Monday, January 29, 2007

Linkages: The Joe Cocker Edition

UAA Athletic Director Steve Cobb is expected to release information on Tuesday regarding the Shyiak "job opening". Why am I writing this late tonight in advance of that announcement? I'm impatient and didn't want some of the things I have to say to be overshadowed by that news.

So let me link to some friends of the UAA program that graciously shared their views about the whole matter. Any regular readers here will already know that I'm enamored with the musings of RunninWiththeDog's UMD blog. Last week I sent emails to several bloggers asking them to "help a brudda out" and RWD was the first to share an opinion (with her usual irreverence). Nicely done "Run". You're officially "The Shit" in my book.

Up the road a bit from Duluth is Dave Shyiak's former stomping ground. New blogger and NMU Student Newspaper editor Kyle Whitney has also got Dave's (and UAA's) back with his views about the situation. I've been reading Kyle's blog from time to time and the kid probably has a future writing about sports when he's done with school. I wish I'd figured out what I wanted to be way back when I thought computers would be a good career. Rock on Kyle. You're "The Shit" too. And let Matt Butcher know that Josh Lunden is doing well would ya?

Lastly, are my heroes at College Hockey News. Adam Wodon has a look at the situation with some exclusive information. Read the whole article. Adam got Troy Ward's comments and reasoning while crafting a comprehensive article that gets to the root of the matter. It is exactly the sort of article (notice I never call anything that I write here an "article"?) that separates CHN from the fluff and hoohaw that USCHO's latest Wisconsin-based WCHA writer (Eric Schmoldt) spewed recently when he inferred/asserted that Troy Ward was a "qualified" applicant. Jess Myers at INCH ought to buy Adam Wodon a couple of beers the next time they come across one another (wanna guess where Jess lives? ... um could it be um ... Wisconsin?). Dropping to his knees while saying "I'm not worthy" wouldn't be a bad idea either. His most recent mention of the matter was "pretty thin" as he too asserted that Ward was "qualified".

Ron at the College Hockey News blog (like me) has a nice pat on the back for his "boss" Adam while wondering if
"making sure Anchorage doesn't erupt into a riot of epic proportions"
is a qualification for the job. Nicely put Ron. I'm not sure yet if you're also "The Shit" but Adam certainly is. No worries though ... you're stock is rising on "The Shit" ladder.

Here are some good excerpts from the only section of USCHO worth reading; the Fan Forum and this thread discussing all this junk.
Dirty -- Cobb better sit by the phone as he'll be getting a call from the Dahlie Llama. Oh wait, it said qualified.

ecbrevik -- I'd think it would be considered something of a professional no-no for another coach to go after Shyiak's job.

AlaskaRox -- I'd take Coach Shyiak over 10,000 Coach Hill's any day of the week!

Puck Swami -- This way, by doing it now, after Cobb's seen what a good coach Shyiak is, it probably makes Shyiak's case for residency stronger.

scsutommyboy -- come on, nobody in their right mind would apply for this job when they know their employer would be pissed as hell at them and the fans would hate him.

Dirty -- If I was a player and some guy came in and "stole" the coaching job from Shyiak, I'd tell him to stick it where the sun don't shine.

UAA Fan in Florida -- UAA IS NOT LOOKING FOR A NEW COACH !!!DO NOT APPLY IF YOU KNOW WHATS GOOD FOR YOU!!! We'll find out where you live, and send mean postcards to you.

dggoddard -- Any serious candidate who applied would be risking getting blackballed in future gigs ...

dude -- Why anybody would apply is beyond me. They should realize that by applying they are going to scorned upon. This would be a pretty lame way to try and land a job. I think the rest of the hockey community would not look kindly on this.

dggoddard -- Wait til UAA does the background check on Ward and calls Mike Eaves...
UAA: What can you tell us about Troy Ward.
Eaves: I fired the guy and we immediately won the National Championship the next season.
UAA: Thank you very much for your time.
aparch -- Who would want to be known as the guy hated by all for taking Shyiak's job? Coach "I got a guy deported?" Mr. "A legal loophole got me this job."

con1977 -- He (Ward) was fired because he was perpetually sniffing around for another job.

dggoddard -- In a profession where, on average, around three jobs open up each year, you don't want to have too many enemies.

Wolfman -- I would just like to say that I hope Coach Shyiak is not forced out of UAA. He has done such a great job for our program, best thing to happen to UAA hockey in a long time. Hang in there Coach, we are all behind you.

Wisconsin Wildcat -- Man, this whole deal sucks. I don't think I can stress how much respect and admiration I had for Shyiak during his days at NMU. I too think it's below the belt to apply for the man's job knowing that he's in a position where it's hard to defend himself.
And what has Doyle Woody had to say about this situation in his blog? Um ... Squat. Too busy planning for the big ADN/Aces weekend I guess. Hooray for the Aces in making a Co-Marketing agreement with the ADN ... good marketing is important to the success of any business. Shame on the ADN for doing so ... is that what "journalism" has come to? Is Doyle's blog becoming a traveshamockery? It's called "Woody on Hockey" ... should be "Woody on Aces" or would that more appropriately be "Aces on Woody"? I used to think he was "The Shit". I'm not too sure anymore.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

America's Team: Gophers/Cowboys

The Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Dallas Cowboys. Same difference? When Howard Cosell christened the Dallas Cowboys with the "America's Team" label thousands of football fans across the nation cringed. In an era when the Pittsburgh Steelers had dominated championships was it appropriate to adorn the Cowboys that way? They were pretty damn good back then and through the decades have risen and fallen. Fans of other NFL teams didn't like it much but at the time Dallas dominated marketing and TV time. I don't think anyone could make a valid argument that their team was "America's Team" and so that terminology stuck.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are without a doubt the college hockey equivalent of the Dallas Cowboys. Sure there are teams with more NCAA championships. There are more than a handful of teams that have had the same sort of dominating consistent success that the Gophers have shown decade after decade. So yeah ... a case could be made for other teams being "America's Team" but look around any hockey rink and you'll see more sweaters with "M"s than any other university sweater. It's been that way for a long long time. Before UAA was even a college the Gophers were winning national championships in hockey. So I thought today I'd parallel some of the similarities between the two.

There was a time when the Cowboys roster was almost exclusively players that had never played for anyone else. While it's much more common these days for an NFL team to have players from other teams back in "the day" there was nary a Cowboy that had played for another NFL team. The Gophers are and have been made up of almost exclusively Minnesotan's. There have been a few recent exceptions since Don Lucia took the reins from The Woogmeister but not this year. The only non-Minnesotan on the roster is Briggs who is from Colorado Springs.

Texas Stadium's signature feature is it's open roof which it is said was left that way so that God could watch his favorite team. The Mariucci arena is named after the Minnesota God of Hockey, John Mariucci.

Don Lucia = Tom Landry
I think there are many good comparisons between Donnie and Jimmie Johnson (especially the fixation fans have with their hair) but Landry and Lucia resonates more for several reasons. Landry was insular and mostly emotionless. Lucia guards Gopher privacy closely and has only freaked out once in his career that I can remember. They both spend a lot of the time on the bench with their arms crossed. If Donnie would just get a cool hat then he could be a clone. In his early career Tom Landry learned coaching with legend Vince Lombardi for the New York Giants. In his early career Don Lucia learned to coach with American Hockey Coaches Association 2001 "Snooks" Kelley Founders Award winner and legend Brush Christiansen at UAA.

Jeff Frazee = Jackie Smith
Down 21-14 to the Steelers in Super Bowl 13 Roger Staubach threw a perfect pass to a wide open Jackie Smith in the end zone. Smith made one of the greatest non-catches EVER and Jeff Frazee lived up to that this weekend when UND's Robbie Bina made a perfect pass to him and he couldn't catch it either.

Kellen Briggs = Craig Morton
Before Craig Morton became a legend in Denver leading them to the promised land he played for the Cowboys and led them to a Super Bowl. Craig isn't much remembered in Dallas even though Tom Landry thought enough of him to rotate him in the lineup equally with Roger Staubach. Morton threw an ugly interception in the Cowboys first Super Bowl appearance causing them to lose 16-13 to Baltimore. Briggs let in four goals against Holy Cross who knocked the Gophers out of the NCAA's last year. Briggs toils under the shadows of John Blue, Rob Stauber and even Adam Hauser. Plenty of Gopher fans like Briggs but over time Blue and Stauber will be reminisced about while Briggs will remain a forgotten also ran.

Lou Nanne = Jerry Jones
Lou never played for the Gophers. Jerry never played for the Cowboys. Yet both are famous for their interference with on ice/field activities. Obviously nobody "owns" a college hockey team but if there was ever anyone close to doing so it would be Lou Nanne. When Jerry called Parcell's picked up the phone. When Lou calls Lucia has to answer as well. Lou is perhaps most famous for his attempt to get Minnesota born Zach Parise to play for the Gophers instead of North Dakota where he'd already committed without the knowledge of the Gopher program. Jerry Jones interference with his coaching staff is well known.

Doug Woog = Barry Switzer
Neither Doug or Barry could pronounce a players name correctly if their life depended on it. Barry's excuse was he was raised in Arkansas. Though Barry did manage to win a championship he (like Doug) was considered incapable of doing so by the pundits of the day and was sent packing.

Just sayin ...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Gophers: Post Tyler Hirsch

Back on December 30th Gopher's Head Coach Don Lucia gave Tyler Hirsch his walking papers. After the 05-06 letdown losing in the first round of the NCAA's to Holy Cross (BTW ... UND fans favorite Gopher game of all time even with this weekends sweep at Marucci) Coach Lucia entered this season determined that drinking scandals and other off-ice distractions weren't going to be a problem this year. I mentioned in my Very Early WCHA Thoughts that was going to be Lucia's biggest challenge. And since the season began he took a much tougher stance with his team regarding discipline; much of that focus ended up on Tyler Hirsch.

Tyler had been a bit of an enigma after his 03-04 meltdown at the Final Five. Rumored to have "issues" with regard to his mental state Tyler took a year off to get his stuff together. He returned at the beginning of this season and was welcomed back into the fold. His impact was immediately felt. He anchored the #1 line and contributed 13 assists to Okposo (8) and Stoa (5). But he continued to be somewhat of a distraction for the Gophers though as Lucia had to bench him several times. Both for schoolwork as well as rumored laziness on the ice. I called Hirsch The Best Player in College Hockey about 3 weeks before Lucia booted him. I called him "elegant".

Since Hirsch's departure the Gophers are 5-4. In those 9 games, Ryan Stoa has scored 2 goals and Kyle Okposo has scored 1 goal. Coach Lucia has struggled to find line combinations that work in Hirsch's absence. Stoa and Okposo have had five different linemates during this stretch (Carman, Flynn, Howe, Bostrom once each and Bariball 3 times).

While supporters of the Gopher program will point to any number of other factors as causes of the Gopher's current stuggles; it's clear to me that Hirsch's removal hasn't been the positive for the program that fans and experts trumpeted that it would be. Sure the kid was probably a bit flaky. No doubt he was a bit of a primadonna. But I don't see how anyone can argue that his contributions on the ice aren't missed. 5 wins and 4 losses following 16-1-3 run with him on the roster make that case strongly. Think Tyler has a little grin on his face today?

I'll have a couple of other preview's coming in the next few days focused on the Seawolves/Gophers series on Feb 2nd and 3rd.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Dear Bretti and Ward: An Open Letter

Dear Frank and Troy,

Thank you for showing your interest in becoming UAA's new Head Coach for hockey. But, you're definitely not welcome.

The intent here isn't to be rude but to let you know exactly how UAA fans feel about your potential hiring. If you have any familiarity with the University of Alaska Anchorage's program then you know that since our founder Brush Christiansen left the program we UAA fans have been saddled first with a D-3 numbnuts and then we got an out and out liar as coach. We finally have a coach who is making the program go in the right direction.

Coach Shyiak is doing a great job and has the complete support of the school and it's fan base. I can't imagine why you've actually submitted an application under the current immigration related circumstances but you should know you won't have the support of this blogger and/or the UAA fanbase. Best of luck with your future endeavours that don't include stabbing an existing head coach in the back.

Most Sincerely,

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Freshman Batting Averages

Back on November 19th I made a post regarding the impact of Freshmen in the WCHA. I've used the same method to calculate the latest numbers (number of games played and number of points scored). First, lets take a look at the numbers back then.
1. St. Cloud (.674)
2. Minnesota (.651)
3. UAA (.580)
4. Denver (.470)
5. CC (.354)
6. MSU-M (.346)
7. MTU (.333)
8. UMD (.309)
9. UND (.307)
10. Wisconsin (.277)
Now the latest numbers:
1. St. Cloud (.708)
2. Denver (.560)
3. Minnesota (.539)
4. UAA (.391)
5. CC (.384)
6. MTU (.333)
7. MSU-M (.303)
8. Wisconsin (.300)
9. UND (.239)
10. UMD (.219)
St. Cloud's freshman continue to perform above and beyond the rest of the league with 2 freshmen (Lasch and Nodl) contributing 86 percent to that .708 average. DU's freshman have really picked up the pace since November when they'd scored 32 points in 67 games. Minnesota's freshmen dropped their output a fair amount but not nearly as large as the drop UAA has seen. Wisconsin has improved slightly as has UND. MTU interestingly has an identical freshman batting average while Mankato has dropped a bit. UMD has also dropped off a fair amount. All in all it's sort of interesting. Interpret as you wish.

Off Week Potpourri

With a week off there's not much headline material so I'll waste everyone's time with a bunch of "stuff". The first bit of news worth commenting is the hiring situation for Coach Shyiak's job. Athletic Director Steve Cobb has in his possession the applications received from UAA's Human Resouces department for Dave Shyiak's job. If you're not familiar with the situation; UAA had to open Dave's job to qualified American applicants to show the Immigration folks that he isn't keeping an American from a job. There's about a .000001 chance that any currently unemployed and truly qualified (Division 1 head coaching experience) American has applied. Nobody who is qualified would actually try to get this job through the backdoor. The school is happy with Shyiak. The fans are happy with Shyiak. The players are happy with Shyiak. If that .000001 chance panned out for someone and the University was forced to hire them; they'd be villified and hated. Anyone really interested? Cobb won't find any qualified candidates and any discussion anywhere that imply's otherwise is specious at best and foolish at worst. Nothing's gonna change. Shyiak will be here coaching. End of story.

Last week I unintentionally implied that MEg from MTU was included in a group of USCHO female posters that I characterized as "socio-engaged princesses filling their social calendars" and that was misleading. She didn't/doesn't meet that definition. My bad for choosing the reference and mistakenly including her.

It's another important week in the WCHA with St. Bob visiting UofD; Minnesota St. on the road at Wisconsin; ND going to the Mariucci and CC visiting Tech. Who are we cheering for this week?
St. Bob vs. UD -- Who cares? These games really have no UAA impact so hopefully they'll both pound on each other with wild abandon resulting in bruises and broken confidence for someone.

MSU-M vs. Wisconsin -- With 4 games in hand and the same number of points as UAA it might seem that cheering against Bucky would be the wise thing but if MSU-M gets points they could pass UAA in the standings. There are negatives for UAA in any result between these two this weekend but those 4 games in hand are going to be very tough for UAA to overcome. So I guess it's a weekend to hope the Mavericks can split.

ND vs. Gophers -- WooHoo. We all get to cheer for Minnesota again. If ND gets any points vs. the Gophs it isn't good for UAA.

CC vs. MTU -- It's pretty clear that UAA isn't going to catch CC and since the Seawolves are battling Tech for position it only makes sense to cheer for CC to sweep.

Outside the WCHA: (meaningful in terms of Pairwise comparisons)
Ohio St. at LSSU -- Ohio St.
Dartmouth at Clarkson -- Clarkson
Hahvud at St. Larry -- Hahvud
Northern Mich at UMD -- Cheer for UMD and save me from getting grief
Anything interesting happening on other blogs? Let's see ... The Wisconsin Blog has a link to the UW library archives showing all sort of interesting pictures from their long and storied history. LetsGoDU makes fun of St. Bob fans. Gopher blogger Hammy says Fisher started Saturday's fight with DU when he taunted Blake "Choke" Wheeler for his open net miss with 1.5 seconds left on Friday nights game. Purist's might point out that Fisher got a piece of the puck but not scoring with that much real estate right in front of him adds up to a choking in my book. New blogger Boosh over at MTU has already learned the art of diminishing the opponent after a loss ... just a note: "primadonna" is preferred to "prima donna". RWD is demanding (begging) that the Bulldog's play better since she gets to actually go to the next three games. Chris over at Western College Hockey reports that Assistant Coach Eric Means punishment for threatening Jon Campion (3 game suspension) was acceptable to the WCHA but he implies that Campion should have been punished as well. So next time an angry chump gets in your face and threatens you don't forget it's all your fault. The Crimson Issue has a good post detailing the facetiousness of calling for Coach Mike Kemp's head at this point in UNO's program's history. He uses Niagra and UAA as examples for comparison's sake. Any fans in Omaha that aren't happy with what Kemp has done must surely be (as he states) "Husker" fans. Finally, last week I had a long-winded multipart exchange with UNH's blogger on the Hockey Least blog regarding shootouts.

I'll have a comprehensive update on all the recruits at the beginning of next week. Winston Daychief played in the BCHL All-Star game and was named the 3rd star. Tommy Grant has moved up the scoring ladder substantially since my last update. Brad McCabe has returned to the ice after rehabbing his blown knee. Jeff Carlson continues his excellent defensive play in Southern Minnesota. And Kane Lafranchise plays in the AJHL All-Star game this coming weekend.

I'll finish by once again soliciting alternative viewpoints, articles, funny stories, or whatever you might like to contribute to this blog. An off-week would be a good time for something like that to show up in my email.

EDIT: It's worth noting that the week of February 5th at UAA has been designated as Canada Week. There are several special events planned. I don't mean to overly criticize the event because of course Canadian's are fine people and deserving of their own "week". BUT ... 5 of the 5 events listed are related to French-speaking Quebec and/or Acadian culture. So? English speaking Canada is once again disrespected in favour (<---- see the "u"?) of the Quebec minority? Does this mean UAA thinks "Nordiques > Canucks"? It's a bit troublesome. But the most priceless part is this quote from the announcement:
"...for everyone wishing to learn more about our neighbors to the north."
What? Last time I checked most of Canada was due EAST of Alaska.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Weekend Wrap Up: MTU

I was lazy about posting the last week because I just knew the Seawolves could play well enough to sweep MTU. But there was another decent hockey team on the ice this weekend and when UAA gave them an opening on Saturday the Huskies took it. Friday night UAA played its best game. They dominated possession and never looked like there was any chance they wouldn't win the game. Saturday though was different almost from the outset. The Seawolves played well enough in the 1st period though it was "Squirrelly Stick Blade Night". Pucks found their way through holes in sticks and/or launched pucks in crazy directions. At least 5 or 6 ugly total whiffs throughout the game ruined otherwise good scoring chances or resulted in scoring chances for MTU. Credit is due to MTU though for picking up their hitting game and clamping down defensively when they got the lead on Saturday. The tide turned when Kevin Clark was called for a CFB that was at best a 2 minute minor late in the 1st. Then when Luke Beaverson got the gate for a hook (early in the 2nd after a brutal whiff) MTU took the lead for good scoring a 5-3 power play goal.

It was disappointing to not get the 4 points. I've perhaps been hanging onto the hope for a home ice spot but I'm also trying not to overstate the probability. A 7-1 finish in the last 8 games "might" be enough to get a home-ice spot. A winning streak like that hasn't occurred at UAA since forever ago. It isn't impossible though.

There were enough missing regular players to have an impact this weekend. Chad Anderson sat both nights on cumulative DQ's for his two fighting majors. Shane Lovdahl is apparently academically ineligible. And Trevor Hunt is nursing a bum ankle. That situation forced Coach Shyiak to move Nick Lowe back to defense for the weekend. Those openings in the lineup though are giving an opportunity for Ken Selby and Ryan Berry to see more action and I thought they both looked good this weekend. It's worth noting that prior to Charlie Kronschnabel's injury UAA was 7-4-2 and since he's been out they've gone 4-8-1. That's a pretty stark difference and a testament to his on ice leadership. No doubt Charlie and Mr. Anderson will be thrilled to get back on the ice and welcome a few fellow Minnesotan's to the Sully in a couple of weeks. They should feel free to make it a rude welcome as far as I'm concerned.

Josh Lunden picked up 2 goals on the weekend with Paul Crowder and Kevin Clark bagging the others. Kevin was having a good weekend before the bogus CFB playing as well as I've seen him play this year. In the first period on Saturday we were discussing how well Kevin had played on Friday and up to that point he'd had scoring chances and contributed to others. I guess we jinxed him. He is playing more mature and focused hockey than earlier in the season and that's very good to see. I think Josh Lunden worked his ass off this weekend but thank god he didn't connect on one check he attempted as he woulda killed the kid. I really like him paired up with Jay Beagle and Clark. Beagle's PK work and his hard work behind the net and along the boards really makes the line go. When Josh breaks out of the cycle he is a threat to take the puck to the net from virtually any angle. And Kevin's shifty quickness with the puck and great vision round out a helluva nice line. The more these guys play together the more they're going to develop. Corrin, Tassone and Tuton are beginning to turn into a force. Their physical play benefits from the fact that all three of them can get there in a hurry. Blair put MTU defenseman John Schwarz out of the game with a big check on Friday to set the tone and all weekend they were laying it on. In the "Crowder Brother" points race freshman Paul has 10g-10a and sophomore NHL-draftee Tim has 10g-7a. I wonder if and how that "trash talking" goes down.

On the non-hockey front MTU blogger MeanEgirl came to town prepared to see her team swept and got the royal treatment from the online contingent of UAA's fanbase. She got to go to a Mall! Went on cool drive and saw a crapload of mountains, snow and moose. On Friday night she (of human bowling intermission fame), JJ (of "you can't spell failure without UAF" fame) and company (of blog reading fame) joined Richard (of UAA Booster Club fame) and I at a local watering hole called AnnaRae's (of strip mall fame). In order to properly toast the affair five Duck Farts (Kaluha, Baileys and Crown Royal) were ordered. When the drinks were up I noticed that JJ was in the bathroom and said we'd have to wait for him to get back to have the toast whereupon Richard delivered the now (and forever) classic retort,
" ... well he'll be stuck up on the changing table for a while so ..."
Maybe it's a had to be there thing? It was too funny. Richard is way funnier in real life than he is when he posts on USCHO.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Remember The Alamo

171 years ago, 187 Texans got their asses handed to them in San Antonio, Texas by 6,000 Mexicans led by a strutting peacock called Santa Anna. 84 days ago, 20 Seawolves got their asses handed to them in Houghton, Michigan by some Huskies. There's really nothing in common in the two events other than the "asses handed to them" part. I use the reference though because less than 3 months after the ass-kicking at San Antonio; General Sam Houston (with the rallying cry of "Remember The Alamo") turned the tables and got some serious payback by trouncing Santa Anna in a return engagement and winning independence for Texas.

MTU absolutely embarrassed the Seawolves back on October 27th ... 9-0. Here's how I characterized it the evening it happened: I said,

"Tonight the UAA Seawolves got ..
... owned.
... their hats handed to them.
... their lunch eaten.
... pounded.
... trounced.
... atomic-wedgied.
... embarrassed.
... humiliated.
... wholloped.
... thrashed.
... raped.
... pillaged.
... slaughtered."
It was all those things and more. And just like the Texans didn't forget the humiliating slaughter at The Alamo; the UAA Seawolves should use October 27th, 2006 as the same sort of rallying cry this coming weekend. It was the kind of defeat that you hope a team puts out of their minds. Why dwell on that when there's another tough opponent the next weekend. The Seawolves did seem to put the defeat behind them. I'm sure nobody has thought much about that game in the time since it's passed. I know I haven't.

But it's high time to remember it now. There shouldn't be a player on the UAA squad that doesn't think about how badly they got beaten. From goaltender to forward, from A to Z. Everyone needs to put that defeat in their mind and draw upon it as motivation for this weekend. I'd imagine the coaches and players might say they aren't thinking about it if the press asks. Go ahead. Pretend you aren't thinking about it. But damnit ... keep it in mind. Turn it into motivation and use that motivation to create two resounding victories so that everyone forgets October 27th, 2006.

Yeah. Remember The Alamo because I know I'd like to forget it.

4 points is available again this weekend. Get less than 4 points and home-ice is just a dream we had yesterday. I believe the players know the sort of effort that it will take to get that job done. 100% effort for 100% of the two games. Nothing less will do.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Visit From A Mean Chick

The big excitement in UAA fanland this week (and by "big excitement" I mean "minor difference") is a pending visit from USCHO's little darling. The blogger and USCHO poster named MeanEgirl is coming to Anchorage (on her first ever plane trip) to watch MTU get swept by UAA. I can't rag on her (much) because MEg is much beloved and revered. Not only is she loved by all she returns that love to all.

One of the aspects of posting on USCHO's fan forum is that there certainly is no Title IX compliance. It's almost exclusively guys. There have always been only a few women that post there. Some are jersey chasers. Some are socio-engaged princesses filling their social calendar's. The rest are basically just fans. MEg though encompasses all those facets.

She has long stalked Casey Borer and if you haven't seen the now famous video series documenting her fasciation with that road cone then click here for part 1 and here for part 2. Her antics are fodder for the USCHOers pretty much every weekend. MEg is ultra-nice to the point that it may be approaching "gag me with a spoon" levels though. Lemme 'splain what I mean by that ... um ... there are people in the world that just suck and aren't worthy of any sort of acknowldgement much less actual personal interaction. MEg wouldn't get that. She loves the world and the world loves her. She's the object of fantasies of many a mother's basement dwelling USCHO poster. She's sought out by the famous and infamous. So now you can see that all that niceness can be almost nauseating.

Most people would think the world would be better off if everyone were so inclined. But I have to disagree. The world needs hardcore assholes (like me) or else the rest of you (normal folks) wouldn't really be able to measure your own greatness. MEg doesn't even have a problem with hardcore assholes and the proof will be that she'll likely post something cute and reaffirming in the comments section of this entry.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Who Finishes Where?

Each of the WCHA teams have between 10 and 12 league games remaining. Let's take a look at the standings today and the remaining games and see if we (me) can come up with a reasonable prognostication.
Current Standings:
1. Minnesota
5. UND
6. Wisconsin
There are three distinct tiers in the current standings. UofM all by themselves is the top tier. The middle tier being CC, DU and SCSU with the lower tier being everyone else. Any school in the lower tier is still a mathematic possibility for 5th place. Here's how the rest of the season looks and my take on how things will wind up.

Minnesota Golden Gophers
A loss to Wisconsin this past weekend was really just a minor tarnish on a record that has 20 wins with 12 games remaining. It might be a bit foolish to expect anything other than a 30 win season out of the Gophers this season. Yeah sure ... they booted the best playmaker on the team but I really doubt that will have much of an effect. The talent pool is deep enough that players you barely heard of in the first half will likely step up and fill the Hirsch-void. The Gophers have DU and UND at home coming up before coming to Anchorage and going to CC. A home and home series with SCSU comes next then their final series vs. MTU at the Hoochie. Wisconsin's win does prove that the Gophers aren't indomitable but does anyone really think they'll drop any more than say about 3 games? The Gophers are in 1st and they'll remain there.

Colorado College
The Tigers are on the cusp of having a unexpectedly great season. Nobody; I repeat NOBODY would have picked them to be second. They lost tons and tons of scoring and even a Mono breakout couldn't keep them from accomplishing something special so far. Are they capable of maintaining their standing? The rest of the CC schedule has them going to MTU in two weeks, then they host Bucky before going to St. Cloud and hosting Minnesota then to Mankato before finishing with a home and home DU series. A conservative estimate would give the Tigers another 13/14 points to add to their current 20 which would probably be enough for at least 4th place. An optimistic estimate would add 18/19 points and would probably be good enough for 3rd or even 2nd place. All in all the Tigers are in a great position at this point and only a complete self-immolation could ruin their season.

University of Denver
The Pioneers are tied for 2nd place in points but tie-breakers put at 3rd currently. If there is a team in the WCHA this season that should feel fortunate I'd have to say it's DU. This is the hardest prognostication for me. I'm just not sure the Pio's are as good as their results. Nobody has ceded them victories this season (other than UAA) but I can't help but think looking at their schedule and results that 3 or 4 of their league victories were pretty damn fortunate. The Pioneers go to the Mariucci this weekend then host St. Cloud and UMD before getting MTU at home and going to UND just before the season ending home and home with CC. Conservatively I see another 13 points for the Pio's with an upside of as much as 19. 33 points would probably mean 3rd or 4th at the end of the seaon. 39 could land them in 2nd.

St. Cloud State
Tied for 2nd with DU and CC the Huskies have a fairly tough remaining 12 games. This weekend they host UMD, then they travel to DU, host CC, travel to Madison before a home and home with the Gophers then finish their season at the Ralph. As with DU and CC I'd say a conservative estimate would give St. Cloud another 14 points but optimistically they could finish in the high 30's as well. The Huskies have the most ties in the WCHA with 4. Some of their remaining season will be dependent on the play of Goepfert and so ... as he goes I'd say go the Huskies. Don't count them out of 2nd by the end.

North Dakota
With 16 points and mired in what their fans would say is a very disappointing season the Sioux have 10 league games remaining. In two weeks they head over to the Mariucci for their one series with Minnesota this season. Then they host Mankato and Duluth before hitting the road at DU and SCSU. My conservative side gives UND another 11 points and optimistically they're in the 14 point range. Home ice is definitely a possibility but UND will have to reach that 14 or 15 point goal the rest of the way to nail it down.

With 2 games in hand over UND, Bucky's current 15 points has to give them odds of locking down the 5th place spot in the league. With 8 of their 12 remaining games coming against teams that are below them in the standings Bucky has probably the easiest schedule remaining. They're resting this weekend and return to action next week when they host Mankato, then they travel to CC before hosting UAA and SCSU. The Badgers finish on the road at MTU and UMD. Conservatively, I'd think that 16 more points would be a reasonable estimate with a top end of about 21 or 22.

UAA has 10 games remaining. MTU this weekend at home followed by a visit from the Gophers. A trip to Madison follows then a visit from Mankato rounds out the home schedule. The Seawolves finish at UMD. Conservatively, I'd have to say that our Seawolves could get as few as 10 more points. Optimistically, it could got to 14. An absolultely hellacious run could bag the team 17 more points which would put them in the mix for a home ice spot. Realism though dictates 6th or 7th place.

Minnesota State
Tied for 7th currently with UAA the Mavericks have a slightly more difficult schedule than UAA. Their remaining league games begin in two weeks on the road at resurgent Wisconsin followed by MTU at home, then road trips to UND and Anchorage before finishing with CC at home. My conservative estimate is that they pick up as few as 9 more points with an optimistic view giving them 14/15. 5th place is just as mathematically possible for the Mavs as it is for UAA but again realism says it's unlikely.

With probably the most difficult schedule among the lower tier MTU comes to the Sully this week, then hosts CC, goes to Mankato before hosting DU and Bucky then finishing at the Mariucci. My conservative side says 9 or 10 more points for MTU. My optimistic side raises that number to 13/14.

The Bulldogs don't have any gimme's remaining on their schedule. This weekend they go to St. Cloud, then travel to Denver and Grand Forks before hosting UAA and Wisconsin to finish the season. Conservatively, I'll say 8 points with my the most optimistic I can manage being about 12/13.

The Gophers are the real deal. Nobody will challenge them for 1st. CC, DU and SCSU are gonna be in a serious fight for placement. After that I see three teams having a chance at 5th with Wisconsin having the best chance followed by UND and then UAA with an outside shot. Mankato, MTU and UMD all have a chance to move up but will all need substantial effort to do so.
Predicted Finish:
1. Gophers
3. CC
4. DU, Wisconsin
8. MTU
9. Mankato
10. UMD
For UAA this would mean another trip to Madison for the WCHA playoffs if I've got the tie-breakers right. Going on the road for the playoffs sucks. Hopefully, the team puts together a hellacious run and locks up 5th place. A hellacious run would be a sweep of MTU this weekend, some points vs. Minnesota (at least a split), a split or better in Madison, a home sweep of Mankato and a sweep of UMD in Duluth. Can UAA go 8-2 over the last 10? Sure they can. The question is ... will they?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

UAA Wins Season Series 2-1-1

When life gives you lemons make lemonade ... right? I'm glad I didn't make the effort to go somewhere to watch the game tonight since it was over so early. I don't think it necessarily had to be over early but even just listening on the radio I could "see" that UAA just didn't have it (whatever "it" is) in them tonight. It goes that way sometimes and when it does just put the best spin on it and move on. Going 2-1-1 in a 4 game series any year in the WCHA is better than a poke in the eye with a stick ... right?

It sounded like a game that had quite a bit of piss and vinegar. With the (4 game 2 week) road trip over maybe that is a good sign. Part of the purpose of staying over in the lower 48 is to foster team unity. And the piss and vinegar that was apparent tonight seemed to me to stem in part from guys sticking up for each other. This year I've seen a team with a hundred and eighty degree turnaround in attitude from last season. And I think sticking up for one another is perhaps the final piece of the attitude puzzle. Because I just noticed doesn't mean that sort of thing wasn't happening earlier in the season. But to me at least tonight it was clearly in evidence. And a team that believes in and supports each other is the goal of any good coach.

There's not much to cheer about in terms of league points and the standings but the next 8 points are at home (thank god) and as crucial as the last two weekends were; the next two versus MTU and Minnesota will be defining in terms of any final chance to earn a home ice playoff spot.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A New Dad and Larceny

The temperature difference tonight between Anchorage and Grand Forks is 43 degrees. As I write this it's a balmy 26 here and a brutal -17 in GF. And while a tie isn't anything to warm the hearts of the frigid residents they'll surely be basking in the warmth of a Gopher defeat since thats typically the next best thing in Grand Forks.

Coming back from being behind 3-1 though should give the Seawolves something to gird themselves with against the bitter cold. Merit Waldrop apparently headed back to Anchorage this week for the birth of his son. Then he went back to GF and scored his second goal of the season to tie tonight's game. Very nice. It can be a stressful life with an impending birth and perhaps that was keeping Merit's hands wrapped around the stick too tightly. I was only able to listen to the game on the radio (never a real disappointment though with Kurt's good call) but it sounded to me like Merit had a helluva good game. Goaltending was certainly a big part of the game as both Law and Lam had their share of big saves to keep their teams in the game.

Gotta characterize this one as a point stolen on the road I suppose but it certainly increases the pressure on both teams to come out tomorrow night and fight hard for the other two points available. I'm wondering why GCI didn't have this game on TV or the web. Anyone know? Do we get shut out tomorrow too? If so ... does anyone know if it's possible someplace like the Peanut Farm would be able to get it? I sure would like to see it on TV.

UND vs. UAA: Best Preview Ever

When I said "Worst Preview Ever" there really wasn't much pressure to live up to the billing since I had titled it after I was done with all the rambling. I've read worse previews anyway. Not many ... but enough of them to know that even though I got close; I wasn't quite on the mark. Of course there was lots of quality support in the comments section (from the northern Great Plains ... and I'll stipulate here that residents of that general area of the country certainly ought to know shit when they see it) and that sort of feedback is always heartwarming and reassuring. So of course now I've gone and titled this damn post in advance of writing it. Now I'm all atwitter with anticipation thinking about the lovely feedback this might engender. Not really.

This is an important weekend for both teams as they fight to maintain themselves in a position to get a home ice playoff spot. Both teams are statistically very similar. UAA goes into the Ralph 2-6 in their last 8 games. Both wins were vs. UAF. The last time UAA beat anyone of significance was December 8th in Colorado Springs. UND comes into the series 3-5 in their last 8 games. 2 of those wins came vs. Dartmouth and St. Larry. The last time (last weekend) UND beat anyone of significance was also in Colorado Springs. I should post this link to the tale-of-the-tape at College Hockey News more often. It really is the best graphical statistical compilation and comparison available. The only two real differences are UND's power play and UAA's penalty kill which sort of cancel each other out. Both teams have won 10 games. And UAA's scoring is a bit more diverse. Twin sons of different mothers perhaps?

When the Sioux came to Anchorage back in November we saw a couple of teams that were both willing to mix it up physically as well as play a high tempo "up and down" game. Goaltending was a big factor in that series (lets just say Grieco was "not good") and I'd expect this weekend the outcome could very well come down to goaltending again. That series was the Seawolves best offensive output in a weekend this season. I thought UND's defense that weekend was a bit suspect with them giving up a lot of pucks when they were pressured by UAA. That sort of aggressive forechecking effort will have to be in evidence this weekend for the Seawolves to get some points.

Expect these games to be tight. Expect them to be low-scoring. The Ralph is 15 feet narrower than any rink that UAA has played on all year. The hitting game that UAA has been playing this season should benefit from that. It might be a slight disadvantage in terms of the strategic cycling that UAA uses as there is less ice available when you come off the boards with the puck. UAA's forwards will have to adapt and react more quickly. Hopefully we'll see some creative playmaking from the forwards.

Another possible difference in the games this weekend could be Jonathan Toews who is returning from a glory filled World Jr's tournament as Canada's leading scorer. If he is able to duplicate those performances this weekend it could be bad news. But of course UAA isn't playing the Canadian Jr. National team this weekend and Toews didn't win a gold medal all by himself. A lot of kids seem to come back from playing for their country and turn it up a notch in their league play though so it's definitely something the Seawolves should be aware of this weekend.

As always a quality overall effort will be needed this weekend. The Sioux will be looking for payback for the sweep up here. And don't even think that they aren't just as hungry for points as the Seawolves.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

UND vs. UAA: Worst Preview Ever

So having started out three times to write something about this series and then deleting all of them I figured I'd just write and whatever comes out is what you're stuck reading. I started a typical UND has "this and that" as I've been doing most of the year at midweek. But it was boring stuff. Here's UND's stats. I was going to write about UAA's lines and how Charlie Kronschnabel's injury has affected them (he'll likely return against UofM). Not that it's necessarily boring but it didn't come out sounding like I wanted it to sound, so I deleted it. I thought about writing about Lawson and Olthuis but if I write about a goaltender and he gets pulled or blown out then how stupid will I feel? I could write about the freshman but we all know they've been playing great and developing just as they should. I could write about the upperclassmen stepping up from last year but how often can you read me saying that same stuff.

The team stayed over in the lower 48 after the St. Bob series and is apparently staying in Grand Forks. It's the one series a year that UAA does this. It's supposed to be good for team building and all that. You already know that UAA swept the Sioux earlier in the year. That was sweet eh? I had almost 4 paragraphs written about the inconsistent play of the team. I deleted it. Like anybody couldn't tell by looking at the results that UAA's played inconsistently? Can I write this without mentioning UND's ongoing pissing contest with the NCAA over their logo? I think everyone knows I don't give a crap what UND calls themselves but also think they should change their name or at least get a logo that reflects the culture of the people they're supposedly "honoring". The last place I remember this issue being is that the North Dakota judge sounds like he wants UND and the NCAA to work it out and he's given them TONS of time to do so as the next court date is sometime in the summer?

I could comment on other things around the WCHA that I haven't mentioned. Tyler Hirsch got booted by Lucia from the Gophers. I guess Donnie was all about giving last years team a bye to do whatever they wanted (they wanted to be drunken primadonnas) and this year he's flip flopped to rigid disciplinarian. Hirsch dogged it during his last game (stayed in the penalty box for several seconds after the door opened and skated like a peewee) and Donnie had enough. Sophomore defenseman T.J. Fast left DU. Not a big loss as he'd been competing for ice time but it does leave DU with only 7 defensemen. Some kid left tUMD over the break. He wasn't a big loss either. On the bright side nobody left UAA. Troy Jutting and an assistant coach threatened referee Jon Campion in the bowels of Mariucci after Campion gave UofM 7 power plays but only 2 to MSU-M. The WCHA is investigating so they won't have anytime to knock Todd Anderson's dick into the dirt where it belongs. I'll bet Jutting sits a game and doesn't get a contract renewal at the end of the season. Look for MSU-M fans to dream about former UND and NHL Cowlumbus coach Dean Blais to guide the Landcows (won't happen). The other WCHA coach that I'd mentioned here that might get job pressure is Sandelin at UMD. I'd say "the talk" is fair since expectations were pretty high coming into the season, but I'll bet he gets at least another year.

We've all noticed that UND and Bucky are one point in the standings ahead of UAA right? Ok then. Please note that Wisconsin has played 2 fewer games. We all know UAA needs 4 points this weekend right? Ok then. 4 points would be a faith redeeming result for this fan. Anything less will suck to varying degrees.

Lastly, since I wrote the recruit update a coupla weeks ago some things need updating. The AJHL named their All-Star teams and Kane Lafranchise is on it. Tommy Grant was named "Star Player" by the BCHL for Dec 29th to Jan 1st. Brad McCabe has returned to the Avalanche and is expected to play soon. Brad was the only NAHL player listed (#208) on the NHL's Central Scouting Services Mid-Term Rankings. Jeff Carlson is still the 2nd leading defenseman scorer in the NAHL (30th overall). It's VERY rare that I hear about a visit from a prospect but it's worth noting that Kane Lafranchise's teammate; 17 year old Adam Henderson (from Jared Tuton's hometown of Whitehorse) visited UAA during the Governor's Cup series. Adam was just named to the AJHL North Divison Prospects squad and is the 4th leading scorer among rookies league-wide and is tied for the lead on the team. He's big strong and talented. He will almost certainly play another year of juniors before making the jump to D-1. But since he's visiting schools (I know Michigan State was on his itinerary) look for his signature on an LOI during the upcoming spring signing period.
Dear Adam,
Come to UAA since it will be easier for your parents to come watch you play in Anchorage. And BTW ... nobody "enjoys" playing for Rick Comely. It just doesn't happen. Forget about MSU. Ok then.
So who do we cheer for this weekend?
Minnesota at Wisconsin -- Minnesota
Landcows at St. Bob -- Landcows (that MSU-M for the uninitiated)
CC at Duluth -- UMD

UAF at MSU -- UAF (our Crowder is better than Michigan State's)
Norte Dame at LSSU -- Norte Dame
BG at UNO -- UNO

Hockey East:
BU at Maine -- Maine

Bemidji at MTU -- MTU
Niagra at DU -- Niagra
(these choices because MTU's RPI is more relevant (we play them 4 times) than Bemidji but cheer for Niagra vs. DU because it doesn't hurt UAA as we only played DU twice and a closer race between Bemidji and Niagra for their conference championship could help ensure the CHA doesn't get two bids ... one of which would likely displace a WCHA team)

Monday, January 08, 2007

If You've Got Nothing Good To Say

Then you ought to say nothing. So that's what I did. Why clutter this space with my disappointment? Since the end of the game Saturday night until now I've purposely and successfully avoided thinking about hockey by avoiding every source. I haven't read the paper or looked at a hockey related website. I haven't looked at my email. How disappointed was I? Too disappointed. Why was I so disappointed? Because I had unrealistic expectations. Expectations that I promulgated here. I was pretty damn sure the Seawolves would come out of St. Cloud with some points. How did I get so sure? I let myself forget some of the inconsistent play we've seen this year. But the team clearly played hard. There were bright spots.

I have no objective analysis to offer as to why the team lost. So I've decided I'm going to forego the overly optimistic crap and redouble my efforts toward not getting so emotionally involved in the outcome of games. The players have accomplished lots of their goals this season. And the work they're putting in whether they win or lose will have it's benefits later in the season. The reality is there are only 24 points left available to the team. And the Seawolves might have to snag as many as three quarters of them to bag a home ice spot in the playoffs. It's a tall order when half of those are on the road and they've gone 2-6 in the last eight WCHA games. The WCHA mantra of "Win at Home and Split on the Road" is entirely applicable now to the goal of a home ice playoff series. Like I said ... It's a tall order. The next two weekends will be telling as they play two teams that are also hungry for points in MTU and UND. Then they get to follow those tough series with a visit from the Gophers? It never gets any easier does it?

Now I'll go read all the stuff I didn't read before.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Nuts and Bolts

1st Period:
Last Sunday when writing about the UAF series I mentioned how the 3rd and 4th lines have been exceeding their roles and getting more scoring chances. Tonight in the 1st period Peter Cartwright staked UAA to a 1-0 lead with some forechecking work and cycling that is becoming classic for UAA. Tarkir to Lowe to Cartwright. Real nice goal. The rest of the period the Seawolves controlled most of the play in the Huskies end. There were two or three other scoring chances that Goepfert handled. The Power Play looked decent with plenty of puck movement and they managed a couple of reasonable shots as well. The Penalty Kill was great during it's single appearance with Jay Beagle once again killing a solid 20 seconds on his own deep in the St. Cloud end. SCSU iced the puck 6 or 7 times in the first to relieve some of the pressure UAA applied. I didn't think the period was one where UAA actually tilted the ice but it wasn't far from being so with SCSU only managing 4 shots in the period.

2nd Period:
Both teams scored 2 goals in the 2nd unfortunately referee Todd Anderson pulled the WCHA "barely look" at the replay to rule no goal. Had dumbass actually taken a good look at the replay he would have seen the puck behind the goal line in Goepfert's armpit. If you're going to look at a replay then you ought to at least look at the play for more than 20 seconds. The Huskies scored on the next rush up the ice. Beagle Clark and Lunden worked really hard maintaining possession in the SCSU end for a long shift before picking up a final rebound and banging it home for UAA's 2nd official goal. The 2nd period was more evenly played than the first with action at both ends of the ice. Jonnie O got burned by a softly tipped puck that squeaked through his five hole. I'd characterize the 2nd period as one of tough luck for UAA. A quick whistle first, then Todd Anderson not doing his job properly, then puck sputtering through Olthuis legs. It was enough bad luck for an entire game and it was compressed into one period.

3rd Period:
Unable to break through in the 3rd cost the game tonight. Referee Todd Anderson's third blown call of the night led to SCSU's 4th goal. The dumbass actually blew the whistle before the puck came out of Olthuis pads then he signals goal? Watch the replay. His arm is up killing the play BEFORE the puck went into the net; I didn't see a replay with audio but his whistle seemed distinctly ahead of the puck. Nuts and bolts we've been screwed. Nevertheless UAA was down by a goal already when St. Bob was awarded the 4th. The Seawolves though couldn't take care of business as Goepfert was solid in the net. To win in the WCHA sometimes you have to overcome a bad call or two. UAA wasn't able to do so tonight.

UAA deserved a better fate than a two goal loss. Tomorrow should be a different story. Since I wrote everything tonight during the period breaks and at the end of the game I'm not going to bother with waiting for the boxscore to cross the t's and dot the i's.

Better luck tomorrow Seawolves.

This Too Must End

Tonight and tomorrow is (just like seemingly every WCHA series that came before it) the most important conference series so far this season for the team. This weekend it isn't so much the opponent we're playing that makes it important. It's important because getting some points this weekend is likely going to be necessary to maintain 5th place in the standings. The team is tied for 5th with MTU; while Wisconsin, UND and MSU-M are all within striking distance. None of those teams are necessarily favorites going into their games but it's more likely than not that some number of them are going to get some number of points.

This is the first weekend that UAA players ought to be taking notice of the standings. It's best not to worry about that in the first half of the season but with 3/5 of the season gone the guys ought to know what they need to do. This weekend they ought to know they need to get some points.

Earlier in the year when the team went to Colorado Springs they won a game on a rink where they'd never won before. It was a nice little accomplishment that needs to happen this weekend too. UAA has never won at the National Hockey Center. It's an ugly mark that needs to go away. It's useless to pretend that it's going to go away on its own. Believe me, I've tried. Ignoring it just ain't working.

I like the way the Seawolves have shown they can come from behind. They've learned how to win some games ugly. They've learned how important 60 or 65 minutes of effort can be and often is the difference in a WCHA hockey game. Most importantly I've seen this team grow every weekend this season. I've seen rookies step up and play like veterans. I've seen veterans play the best games of their careers this season. I've seen a goalie that I know can get it done. I've seen an incredible turn around in attitude and belief. I go into every series hoping the team wins both games regardless of the "Win at Home, Split on the Road" WCHA mantra; because expecting or envisioning or predicting a loss is just not a part of what makes me a fan. I honestly believe this team has something special in store for them this year. The Seawolves are capable of sweeping this weekend at the NHC. I've seen them play good enough hockey to beat anyone. I'll cross my fingers and hope the team is ready to believe that they can. Because they can.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

New Year Linkages

Badger Backer at Wisconsin Hockey Blog has returned from Xmas vacation in time to preview the UW-DU series. Which is a damn good thing since (our favorite blog swapper) DG over at LetsGoDU seems to have no idea DU is playing this week and is instead focused on the Gophers, reprinting an article from about the Pioneers and wishing Matt Carle had been sent down to DU. Luckily Peter over at CO14er's has a series preview.

Down in Garden of The God's land the CC Hockey Blog has a review of CC's series split with Bemidji St. and how the suspensions from the fight with the Seawolves probably cost them a game. Yeah. I know that feeling.

Over at MTU's Blog there is a review of the GLI and Tech's participation. I'm not big on the multi-colored text. But then again I had the hard to read green background.

Over at College Hockey New's Adam Wodon had this piece expressing his rightful disgust with shootouts deciding hockey games. Then their Blog chimed in and if you read the comments you'll see what I said. Mike Machnik at CHN provides a rundown of how the wretched deed might come to be as well as decrying it. And over at Goon's World our favorite UND Blogger is scratching his head about and thumbing his nose at hockey "purists" who don't want to sully the game with horseshit gimmickry designed to mollify "the mob".
begin rant
Deciding any team sporting event by using a single element of the game in some sort of last resort attempt to appease "the mob" is an affront on many levels. A tie is a valid result. It says two teams were equal. I'm well aware there are players that like it. I'm already well aware that "the mob" likes it. Implementing shootouts may be inevitable with the prevailing fan attitude much more akin to Goon's than mine but that doesn't mean it won't lessen the game. Lessen? No ... It invalidates the rest of the game. You take 65 minutes of hockey where neither team deserves to lose and condense it to 10 one-on-ones? There's no reason for the actual game at all. Let's just have 2 hours of shootouts. Let's eliminate the teams who played one game 150% better than they've ever played from going home with a well-earned tie against a 43 time National Champion with 5 future NHL snipers. Those programs should just all fold. That'll leave the NCAA with about 15 - 20 teams full of shootout experts.

I'm so far beyond disgust with the prospect that ultimately it could affect my status as a fan of the game. College Hockey is the last sport that I follow regularly (English Premerie League intermittently). I gave up on Baseball as a teen, I stopped watching all Basketball in the mid 80's, and pro Football is a steriod-ridden joke. I guess I could start a Fulham FC Blog? At least the EPL understands the relevance of ties. I honestly don't know how enthusiastic I could be about being a fan when/if that crap comes to be. It's time for a last stand I say. Whoever is in charge of drawing a line and saying, "NO! we will not let you cross this line!" ... needs to get to drawing the damn line and rallying the troops with a stirring "But it will not be this day ..." battle speech. No to the Shootout? Not just No ... fuck no. There must be someone in a position of authority somewhere who can at least be given the opportunity to express that "purists" don't want this crap in the game they love. Adam Wodon better be right when he thinks they'll be an outcry.
The only way to follow that little rant is to welcome a new Blogger to the world. NMU fan and school paper sports writer Kyle Whitney has began Sports Thoughts to express his. I've linked to him in my "Other Hockey Blogs" section as well as updated the existing link for NMU.

Chris over at Western College Hockey went to Detroit and watched the GLI and provided his summary.

And honored with my last Linkage is RWD with her most recent Gauntlet with Bulldog's radio guy Bruce Ciskie. How awesome would it be to have an interview with the radio guy. I wish I'd thought of that. During the interview Bruce gave me a big raspberry for not stopping by and meeting him when UMD was here and well ... I deserved it. I promised to meet him twice next time.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Crowder Named WCHA Co-ROTW

Paul Crowder's three goal weekend (one GWG) vs. UAF was indeed enough to earn him the WCHA's Rookie of the Week award. DU's Rhett Rhakshani shared the award based on his MVP performance with 3 assists against Mercyhurst and UMass-Lowell.

Paul's 8 goals and 8 assists are just the beginning of what he brings to the ice every night. His skating, puck handling skills and great vision create scoring chances where there had been none only a second before. Congrats Paul.

Who To Cheer For This Week?

With the second half of the season firmly upon us and the Seawolves ready to attempt to climb in the standings it's useful to decide who else we all need to cheer for the rest of the way. I'm going to assume the Seawolves takes care of business the rest of the way; if they do then there are still some other things outside their control. In lots of cases there will be specific games who's outcome might be favorable for UAA's future RPI. So this week I'll look at the schedule, let ya know who to psychically will to victory.

First and foremost I'll make it absolutely perfectly clear that I'll be cheering for UAF in every remaining CCHA contest they have this year. UAA is 3-0-1 against them so if UAF can manage to climb the standings in the CCHA it helps UAA's comparisons. So... if cheering for our rival is necessary the rest of the way. Um ... Go UAF!

In the conference there is one team that we should all cheer for the rest of the way as well. UMD is back in the standings far enough that them taking points from anyone benefits UAA. Otherwise it comes down to looking at who is playing who this week.

Duluth vs. Tech -- Um ... WhadidEYE just say? Cheer for UMD.
Next is Bucky and DU -- No question. Go Pios!
Gophers vs. Mavericks -- No question. Go Gophs!
North Dakota vs. CC -- Hope for a split.

Other semiSignificant Games:
UNO vs. Lake Superior -- UNO
UAF vs. Ohio State -- UAF
Michigan St. vs. Miami -- Miami

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Preview a St. Bob Fan Can Understand

In the cross-cultural spirit of bettering communications and for the ultimate benefit of humankind in general this post will have two distinct elements. I'll breakdown the Huskies II team in various ways in an attempt to discern the Seawolves chances this weekend. Concurrent with this breakdown I'll provide translation services for this week's SCSU reading contingent.
Translation: I'm doing this to make the world better. The straight poop on the Huskies is coming and if you read the parts that look like this one (in between the big words in green) then you'll be all good.
The first meaningful statistic to capture the attention of my visual cortex and then subseqently be cogitated: the line of Nodl, Dey and Gordon has scored 26 of the teams 65 goals so far this season (40%). Former UMD washout Dan Kronick (8g) must feel deeply indebted for being graced with the chance to play on the same line as gifted playmaker and scorer Ryan Lasch (9g-11a) but it doesn't appear reciprocal from either Kronick (5a) other linemate Swanson (5g-5a). Nevertheless it's a solid duo of scoring lines for UAA to contend with. Offensive contributions from the defensive unit are thin with only 7 goals coming from the blueliners. Their power play is a respectable .234 overall (22g - 18g) but a slightly less respectable .209 (14g - 12 games) in conference play.
Translation: Something caught my eye. I noticed the #1 line is pretty good and they scored a bunch so far. It's too bad Ryan Lasch has to play with stiffs but two scoring lines is better than one Polaris with vapor lock. Nobody from the D can score. PP ain't great but it ain't crap either.
A 2.11 overall GAA is definitely not to be taken lightly. In general the GAA is a statistic that defines how well a team does keeping the puck out of the net but as was the case last year in St. Cloud a bigger portion of that stat than normally associated is a direct result of goaltender Bobby Goepfert. In conference play SCSU goaltenders have faced 372 shots while their opponents only faced 328. Yet in the same 12 games they outscored their conference opponents 40 to 30. They've basically shined on the PK both in and out of conference with an overall 88.9 percent effectiveness. So while there is a distinct lack of offensive creativity and/or talent in the back the squad is doing it's job. Good backchecking especially from the 3rd and 4th lines would be a likely contributor to their overall effective team defense but my suspicion would be that Goepfert's presence in the crease keeps the 2.11 from being a 3.25.
Translation: A really good goalie and guys that play really hard when they're shorthanded keeps lots of goals out of the net so it doesn't matter if the defensemen couldn't score in a Spenard Brothel.
Size, Speed and Skating:
The Huskies aren't particularly tall (5' 11.88" average for 32nd in D-1) nor are they particularly big (191.58lbs for 24th in D-I). As a reference UAA is the 2nd tallest and 5th heaviest team in D-1. In terms of skating I'll assume St. Cloud can get up and down the ice pretty well. Ryan Lasch is a speed merchant and I know from last season that Gordon and Swanson can make pretty good time.
Translation: The team isn't big and strong. Lasch is a stud. Some other guys are good skaters.
UAA should be able to use it's size to advantage this weekend. The Huskies aren't going to outskate the Seawolves but I there's no reason to expect UAA to outskate SCSU. There isn't any indication that SCSU presents any unique defensive challenges. UAA's blueliners might be the best skaters collectively among WCHA defensemen so transitionally there isn't anything other than normal concern for maintaining themselves positionally. The Seawolves faced Peter Mannino a couple of weeks ago and Gwoz said that he played the best game of his career. Goepfert plays like that most nights. UAA needs to use its forechecking abilities to create a few turnovers and get some opportunistic chances and more importantly battle hard for position on whatever rebounds are available. They'll have to control the puck effectively on the PP to forestall any aggressive penalty killing. After that it's the same thing as every other weekend. Convert on the PP when you get your chances and stay out of the box as much as possible. Moving the puck effectively in transition will also be important this weekend. Having to setup for a breakout will allow SCSU to strategically position themselves to counter the transition in the neutral zone. Heads up play along with smart passing from the puck handling defensemen will be necessary and smart play like that across the board could be the difference for UAA on the weekend.
Translation: UAA is bigger. Skating is mostly a wash. Huskies aren't anything new. UAA's defensemen are all budding Bobby Orr's. Mannino's best night equals Goepferts usual night. Goepfert is really good. UAA needs to play hard and smart to avoid the trap.

Monday, January 01, 2007

You Can't Spell SUCKS w/o SCSU

This is an abbreviated primer (of sorts) for those uninitiated in some of the finer points that contribute to SCSU being the most enjoyable target on the college hockey landscape. There are just too many things about St. Cloud State University that have become embedded in the psyche of college hockey fans around the country and I'd be remiss if I didn't cover some of the basics first:

St. Nicknames:
JBSU - Jan Brady State University
(A constant jealous refrain of
"Marsha Marsha Marsha" over the years from the rural Minnesota college town regarding it's big sister in Mariucciville earned them this most beloved moniker.)
St. Somewhat Lesser St. Nicknames:
St. Cloud Bluffskies
SCCC - St. Cloud Community College
St. Aretha "R-E-S-P-E-C-T" Franklin University
St. Clown
and of course ... St. Bob
St. Future Favorite St. Nicknames:
St. Double Bobble
St. OferEver
St. OneandDone
(Never Ending Futility Stuck In An Ever Expanding Ever Darkening Universe Filled With Sadness And InfiniteLament)
Never won an NCAA playoff game:
In 5 trips to the NCAA's the Huskies have never managed a win. 4 of those years came from 1999-2003 with their only other playoff appearance coming in 1989. You'd never know it listening to the way their fan base talks about them. Their fans have already characterized this years edition as "the greatest Huskies team ever" (um ... don't you have to be great at least once before to be called "greatest" ... is it just me or is that like a kid saying "you're my favorite mommy")? I'll look at the reality of the 06-07 Huskies II in my "Preview a St. Bob Fan Can Understand" post later in the week. Part of the JBSU syndrome is something not unlike the now famous "inferior in the interior" and "you can't spell failure without UAF" sayings. The folks in St. Cloud just don't seem comfortable in their own jeans and almost certainly conciously repress their all too true longing for the big city life. God bless the poor buggers. Their fans are pretty hopeful they'll get another chance this year to pick up their first NCAA win. Mebbe they will ... I'll save that for later.
WCHA Quote of the Week that didn't come from former SCSU Head Coach Craig Dahl:
UAA Athletic Director Dr. Steve Cobb when asked about the timing of the Dave Shyiak's job notice:
"If you gotta eat a frog you should do it in the mornin' so it doesn't ruin your whole day."
Other St. Cloud Fun Factoids:
There is one snowmobile dealership for every 5400 people in the city of St. Cloud. If you include the nearby outlying area the proportion goes down to 1:3300 or so.

The Stearns County History Museum is the only county Museum in the the state to be accredited by the American Association of Museums. I have to ask ... Why do the rest of Minnesota's counties hate the American Association of Museums? Their mission statement says "... is to enhance the value of museums to their communities through leadership, advocacy and service". St. Clouderiteians should be proud and the rest of the counties in Minnesota should be taken to Mankato and hung on the Guiness world-record gallows they have over there.

St. Cloud was named after a suburb of Paris by some Mainuh with a Napoleon fetish. No wonder there are so many swelled chests in central Minnesota. Phew.

First Post of 2007

It was a sweep and that's always nice but as I've considered the weekend I've got some observations that I think I'll add. Three good periods on Friday night plus 1.5 good periods the next night was enough to get the sweep but that 30 minutes of less than inspired hockey could be costly against a team with more than just a couple of scorers. St. Cloud has more than just a couple of scorers. This coming week of practice ought to include lots of reminders about maintaining the necessary effort for the full sixty minutes both nights. I wouldn't want to drone on too long about it but for two things.
1st -- There are 14 games remaining in the regular season.

Of the 7 remaining series 4 are going to come against teams that are within a few points of UAA in the standings. Which means the team is going to have to maintain the hightest possible effort in every single period for the rest of the season. Because more often than not their opponent will be doing that very thing.
2nd -- The 2nd half of the season is more important than the 1st.

Historically, the WCHA teams that peak in February are the teams that you'll often find in the Final Five championship game. Ask DU ... they went .500 in conference in February (5-1 in January) last year and didn't even make it to the Final Five. And I thought I was trying not to belabor the point about how important consistent play is.

My daughter commented to me about Trevor Hunt's toughness playing with a bum ankle he picked up early in the first period Saturday. I didn't notice when he stopped taking shifts but he was still dressed and on the bench at the end of the game. He came back onto the ice with the team for a stick salute after they'd already left and was maybe grimacing a bit but that sort of display of pride is always worth a mention.

I was pretty pleased with everyone's effort this weekend. I thought Shane Lovdahl played a great game on Friday night. He was punishing when he hit and contributed on the offensive end with a couple of rushes as well as some nice feeds for chances throughout the game. He was very solid in his own end; I certainly don't recall any missteps or mistakes that resulted in any chances. Nice work Shane.

Mistakes this weekend didn't turn out to be costly as both Nathan and Jonnie O were both in good form. It's good to see the platooning of recent weekends continue as it will be important for Olthuis' development as well as give Lawson both a little rest and incentive to be at his best when his turn comes up. Nathan is a talented and experienced goalie halfway through his 3rd WCHA campaign. His play as a freshman was outstanding but he suffered through last season on the same uninspired team as everyone else. He's returned to his best form more often than not so far this season but I have believe that he has better in him. If Nathan can play like he's been playing the last few weeks as well as stand on his head a few times down the stretch then we'll see some of the success I think is possible.

The team played really well on their own end of the ice all weekend and improved their overall PK percentage .846 which is approaching something more than just good. There will have to be a show of committment defensively from everyone on the ice this coming weekend. Everyone will need to body up, clog lanes and block shots. The overall PP percentage is .19 percent and hopefully the slight improvement this weekend is a sign of more in the weekends to come. The team moves the puck well but has I think they've been a little bit susceptible to a very aggressive PK. Maybe the puck ought to go out to the point every once in a while ... um ... like when half of the PK team is behind the goal line defending?

I think I'm starting to see more times when the 3rd and 4th lines exceed their "roles" in recent weeks. Matching up defensively against the other teams top lines and playing with "energy" have been the primary roles but those 2 lines (Tassone, Corrin, Tuton and Lowe, Cartwright Tarkir) are getting more and better chances as the season progresses. Scoring from the role players is always great to see.

Chad Anderson continues to play inspired hockey. I'm sure nobody hates making a mistake more than he does but perhaps the occassional mistake is acceptable when he's creating so much on the offensive end. Mark Smith has been steady steady steady in the back and is also bringing his offensive talents to bear. Did I say before how when Chad and Mark were freshman that I predicted both of them would become All-WCHA caliber defensemen their Senior years? This weekends quality just adds itself to weekend after weekend of great defensive leadership from both of these guys.

Luke Beaverson played his heart out this weekend and had a very memorable close in follow up scoring chance that almost went his way as he lugged his 6'5" frame through the crease. Nils Backstrom had a minor defensive lapse or two but also added a lot this weekend (the "beauty" pass setting up Paul Crowders goal on Saturday in particular) to the offensive effort. His skating style is so smooth that sometimes you really don't notice how fast he is going. Mat Robinson has all my respect for the way he playes week in and week out. At only 5'10" 174 he sometimes takes a lot of punishment from much bigger forwards behind his net but he's damned tough and makes a lot of people miss with his quickness. I'd say he has the softest hands on the Seawolves blueline and reminds me of Darren Meek with his ability to come away from the boards with the puck.

Happy New Year.