Sunday, March 11, 2007

UAA's Season Done

First things first. This will be my last post until the beginning of August. This blog and all that it takes to keep it halfway decent takes a fair bit of time. If I were organized etc ... then it might not be an issue but since I'm not; I'm going to take the summer off so that I can focus on some non-hockey and personal things. There'll be some news here and there between now and then but I won't be posting any of it here. Check the Seawolves website, USCHO and the ADN for any news.

Congratulations to the Seawolves on finishing the season with pride and effort. They played some good hockey but in the end the Gophers had more legs in the third period. The stretches of zone dominance we saw all weekend from the Seawolves were fewer as tonights game wore on. It was however a real nice showing from the team and each player can be proud of their efforts. I'm proud. Best of luck again to all the seniors that played their last games this weekend. You guys are all "The Shit" in my book and I'm honestly sorry to see each one of you go. I think we've all got to be pretty optimistic about next season. The seasoning that UAA's freshman class got this year should pay lots of dividends next year. Congrats to the staff on a job well done also. Now go get us a couple of "blue-chippahs" for 08-09.

I wouldn't change being a Seawolf fan for any other team. If 5 national championships means a half empty arena and tons of rube-like bandwagon fans moaning about how crappy their 28-9-3 team is then give me the basement every year. Few Gopher fans appear to really appreciate their team. They withstood a Herculian effort from a pretty decent young hockey team this weekend. They deserved the win. The least you'd expect is more than 2 people on this big series of tubes to say something nice about the Seawolves. Instead, it's the usual "we sucked" excuse for having close games from most of them. Minnesota ... State of Hockey? That's a laugh. Hockey fans have class and that characteristic is missing from TOO MANY of that state's residents to earn the nickname. They don't deserve the 6th National Championship that their team is likely to win this season. But what else should we expect from the Dallas Cowboys of Divison 1 hockey?

I'm happy to not have to listen to MazzaTaco again this season. His disgusting condescending bullshit use of "seapuppies" has earned him my permanent ire. I promise that if I ever have the opportunity, that I'll confront the prick about it. He's an embarassment to the profession and a useful example of the ignorance of so many Gopher fans. So Frank ... Fuck you again ... you petty little bitch. And don't bother commenting here that Frank was somehow using the term affectionately. He wasn't.

So that's that for me this season. Enjoy the offseason. I plan to. Check back after August 1st.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Seawolves Force Game 3

Bonus. The Seawolves outplay the Gophers and get to come back tomorrow and play again instead of sitting on a plane tonight. I couldn't be any more pleasantly surprised than I am right now. After the Friday game I certainly didn't have much to say and hence didn't write. I figured the next post would be on Sunday morning when I wrapped up the weekend and the season. But this group of kids definitely had something else in mind tonight. Congratulations to them for the tremendous effort. That was a great third period (even if Doug and Frank missed most of it with all their mumbled prattling-on about minutia) and of course a great effort in the OT.

The penalty killing in the third period has as much to do with that win as anything else in the game. Back to back penalties at 9:46 and 12:23 could have been devastating for the Seawolves. But they did the necessary work to keep the score 1-0. Hat's off to Tassone, Lowe Kronschnabel and Beagle in that stretch ... who's penalty killing was all excellent. I think it was the turning point of the game. The first penalty was on Lunden and the second on Clark. But both guys would get redemption combining for the game tying goal at 16:25. The Seawolves never gave up the momentum either. They denied the puck to the Gophers in all three zones whenever possible and challenged for everything. It was a great team effort that happened because every player on the bench put out the necessary individual effort. The team should be nothing other than confident going into tomorrows game. I loved Josh Lunden's answer to the LaP wannabe that asked him what the game plan for OT would be ... "Win the Game ... eh?" I thought Charlie showed some good attitude during his post game interview as well.

Now onto the media criticism. On Friday night Wooger blamed Jon Olthuis for UAA's loss. I have no idea what he was watching. Jonny O had one bad moment where it looked like maybe he caught an edge moving left to right and then rest of the night Woog dissed him. I guess he thinks there are goalies in the league that could have stopped that Barriball snap shot to put the Gopher up 4-2? None of Minnesota's goals could be blamed on Olthuis. And Woog dissing him that stiffly was uncalled for and lazy color commentary. Then later Frank called UAA the Seapuppies? Fuck you Frank. Would you call UMD the Bullpups on the air? Would you call UND the Susies? Would you call MSUM the Landcows? No you wouldn't.

Also thank you to the genius at FSN who came up with the blatantly homer question of "Who's the only Seawolf coach to ever win a playoff game?". I'm drowning in the irony of that question making it to the TV screen in the third period. And lastly of course congratulations to Coach Shyiak on getting his FIRST playoff win.

Friday there was some "give-up" on the Seawolves bench. The two quick goals were tough on the squad and they never managed to get their hearts back into the game. There was no "give-up" on Saturday night and as I said I think the back to back penalty kills was the difference.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

WCHA All-Conference Predictions

There is always lots of chatter on this big series of tubes prior to the official announcement of the leagues All-Conference teams. Why not have my say? I mean ... it is why I started the blog. So ... here's what I say:
1st Team:
Ryan Duncan
Mason Raymond
Andrew Gordon
Alex Goligoski
Steve Wagner
Bobby Goepfert

2nd Team:
Travis Morin
Andreas Nodl
T.J. Oshie
Mike Vannelli
Matt Niskanen
Brian Elliot

3rd Team:
Ryan Dingle
Kyle Okposo
Jonathan Toews
Chris Butler
Lee Sweatt
Matt Zaba

Rookie Team:
Andreas Nodl
Brock Trotter
Kyle Okposo
Erik Johnson
Jamie McBain
Alex Stalock

WCHA Coach of The Year: Jamie Russell
WCHA Player of The Year: Bobby Goepfert
WCHA Defensive Player of the Year: Alex Goligoski
WCHA Rookie of the Year: Andreas Nodl
My Honorable Mentions: Rakhshani, Ruegsegger, Wheeler, Bourne, Kilpatrick, Lasch, Barriball, Crowder, Sweatt, Chorney, Meyers, Anderson, Bina, Connelly and last but not least ... one half an honorable mention each to Fisher and Mannino.

Lemme know who you think I missed and/or why you think they should be on the list.

Rationalizing A "Bad" Season

10th place again? Argh. I can't get that out of my head. I sat through the season and saw enough good hockey that the thought of finishing in the basement really never crossed my mind. I still can't analyze all the reasons for it because I'm a bit shocked. So I noticed some things and put together this little list of rationalizations to make myself feel better.

1. The Seawolves were better than 34 other Division 1 teams.
KRACH is a pretty widely accepted ranking system and currently UAA is 25th. Higher than Cornell, Ohio State, Harvard, Northern Michigan, and UAF. Higher than than every team in the College Hockey America conference. Higher than every team in the Atlantic Hockey Conference. Higher than 9 teams in the East Coast Athletic Conference. Higher than 4 Hockey East teams. Higher than 7 teams in the Central Collegiate Hockey Conference. Outside of the WCHA there are only 14 teams that finished with a higher ranking than UAA.
2. There really was parity in the WCHA.
UAA's 17 points for 10th is the highest total in the WCHA since the return to a 28 game conference schedule and Minnesota's 39 points for 1st is the lowest since 1990. And hey ... Gwoz and Eaves both said so.
3. A mere handful of games was the difference.
A loss in OT to Wisconsin instead of a tie or a win on Nov 3rd. A one goal loss to MSU-M on Nov 11th. The 2-0 loss to DU on Dec 16th. The 4-2 loss to St. Bob on Jan 5th. And the 3-2 loss to Duluth. Wins in those 5 games would have had UAA finishing in 6th place. And only one of those games was in 07? This is why EVERY game is so important. Just a lapse or two and a couple of poorly officiated games can be the difference between the basement and decent showing.
I'm not sure the 3rd one makes me feel much better but as this young UAA team (171 games played between 7 guys for an average of about 24.5 games per freshman) gets more experience they'll bag more of those "tight" games. I did a quick comparison with a couple of other random teams to see how many games their freshman played. CC's 7 freshman combined for an average of 18.7 games each. St. Bob's 6 freshman combined for an average of 22.6 games each. A quick look (without calculations) tells me DU and Minnesota's averages are probably the highest in the league. All of which means that the Seawolves are returning next year with a pretty experienced sophomore class.

I felt bad about 10th. I don't feel as bad anymore. Isn't rationalizing great?

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

It's Time For Hope

So is this the last weekend of the season? Do the UAA Seawolves go down in ignominious defeat or move on to the WCHA Final Five? Do they get blown out or turn in a prideful performance? Moving on to the Final Five at the Xcel Center is a pretty tall order. I don't have easy access to past results but I don't think a #10 has ever advanced against a #1. So does that mean UAA won't be the first to do it? Nope. The Seawolves could certainly pull a big upset and advance. I'd think odds makers would make it a pretty big number. But again, that doesn't mean it can't happen. If then it is possible to beat the Gophers and advance; exactly how the hell is that accomplished?

Well, that's the million dollar question isn't it? Does the team play the same style it's been playing? I wouldn't think so. The 'Wolves have given up 3.875 goals per game in their last 8 while scoring only 1.75 goals per. In that stretch they've played 3 "good games" (games where they had a chance to win and played up to their potential) but 4 of the 5 losses have been pretty ugly (8-2 loss, 4-0 loss, 5-2 loss, 5-0 loss). This all makes it evident that nothing other than the best effort this weekend can be successful. Nobody can take a night, period or even shift off and expect to win. Nobody. Not the 4th line grinders, not the defense and especially not the goaltender. Everyone will need to play their best hockey of the season. That's been the plan since the beginning of the year right? To be playing their best hockey in the playoffs? That's the word I've heard anyway.

But even with the Seawolves playing their best, the challenge is still pretty damn big; it's the Gophers. They'll possess the puck for long periods of time with their excellent passing. They'll work it on the power play and get great chances. They'll be playing in front of a fanbase that won't really be satisfied with anything other than two solid wins. What to hope for then? Hope for a stellar defensive game where UAA blocks shitloads of shots. Hope for a high percentage of success with any transitional chances. Hope that Lawson and/or Olthuis play the best games of their careers. Hope that Seawolves finish their power play chances while simultaneously hoping that the Gophers don't. Hope for a near perfect series. It'll take something close to that. The opponent this weekend has played it's crappy games already. And while they might make a mistake here or there this weekend I'm expecting them to be playing their best hockey. UAA players should have the same expectation.

From time to time this season the Seawolves have shown flashes of brilliance in their play. They've come up with some dominating physical and territorial play at times. I know they are capable of coming up with an effort that will not only make us fans proud but advance them to the Final Five. So as a fan there's naught left to do but hope.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Quick Recruit Update

The BCHL completed it's regular season play this weekend. Chris Rengert was the highest scoring UAA recruit with 26g-58a in 59 games for Burnaby and a 1.4pp/g average. His 84 points place him at #11 on the league leader board for the season. His 58 assists were 6th best in the league. Tommy Grant finished his regular season for Westside at #18 on the league leader board scoring 36g-39a for a 1.3pp/g average. His 36 goals were 13th best in the league. Winston Daychief finished at #21 on the leading scorer table with 31g-42a in 59 games for a 1.2pp/g average. His 31 goals are 20th best league-wide. The BCHL's long playoff season begins next weekend.

In the NAHL (which still has a month's worth of games before it's playoffs) Brad McCabe continues his strong play for Texas and has 4g-2a in 8 games so far. Jeff Carlson's 15g continue to lead the league in goals from a blueliner. Coupled with his 21 assists, Jeff is #4 overall on the league leader board in 54 games. Nick Haddad has 25g-31a in 50 games and is currently #12 on the league leader board.

The AJHL has already begun it's playoff season. For the regular season Kane Lafranchise finished as the 8th leading scorer on his squad (which happens to be heavy in the defensive player scoring category) and 3rd leading scorer from the blueline with 12g-23a in 58 games.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

End Of Season Potpourri

Things at the top of the league shook out as expected with Minnesota locking up the McNaughton trophy Friday night over MTU. The Gophers and La Huskie des St. Cloud both took the night off on Saturday. In Bobtown they honored Goepfert for Senior night by giving him the start and pulling him at the first stoppage (apparently to both give him a break before the playoffs and to get Weslosky a game). It worked out real well for UND. They climbed right into third on the strength of that coaching move. The Gophers dinked around at the John too but they'll be glad to have the crappy game over with for this week's practice before the playoffs. It'll mean that they won't be giving anything away next weekend against UAA. Both teams in the DU/CC series actually gave it a real effort but CC's 3 points wrapped up the coveted last WCHA home ice playoff spot. The Duluth/Wisconsin series was a snoozer. I don't think it was either of their first 0-0 ties of the year.

There's some potentially very revealing information on this week's Mike Check column over at INCH. Eidelbes theorizes that Bemidji St.'s "WCHA must save us" refrain coming from University President Jon Quistgaard is really just a smoke screen so they can blame the WCHA instead of taking responsibility for their own program. I mention the piece because it's a fairly gutsy thing for Eidelbes to assert. You be the judge.

UAF manufactured a nice little upset by defeating Western Michigan in the first round of the CCHA playoffs. It took a third game today but congrats. It was an 11th place vs. 6th place first round game and now UAF will face 3rd seeded Miami in the next round.

MeanEgirl and crew went to the John this past weekend. They got crapped on by some Gopher fans and captured some video to remember the moments. In this first one we see a pint-sized loudmouth drunken monkey and his girlfriends. In the second one we see the same idiots missing out on their spelling lesson in order to start the physical harassment. And in the third one we see skinny little bitch boy and his drunken girlfriends at the height of their misdeeds. These guys were all shown the door. Apparently, they'll be standing tall in front of the Athletic Director if they want to get back into the arena; but since Alchohol + Hockey at the UofM are synergistic I'm sure those twerps will be in the Gopher student section next weekend.

If the Seawolves win the next 5 games in a row they'll get into the NCAA's. And that's all I'm going to say about that.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

UAA Hockey Fan Blog Awards: 06-07

Rookie of the Year
Paul Crowder? Josh Lunden? Kevin Clark? Jon Olthuis? I can make a reasonably good enough argument about each of these four outstanding Seawolf freshman for this award. These guys were all impactful and productive players in their first year. Each one provided fans with excitement and/or anticipation when they were on the ice. And more importantly, these guys (along with freshman teammates Nils Backstrom, Trevor Hunt, Jared Tuton, Ken Selby and Ryan Berry) are going to form a very important core of talent for this team over the next 3 years. This freshman class provided 28 of the teams 85 goals this season. what ...? Am I going to cop out and give the Rookie of the Year award to the whole freshman class? No. I think Paul Crowder's numbers give him the nod. His 10 goals and 13 assists were good enough for second place on the team. His play from his first game set him apart in my mind. His skills with the puck and how strong he was on the puck was a pleasant surprise to this blogger. He's got a helluva nice backhand shot (the most underused skill in college hockey). He's a creative playmaker and a smart finisher.

Most Improved Player
Justin Bourne fully deserves this award. In 05-06 Justin scored 5 goals and 8 assists and this season he scored 10 goals with 20 assists to lead the team in scoring. He had four GWG's over the course of the season to lead the team. Justin's play this season has been noticably more inspired and that's responsible for the increase in his production. He emerged as a strong team leader during the course of the season and even filled the role of on the road "spokesman" when the Daily News called. It's good to give the award to a guy that I heard say in preseason that he wanted to redouble his efforts. He did exactly that.

Heart and Soul
This award goes to the player that best personifies the metaphor of "leaving it all out on the ice". I think there's little doubt that Charlie Kronschnabel is "the" guy who best did that on this years team. Charlie rose from a walkon at UAA to Captain and made his mark on the program with blue-collar hard work all four seasons. His trademark moment in my eyes was the UMD game where he broke his leg and continued to play. A big part of this years team (it's heart and soul) was missing from the lineup when Charlie was out and it was evident in the team's bottom line. With him playing the squad went 8-11-2 and while he was injured they were 4-7-1.

Most Valuable Player
The first year of this award had an inauspicious debut when I determined that no single player had stood out enough to warrant it. Again this year I've had many of the same thoughts. But I think the choice I've made is a good one. Chad Anderson definitely had the best season of his Seawolf career. His 7 goals and 12 assists led the scoring from the blueline and was good enough for 4th best on the team. Chad contributed on both ends of the ice and stood up for his teammates more than once during the season. He assumed the Captaincy during Charlie's absence and did himself proud. Chad's play all season long was both inspired and inspiring.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Nick Haddad to UAA

Fairbanks Ice Dog's forward Nick Haddad (6'2" 210; 20 yr old) has committed to UAA for next season. Details are available in this Fairbanks Daily News Miner article. In 50 games so far this year Nick has 25 goals and 31 assists which better than doubles his output from the 05-06 season. Those numbers put him in a 9th place tie for points in the NAHL. Nick looks like another solid addition as a power forward.

On a related note the NAHL announced today that they're adding a franchise in Soldotna next season (Brown Bears) to bring the number of Alaska teams to 3. Will they be joining the "South" division with FBX and Wasilla?