie. At best the Seawolves were uninspired. At worst they were perhaps a little bit uninterested. Except for brief times throughout the game (and I'd be at a loss to be specific about those times) there was never much of a flow to the game. The Seawolves never really managed to get their possession game going. And while both teams managed to create scoring chances there wasn't anything that would really be called pretty. Don't get me wrong. It wasn't ugly enough to put me to sleep. But there just never was any "flow".

I guess Rogers and Olthuis were probably the best players on the ice. Jonny O clearly has a better relationship with metallic elements of the periodic table as the pipes behind him helped out a couple of times apparently; I say apparently because at no time tonight did I really see the puck when it was in either end. I did recognize it a couple of times in the neutral zone when it was close to the camera. I've got no idea if the problem is lighting or the equipment or the operators but it was a shame to sit through two games and only be able to follow the play by watching where the players were chasing a little ghost puck.

I don't really know what else to say about the game except to gripe about the broadcast quality and I've done enough of that already. It was good to see Sean Wiles pick up an assist on Crowder's goal. Hopefully, that'll encourage him and give him more confidence. He looked better tonight on the puck than earlier games he played in. I like his reach and his foot speed looked better. I think Nils Backstrom should change his number from 13 to anything. Mat Robinson is "da man"; it was really heads up to pinch down low on the off-side during the power play and that smart play earned him a nice goal. Peter Cartwright was clearly fed-up with the linesman's puck dropping power-trip. Who could blame him? The guy has been taking face-offs for 4 years in D1 and what ... this linesman guy think he has to instruct him?

Yeehaw!!! No "contact to the head, roughing" calls but the linesman took a nasty shot to the schnoz eh? Glad it came off one of his hometown boys and not a Seawolf stick. Blair Tassone was also "da man" tonight. He should be a great example to underclassmen that want more ice time. He struggled for playing time for his first two years but the contributions he's made the last two years have been crucial to the teams improved play. Some of the freshman tonight did take some distinctly freshman penalties. I guess that's going to happen. No big deal I suppose; but cut it out fellas. I hear that Doc DelCastillo is a hard-nosed disciplinarian who is all about conditioning. Wanna bet that Dustin Molle will be skating a couple of extra laps next week having taken two bad 3rd period penalties?

I was going to mention it tomorrow but I'll fill some space here tonight with a retraction of my whole Say-Thur/Sather thing. Check the comments section from yesterday's post for the exact details but Bruce Cech (UAF radio/TV guy) was right and I was wrong. Luckily for me, it appears that UAF is wrong as well. Oi vey! I'll be back tomorrow with special edition of the regular Sunday Potpourri.

Friday, December 28, 2007

UAA Wraps Up Governor's Cup

Coming into the 2nd half of the 4 game series to decide the all-important* Governor's Cup the Seawolves just needed a tie tonight to earn their second straight cup. At the end of the 2nd period that result looked like a distinct possibility. In 2 periods of hockey neither team had any significant advantage with the score 1-1. UAF did have an advantage in shots at 24-15 which they earned with good comittment in their defensive end. They blocked more than a few shots and outchanced UAA. Jonny O stood tall when he had to and the 'nooks failed to bury several pretty good chances missing the net more than once. There was no big zone dominance by either team. UAA's penalty killing was effective as they managed to keep UAF off the board on 4 power play chances including a brief 5 on 3 in 1st. Tyler Eckford scored his 6th of the year at 10:10 of the first on a heavy shot from just inside the blueline to put UAF up 1-0 until the 4:18 mark of the 2nd period when Craig Parkinson tipped a Shane Lovdahl shot in on a similar play to UAF's first goal. I didn't see the tip. I thought it went straight in and I think the goal was initially credited to Shane. In any case, there wasn't really much in difference in the teams in the first two periods.

The game however turned in the first 5 minutes of the 3rd. Blair Tassone picked up a "contact to the head roughing" penalty (referee Ryan Gordon's favorite call apparently as he called four other ones on the night) just :22 seconds into the period but 22 seconds later Tyler Eckford was whistled for holding. A minute and nine seconds later Wylie Rogers was whistled for "contact to the head roughing" and when Tassone came out of the box UAA had a 5 on 3 advantage. Just as Eckford's first penalty expired Kevin Clark took a pass from Shane Lovdahl right in the middle of the slot and straight up ripped a shot past Rogers. The goal energized the Seawolves and they began to dominate the game. With a few minutes of good offensive possession, a little neutral zone denial and solid defensive play they "owned" all three zones. At 8:25 Dustin Molle was called for hooking and 26 seconds later UAA owned a 3-1 lead when Paul Crowder picked up a loose puck and found the open right corner to beat a screened Rogers. Game over man (as they say). The Nanooks didn't register their first shot on goal in the 3rd until just after the ten minute mark of the period with Craig Parkinson off on a penalty (nope ... one of the few that wasn't a "contact to the head roughing" call). But 55 seconds after UAA killed the power play Josh Lunden tipped a Shane Lovdahl wrist shot home for a 4-1 lead. That one chased a few UAF fans to their cars. Dustin Sather scored a nice goal for the Nanooks on the power play at 15:26 off a good feed from Dion Knelsen with Tommy Grant off for .... guess what ... say it with me now; "contact to the head roughing".

UAA played a solid smart game when they got the lead. It was those smarts that led to some of the dominating play and the last two goals. Congratulations to them on that. It was a good lesson to learn. Playing smart hockey with a lead is key to learning how to win otherwise tight hockey games. And if you take out the first ten minutes of the 3rd the rest of the game was pretty damn close.

A couple of things I noticed that I wanted to make sure and comment. The first is the pronunciation of a Fairbanks player's name. Why would I care? Well because he is the kid of one the great names in NHL hockey history. Who here has followed hockey for a while? Raise your hands ... ok ok ... most of you. So then you've heard of Glen Sather eh? That's "Say-thUR" not "Saa-thur". It's the hard "A "sound Mr. Cech. Show some respect to the long time Edmonton Oilers Coach and current President and GM of the Rangers eh? See it's like that ... eh? EH! Not a soft "a". Thank god nobody in Edmonton was watching the game.

Secondly, I noticed one Seawolf player that looked crazily excited on each of UAA's goals tonight. Kevin Clark danced into the celebratory pile each time UAA scored. Lots of guys are happy like that when they score a goal. Kevin was happy like that when his teammates scored. I thought that was cool. I don't know why it stood out to me so much but it did.

Lastly, what is with the CCHA and "contact to the head roughing" calls? The camera work was less than excellent all night so besides not being able to see the puck for the whole game I really didn't see the first 4 "contact to the head roughing" calls. But the Fairbanks broadcasters did show a good replay of the Tommy Grant one. Grant had been fighting for position in front of the UAF net with two 'nook defenders, the replay showed both defenders sticks touch Tommy's helmet. Neither of the contacts were anything I'd bitch about particularly and as the whistle blew Tommy gave something more than a shove and less than (anything remotely like) a punch to the ear of one of the defenders. If he'd had better aim it would have been a light face washing for the Nanook. And viola the 5th .... say it with me again .... "contact to the head roughing". LOL. Man the CCHA ought to work on shortening that to something like .... um .... lemme see .... "roughing"? What's with the CTH? Do they call that whenever someone gets a well-deserved face washing?
* I know lotsa folks get jazzed about winning "The Cup" but I've never really been of the mindset that it is all that important. It's bragging rights over a rival. That's all. Too many of them have been settled by stupid shootouts for them to really mean anything in my mind. But that's all I'll say about that; lest everyone flames me.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Xmas Present for Nanook Fans

It isn't like UAF fans really need me to give them a Xmas present. Santa lives right up the road from them in North Pole. He visits them before anybody else. If you really look at the situation you can see that Nanook fans are probably likely to be his favorites. I'm glad for them. The poor buggers up there need someone to treat them as if they're special. Good on Santa for that! But he isn't the only magnanimous person up here in the frozen north. Some of you might be under the false impression that I bear the Nanooks ill will. I know from time to time I've been less than kind in my commentary about the white teddy bears, but in the spirit of giving and the reverence we share for this day; I'm going to give Nanook fans what they really need. I'm going to disclose the secrets of their all-powerful rival. I'm going to tell them everything they need to know about the Seawolves. Nanook fans will love me for it no doubt.

And anyway since Santa is probably a Nanook fan I'll have one-upped him since all he gave me was a lump of coal. Yes, I'm better than Santa. He's "like" all judgmental with the deciding of who's been good and who's been bad. Not me.

If the Nanooks want to win this weekend they'll have to focus on several things to accomplish it. They'll have to stop UAA's offense; they'll have to penetrate UAA's defense. More than those two things they'll have to outwork UAA on both ends of the ice. Let's look first at UAA's offense.

Going up the ice the Seawolves have had some fairly balanced scoring so far this season. In the first 16 games they're scoring at a rate of 2.81 goals per game with 45 total goals. 5 players have accounted for 58 percent of those goals (Lunden 7, Clark 6, Parkinson 5, Crowder 4, Daychief 4) with 5 others having scored 2 or more goals (Waldrop 3, McCabe 3, Grant 3, Tarkir 2, Tassone 2) accounting for 28 percent. The #1 this as expected has been Clark, Crowder, Lunden. In most games, these three guys have been a threat to score on virtually every shift. There has been a bit of line shuffling with Paul Crowder being tried in other combinations. Obviously, keeping those guys off the board will be one key to any hope for a Nanook victory. But with four freshman forwards having shown they are every bit capable of putting the puck in the net the Nanooks can't just focus on defending that one line. UAA's offensive effort is pretty straightforward. The Seawolves like to get the puck in deep and use their physicality to cycle the puck and work it to the net. They are overall big (for comparison's sake UAA is 2nd tallest, 6th heaviest and UAF is 43rd tallest, 14th heaviest in D1) and and pretty much everyone is strong on the puck meaning Nanook fans should expect some prolonged possession time by the Seawolves in the UAF.

Every team UAA has played has faced these onslaughts. Quite honestly, UAA's record doesn't reflect it's oft dominating play. They have lost more than a couple of games where they completely outplayed the competition. So all that said, if the Nanooks can withstand those assaults with great postional play and outstanding goaltending then they have a hope. Those two factors kept UAA out of the win column versus CC and DU. The Nanooks can learn from that.

In the Seawolf end the Nanooks will be facing a group of blueliners that are all budding Bobby Orr's. I use that slight exaggeration to make the point that these guys all have excellent wheels. The Nanooks should be well aware of senior "Big Luke" Beaverson already (6'5" 220lbs). This years captain is a force in his end. His hitting game and positional play are both excellent. Gaining position on him is a difficult task for any D1 forward. His partner on the blueline is UAA's most effective defenseman going up the ice. Mat Robinson always has the afterburners ready to go and his vision is second to none. He is a great passer and potential playmaker who leads the team in assists. I've been greatly impressed with the play of freshman Kane Lafranchise over the last 6 games. He has matured quickly in his role and looks every bit the future power play quaterback. He is poised when he has the puck on his stick and is another blueliner with great wheels. Shane Lovdahl is perhaps the most effective open ice hitter on the team. He has a cannon in his stick. Nils Backstrom is UAA's euro-import and has many of the classic traits of defensemen from across the pond. His skating is demonstrably understated which is to say that he doesn't look fast until he catches you from behind. Freshman Luka Vidmar converted to defense from the wing during his junior career and is another of the excellent UAA skaters on the back end. His poise with the puck is growing with each game he plays. Sophomore Trevor Hunt is also likely to play this coming weekend. He is stong and dogged and though he's only played in 9 games this season he leads all blueliners with a +3 rating.

So with all that I think the biggest question is can the Nanooks outwork the Seawolves on both ends of the ice. My only answer for that is I don't know. As a UAA fan I have to think that nobody can outwork "my" team. I haven't really seen any opponenet do so this season and so that gives me some confidence but being as this is a pretty intense rivalry I'd expect UAF might at least be more motivated than any team the Seawolves have faced. I guess we'll see this weekend. Merry Xmas nookies. I expect nothing other than a happy new year for the Seawolves which should start with success against your team.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Ice Is Slippery

Years ago when working out of the Anchorage School District Data Center, I found myself having to rush across to Romig Jr. High to deal with a connectivity issue (the statistical multiplexer's buffer was overrun and wouldn't reset remotely). The school and the Data Center are closely located so I grabbed my jacket and dashed out the door. It was dark and pretty damn cold (no degrees or thereabouts) and my light jacket wasn't much use with the cold wind. So I decided to run; bad mistake that day. About halfway through my 100yd dash I hit a patch of ice and ended up with a compression fracture to my coccyx (tailbone). Yup, ice is slippery. But why? Glad you asked.

I had planned an extensive entry at some point covering the physics of hockey. But I'm lazy and how much can I really say about the primary law of physics involved in hockey. Force = Mass times Acceleration (f=ma). Thats pretty much all you need to know. The faster the stick hits the puck, the faster the puck will go. The bigger the guy and the speed at which he is blazing down the ice to check you from behind the more force you'll feel when he nails you. Describing all that in any kind of detail is just a bunch of math. Way boring. However the one thing that I did learn about the physics of hockey (i.e... why ice is slippery) is pretty cool so I'll share that.

Conventional explanations about ice and it's relationship to hockey said that pressure had something to do with the actions of skates. It was generally believed that the high pressure between the skate blade and the surface created liquid and made the skate blade glide. Not only is that wrong it doesn't explain why a puck glides.

Ice is slippery because the lattice-like structure of the crystals (which gives the ice rigidity) is somewhat mysteriously absent at its surface (see the picture above). Instead there is a "quasi-fluid layer" that exists at the surface. Physicist's have difficulty explaining how and why this situation exists. It clearly isn't a function of temperature since this "quasi-fluid layer" exists at as low as -183F. But even at a relatively moderate temperature of -60F one would find it very difficult to skate efficiently. Apparently, the boundry layer of many (not all) "solid" objects differ from the underlying layers of the object. In ice's case physicists found that the bonds of hydrogen atoms were missing from the lattice structure. Why you ask? To be honest, the mechanisms of the different states of water are surprisingly questioned at the highest levels of physics. We all know that ice melts, but did you know that physicists are only now beginning to understand and record the mechanisms that are responsible. Sure sure you say ... ice melts because it gets warmer and the molecules change state from solid to liquid. Yeah ... you're right in the simplest sense. But follow a couple of the links I've provided and you'll discover a complexity that surprised the hell outta me. Nice, eh? Don't say you never learned anything here.

Tyler Moir of the Drumheller Dragons has been named to the AJHL South Division All-Star team. The game is to be played on January 26th in Grand Prairie. Congratulations to Tyler on this honor. He is currently #7 on the league scoring table with 17g-38a in 38 games for a 1.4ppg average and 3rd overall in penalty minutes. Mickey Spencer's 23 goals with the Cowichan Valley Capitals has him placed at #9 on the goal scoring leaderboard in the BCHL. Since joining the Texas Tornado Gustav Bengtson has 4g-2a in 11 games. Not huge numbers but his .167 shooting percentage is 1st on the team amongst active players. 2 of those goals came in a 6-7 loss to Wichita Falls yesterday. I bet those two teams don't like each other much given that they combined for a whopping 73 penalties in their last two games.

Last week saw a story break that created quite the stir on the Internet. In case you've been in a cave Kyle Okposo jumped off the Gopher ship in favor of starting his career with the New York Islanders. The first interesting result of this news was the huge number of Gopher fans throwing Kyle under the bus for his choice. Then tDon placed the blame on NYI GM Garth Snow when the UofM press release quoted Donnie as saying,
“It is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position."
Apparently, Snow didn't like that much and when Minneapolis press came-a-calling Garth was all about dogging tDon for his failure to make Kyle better. I thought reading all the shitty things Gopher fans were saying about Okposo was funny but then to have this full blown pissing contest between Lucia and Snow topped it. A segment of college hockey fans are all up in arms at this turn of events fearing it'll mean that the NHL will become more predatory and snap up all the best college players in the middle of the season. They're just plain wrong. While I'd agree that it is cheesy for Snow to pull Okposo (or Okposo to bolt depending on your perspective) this isn't the beginning to some significant trend. College hockey isn't suddenly going to become another farm league for the NHL. While the last CBA has created a bit of an exodus from D1 ranks to the pros this Okposo event is more situational than it is typical. Bringing a 1st round draft choice into your college program has this risk. That's just how it is. If you don't want to lose a kid like this then tell him to go play major junior. The Okposo's, Kessel's, Vanek's, Parise's and numerous players before them (and some to come) were never going to be 4 year players. If you don't want to lose players to the NHL then recruit players that will probably be there for 4 years. It isn't like tDon thought Okposo would be a 4 year player. And yes ... I know Okposo did a shitty thing to jump off the boat midstream and leave it up to his former teammates to do all the rowing themselves. It's a risk/reward situation; the Gophers took a risk, they got some rewards for taking that risk and ultimately it went bad. That's life in the big city. All that said, Jeff Dubay should be elected "King of the Whiners" in the upcoming primaries election season. What a putz!

I know everyone is wondering if Bryce Christianson is really coming to UAA. I'm standing by my call that he is. Bryce did dress and play in the most recent Vernon game but the start was given to his backup (Bryce came on in relief and played 14 minutes). His recent absence from a practice as well as being the backup in that game tells me that the Vernon staff is preparing for his departure. The NCAA compliance office is closed for the holidays so all the paperwork to complete Bryce's move to UAA can only be completed when they come back from holiday. If I'm wrong I'll apologize, but I don't have any reason to suspect that I am. We'll know when we know I guess.

Next weekend will see the end of the usual 4 game series between UAA and UAF (next year we go to a 2 game series with both schools hosting a tournament and inviting ... but not playing ... each other). With just a tie either night UAA will wrap up it's second straight Governor's Cup. I'll have previews this week.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bryce Christianson to UAA

The USHL Blog is reporting that Bryce Christianson "appears to be headed" to UAA. I've exchanged emails with Ryan at that blog and his source for this information has an unimpeachable past record with such information so I'm going with this. I'd noticed the rumor mill on the main BCHL fan forum was pretty active today regarding this situation so with both of those sources I'd have to guess it's true. Expect an announcement from the school fairly soon.

Bryce (6'2" 195lbs) comes to the Seawolves from the Vernon Vipers (15-7-1 with a 2.92gaa and .905sv%) of the BCHL after spending last season in the USHL with Tri-Cities (5-1-0 with a 2.67gaa and .899sv%) and Lincoln (10-3-0 with a 3.1gaa and .893sv%). Prior to those gigs he'd played the previous two seasons with the Fairbanks Ice Dogs in the NAHL (14-13-7 with a 2.92gaa and .912sv% in 36 games in 2005-2006 and 7-7-1 with a 2.99gaa and .907sv% in 2004-2005). I'd expect that Bryce will be a solid backup for Jonny-O and if given the opportunity could very well challenge for starting time. Bryce is the son of UAA alumnus Todd Christianson who skated for the Seawolves in the early to mid 80's. Welcome home Bryce.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two Years of Minor Infamy

Today is the 2nd anniversary of this blog. It certainly isn't any particularly important day to anyone other than me. There are many more important real historical events on this day: The 13th Amendment was declared in effect and slavery ended in 1865; New Jersey was the 3rd state to ratify the Constitution in 1787; Vietnam adopted its Constitution in 1980; the U.S. Supreme Court ignorantly upheld the forced internment of Americans of Japanese descent in 1944; in 1998 Articles of Impeachment were read in the U.S. House beginning the impeachment of Bill Clinton for lying about a couple of blowjobs; in 1969 the British Parliament permanently abolished the death penalty for murder; in 1957 the first civilian nuclear (hey Dubya you ignorant twit ... it's pronounced NU-KLEE-UR not NEW-QU-LUR) power plant came online; in 1737 Antonio Stradivari kicked the bucket as did the mostly unfunny Chris Farley in 1997; in 1965 Gemini 7 splashed down; today was a favorite day for nuclear testing ... the Soviets popped one off in 1962 then a couple in Borat's homeland of Kazakhstan in 1966 and 1967, the U.S. set one off in Nevada in 1969 and in 1978 France blows up Muruora Island in the South Pacific and the Soviet Union makes it a doubleheader day with an underground test;probably most importantly Star Trek's Dr. McCoy gets a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1985. Brad Pitt, Keith Richards, Steven Spielberg, Ray Liotta, Christina Aguilera and Katie Holmes celebrate their birthdays today while Ty Cobb, Betty Grable and Austrian Archduke Francis Ferdinand wish they could blow out some candles from their graves. So yeah ... pretty much all those events are more important than my blog anniversary.

Early in my blogging career I learned that I wasn't an "established media outlet". And I suppose I'm still not by most measures, but I think I'm not doing half bad here for what I originally intended. So as I blow out the candles and finish up my celebratory Pillsbury Orange Sweet Rolls here's some highlights from year two.

In my first year on the web I had 27,381 visits with 32,330 page views. I was damn happy to have that too. The number surprised me when I wrote my 1st year anniversary post. This past those numbers have dramatically risen. My visits over the last year are 43,884 with 71,843 page views. So in two years thats 71,265 visits and 104,173 pages read. 361 total posts since I started. So all that is cool. They aren't numbers that would blow anybody away but considering I've written exclusively about a WCHA team that has been in last place most of the time I've been writing I'm happy with the numbers. My feedback in person, email and comments left in the blog have been so overwhelmingly positive (with the exceptions of when I stirred up hornets nests) that I'm thinking I'm mostly doing things right.

What was the last year like? In January we had the whole Coach Shyiak "immigration" mess. When a couple of jerks actually applied to backdoor their way into a head coaching job it prompted me to write this post. The situation garnered a bit of interest from the national college hockey press when CHN's Adam Wodon wrote this accurate assessment of the situation while Wisconsin homers Jess Myers and Eric Schmoldt were busy defending their boy Troy Ward. It was a busy month, Bethlyn from the always good MTU Blog came up for the series and we all hung out knocking back a few in a strip mall bar after the Saturday game.

In February I wrote to the ADN Editors Blog challenging them to do a better job of covering Seawolf hockey. This post details the exchange. When the Gophers came to town assistant coach John Hill fell down and bonked his noggin on the ice during a practice at the Sully. I wrote this post covering the aftermath at UofM. I also posted the most gross picture in the history of college hockey blogging and garbage entry after an ugly loss to those same Gophers.

In March I started off by naming the recipients of the UAA Hockey Fan Blog Awards. Paul Crowder was my Rookie of the Year, Justin Bourne was Most Improved, the Heart and Soul award went to Charlie Kronschnabel and I thought the MVP was Chad Anderson. In April I had but one post which provided the first pictures to the community regarding the proposed new arena with thanks to Wolfman (the guy now serving in Iraq from the post a couple of days ago).

In May (out of boredom) I talked about WCHA nicknames and suggested better ones for most of the schools in the league.

In June I began my beg-quest to raise funds for my trip to St. Paul for the WCHA Final Five this coming March. About 95% of the money raised so far is due to a thread that LetsGoDU blogger Damien Goddard started at USCHO and was donated that week. Apparently the USCHO crowd is all about supporting the effort (even though I busted a lot of their chops when i was a member); something I wouldn't say about UAA Hockey Fan Blog readers so far. To be honest, the fund-raising effort is as much about me determining the worth of my efforts here to my regular readers. So far that answer seems to be about 15 bucks. I said I wouldn't make a go/no-go decision until the middle of this coming February but with a little over 60 days to go I wouldn't expect to be reading anything from St. Paul written by me if I were you. And quite frankly, if what I do all season long isn't worth 5 bucks each from my 200 or so regulars then who knows if I'll make it to a 3rd blog anniversary. Yes I do this primarily for my own enjoyment but I'm discovering there are ways that I could probably make money writing and if that means writing about something other than UAA Hockey I might choose to examine those avenues. At the end of June I also railed against the budget cuts that Governor Palin made which excluded $1,000,000 for UAA Arena planning. Then the next day I sort of retracted what I'd said when it became clear that even though she'd vetoed the money the planning efforts would continue.

In July I submitted this piece to the ADN's Compass section with hopes they'd print it. They didn't and Editorial flak Matt Zencey told me I sucked. Thankfully, UAA arena planning Czar Bill Spindle doesn't suck and they published his essay supporting the arena. I also wrote a post from the future and Steve Cobb was disappointed to learn he didn't live until 2036.

In August I wrote profiles of the Senior Class, the Junior Class and the Sophomore Class. I also detailed what I thought we could all expect from the WCHA this season. I finished the month by dogging UAF's acquisition of a $100,000,000 boat when they're hundreds of miles away from navigable waters in every direction. The UA regents all live in Fairbanks.

In September along with all the preseason thoughts I published an interview with UAA Radio stud Kurt Haider. Great guy, great voice. I wrote a post detailing the Freshman Class, I covered the annual UAA hockey picnic, wondered if 5th place was realistic and worked with jjack to get the UAA Fan Forum going (where traffic is unfortunately pretty light recently).

In October besides covering games and updating news items I responded to a UAA Northern Light editorial that indicted UAA fans for using "bad" words. I don't think there are any "bad" words and I said so. They published my web response in the paper the next week. At the end of the month I worked with USCHO poster and awesome Seawolf fan Suze to solicit hockey fan comments to the UAA arena planning committee. She spearheaded an effort on USCHO which generated traffic from D1 fans all over the country supporting the building and financed the copying of a little flyer I made up. Suze, Mr. Suze, my daughter and I then passed out as many of the flyers as we could at the next game. Some of you probably still haven't passed along your thoughts and/or concerns. Get on that eh?

Last month besides the regular stuff I wrote some early season player evals and gave early season grades to the team. And this month aside from the regular things I wrote the (most commented ever here) Minnesota: State of Hockey? post.

So thats pretty much it. Of course, during the season I try to provide some insightful previews, game recaps (which are admittedly of variable quality), my perspective on news or events within the program and something meant to entertain every Sunday. I think it's worth 10 bucks; there's no advertising, I interact in the comment section as much as possible and I respond to every email. I've said it before and it's still true; this is all pretty worthwhile to me on two levels -- I get practice writing (which is my "calling" in life) and the positive feedback from readers is wonderful to receive. Thanks to you all for participating in my passion by reading this stuff. You all rule for doing so (and the flamers that show up are always great to laugh at!).

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Hater Edition

I hate watching the team lose. Yup, a good long sleep and a bit of time hasn't really moderated that feeling. Is it a big deal? Not really. Life goes on. The things that must be done still must be done (gawd, I hate dirty dishes!). The reality for this fan is that I'll look forward to watching the guys beat UAF in a couple of weeks and then optimistically expect them to put together an improved second half so that I get to sit in my (poached but broken seat) in section 213 for a WCHA home playoff series. That goal is something I've been looking forward to since the team joined the league. A home playoff series certainly isn't the highest possible goal when there are McNaughton Cups, Broadmoor Trophies and National Championships but it'd be enough to make me happy. One step at a time eh? Home playoff series, Final Five placement, NCAA appearances and then hope for a championship. Hoping for anything above hosting that home playoff series would be a recipe for disappointment at this point. Such things only happen AFTER you host a home playoff series. So I'll keep my expectations on that level for now since I hate being disappointed.

It's useful to note here that in most past seasons I'd be satisfied with seeing the team play good hockey and not worry too much about accomplishments. But for whatever reasons that isn't going to be the case this year. I know this years team has as much talent throughout the lineup as any Seawolf team I've ever seen hit the ice and I'll hate it if they are denied the fruits of that potential. I'll hate it as a fan. I'll hate it for the players sake. I'll hate it because it'll make all the people that hate what I write here happy.

Now onto some more hating. About a month or so ago a USCHO fan forum thread about hating popped up. Apparently, they'd done a poll on the front page querying readers which team they hated the most. No big surprise that the Gophers "won" the poll. The thread was asking for comments from forum participants that writer Scott Weighart could use in this piece he was writing. I followed the thread for a few days and was gleefully amazed that not only were gopher fans the primary respondents (110 of 227 replies from gopher faithful) but that overwhelmingly they were defining other fan's hatred of their program as a product of jealousy or envy. My level of incredulity at the ridiculousness of that defense was off-the-scale.

Did gopher fans really think they could accurately define why others hated their program? Incredibly they did. So I kept reading hoping that someone would express some reasons that would ring true for me. And when nobody really did I hopped into email and 'splained it to Mr. Weighart myself. I hoped to give him another perspective but surprisingly he actually used bits of my missive in his article. It's a good article for one primary reason ... Lucia used exactly the same reasoning as his fanbase. LOL. He thinks people hate his program because they're jealous! OMG that is absolutely hilarious! Go read the article if it interests you. I'll give credit to anyone from USCHO that uses something from me on their site considering how much they hate me. The complete text of my email to Scott is below:
Living inside Gopher Nation makes it pretty much impossible for Gopher fans to begin to understand the hatred of their program. Evidence for this lack of understanding is their #1 explanation always involves jealousy. That nice little rationalization makes them feel better while at the same time belittling outsiders opinions. Hatred of the Gopher program doesn't come from jealousy or envy. The success of the Gophers isn't the issue in the least to fans that dislike them.

The "hatred" (I'd say here that hatred is the wrong adjective; we don't hate them ... we are sickened by them) instead comes from the swagger and the chest thumping following their success. The few that act like they've been there before are simply outnumbered by the jersey popping crowing bandwaggoners that show up when success seems evident. These people (like Jeff Dubay) are all about proclaiming dominance and decrying everyone else as inferior when the Gophers win; but they are also the first "fans" to express that the sky is falling when their team slips up. While many other Minnesota sports programs have experienced the pain and humiliation of the bottom; the Gophers never have. Fans from virtually every other program have experienced the bottom and we just wish that UMTC would get a taste of that and thus gain the perspective that we have. We know sometimes our program will make us happy; we know sometimes it will make us sad. But only Gopher fans have the sort of hand-wringing lamentations that sicken observers.
Billy Mays is the most ignorant bombastic asshole that has ever been foisted on TV watchers since the medium was invented. If you don't know who I mean then you've never seen a commericial for "Orange Glow" or "OxiClean" or "Simoniz Scratch Remover" or "Awesome Auger" or "Zorbees" or any one of dozens of other products that I'll NEVER BUY simply because this loudmouth asshole is yelling at me about them. Hate is too nice a word to use regarding my feelings for this douchebag. If I came across the idiot in real life (and luckily I never will since he lives in shithole Florida) I'd give him a 120 decibel shout-down that he'd never forget. I'd like to shove Matthew Lisko (Free Money!!! Free Money!!! Free Money from Govt. programs) right up Billy Mays fat ass. Matthew's a skinny little bitch so it's probably doable. I love watching the Science Channel but because their ratings are so low these two idiots and their low-rent direct marketing pitches seem to inundate the place. There is an interesting dichotomy to one minute be watching a program examining where the missing mass of the universe could be or how bio-quantum computing might be in our future only to then be aurally pummeled by an insipid side-show hawker brow-beating you to buy some horseshit product that you don't really need.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Jekyll and Hyde Saturday Night

For the fist six or seven minutes of tonights hockey game I saw a Seawolf hockey team that looked like world-beaters. The absolute fury with which they went after the Pioneers was breathtaking. It was 6 or 7 minutes of some of the most dominating hockey I've ever seen a Seawolf squad muster. They were flying; they were buzzing; they were banging and it resulted in chance after chance. But with 2 goals in their pocket something happened. The Seawolves dropped into a 1-1-3 conservative set and all the offensive air went out of their sails. With about 11 minutes left in the period the shots showed UAA 8 - DU 0. But slowly and steadily as UAA abandoned their furious forechecking (and the Pioneers didn't panic) the momentum began to shift. Toward the end of the 1st the Seawolves again started playing with emotion but none of thier efforts proved fruitful. The last 8 or 9 minutes of the period was just a small hint of what was to come. Shots at the end of the period? 8-6 for UAA.

I heard Kurt Haider say during the post game radio broadcast that some "imposters came out of the Seawolf locker room" after the 1st intermission. And inn a stunning turnaround the Pioneers scored 4 goals in just over 8 minutes. The first at 4:09; then next at 7:11; then at 9:26 and 12:32. Every good chance they got, they finished. At times in their own end the Seawolves looked like they were chickens running around with their heads cut off. DU found players open that should have been covered and they converted. The defensive effort was a nightmare. Jonny O got hung out to dry. All credit at this point to Coach Shyiak though; right after the 4th goal, he called a timeout to rally the troops. It seemed to help a bit. At least DU didn't score again in the period anyway. Unlike DU, when UAA had chances they blew them though. I counted at least three 2 on 1 breaks without registering a shot. Shots in the 2nd? DU 12 - UAA 9.

So to start the third there was at least some small measure of hope that the Seawolves could turn it around somehow and get back into the game. And 55 seconds into the period they got their opportunity with the first power play of the game for either team, when Chris Butler tripped Winston Daychief after getting beaten down low. For a fan it was one of those moments when you rub your hands together and grit you teeth a bit in some determined hope. Then then power play produced a bit of chance and you hope that "this is the moment". Down 4-2 early in the 3rd it is exactly the sort of time when your team would deeply benefit from a goal. But then the headless chicken thing suddenly reappears. Jonny O went behind the net to handle a puck and didn't see the forecheck, a miscommunication with the defenseman and the next thing you know the Pios are chucking the puck into an empty net. It was a balloon popping moment. The game was definitely over.

No doubt Coach Shyiak was frustrated with his efforts to get the team focused. With 13:49 remaining in the game he pulled Jonny O and put six skaters on the ice. All credit to him for doing so. At that point there was nothing else that was going to force the team to play harder. And for 35 seconds or so it looked like the team might respond positively. On the first shift they generated a scoring chance and forced a face-off in the DU end. Then fate intervened. On a play that Mat Robinson would handle 999 out of 1000 times at the blueline, he fumbled the puck and Tyler Ruegsegger simply had to skate it down into the empty net to wrap up the scoring for the night. The next 12 minutes was nothing other than two teams going through the motions. There were moments here and there where Seawolves put out some reasonable efforts but they never mounted another serious scoring threat.

Analyzing losses is tiresome when your heart is so involved wanting to see a victory. Nothing I've written above was pleasant to think about much less write about. The Seawolves put together a great effort on Friday only to be sadly denied. That happens. It sucks but as a fan you can learn to accept those kinds of losses. But then we witness this Jekyll and Hyde performance tonight? What's that about? They play with as much confidence as I've ever seen and then play with loads of obvious self-doubt in the same game? It wouldn't be fair to not credit the Pios for finishing their chances all weekend. They did exactly that. That's my honest reaction for now. I'll be back tomorrow with the regular Sunday Potpourri; let's all hope I feel less confused and disappointed by then.

UAA Flag Flying in Iraq

United States Air Force Capt. Donald R. Leaver II (UAA Alum) sent me this picture today of he and his team rockin the UAA Seawolves flag at Camp Victory Iraq. Known as Wolfman on the USCHO fan forum, Capt. Leaver was recently reassigned from Shreveport, Louisiana to Iraq. The UAA flag had previously proudly graced his home there but Wolfman wanted to make sure he took it with him on his assignment.

Thanks to him for sharing this picture and lets all hope he and his men keep their heads down and are sent home soon. He assures me that each and every one of the men in the picture are current Seawolf fans! Wolfman is third from the right holding up his index finger in the classic "we're #1" pose.

I thought about posting his email address here so you could all send him you best wishes but since I hadn't asked his permission and I wanted to get this posted I'll just ask that everyone reading this post pass along their positive comments here. Thanks Wolfman for the pic and of course for "representin"!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Pios Xmas Comes Early

The UAA Seawolves were magnanimous tonight. In the spirit of an early Xmas they gifted a hockey game to their opponent. The SantaWolves out-shot, out-hit, out-chanced, out-worked, out-skated and just plain out-played the Pioneers for 59:50 seconds. The other 10 seconds the Seawolves out-gave their opponent.

Two brutal giveaways were the difference in the game. They weren't the only two giveaways but the Pioneers weren't able to convert on several other opportunities that were given to them. 36-16 were the shot totals. 36-16. More than double. It wasn't as if the stingy grumpy Grinch was in net for DU. Mannino served up juicy rebound after juicy rebound all night long. As often as not the WhoWolves were there for second chances but either fired it wide or just couldn't quite connect.

I'll mention Peter Cartwright's name here (who is likely to have some Tim Burton-style nightmares tonight), who late in the third period found himself with the puck on his stick between his feet facing an glaringly open net and couldn't quite get the trigger pulled. But that was just the most obvious example. Perhaps on another night the score might have been 7-2 for the Seawolves. But that just didn't seem to be in the books for UAA tonight. Sigh ...

I'm out. I just can't think of anything else to say. The Pios did cash in on the few chances they were granted. The Seawolves didn't cash in enough of the numerous chances they had. End of story.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

CHN "pwnd" USCHO

For the uninitiated "pwnd" is gamer/web-speak for completely and utterly outclassing the competition. My use of that term today is in reference to a great article posted on a blog by Jim Dahl. The article delves into an attempt by USCHO to trademark the term "Pairwise" with regard to College Hockey Ranking systems. I won't begin to try to detail any of that here but encourage you to read the whole post. Dahl has done the college hockey community on the Internet a great service with this article. It is an awesome look at some goings-on "behind the scenes" that most of us would otherwise not be aware.

Back in March of last year USCHO filed it's initial application for the trademark and from there Dahl picks up the story:
Apr. 17, 2006

The next action in the file, described as “Paper Correspondence Incoming”, came from a bunch of names you might recognize as formerly associated with USCHO: Mike Machnik (founder of HOCKEY-L, now affiliated with CollegeHockeyNews), Adam Wodon (founder of CollegeHockeyNews), John Whelan (developer of some pretty neat hockey ranking analysis tools, wrote USCHO’s Pairwise analysis tools, now with CollegeHockeyNews) and Keith Instone (long-time HOCKEY-L ranking guru, first devised the pairwise technique to mimic the selection process). Their letter raised quite a few objections to USCHO’s application, including the following:
  • Pairwise is a generic mathematical term that describes how the comparison is performed
  • The algorithm, in relation to college hockey, was developed by Keith Instone before USCHO existed
  • USCHO doesn’t use the term “pairwise” in commerce, as they claimed
  • The sample of “advertising” submitted by USCHO was not, indeed, advertising, but a page of hockey rankings
  • Lots of other sites cover college hockey and publish pairwise rankings of teams
Again, for the rest of the information go to Dahl's blog and read the article. And when you're done with that, start visiting College Hockey News more often. Regular readers here will note that they've long been a preference of mine both because of the quality of their writing as well as my own disassociation with the USCHO fan forum (for being such a bad poster on their fan forum). And it helps CHN that they complimented me a couple of times. Or that USCHO editors want stupid shootouts and CHN is against them.

#1 Ranked DU: Chinks in the Armor?

The most reliable method of determining who is the best team in Division 1, KRACH has the DU Pioneers ranked at #1. The (useless) but more popularly quoted USCHO "Poll" has them at #4. The difference between the two is that KRACH uses objective math and the USCHO Poll uses subjective humans. In either case, it appears that the Pios look to be the most highly "rated" opponent to come to town this season. For comparison purposes KRACH has UAA ranked at #16 while the USCHO Poll doesn't list UAA anywhere among the 31 teams who received votes. Wow. That's a pretty big disparity eh? My point here isn't to beat up on the "polls" (even though they're stupid) but rather to show that pretty much everyone agrees that DU is a really good hockey team. Their record is indicative of that: 12 wins and 4 losses.

But all that said it; there are I believe some chinks in the armor that the Seawolves can take advantage of this weekend. Defensively the Pios were thought to be nothing spectacular before the season started. But so far in practice this season opponents have only notched 1.69 goals per game. That's a pretty stellar number. During the preseason the general worry amongst Pios fans was whether their defensive crew was up to the task. So far this season Gwoz has gone pretty rigidly with six blueliners in all games. Looking at the numbers would make think that these six guys must pretty much be "all-worlders". But I believe the truth is that they aren't "all that and a bag of chips". They've done a serviceable job. Most of the credit for the good GAA goes to Peter Maninno. He's started and finished every game so far in his senior season between the pipes. His save percentage of .934 is all the more impressive when you consider that he has faced more shots per game than any other WCHA netminder. There is no doubt he is playing the best hockey of his career so far this season. Seemingly no real chink there.

Offensively Pios fans had quite a bit to look forward to before the season started. Tyler Ruegsegger, Rhett Rakhshani and Brock Trotter all returned and are all highly-regarded for their offensive abilities. None of those three have disappointed as they are all producing top 20 numbers in scoring among WCHA forwards. Three incoming players looked to contribute offensively as well with Tyler Bozak, Kyle Ostrow and Jesse Martin expected to contribute. All three have done pretty well but Bozak is #3 for WCHA rookies in scoring. Trotter, Rakhshani, Bozak and Ruegsegger have accounted for 29 of the 46 total goals the team has netted so far this season. The overal 2.88 goal per game average isn't huge by any measure (about the same as UAA's). DU's power play has been less efficient than UAA's and currently sits at just under 12 percent. No real chink there either.

There's a bit of disparity in size this weekend between UAA and DU. The Pios are 30th in height and 20th in weight overall. UAA is 2nd in height and 6th in weight overall. It isn't as big a difference as we've seen in some earlier series but it's enough to make it somewhat significant especially since DU plays with only 6 defensemen. Is this the chink? Could UAA's big forwards wear down DU's 6 defenseman? It might be something for Gwoz to worry about this weekend. UAA rolls 4 lines consistently and all four lines utilize physical play to attempt to dominate zone possession. Coach Shyiak's cycling game might have one of it's best opportunities so far this season to be really fruitful. Having skated really well with one of the fastest teams in the NCAA (CC) I don't think UAA has to worry much this weekend about being outskated. I'm sure the Pios can skate too but it's unlikely they'll outskate the Seawolves this weekend. So that's the chink.

If UAA plays "it's game" this weekend, I believe they could expose that chink. Strong physical play is the mantra. Hit 'em hard and then hit 'em again and again. Wear 'em down. Keep the games close with the same good defensive play that we've been seeing and use every bit of the 200ft rink to tire the Pios legs. I think matching up lines will be important this weekend and while Gwoz usually does a great job in that department the home ice advantage of having the last change is in Shyiak's favor. Hopefully, he finds the combinations that best utilize that advantage this weekend.

One additional factor that the Seawolves might need this weekend is for the fans to be in the game. So as your sitting in your section this Friday and Saturday night I'm calling for readers to be proactive. Be vocal yourself and encourage your neighbors to be vocal as well. Let the Seawolves know you're behind them. Pump them up. I expect these to be a couple of very tight and very hard played hockey games. Sitting on your hands and watching isn't going to be helpful. Make some noise and pass it along. 4 points isn't out of the realm of possibility this weekend. Be a part of helping that happen with your support eh? Bring a friend. Bring two friends. The #1 team is coming to town; UAA fans shouldn't need anything more than that to get pumped up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Paul Crowder: WCHA Offensive POTW

Paul Crowder's 3rd period natural hat trick (for the "cycle"... power-play goal, short-handed goal and one at even strength) in Saturday's 5-3 win over Minnesota-Duluth earned him a share of the Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award. This weekend saw an interesting turn for both Paul and his brother Tim. Both had been experiencing a bit of a lull in goal scoring prior to the weekend. Paul had one goal on the season and Tim had two. After the weekend Paul has 4 goals and Tim has 6 thanks to his 2 goal output for Michigan State on both Friday and Saturday night. I'm reminded of the metaphor of the "blue moon", this past weekend there must've been a "Crowder moon". This is the 4th WCHA POTW award for the Seawolves this season. Josh Lunden was a recipient of the Offensive award back on Oct. 16th, Winston Daychief won the Rookie award on Oct. 23rd and Kane Lafranchise picked up the Rookie award on Nov. 20th. Congratulations to the better Crowder brother on receiving this weekly honor and thanks for choosing UAA.

University of Denver: Ugh ... Not Them Again

Did I mention on Sunday how I hate DU? It is purely based on UAA's results over the last few years. Too many close losses will do that. I can usually muster some disdain for pretty much every other opponent based on where they're from. But I spent from 8th grade through 11th in Denver and returned for a year after I graduated from West High here in Anchorage, so I mostly like the place. I had my first beer there; snuck into my first bar at 17; went to ridiculous numbers of Green Mountain High school parties; I tried Ganja for the first time on the turf at Mile High Stadium during a concert in 1975; I lost my virginity in a cabin on Lookout Mountain; I "cruised" 15th and 16th avenue downtown with hundreds of other teenagers when those were still streets and not some goofy "mall"; before I drove, I rode my 10-speed all over the place; I snuck into god only knows how many drive-ins theaters; and I played a helluva lotta soccer; and I went to at least 60 or 70 Colorado Rockies hockey games before they moved to Jersey. How could I not think fondly of the place? I did all my rites-of-passage stuff there ya know?

So to be more specific about my hate for DU here's a brief recap of the last three years. Last year with 6 players sitting out a game suspension (from the CC fight) the Seawolves put up a spirited battle on Friday night but just didn't have the legs to finish even though they knotted the game at 2-2 with 13:35 remaining in the third; they lost 4-2. Saturday night the suspended players returned and the game was pretty much a barn-burner with a 1-0 DU lead until an empty netter with 1:03 in the game. Argh. That was a disappointing weekend (the same weekend as this upcoming series). Those were the only two games last year due to the ever-popular unbalanced schedule.

In 05-06 the Seawolves went 1-3. The first series was in Denver and UAA had a less than inspired game on Friday night losing 5-2. DU scored ridiculously early, built a 2 goal lead and the game was never really close. The Saturday game that weekend though was a different story with Nathan Lawson making 37 saves to key the 3-0 win. The next series that season was at the end of January up here and the most significant event was Paul Stastny running Lawson and giving him a knee injury. It happened to be the weekend that John DeCaro was attending to the birth of his new baby so reserve 3rd string goalie Mike Rosett had to step in an play. He did a great job but the Seawolves couldn't find a response to Ryan Dingle's goal with about 10 minutes left in the game and 3-2 was the result. John DeCaro was able to play the 2nd night in a sort of nasty game but UAA came up on the short end of the chippiness and lost 5-3.

The 04-05 season had only the two game series in Denver. Friday night was brutal; at the end of the first period the score was 4-2 for DU, by the end of the game those numbers were doubled to 8-4. The Saturday night game was a completely different story. The Seawolves played inspired that night; Nathan Lawson made 34 saves (oops ... he made 35 but didn't get credit for the last one). The game went to OT and on DU's only chance of the OT period, Nathan made one of the all-time great saves you'd ever want to see. He flashed his glove hand low on a point blank chance (within 2 feet of the net) moving from right to left and the puck went into his glove and out. Play continued and UAA had a couple of good chances of their own. Then came a stoppage and Gwoz got Todd Anderson's ear long enough to get him to use the new-fangled experimental video replay system to check if there had been a goal scored. Can't blame him I guess; Nathan had made what looked to be an impossible save. The replay showed the puck going into Nathan's glove and coming back out. Nathan's glove was directly between the overhead camera and the goal line. So even though our good buddy Todd couldn't see the puck (it was in Nathan's glove) he somehow intuited that it had crossed the line. Those cool sunglasses that in last Sunday's "Potpourri" post I mentioned Todd owning, apparently keep his superman x-ray vision intact.

It seems like these games are more often than not some pretty rugged hockey. In the last 8 games the teams have combined for 119 penalties with 6 misconducts issued.

Last year during this series LetsGoDU blog and I did a swap. Damien Goddard wrote here and I wrote there. It was a good experience overall. DG posted a bogus (I thought it was obvious) entry indicating that Coach Shyiak was holding open tryouts for any eligible students to replace the suspended players. Apparently a couple of readers believed it and almost showed up to try out. There was over 1,000 hits on this blog that day after someone posted a link on with the same open tryout theme. In response, crafted a faux-investigative journalist entry on his blog about some UAA students on a mission to find DG and improve his grammar. The last time I communicated with DG I think the subject came up about whether to do the swap again and I guess I was reticent enough about it that it never came up again. That's fine. I like driving my own rig. I did notice today though that DG removed my write access to his blog; perhaps he thought I'd sneak something onto it in the middle of the night? It hadn't occurred to me but kudos to him for being security conscious. I was much less trusting as I removed his access last year at the end of the blog swap.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Minnesota: State of Hockey?

Minnesotans are justifiably proud of their accomplishments in the hockey world. They have every reason to be. They're downright hockey-mad. But they aren't the only state that is so smitten with the sport we all love. There's an ongoing argument about which state produces the most and/or best hockey players. The three states that have reasonable claims to that bragging right are Minnesota, Michigan and Massachusetts. The InterWeb is a funny place. It brings out all sorts of chest-thumpers that not only crow about their particular issue but almost always seem to have to trash-talk somebody else while doing so.

I'm no stranger to blustering and bloviating as I've certainly done my share in various Internet locales. Several years ago there was a rash of Minnesota faithful on USCHO's fan boards popping their jersey's while crapping on everyone else about how great their state was: par for the course ya know? Like I said, they have plenty of justification for pride. They are equally as insane about high school hockey as Texans are about high school football. While the rest of the kids in the U.S. play Midget hockey for development, Minnesotans rely on High School for that. They even have a couple of high schools that import players from all over the country. The annual high school state tournament produces more erections in Minnesota hockey fandom than viagra. They have 5 universities playing Division 1 hockey. The 1980 Miracle on Ice team had loads of Minnesotans on it. Minnesota was deeply involved in hockey development in this country when there were less than 10,000 white people in Alaska. They have tradition and halls of fame and an endless parade of great names to hang their hats on. Sweet. Good for them.

In any case, back then in order to verify the facts for myself I did a little counting and cyphering and figured out that Alaska actually produced more Division 1 players as a percentage of hockey playing population than did Minnesota. Man oh man did that ever elicit a bunch of responses; most of which decried my use of the "percentage of population" metric. Nobody seemed to take exception to my methodology or results but instead just wanted to focus on the numbers without any examination (if I remember correctly it was something like 224 - 28). So ... lets do that analysis again.

There are 205 Minnesotans playing Division 1 hockey this season. There are 30 Alaskans playing D1. Here's a bit of how they breakdown and significant numbers. The ECAC has 28 Minnesotans and 2 Alaskans. Clarkson is the only member of that league without either a Minnesotan or Alaskan on the roster. Union has no Minnesotans while Dartmouth has the most with 6. The CCHA has 24 Minnesotans on their rosters while Alaska has 10. UAF has 5 Alaskans. Michigan and Michigan State have no Minnesotans and no Alaskans. UNO has 7 Minnesotans and 2 Alaskans. Hockey East has 9 Minnesotans and 1 Alaskan. College Hockey America has 16 Minnesotans and 1 Alaskan with Bemidji St. having 10 of that 16. Atlantic Hockey has 30 Minnesotans and 4 Alaskans. Interestingly, Holy Cross doesn't have a single Minnesota kid. AFA has 10 from Minnesota and 2 from Alaska. The WCHA has 98 Minnesotans on their rosters with 12 Alaskans. 205 to 30. Slam dunk! Minnesota produces WAY more Division 1 players than Alaska (82 of the 205 play D1 in Minnesota). Case closed? Nah.

Let's look at why eh? The population of Minnesota is approximately 5.2 million. The population of Alaska is about (and I'm rounding up slightly here) 670,000 people. So ... Minnesota is 7.76 times more populated than Alaska. If you just take those numbers then you'll find that Minnesota produces 6.83 times more Division 1 players than Alaska from a population that is 7.76 times larger. I tend to think that means they are underperforming.

But that's not really a fair comparison. The hockey playing populations in both states is substantially less than their total populations. In Alaska there are four primary areas where kids have a chance to play organized hockey; Anchorage, The Mat-Su Valley, The Kenai Peninsula and Fairbanks. The combined population of those 4 areas is about 400,000 people (probably should be a fair bit lower but let's go with a high estimate eh?). Minnesota is a bit harder for me to rationalize as to total hockey playing potential population so I'll turn to USA Hockey registrations to equalize the numbers. In Minnesota there were just at 50,000 USA registrations (49,976 to be exact). In Alaska there were 8,310. Thats just a little over 6 times more for Minnesota. So if we assume that the hockey playing potenial population in Minnesota is around 3 million; would that seem fair (6 times more would be 2.4 million)? It seems to me. I'd tend to think it's higher than 2.4 million and putting it at 3 means 3/5th of the state is in the hockey playing potential population?

So a little bit of math and ... 1 kid per 13,333 in Alaska plays Division 1 hockey. In Minnesota 1 kid per 14,634 plays Division 1 hockey. Hmm? Do the math yourself; fudge the Minnesota hockey playing potential population numbers higher or lower as you think appropriate. I think I'm being gracious to assume that their hockey playing potential population is 3/5ths of the total population. I believe it to be even higher. After all, doesn't everyone in Minnesota live, eat and breath hockey? According to the chest-thumping jersey-poppers they do. And if that's truly the case then certainly more than 3/5ths of the state are hockey enthused, aren't they? If it is as "they" say then the numbers of Division 1 players that Minnesota produces is kinda disappointing isn't it? Shouldn't it be up around 250 or 275?

Looks to me that Alaska has a higher per capita production of D1 players than Minnesota. Go ahead and call yourselves the "State of Hockey" but you don't have anything on Alaska and you sure don't have a clear cut case to the name when compared with Michigan and Massachusetts. And oh yeah ... don't look now but California, Texas and Colorado are up and coming "States of Hockey". So please ... really; stop with all the provincial crowing about how great you are. Yes you have much of which you can be proud. Relax and be at peace with that. Enjoy your "hockey factory" while we toil to produce players in our "boutique". I'm not saying here that it's Ford vs. Rolls Royce but that comparison does have a nice cachet. Anyhow, the rest of us would really like a break from the all bullshit crowing. And oh yeah, there's this place called Canada attached to your northern border that puts you to shame (do British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario have an ongoing pissing contest aboot who is better?).

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Empty Shirt Version

That isn't Todd Anderson's shirt. It's Randy Schmidt's. More about that at the end of this entry.

Here's what I said about the WCHA before this season started:
Last season saw the highest degree of parity in the WCHA in memory. The difference in points between first and last place was the smallest in more than a decade.
Take a look at the standings. 3rd place 13pts, 4th place 12pts, 5th place 11pts, 6th place 10pts, 7th place 9pts, 9th place 7 pts. 3 of the 4 teams clustered at the bottom have only played 10 league games while everyone above them have played 12 with 3rd place Duluth having played the most with 14. Duluth's position in third is clearly tenuous and the 3 teams with games in hand all look in good position to move up the standings. Thats two things that will almost certainly lead to an even tighter race than we have already. Wow is all I can say. Getting points every weekend is more important this year than it's ever been.

Quite a Saturday night for Paul Crowder eh? Both Crowder and DU's Rhett Rakhshani had 3rd period natural hat tricks on Saturday night to lead a come from behind victory for each of their teams. Crowder had a trifecta; 1 shorty, 1 even-strength and 1 power play. In the ADN Shyiak noted that the energy play on a couple of early 3rd period shifts by Grant, Haddad and McCabe sparked the team. As I did yesterday he also noted the excellent play all weekend by Waldrop, Cartwright and Tassone. It will be interesting to see who the WCHA chooses for it's WCHA offensive player of the week. My bet is that Crowder and Rakhshani share the honor. The three points this past weekend are really a good thing to see. 2nd place DU comes up here on quite a roll. They are highly ranked (#1 and #2) on the early season KRACH and Pairwise computer rankings. Since I linked to those two methodologies, it is important to note that it is still a little early for them to be considered really accurate since they both utilize comparisons to reach their conclusions and we're not even halfway into the season. I believe DU is over-acheiving somewhat which must be pleasing their fanbase who overall expected less than they are getting. I'll have more about DU this week of course. I hate them.

There is a bit of a local buzz about a replacement goaltender now that Matthew Gordon is injured. The University indicated they're probably looking for someone to add to the roster for the second half and I've had comments here and questions about Bryce Christianson. He's been a good prospect for a couple of years now from more than a couple of NCAA teams. He had what most people would consider to be an off-year which might have scared some coaches away from committing to him. Take a look at this blog entry from Doyle Woody. I might have more information about this tomorrow. I might not too.

A quick update now on the incoming players. Gustav Bengtson has had a reasonably good start with Texas in the NAHL since his trade. In 7 games he has 2 goals and 2 assists. He isn't tearing it up (yet) but I'd tend to think he is still adapting so hopefully when he settles in he'll pick up the production rate. Tyler Moir with the Drumheller Dragons has added to his scoring line with three goals last week in two games; he currently has 15 goals and 28 assists in 32 AJHL games and interestingly has 146 penalty minutes. He is 11th overall in points, tied for 9th in assists and is 5th overall in penalty minutes. Mickey Spencer is tied for 4th in goals scored in the BCHL so far this season. He added one this past weekend to make his current numbers 23g, 9a and a grand total of 32 penalty minutes.

I'm shaking my head. I don't get it. LetsGoDU is reporting that WCHA commish Bruce McLeod is going to issue an apology for a bad call this weekend that went against SCSU. Kane Lafranchise's former teammate Jesse Martin carried a puck wide right on a 2 on 1 rush against SCSU, one defender played off Martin while Kyle Ostrow went to the net hard on the left side. Ostrow tries to pull up and ends up going into the net on the left side while Weslosky is on the right side defending the upcoming shot. The announcers incorrectly note that there is clear contact between Ostrow and Weslosky. I've watched this replay a dozen times at least and I don't see any contact between Weslosky and Ostrow. If there is any at all it is of a marginal nature.

So what you have is a controversial goal in a tight game. Nothing really new in the WCHA. There are 5 or 6 of these controversies every year. UAA fans will remember a few weeks ago when an SCSU forward skated through the crease and hacked Jonny O's stick out of his hand as a shot got past him. And that's just one example of a bad call. We had an equally bad call last year down in St. Nothingelsetodoville thaat cost us a win. So with all that explanation my only real question here is: Does Bob Motzko have naked pictures of Bruce's wife or something? It's ridiculous to the nth degree for McLeod to choose this play as one to make a statement that his is genuinely concerned about the refereeing fuck ups in this league. There are plenty of mistakes made by WCHA zebras and to choose one that to me looks like it went the right way is beyond ridiculous Bruce. Really mah man. Really? You're setting a really bad precedent here chief. Really bad. Really! The message your sending is that when you're in the building and something controversial happens you can be bullied or coerced or whatevered into an apology. If you're going to referee after the fact then you ought to just lace up a pair and put some stripes on and hit the ice bud. Do you really want to make your referees nothing but empty shirts? I'm way disappointed.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Tres, Trois, Drei, Tin, T'aii, Three

Three is the watchword this weekend for UAA. 3 points out of 4 in the series and Paul Crowder's 3 goals in the 3rd period make it so. I wasn't going to do any post game recaps or analysis this weekend since there was no TV coverage. Naturally, I listened both nights to the always great Kurt Haider but listening doesn't lend itself to me adding any kind of insight or additional information that anyone reading here wouldn't have anyway. And I'm still not going to do any game analysis here. But I couldn't let the most productive WCHA weekend so far this season for UAA pass without some sort of comment.

Crowder's hatty was the first for a UAA player since Martin Stuchlik netted 3 against the Gophers in 04-05. A big phat congrats to Paul. He had only one goal going into this game so it's great to see him breakout of that goal-scoring funk. In keeping with the 3 theme; there are three guys I'd say were definitely leaders this weekend. Merit Waldrop, Peter Cartwright and Blair Tassone combined for 10 points on 3 goals and 7 assists (Waldrop 2g 2a, Cartwright 4a, Tassone 1g 1a). Those numbers combined with their performance last weekend vs. CC tells me these 3 guys are playing at the top of their game and have been displaying lots of on-ice leadership to the underclassmen. I heard Kurt call their names dozens of times each this weekend. Jonny O picked up an assist on the ENG goal. That'll make for a good plane ride home I'd think.

UAA still has 4 games in hand against UMD who still sits in 3rd place in the league standings. UAA and the skating angels from St. Nothingelsetodoville are tied for 9th (last) with 7 points each. Wisconsin and Mankato are tied for 7th (next to last) with 9 points each. Sixth place Minnesota has 10 points. Fifth place MTU has 11 points. UND is fourth with 12. And UMD in third with 13. Sensing something in all that? The league is very very tight. A 4 point weekend could vault a 9th place team to 5th in a single weekend. Wisconsin, SCSU and UAA have all only played 10 games so the chances that the league will get even tighter points-wise sure seem to be increasing. Both CC and DU have given themselves a bit of separation at the top of the league table with 20 and 18 points respectively. Excepting those two, all the WCHA teams are playing at (or damn near) .500 hockey overall.

I'll be back tomorrow with the regular Sunday Potpourri.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Matthew Gordon Eye Injury: Career Ending?

I saw the puck that hit Matthew Gordon Saturday night. I saw him skate over to the locker room for some stitches. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary for a hockey game. Facial cuts are common ... but the damage that puck did was definitely uncommon. The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Steve Cobb says the injury could be career threatening. The article doesn't detail the extent of the injury but the commenter who alerted me to this in the previous post mentioned retinal damage. Wow. That's a shock.

Writing about a potentially career ending injury isn't something I have much experience with. Thank god they don't happen very often. Matthew's only outing was evidence to me that he could do well at this level. He played well and looked confident. I guess its only left to hope that the surgery to repair the damage leaves Matthew without any deficits in his permanent sight. Whether he plays hockey again or not. Best wishes to Matthew and his family. This has got to be a difficult time for them.

Seawolves Ink Goal Scorer

Chris Heisenberg has added Cowichan Valley's Mickey Spencer as a 2009 UAA recruit. Spencer is in his rookie season in the BCHL and is currently 3rd on the league goal scoring table and #1 amongst league rookies. 12 of his 22 goals have come on the power play. Mickey is 6'1" 180 pounder from Gibbons, Alberta; his birthday is June 11th, 1989.

Early in the season this kid sure looks to be a top notch goal scorer in a league with lots of kids that put up big numbers. He has a little bit of bulking up to do I'd think but that will surely take care of itself by the time he enrolls at UAA.

And again I'd ask any readers who've seen Mickey play to feel free to add a comment or email me your thoughts. Sometime in January or thereabouts I'll do a complete update on all the future recruits.