Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Don't Forget Your Toothbrush

The 1st D-1 roadtrip awaits the rookies this weekend. A little bit more than 5 hours on a plane down to "The Larry Craig Hook-Up Lounge" otherwise known as Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. A little over an hour on a bus and the team will be at their destination. I'm certain that if one would assign the broadest possible definition of the adjective "beautiful", then one could probably apply it to St. Cloud. But it is what it is and the team sure as hell ain't going there for the ambiance. Pack some extra socks and don't forget your toothbrush. More importantly though is to not forget that the Seawolves haven't won a game at the National Hockey Center.

I say don't forget that because it is only by remembering history that we can avoid repeating the mistakes of the past. It's been a huge mistake to have never won a game there. So remember it all weekend. Remember it right up until the puck drops. Then go out and make it a permanent part of the past. Winning one in their barn this weekend is my least common denominator for the series. Anything less will be disappointing. I doubt UAA even travels to SCSU next year for a series so that would mean waiting 2 years for another chance to put that awful statistic behind us.

No additional word about any possible injury to Nils Backstrom. Hopefully, it isn't something that could keep him out of the lineup. Beaverson was called day-to-day last I saw and I'm assuming that Paul Crowder will be ready to go.

Rule changes suck. Folks that imagine they can tweak things and make the game better need to give it all a rest. Most of the rules changes and/or enforcement directives from the past 5 years have been intended to foster more offensive elements in the game. But you know what? It's had an opposite effect. It's brought "The Trap" to the WCHA in a big way. Dean Talafous played a version of the neutral zone trap when coached at UAA. He left and the strategy pretty much left with him. Then Mike Eaves at UW reintroduced it but went whole hog. By which I mean it was his primary stategy. Bob Motzko used it extensively last season with St. Cloud. Troy Jutting's stategy of trapping against UAA this weekend was effective. And Jamie Russell has used it to good effect as well. There isn't a coach in the league that doesn't have a neutral zone scheme to use situationally. The Gophers used a neutral zone trap in game three of the playoffs last season to shut down UAA. Gwoz at DU and Owens at CC have used it. Dave Shyiak has used it.

But now that the WCHA team count using this alignment as a primary tool in their strategy has reached 4, there'll be more and more instances of the other remaining 6 teams using it more and more often as a big part of their overall strategy. Why do I blame the rule changes? Because they "opened" up the game. They did exactly what everyone wanted them to do. The changes increased the offensive flow. And the ONLY tool left in the bag to counter a team that moves through the neutral zone effectively is to "trap" them. And no ... I don't want to see as many stick-related penalties as we used to. I just want to remind people of the law of unintended consequences and the properties of chaos. You can't change an aspect of the game without changing something else. From here to the end of this season (and likely beyond) WCHA fans can expect to see more and more of this style of play especially by road teams.

Don't forget to watch the Coaches Show on Wednesday night at 8PM on Channel 1. Peter Cartwright will be the guest player.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Sunday Potpourri

Ok. So lets talk about the picture. I found it on google images with a search of potpourri to use with this post. But when I opened the full size version of the picture I was pretty astounded. It's definitely funny. I've got questions about what sort of food item a couple of these costumes represent. M-PP-55 for example: I'm dumbfounded as I look at it. Is it pancakes? I guess ... but I will say that smiling pancake guy certainly has the 70's porn mustache goin on. Ok now ... what the hell is M-PP-63 supposed to be. I see a bun and something half red and half white and smiling mustache porn guy with some sort of village idiot thing on his head. And finally, here's the difference between men and women: they found two different women to put on those ridiculous outfits, they only found one guy. Get it together ladies eh? Sheesh ... Where's the bisquick now?... be right back.

I didn't get a stitch count but I hear that Paul Crowder should be ready to play this coming weekend. I think putting Paul on another line showed some signs of promise since Coach Shiak has made the change. He is an excellent playmaker and UAA needs to have at least 2 lines that can threaten to score on every shift. Luke Beaverson's injury was called a high ankle sprain and the word was he is day-to-day.

Who played strong this weekend? I think the upperclassmen all played strong games. Mat Robinson dished out some high quality punishment throughout the series. Chris Tarkir had a good series as well. He was quick and looked more determined. He didn't let up and his play resulted in quite a few chances. Merit Waldrop was all over the ice and we saw some slick stuff from him again this weekend. I thought Peter Cartwright had two strong games. He broke across the blueline deking a guy then dipped inside another with the puck glued to his blade and no doubt he wishes he'd shot instead of passing. Throughout his career Cartwright has done all that has been asked of him in the role he's played. It's good to see him getting more offensive opportunities. Blair Tassone was a buzzsawing beast all weekend. No doubt he put more body on Mavericks than anyone else. Blair is a consistently energetic guy who can be a bit of a turnover and breakaway threat. Shane Lovdahl had two good games as well and I thought he was very effective on both ends of the rink. All these upperclassmen are going to have to deliver that sort of consistent effort every weekend. It's a good sign that so far they all have done so. Whenever Luke comes back from the ankle problem we'll have another responsible consistent upperclassman on the rink. These guys all win the majority of their battles for the puck and that's something to be thankful for in my book.

On to something else important. How about we never schedule another Halloween weekend game in Anchorage. This is a rant that I really don't want to start but .... essentially I'm puzzled that so many people are willing to give up their hockey game to go to a party dressed up in some ridiculous outfit? Every year that we've had a game on Halloween costume party night the joint is empty. Now would normally be the part of this diatribe where I rip on the Anchorage sports fan for their bandwagon nature but I'll save my non-bandwagon faithful (that turn up to watch hockey no matter what) from all that . Lets go play in somebody else's rink instead next year eh? Halloween? Really?

In the other league series this weekend, MTU split with UND and UMD split with DU. Both good results for every other WCHA team. It means that none of those four is going to take a big leap in the standings. Minnesota handled Ohio State without any real drama. Alex Kangas impressed in his first outing and turned in a performance superior to Jeff Frazee's by all accounts. Is Frazee still the guy? I'd bet a dollar to donuts that tDon liked what he saw but it's still Jeff's job to lose in Lucia's eyes. Tech fans were righteously happy for a nice Friday night win but Saturday's another night and the Sioux (lost lawsuit and all) had a solid answer in return.

CC bit off a chance at improving their RPI by getting one positive result on an away rink against a quality opponent. The bit off a bit more than they could chew. They sure had a good run at home against Minnesota but you know what? Those two wins won't help their RPI come tourney time. I should say though, I think CC has to be the favorite in the WCHA to win the league at this point (two losses against a team as good as UNH on the road aren't neceassarily the biggest negative). I'm still saying they'll be 1 or 2 come the end of the year. SCSU took care of business versus Bemidji St. One small town Minnesota team beats another small town Minnesota team. As Minnesota high school all-star games go, I'm sure it was lovely. I'll express more concerns about St. Cloud hockey in a day or so to once and for all prove that deep down I'm an SCSU supporter.

Finally, the University of North Dakota reached a settlement with the NCAA this week with regard to the lawsuit that UND was pursuing. The settlement essentially gives UND 3 years to prove by some certifiable method that that two tribes of "Sioux" Natives support the nickname and/or logo. If they don't won't or can't satisfy that requirement then it's name change time (as well as facelift time) at the Ralph. The University had very little standing in the mind of the court and both sides were ordered to negotiate a settlement (done because the North Dakota judge knew he wouldn't be able to continue to live in a community had he thrown the lawsuit out as it deserved to be). UND spokesman called it a victory for the community. Yeah ... um ... ok dude. The judge did you a huge favor by not laughing at your suits basis and you get a settlement with the NCAA that you probably could have had more than a year ago and you're calling it a victory? Comedians are everywhere I swear.

Dear North Dakotans,
Bummer dudes. But ya know what ... the marketing possibilities with a name change have got to excite you. You can't begin to express yourselves in a way with the Sioux nickname that you'd be able to with a non-controversial name. The fastest you get over it all the better. A name change isn't going to keep any young player that dreams of playing for UND away from your rink. There'll be some marble grinding and retrofitting at your palace; but it'll still be a palace. If it's just a matter of pride to you, then I suggest that you consider what some our great philosophers have said about expressing ones pride (look it up if you have to but I can't name a truly wise person that wouldn't list "pride" as an overall negative human trait). It really ain't as big a hit as some of the more vocal members of your hockey community are portraying unless you let it be so. So move on, if you're satisfied with how UND engages with it's state's Native population then be all good with that and just change your name.

Here's some good marketing slogans someone can steal in a couple of years ... UND Zephyrs: The Wind is Blowing our Way; North Dakota Zephyrs-Weather Kills!; How about a TV commercial that flashes a big scrolling green graphic saying, "The Zephyrs are screaming down the plains! (with "The Trooper" by Iron Maiden as background for musical irony) and background flyby video over low rolling hills down into Grand Forks. Those would be awesome.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Reflecting on Disappointment

I doubt there is a single UAA fan walking out of the arena or shutting down their webcast tonight that didn't experience disappointment. The promise showed by a reasonably quality win vs. Wayne State; the happiness at coming back against an NHL draft heavy BU squad for a tie; the elation that always accompanies a sweep of hated rival UAF; the gratification of the polls (regardless if we knew ... and told ourselves ... they didn't matter); the rarity of seeing players we love amongst the nations leaders; and finally the hope that we all share ... that somehow the team we most want to suceeed was somehow immune from performing like mere mortals. Isn't part of being a fan the belief that sneaks out from our unconscious that somehow "our guys" are (as the great Howard Cosell would say) "indifatigable". We saw it with our own eyes didn't we? We saw character in action; we saw heroic efforts; we saw creativity and even poetry on the ice; we saw "our guys" gave us all that and more in just a few games. The games this weekend had to have surprised all of us that have been so infected already this season. So ... What are we to make of it?

We saw some different things this weekend. We saw the best competition we've faced this season. The Mavericks weren't the rebuilding UAF squad in its first games with a new coach. The Mavericks weren't a young team filled with alleged NHL-caliber talent who haven't gelled (and are still likely to be a nightmare for anyone that plays them after they've found their identity). The Mavericks weren't a team in its last season playing on and for individual merit. The Mavericks were a team that came off a pair of really disappointing efforts and results on a long road trip Houghton. They followed that long road trip with another long one and they mostly got their shit together. It seemed that at every step Mankato disrupted UAA's efforts to get anything going. It would be apt to correct yesterdays "disjointed" with the word disrupted. A Seawolf on the puck tonight almost always was challenged. That was a new thing and a lesson to be learned. The WCHA isn't composed of teams that don't put forth that sort of effort every weekend regardless of their circumstances. It's a big factor in the WCHA's out of conference record being 20-5-4 so far this season. And UAA did it's share going 3-0-1.

What we are to make of it is that the disappoint we are collectively sharing regarding last nights game is a product of our own hopes. Big news eh? You already know the definition of disappointment. But I (and I imagine you) have allowed myself to become twitter-pated with the potential I've seen. That has suddenly changed, and having that rug pulled out isn't a simple thing to deal with. You look to things that were surely factors; but were they really responsible? You look to the unfortunate bounce, the blown call and to the near miss; you remember the "almost's", all in hope of finding an some self-satisfying explanation. In the end though we all know there are complexities and indefinable circumstances called (and again credit to Howard Cosell) "intangibles" whose surfaces we can barely grasp. When two groups of young men meet on the field of competition (especially amateur) there are hundreds of factors that contribute to the outcome. And young men in new circumstances playing hockey at a high level (that quite frankly is at least ECHL quality: yes I'm saying WCHA teams would do well versus ECHL competition) will be at times less than perfect. Of our disappointment then I say, we must therefore feel it (we can't avoid it) but not let not it temper our optimism or belief. Whether fan, player or coach we must remind ourselves that it just didn't go "our way" this weekend. And in the end, another WCHA weekend awaits.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Word for the Night: Disjointed

I heard more than a few frustrated and disappointed comments tonight from fans in my vicinity. After turning the tables on the getting scored on quick tendency by nabbing an unexpected (and soft) early goal the Seawolves looked good and bad for most of the rest of the night. I think it was late in the second period when I used the word "disjointed". And just now watching Coach Shyiak's postgame interview on Channel 2 I hear the same word. I thought there was 30 minutes of good hockey from UAA (...the 1st period and the first 10 minutes of the 3rd) the rest of the time was just kinda messy. Part of that I've got to credit to MSU and their Chuck Wepner-like effort. Part of it I'll credit to a referee that just couldn't stand not being a part of the game. Dumb ticky-tack penalties on both teams created a mess of a second period where 5 on 5 play was a rarity. The last credit just goes to some marginally uninspired play from the 'wolves. Luke Beaverson was out tonight with a high ankle sprain and will apparently be day-to-day. Paul Crowder left the ice during the second period and didn't return. I don't have any word on why.

The 1st period showed promise for a good entertaining hockey game. There was some run and gun hockey from both teams. The Mavericks had an effective forechecking game going at the top of UAA's zone that was creating turnovers and giving the Seawolves fits from time to time. More puck carrying and delaying the breakout pass cured that though I thought. Josh Lunden scored a pretty goal holding the puck in the slot briefly while wating for an opening then beating Zacharias cleanly. It was overall an entertaining period. Then the 2nd started.

Here's all I have to say about the 2nd. Penalties at 0:37, 2:24, 4:01, 6:39, 10:15, 10:49 and 16:00. I'm sure referee Brett Kloswaski is happy to get a mention. WooHoo! Way to go dummy.

The first 10 minutes of the 3rd period was the kind of game Seawolf fans have gotten used to seeing in this early season. The team dominated possession and even tilted the ice in their favor. They cycled the puck low and created good scoring chances. I'd have to see a replay but I don't know how the puck didn't go in the net on one particular sequence. I'll guess Zacharias made it back to cover the obviously empty net somehow. I sure don't want to think that someone shoved the puck wide. The Mavericks only managed 3 shots during the whole 3rd period and scored on their 2nd shot at 12:14. Channing Boe fired a shot from high in the slot as a Maverick played knocked Jonny O's stick from his hands while moving through the top of the blue ice. Olthuis immediately appealed to the ref and he actually went and reviewed it. The Sullivision showed a replay that confirmed the interference in my mind but the ref didn't see it the same way. At best I suppose it could have went either way. In any case, the goal energized a Maverick team that I'd noticed was huffing and puffing a bit and they evened up the play for most of the rest of the period and during OT. I heard a lot of folks wondering if UAA was playing for a tie. I don't think a coach ever tells his team to play for a tie so I'll just assume the 'wolves just couldn't get it going again.

The Mavericks confirmed my assertion that they're the Chuck Wepner of college hockey tonight. The Seawolves didn't look like Muhammad Ali and weren't able to knock them out.

Sizing up the Mavericks

How does one measure a cow? Google doesn't know. Wikipedia doesn't know. Of course, I've got an idea how. Every week during the College Hockey season I visit the opponent's websites and blogs. I look to see what their coaching staff has said about the team in earlier weeks. I read what fans are saying in fan forums. Sometimes I find gems. Sometimes not so much. During the early season it's difficult to size up an opponent. The Mavericks have played only two games. MTU beat them last Friday 2-0 and spanked them 7-1 on Saturday. That doesn't mean a lot. It's a small pool of data ya know? One of the tools I turn to more and more often during the season is the College Hockey News "Tale of the Tape". CHN provides this side-by-side comparison feature from it's Schedules/Results section. They have recently updated the Tale of the Tape to include three important statistics that only CHN keeps. They've added average age and average height/weight for each team. I emailed editor Adam Wodon about a week ago and asked if they could add this. Every week before a series I'd go to their Almanac section and look up this information about UAA's opponent. Whenever you've seen me reference such things in the past that's where it came from. Adam emailed me this morning to let me know they'd added those categories and I couldn't be more pleased. I know it's just a couple of less clicks for me but it really makes an overall good feature even better. I not only prefer CHN for this sort of information, I also use it's link for the post game boxscores that I'm interested in perusing. Unlike another popular website, CHN links directly to collegehockeystats.net for it's boxscores. I prefer seeing the whole thing rather than a watered down reformatted boxscore. Thanks Adam for liking my idea and adding those stats to your already great "Tale of the Tape".

This week the tale of the tape shows us that UAA is about half an inch taller and almost 6lbs heavier. Last week the Seawolves were more than an inch taller but only 3lbs heavier than Fairbanks. The physical game was one aspect last week where UAA dominated. I'd have to assume that this weekend we should see a similar story develop. There's not a lot of reason to expect that the Seawolves won't have their way in that department. Conventional wisdom (which I pretty much always dislike) pegs the Mavericks as in a rebuilding year. My question is ... who the hell isn't in a rebuilding year pretty much every year in the WCHA. Maybe 2 teams this year? So conventiontial wisdom is worth a spit and that's about it. UAA is a tad bit older than MSU-M but game experience is probably pretty close. They've got 7 upperclassmen skating and UAA has 9. They've got 9 sophomores on the roster and UAA has 8.

So what to expect? If you'd done your Chuck "The Bayonne Bleeder" Wepner research then you would have learned that he was a 70's boxer who was a notoriously difficult opponent. His unorthodox style meant he'd throw punches from unusual angles and at unusual times. If you nailed him with a good shot he'd come up smiling and you were more likely to bloody him than knock him down. That's what Mankato (errr ... Chuck Wepner University) is like. Sound a bit like Rocky Balboa? That'd be because Wepner was the Philadelphia boxer on whom the story was based. Loosely of course, since Wepner ended up cauliflower-eared and punch drunk.

If you haven't clicked on the "Bitty Browser" to the right to find out the answer to "What the Hell is a Seawolf" then do so or just click here. It's really just an email Q&A from LGM to me. Lastly, I'll break my no Alumni coverage here rule this one time to point you to another blog where a bunch of my words showed up. Bethanys Hockey Rants has a profile of former Seawolf Curtis Glencross and she quoted me from the emails we'd exchanged. She's now officially a UAA fan. I added a link to her in my Other Hockey Blogs links even though she buried a link to me! I tease.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Active Thursday Reading

Writing is a sedentary sport. There's two things moving around. My eyes and my fingers. Reading usually only requires your eyes. Today though I'm asking something specific of you beyond eyeball movement and comprehension. This thread regarding the proposed new arena over at The UAA Fan Forum is the genesis for this post. With the run-up to the season and my generally busy fingers I hadn't thought much about the arena. One of the fine folks who comments here sporadically mentioned this a while back and my thought was," cool, thanks for mentioning it; I've already forward my thoughts." But that was it. I should have dedicated a post to the whole thing and didn't. I'm rectifying that now.

There's a lot to say about the new rink without mentioning the budget cutting drama that we went through over the summer. I first mentioned a new Arena back in July 2006 when I had no idea it was being considered. In February of this year I posted an update which included a link to the "masterplan" which talked about the arena. Then in April (thanks to Wolfman who BTW is soon to be on his way to lovely Iraq) I posted the preliminary drawings. Since that time the Governor vetoed some requested funds saying that UAA had the money already. So the UAA Administation moved forward and the planning process is still underway. More important than any of that stuff (which we all pretty already know) is this page at Go Seawolves which says:
UAA Chancellor Fran Ulmer has created a planning team to develop a comprehensive plan for determining location, design, funding, construction, operation, traffic and parking, and other assorted elements associated with a multi-use sports arena. Bill Spindle, interim vice chancellor for administrative services, heads the planning team. The planning process is expected to take up to one year to complete.

"We will involve the UAA family, our neighbors and the Anchorage community in this process,” said Chancellor Ulmer. “Construction of a sports complex to meet both the needs of our students and the Municipality is an important step in strengthening community partnerships and developing the Anchorage campus.”

Preliminary discussions within the UAA athletic community have occurred over the past several years, the result of which are several preliminary sports complex and arena concepts. Artists’ renderings, available online at GoSeawolves.com, show some of the designs the planning committee will consider.
The preamble to all that is why I'm writing today. It says (in nice bold type):
UAA is interested in your thoughts, concerns & ideas regarding the proposed new multi-use sports arena.
Between that preamble and the announcement above is the meat of the matter. It's a link to an email address which I'm hoping that each of my fine regular readers will exercise after reading this sentence. The email address is:
So if you're reading this sentence then I'm assuming that you've opened your email application or webmail site and that you've typed in the address and added your thoughts in support of the arena then hit the "SEND" button. Chancellor Fran Ullmer is hoping that you have. Arena Planning Administrator Bill Spindle would like to hear from you. And I've no doubt that Athletic Director Steve Cobb wants your input. The entire community of UAA athletes and staff need you to do this. Building this arena isn't a process that happens without community input and support.

So I'm asking that today you become an Active Reader and participate in the process. Tell 'em all what you think. If the Arena can't be built fast enough for you, tell them that. If you believe that it's important for the schools identity to provide quality facilities for its students and athletes, tell them that. If you want to see some specific feature incorporated into the joint, tell them that. If you want to see the facility named after the hockey programs founding father Brush Christiansen, tell them that. If you're the CEO of a large multinational corporation and you want to donate millions to help get it done, tell them that. If you're an alumni of the program and know how much it will benefit all sports at UAA, tell them that. If you're a Blueliner Booster Club member or just an itinerant fan and you're excited to get a quality venue, tell them that. If you're primarily an Aces fan and hope to see 10,000 people in a rink cheering during an ECHL season, tell them that. If you're a fan of college hockey in general and live in Minnesota, Colorado, Georgia, Maine or Timbuktu and you know a new UAA arena is a good thing for the sport in general, tell them that. Whether it's 10 words or 1000 lets fill up that email inbox eh?

With filling that inbox as a goal, I've created the leaflet to the left that I'm hoping to print and pass out at UAA games. I figure I've got somewhere around 500 readers. But every weekend around 8 times more people than that show up at the Sully to watch the team.

I thought printing something like the following and passing it out this weekend would be a good idea. Let me know if you're interested in helping in any way. Can you print a thousand? Help pay for a thousand? I figure 4 leaflets to a single 8 by 10 sheet and four people distributing them before the games is what's needed. Click on the picture to see a bigger picture of the leaflet. If you want to help email me or text me using the text widget. I don't know if we can get this done before this weekend's games but if we don't the next home games aren't until the end of November.

Doing this sort of thing isn't necessarily one of my strengths. I like to think of myself as mostly an idea guy; but I'm willing to do whatever legwork is necessary to help get as many emails into the planning committee's email inbox as possible. I'm hoping I have an active reader or two (or four) that feel this is a good idea and want to participate. Do I?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday Extra: Are We Obscene?

Today while looking on UAA's Student Newspaper website The Northern Light for it's recap of last weekends games, I found this editorial which (from my perspective) tried somewhat to spank the UAA student section for some of it's actions this past weekend. It's titled "Fans Should Bring Respect to the University". It's probably an opinion that more than a few people share however I took umbrage with it's premise and conclusions. Naturally, I left a comment. There is no byline that I can see so I'll have to just attribute it to "editor". I'm only quoting portions here so do visit the link I've provided to see the entire editorial. I have though included my entire comment. I encourage readers here (from both sides of this issue) to comment at The Northern Light website and/or here as you so desire.
Excessive face paint and green and yellow wigs highlight rabid UAA sports fans. They bear cold weather and the uncomfortable dryness from caked-on body paint all in an effort to showcase their green and gold spirit.

But the sports fans around the world also have a darker side. It can be easy to let the moment get a hold of an avid fan. Parents across the country have gone to jail for assaulting referees and coaches at Little League games. People have even lost their lives in soccer riots.

It is clear hockey fans have fewer boundaries on how they express their support of a home team than in other sports such as golf.

Sure, fans will taunt the other team, especially those in the penalty box, but one thing UAA fans should remember is that though home games should be a place for people to get excited and noisy, it is important to still be an example to the smaller UAA fans at the games.

Obscene chants and gestures can be toned down for the more family-oriented crowd.

Every once in a while, though, fans make themselves look like fools. Shouting obscenities across the arena or fighting with the opponents' fans doesn't represent sportsmanship.

Chants like, "Who sucks? UAF!" and "Goalie, you suck!" are often heard at games, but fans should try to come up with a better chide than that.

Really, that's the best fans can do? "You suck," a phrase eerily reminiscent of a fifth-grade playground chant, just makes fans sound unintelligent.

UAF is our main rival. With all the wins and dirt we have on them, it should be easier to come up with something better - and slightly more sportsmanlike - than "You suck."

The Sullivan Arena and the Wells Fargo Sports Complex may be some of the only places in Anchorage people can get away with wearing full body paint, howling and screaming at the top of their lungs. However, it is important for fans to remember the community is watching and the games have plenty of little Seawolf fans looking up to those around them.

Athletic events are the easiest way for the community to see the hard work UAA athletes and students accomplish, and at the same time, they're a chance for students to let their hair down and support their school. Fans should do this in a way that makes others respect our university.
My comment:
Taunts at UAA are tame in comparison to other venues in college hockey. While you'd almost certainly retort that other's bad behavior shouldn't grant a license to UAA fans to act (in your judgement and by your standards) in an obscene manner; the fact remains. You miss the point by calling a chant that includes "you suck" childish. It is the simplicity of the phrase and the it's strong verbal projection that makes it an impactful thing for fans to use. Apparently, you missed the "Pull Your Johnson" chants near the end of the game when UAF Chad Johnson was in goal. No doubt you would characterize that as childish as well.

I don't think it's ever a good idea in a college environment to so hastily judge things as obscene. Especially words. Do you really believe that some words are "bad"? I won't disagree that some words have connotations that are disagreeable to some people. I don't particularly like the word "rape" but it is used everyday in your profession. Are "suck" or even an "f-bomb" (which you will hear at other college hockey venues) really worse than "murder", "rape", "pillage", "kill" or for that matter "war"? I don't think so. In context "suck" and "f-bombs" as used by fanbases in college hockey are just words to express the idea that the opponent isn't worthy and to taunt them. Are they derogatory? Yes. Are they obscene in context? No they aren't.

Please lets not take steps back to some Victorian ideal. We should all be past that era shouldn't we? I for one was happy to see an enthusiatic group of students taunting our hated rival. Nice job! Come back and do the same thing every weekend and maybe in time UAA's home rink will get the same sort of widely admired reputation as the Kohl Center or Agganis Arena or Conte Forum or the dozens of other college hockey rinks where opponents receive MUCH harsher treatement (chant-wise). Last weekend in Duluth the student section tried to taunt an Austrian player with the chant "The Hapsburgs Suck". Is that childish or creative in your book? BTW ... it didn't catch on.

Let "the mob" have it's way eh? It's mostly useful and healthy in terms of an emotional outlet. After all ... it's a hockey game; not a piano recital.
I think this is an important discussion to have. I'm personally proud that I have a 15 year old daughter who has long understood that every word in the language is equal to every other word. Judging language and/or categorizing it with terms like "obscene" just has never sat right with me. The hypocrisy of maintaining some false veil of decorum in public or at the workplace and then going home and letting a "shit!" fly when someone drops their favorite teacup onto the marble tile amazes me. I'd prefer a world where we use the most expressive language (English) to it's full capabilities. But I know that's just me. Please chime in. I'd like to hear what others have to say about this and I'll restrain myself from the comments section since I've had my say.

WCHA ROTW: Winston Daychief

Congratulations to Winston Daychief. The WCHA announced it's weekly award winners today. Winston's 2 goal, 1 assist weekend versus rival UAF earned him the Red Baron WCHA Rookie of the Week award. Winston's performance was certainly worthy of the award. Perhaps most interesting about this week's WCHA awards though is the fact that all three winners are rookies. Wisconsin freshman Kyle Turris picked up the OPOW and Colorado College freshman goalie Richard Bachman picked up the DPOW.

Winston's second goal of the night against the Nanooks was the game winner. His earlier goal could have been the game winner but UAF scratched their way back into the game. His single assist Friday night was on the game winning goal. Those three facs have a nice timely relationship in my eyes. Winston is showing he is "there" when it counts. Winston is currently tied for 4th in scoring (3g-2a) among WCHA rookies. It was the second week in a row that I had to consider how best to get to a position in the Arena to make sure my hat made it to the nice if necessary. If the Seawolves keep scoring the scoring at the current level I might get to deliver to the ice this coming weekend. If so, I've got my route preplanned. This is the second WCHA award recognition of the season for a UAA player.

UPDATE: Glen Coulson from the UAA School of Jouralism and Public Communications emailed me with the rundown of this week's UAA Coaches Show. It airs tomorrow night (Wednesday) at 8pm on GCI Channel One. The first segment of the show this week will be a review of both games vs. UAF as well with enhanced highlights (zoom and slow motion) and of course Coach Shyiaks commentary. The segment ends with a highlight reel of some of the big hits from the series ( cool ). In the middle segment Coach Shyiak and David Tuttle preview the series this weekend with Mankato. The 3rd segment this week welcomes Blair Tassone for an interview. Thanks to Glen for the update and to all his staff which put this excellent show together with what I understand is an all-volunteer effort! Great work guys!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Polls Polls! Polls!!! Polls!!!!! Ugh ...

No offense to those voting in and those reading Polls but, they're BS. What is Poll really? It's a collection of votes from people who know very little about most of the teams they're voting for. The folks who "vote" on these things are interested in getting the team they like into the spotlight and after that they vote by reputation and then finally by the latest results. Polls two weeks ago were completely meaningless as no teams had played a game. Last week they were about 2 percent less meaningless and this week they're a grand total of about 5 percent less meaningless than the first one. "Nobody" has played enough games to be rated so "Nobody" should be the only team in the polls at this point. Here's my Poll:
1. Nobody
2. Anybody
3. Wayne St. ( and only cos they're on their way out)
No other Poll matters. UND is #1 because why? Because they had a good year last year and tied a team (for two periods in a haze of fog) that had a good season last year? Does anyone really believe that results from last year have some effect on results yesterday or tomorrow? Puhlease. UND hasn't beaten "Anybody". There is a method for determining some sort of "ranking" of all the teams in Division 1 (KRACH) but you can't use it yet because there aren't enough comparisons. When there are enough comparisons and if UAA has some significant placement therein, I'll mention it here. Don't expect to see any announcements or triumphant pronouncements here based on human Polls. I wouldn't care if every single sports writing know-it-all in the country put UAA at #1. I won't mention it here. I bet Doyle Woody has a vote in a Poll. See what I mean? He admits on his blog he hasn't followed the recent Seawolves. So how could he know whether Clarkson or Air Force deserves placement? He can't. And neither can 90 percent of the professionally employed college hockey sportswriters in the country. The other 10 percent who "might" be qualified to give an opinion would admit they're just guessing at this point. Polls are ridiculous. Polls are meaningless. Follow them if it entertains you. They don't entertain me. Every Monday from here on out the InterWeb is going to be inundated with some selected fanbase running around proclaiming themselves #1. I find it laughable.

And quit listening to the political Polls eh? Is voting for a projected "winner" more important than your core values? Vote your conscience and if a pollster calls you tell them to piss off.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Sunday Potpourri: Steak and Potatoes

I'm going all over the place today. This post will take a while. I'm going to integrate it with cleaning the kitchen then making and eating dinner - steak and (as they call them in Scotland) "tatties". Now nobody can say I never did anything positive for the cultural enlightenment of the American public. You're welcome.

I'll get all selfish first. My efforts to raise funds for a Final Five trip are stagnant. So far the total has remained at $101.26 since the beginning of the summer when LetsGoDU blogger Damien Goddard used his marketing skills on the USCHO fan forum (albeit without my blessing) to put it at that number. Here's the irony: they hate me at that place. Ok; not everyone there hates me but I didn't ever exactly win lots of friends when I was busy lobbing grenades at the collective fanbases of every UAA opponent. That being the case; I'm somewhat ashamed that the score is USCHO fan forum readers $94.60 - UAA Blog reader $6.66. Thanks again to everyone who has contributed. I don't know if UAA will be there or not but there is no way I can finance such a trip at the last moment if the Seawolves make it this season. If I haven't raised the necessary amount (around 800 bucks) by the middle of February then I will not be going. If that happens and UAA gets to the Final Five then I guess we'll have to rely on the Anchorage Daily News to send someone. There's a link in the scrollbar above and a dedicated spot on the right hand column you can use to contribute. I hope you choose to do so. End of selfishness.

In the comments section of yesterdays game recap, I mentioned some of the things that I'd noticed the team might do well to improve heading into the WCHA regular season. The PK has been decent (but could be better). The Power Play hasn't exactly clicked yet and cashing in on those opportunities is always important in the WCHA. Penalties taken aren't exactly low either. I don't expect that penalty minutes will come down substantially next weekend as we face the perennially gritty Mavericks from Mankato. I'm sure I'll be calling them Chuck Wepner University sometime this week so get to googling and look up the reference if you don't get it. It ain't my fault you aren't from my generation.

When Eric Walsky was looking to transfer to the UMTC there was a gaggle of "pundits" here on Uncle Ted's Big Series of Tubes who weighed in. So while I was glancing and listening to the CC vs. UMTC game being replayed today on FSN, I hear Doug Woog saying something that confirmed what I'd said at the time. It's always creepy when me and the Wooger agree on something. He said (and I'm paraphrasing here), "Walsky looks to be one of the most impactful transfers in the WCHA ..." that he can remember. Here's what Gopher blogger and reputed "pundit" Hammy had to say about Walsky back when it looked like Eric might go to UMTC:
In terms of any projected role, I doubt he'd be much different than what Jerrid Reinholz was after he left UMD after 2001, sat out a transfer year and then walked on at Minnesota. A lower line guy who would likely be looked upon as a role player and pitch in with a little offense from time to time. It worked out well for Reinholz since he played on a national title winner.
Walsky's playing on the first and second line at CC and scored the GWG in the first game of CC's sweep of UMTC this weekend. I'm just sayin. Someone should stick to "punditting" Minnesota high school players eh?

There were a lot of interesting results this weekend. As mentioned above CC swept UMTC. UMD came through with a fine sweep of Jan Brady State University. Coaching genius Bob Motzko apparently told the press he was taking the leash off his team and encouraging them to be "creative" going into the smallest rink in the WCHA against a bigger team. Not quite the brilliant strategy of the season I'd have to say. I'm thinking about applying for Motzko's job. Stay tuned for details. Michigan Tech did a number on Mankato. Those boys might be in a bad mood when they get to Anchorage this weekend. UND went on an east coast road swing and got fogged out at Conte against BC. They abandoned the game after two periods. Conte must be a dump. DU split at Notre Dame and one of the games was interrupted by a tornado warning. South Bend must be a dump.

How about them freshman? Five rookies have gotten their first collegiate goals in the first four games this year. That's a nice thing. Lots of freshman wait more than a few games to lose that monkey. Daychief and Parkinson have three each with Grant, McCabe and Vidmar with one apiece. Of the 18 goals UAA has scored so far this season a whopping 50% have come from the freshman class. That's a statistic you'd normally see from a team that is 0-3-1 instead of 3-0-1. It's a good start. No road trips so far has got to be a contibutor to the positive play of the freshman as well as the nice overall start. The schedule is pretty nice coming up too with the first road trip two weeks away followed by an off week before heading back outside. It should be conducive to good efforts from the squad.

Josh Lunden and Kevin Clark are nicely placed in the early season on the nationwide scoring leaderboard. It'll be nice to see if they are able to maintain that sort of standing. Some rookie kid named Turris is sitting at the top of the list.

Upon reflection my favorite player this past weekend was Mat Robinson. I say he was "da man". He was all over the ice both nights. His missed pinch (he was trying not to kill the snoozing linesman) did contribute to a 'nooks goal but I can't find fault for that. It was a good choice that just didn't turn out well. Luke Beaverson had a great series. He punished people and was effective on both ends. Shane Lovdahl had a strong series overall. Like most everyone else he made a mistake or two on Friday night but Saturday he was a beast with his hitting and shooting. The competition for playing time on defense is for real. Nils Backstrom didn't play Saturday night and his replacement scored a goal. I'd hate to be the one making those choices this season. Kane Lafranchise wasn't just solid both nights, he showed some flair with a couple of more than nifty passes and some excellent work along the boards. It's great to see every kid on the blueline be willing and able to move the puck up the ice. I have to say I don't think UAA has ever had this much talent and overall balance on the blueline.

Some might call Matthew Gordon's first outing a bit shaky. I'll call it a first outing. I was more interested to see how he looked overall than whether he stopped everything. Only one goal was "soft" anyway. I wouldn't change my earlier assessment of him. He gets up from the butterfly position to standing as fast as any goalie I've seen and uses his size to his advantage. He looked comfortable handling the puck as well. All in all it was a good learning experience for him and hey ... he got the win.

Ken Selby saw his first regular season action this year on Saturday night. Sometimes I'm a bit distracted being a fan to focus on one player so I can't really offer much of an assessment of his play this week. But he's definitely a kid I'm pulling hard for to make the lineup more often. I love skaters. And he can motor. Sean Wiles saw his first action on Friday night and I liked his reach and desire. I will say he looked a little bit like he was huffing and puffing coming off after a couple of shifts but it's good that he got a taste. A taste makes a guy hungry for another shot. The competition for playing time on among the forwards is just as real as that with the blueliners.

Now onto some props and some criticism. Props to the DJ at the Sully. His subtle choices like "Innocent Man" after a UAA penalty were great. There were several good ones but unfortunately I don't remember any other except that one. I think a couple of things he's doing might be interpreted unfavorably by a visiting team at some point so I hope he doesn't get in any hot water over them. I won't identify them specifically here though. They're funny but I'd bet money someone will complain at some point. Enjoy them while they last I guess. Introducing the team's parents before the game was just not a good choice. Anchorage fans are ALWAYS late arriving. Those introductions should have been made between the 2nd and 3rd periods. Personally, I was hoping to meet a couple of parents in the booster room before the game, then I was standing in there and started hearing Lyle introducing them; disappointing to say the least. Next year let's give the parents the stage they deserve and introduce them in front of something other than the arriving crowd 20 minutes before the game starts eh? Lastly, 38 percent of voters this week thought that if Fairbanks were a vegetable they'd be ... (insert drum roll here) ... flatulence inducing Broccoli. 21% said they'd be a once a year is enough Yam with 17% thinking they were either not kissable and/or useful as only a garnish. There ya have it.

There's work to be done. There's bigger challenges ahead. But who can bitch about a 3-0-1 start? Not me.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Seawolves 5 - UAF 3

A great 2nd period tonight was all the Seawolves really needed to complete the home sweep of rivals UAF tonight. That great 2nd period started with about a minute left in the 1st. With just 25 seconds left in the 1st freshman Craig Parkinson netted his 3rd goal of the season during a dominating shift with linemates Josh Lunden and Kevin Clark. You could smell it coming. The stench of their desire wafted through the whole arena during that shift. They just weren't going to be denied. The Seawolves gave up another brutally early goal in the game just 22 seconds in. And the 'nooks held tough for most of the rest of the period killing off a 5 minute major to Dustin Sather (marginal call at best ... I fully expected a 2 minute call). Play during the period was mostly in UAA's favor as they outshot UAF 9 - 4. No question though that a goal with 25 seconds left in a period is > a goal 22 seconds into a game. Between periods my assessment was that UAF had "shot their wad".

Coming out in the 2nd the 'nooks though tried to prove me wrong with another good scoring chance very early in the period. Matthew Gordon though in his first start was able to thwart the effort and the Seawolves buckled down. The 'nooks didn't register another shot on goal in the period until about the 10 minute mark. During the first penalty of the period whle Blair Tassone was sitting in the box for interference (for keeping a Nanook from the puck by putting his legs into a Nanook's stick and tripping himself) UAA had two great shorthanded chances and UAF managed zero shots. It was an indication of how the whole period would go. The Seawolves outshot them 10 - 4 in the period (and the shot counting at the Sully is horrid). My estimate would be 15 - 5 for the period. At the 9 minute mark of the period Winston Daychief knocked in his 2nd of the year to put UAA ahead for good. It didn't prove to be the game winning goal but Winston took care of that later in the period with his 2nd of the night. In between his two goals another freshman bagged his first of the season. Luka Vidmar fired a solid wrister through traffic at 13:03 of the period. Of all 8 goals the two teams combined for on the night only 2 came from someone other than a freshman and those two were from sophomores. Daychief's game winner came with 1:04 remaining in the period to put UAA up 4-1. It took a lot of air out of UAF's tires.

The Seawolves dominance continued in the 3rd period. If not for a number of excellent saves by Wylie Rogers (and a post) UAA would have put the game out of reach. The Seawolves mostly were on cruise control until Dion Knelsen's power play tally at 13:03 put a bit of a scare into the 4528 folks in attendance. But at 17:19 of the period a determined Paul Crowder carried the puck into the zone on a 2 on 1 and netted his 1st of the season for UAA's 5th goal. The 'wolves went back into cruise control immediately and UAF bagged their third just 35 seconds later on just their 5th shot of the period.

All in all I'd (once again) call it a dominating performance. But I'd also temper that by saying they gave up 3 goals that they shouldn't have. UAF took advantage of 3 situations where the Seawolves simply weren't awake. Not to be overly critical but those sorts of naps aren't going to equal WCHA success. League games start next weekend when Mankato comes a callin'. Success in the WCHA comes from playing 60 minutes a night. Not 57. 60. It's reality. The point needs to be made. The WCHA so far this season is something like 17-3-4 against the other conferences so far this season. A big part of that statistic is the focus that every team in this league puts into playing for the full 60 minutes. I believe the Seawolves could be a helluva squad if they play like they are capable of playing for 120 minutes every weekend.

Congratulations on a good weekend and on the 3-0-1 early season record. It's a nice start. From here on out it only gets tougher. I'll wrap up my thoughts about the pre-WCHA season tomorrow in my regular Sunday Potpourri post.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Seawolves 4 - UAF 3

In an early season game you might expect a few gaffs and bumbles. But this third game of the season for UAA saw more than it's fair share from my center ice seat. It was fitting then that a great individual effort on a long shift would provide the game winner. Tommy Grant's great goal with 3:35 seconds left in 3rd period broke the 3-3 tie for good. Grant was the last of four rookie forwards (who've seen action before tonight this season) to net a goal. As the 3rd period waned the Seawolves managed a fair bit more offensive pressure than the determined Nanook team. On the shift that produced the game winner, the Seawolves were particularly determined keeping the puck in the UAF zone for what seemed like close to 90 seconds. About 15 seconds before the goal came, Grant showed great anticipation getting to a puck in the far corner and I turned to my daughter and excitedly said, "That kid's a hockey player". As I looked back up Tommy had the puck on the other side of the net behind the goal line and carried it back up the far side looking for an opportunity. Finding nobody free, he simply fired the puck low through Chad Johnson's legs. 1st collegiate goal and a game winner. Nice.

As I said though the game tonight was often a bit of a mix of ugly broken plays and (less often) pretty ones. UAF got on the board first when a blocked Naglich shot dropped to a trailing Tyler Eckford who gave Jon Olthuis no chance with a ripper from about 4oft. UAA took the first penalty of the night when Jared Tuton didn't release from his guy soon enough after a face-off. Man, I gotta say I hate that stupid call. Expect to see plenty of those with two refs. UAA killed the penalty and on the second shift following the play a hustling Paul Crowder got to a puck deep in the corner and knocked it to Kevin Clark who fired a shot on the net which Chad Johnson kicked out to a rush Josh Lunden who just had to fire it past Johnson. The rest of the period mostly wasn't pretty hockey. It was competitive enough but neither team looked sharp.

Much of the first half of the 2nd looked similar to the first. It was overall a little sharper and passes connected more often. I thought UAA had most of the better chances through that first half though. Blair Tassone broke in pretty cleanly after UAA killed off a short 5-3 but ran out of room and couldn't get a good shot off, the rebound though was picked up by someone (I can't remember who) and their shot was kept out of the Nanook goal by a scrambling Nanook defenseman. The game was fairly wide-open and more entertaining throughout the second half of the period and I began to notice Coach Shyiak trying different line combinations. At 12:44 Craig Parkinson and Kevin Clark combined on a nice rush with Kevin firing a bad angle shot which deflected back to a rushing Mat Robinson who buried it giving UAA the 2-1 lead. The Nanooks scratched their way back into a tie when Aaron Lee scored at 16:01.

The 3rd period was similar to the first two but was perhaps a bit more defensively oriented, the Nanooks couldn't seem to manage to get many shots through. UAA's defense did a better job as the night progressed keeping the Nanooks to the outside. Perhaps a factor of the size difference in the two teams. In any case, Craig Parkinson put the Seawolves up 3-2 at 8:09 of the period finishing a nice rush with Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden. Not quite 3 minutes later the 'nooks tied the game again with their best goal of the night when Novotney took a nice pass from Dustin Sather and beat Jonny O. The goal gave the game some drama, though the Seawolves really started looking like the better team as it went deeper into the period.

I have to say that this tendency (if you can call something a tendency after it happens twice) to score a big goal late in the game is a nice thing to see. The final five or six minutes of this game was all Seawolves. I think I told Mr. Suze (when he wasn't shouting "Down in front" at Governor Palin) it sure looked like UAA simply had more desire. A good win to get. Coach Shyiak got to play with the lines a fair bit and I'm sure he'll do some of that tomorrow night as well. Non-conference games are tailor made for that. I'm guessing here that we might see Matthew Gordon in between the pipes tomorrow so that Coach can see him in action. Sean Wiles saw his first action of the season. He's got a long reach and managed at least one decent shot on net. I thought Mat Robinson had a great game. He was all over both ends of the ice. Kane Lafranchise was the only freshman defenseman dressed and he played a very solid game. The play of all the freshman forwards was excellent of course with Parkinson and Grant both contributing important goals. Anybody who gets to play on a line with Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden is a lucky guy. They made plenty happen again tonight. Neither team scored on the power play. Craig Parkinson isn't shabby on faceoffs and that's nice to see. I think Luke Beaverson had his best game so far this season. He carried the puck when necessary and laid on some big hits. Almost nobody really played mistake free hockey though. Hopefully, things will be a little sharper overall tomorrow night. Not that I'm bitching about being 2-0-1.

I thought I was done and almost hit the publish button but as I proofread all this I'm considering that the team played better than the picture I'm painting. It was an entertaining hockey game. It had a lot of the good elements that make a game enjoyable. It was up and down a lot the evening. Enough of the miscues were as much created by the opponent as were unforced. So for anyone that didn't see the game I'd hate to leave a bad impression. Maybe I'm saying this partially because the game is on the TV as I write this and I'm hearing David Tuttle's color commentary and wondering if we were watching the same game. Anyhow, I'll sit back now and watch and enjoy it again.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

DelCastillo: 25% of UAF Has Talent

One of the biggest challenges of writing this blog is sounding like I know what I'm talking about when I write about an opponent. It's easy enough to sound like I know what I'm talking about when writing about the Seawolves. I've seen most of the guys play for at least a year and some of them I've watched for more than 3 years. I pay as much attention to them as anyone. I don't pay as much attention to opponents. Don't get me wrong. I've got more than a decent idea about most of the teams UAA goes up against. But comparitivly speaking, I know a a boatload more about UAA than the team just up the road. That being the case each week I spend some time doing a bit of "research" (for lack of a better word). Mostly, it consists of a google search or two followed by a bit of reading. Obviously, past experience against the foe is a factor as well. This week the task is thankfully easier than other weeks. Not because I pay any more attention to UAF than say UND or DU or CC; but because I came across an absolute gem just as I was getting underway.

Coach Doc DelCastillo sat down with Fairbanks News Miner reporter Danny Martin and gave his assessment of the teams talent on a player by player basis. We hadn't heard much about the team and it's new coach, so to have all this right from the horses mouth makes my day. By analyzing his full comments I've come to an interesting thesis that Coach DelCastillo doesn't exactly think some of this players are the "bees knees". (note: I've included the key portions of his comments which I believe are the most relevant) I've broken it all down for simplification into two categories. The "Have's" and "Have Not's".
The Have Not's
Justin Binab - "Veteran, older, more mature"
T.J. Campbell - "Leader ... extraordinary kid, extraordinary person"
Brandon Gawryletz - " ... fearless-type ... good guy to have ..."
Trevor Hyatt - "A complete person ..."
Chad Johnson - " ... his challenge is to be at another level consistenly ..."
Kyle Jones - " ... new lease on life with a new coach."
Derek Klassen - "Relentless. He can really skate"
Brandon Knelsen - "I think he's opportunistic."
Bryant Molle - "He needs to grow into his body and learn to adapt his game ..."
Dustin Molle - "He's a good team guy ..."
Ryan Muspratt - "Steady ... someone with veteran leadership."
Adam Naglich - "... he could be a very good, two-way power forward ..."
Kevin Petovello - "... going through a learning process right now."
Wylie Rogers - "... everyone in this town loves Wylie"
Cody Rymut - "He works hard and he wants to be a player."
Steve Vanoosten - "He's another who's on a learning curve ..."
Braden Walls - "... he needs to continue to get better."
Jeff Young - "Physcially, he's a little bit behind ..."

The Have's
Tyler Eckford - "Gifted. He's just gifted. He has god-given ability..."
Dion Knelsen - "... if it doesn't work out for Dion, it isn't because of what Dion did ..."
Jeff Lee - "He's very gifted, he skates well for his size ..."
Landon Novotney - "Incredible acceleration, very gifted ... contributor at this point."
Jeff Penner - " ... could be a very good defenseman in the CCHA."
Dustin Sather - " ... He has a tremendous amount of skill."
So ... of the 24 players commented on; Doc DelCastillo gives comments on only six that would indicate he thinks have talent. Let's not misunderstand what was said. His comments on all his players were positive in nature. He didn't disrespect anyone in particular (well, maybe Tavis MacMillan in a subtle way). But regarding 18 players he sure didn't use the words that you might hear from a coach who thought they were talented. Sure, I only included snippets of his comments. But the link is there so you can read every word he said about every player. No doubt that a new coach looks forward to the time when he can get "his players" into the system. But if i was any of those 18 on the "Have Not" list I'd definitely be wondering if that was the best my coach could come up with. Perhaps he was hoping they'd want to prove him wrong. I remember another NCAA Division 1 coach who told the local newspaper his team wasn't very talented during his first year. His name was Dean Talafous.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Still Stretching

The Sports Information Department at UAA has posted the weekly release (PDF). In case you're not familiar, they do this every Wednesday during the season. The release always contains tidbits of news and up to date information. One section this week mentions that the UAA Coaches Show will be airing tonight on GCI channel 1 at 8pm. David Tuttle will again host Coach Shyiak in a review of this past weekends games. It says the show each week will be 30 minutes and will also feature a player. I called the JPC office and they told me the player to be featured this week is Josh Lunden.

Coming up with new and unique ways to talk trash about UAF isn't as easy as you might think. I've given them a rash of crap about their new boat a few weeks ago. Last year before the first two games I went all Dickens (at least with my post titles) and did some comparing both fictionally and non-fictionally. This past summer I wrote a letter to UAA's incoming freshman that included the following:
We hate Fairbanks ergo you hate Fairbanks. OK? Seriously, we never want to lose to them again. You don't either. On board with that? The "Governors Cup" is a big deal to UAF fans and denying them it, is why you're here. Following the the general trend now? Seawolf > Nanook. It's just that simple. Ingrain it on your psyche. Burn it in your memory. Never forget. They hate freedom. We love freedom. Fairbanks bad. UAA good. The ticket is free to get on the "Hate-FBX" bus, so jump on it and stay on it. Comprende? Ok then ... the less said about Fairbanks the better.
So the problem here for me is to give readers something fresh while still not letting Fairbanks off the "you guys suck" hook. But the reality is that I don't know much about this years version of the Nanooks. They've got a new coach, Doc Delcastillo and so will likely have a new personality as a team. The one tidbit that has managed to make itself known is that he has the squad focused on taking as few penalties as is possible. The word is that if you get your stick horizontal across a teammate in practice, then you're skating some penalty drills. So perhaps he's a rigid disciplinarian? Perhaps its a bit early to make that call but if any program ever deserved to have a control freak at it's helm I'd have to say it's UAF. Like I said though, it's a bit early to make such characterizations. You can be assured though that the minute he smells like Dean Talafous to me I'll be all over it.

I'll do some more research and have a real preview of the 'nooks tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

WCHA Offensive POTW: Josh Lunden

More recognition came today for Josh Lunden. The WCHA announced in this release that Josh was their Red Baron WCHA Offensive Player of the Week. His three goals and two assists and Most Outstanding Player award in the Nye Frontier Tournament this past weekend was enough to win the award over five other fellow nominees: Ruegsegger (DU), Shelast (MTU), Okposo (UMTC), Sharp (UMD) and Duncan (UND).

The three goals puts him a little more than a quarter of the way toward matching his total goal output during his freshman campaign in a Seawolf sweater. I thought it was interesting that every account of Josh's game tying goal against BU noted that he "buried" the puck. I guess there wasn't a more perfect word for it. It was exactly the sort of finish that we've come to expect from Josh. The pass from Kevin Clark was a thing of beauty without a doubt, but Josh banged it home with flair.

On KTUU's early report Dave Shyiak spoke briefly about the Seawolves depth and indicated that he thought "everybody could be playing" and while that "made his job more difficult" it was a good thing. Look on KTUU's website later for the archived version of the 6pm report which I imagine will be a little more in-depth.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Warming Up: The Roots of the Rivalry

Anchorage versus Fairbanks. Why the rivalry? There are any number of reasons for these two schools to dislike one another that have nothing to do with hockey. Alaska is an incredibly variable state. Environmentally speaking, it ranges from the only rainforest on Earth's northern hemisphere where temperatures rarely go below 50 degrees to the Arctic where in some places the temperatures rarely go above 50 degrees. There is a desert-like sand dune region; a wicked ancient caldera; North America's highest mountain; vast stretches of taiga and deciduous birch forest; thousands of miles of coastline; innumerable lakes and streams; nearly unimaginably mighty rivers and of course vast precious resources from gold to crude oil. Populations across the state are equally as disparate. The two largest cities have less attributes in common than they share. Fairbanks and it's immediate surrounding area has a population of about 80,000. Anchorage and it's surrounding area is nearing 300,000. Fairbanks is colder and darker in the winter but lighter and generally warmer in the summer. It's much more a place of extremes than Anchorage. Alaskans of all stripes though consider themselves rugged and individualistic. A good example to illustrate the point would be the recent release of the Sean Penn movie "Into the Wild". While much of the rest of the world seems to be enamored with the a spiritual journey of a unique soul, Alaskans see an unprepared schizophrenic boob who failed badly to assess his actual situation. Not to ruin what I'm sure is an otherwise fine tale but; the truth is that one day the Teklanika River is impossible to cross but on another it's not too dangerous to ford at all. Had he simply camped out next to it for a few days he would likely be alive today. On this point Alaskans are pretty much united; it is one of few such agreements that occur up here anytime "outsiders" try to tell us about our state. While many of us appreciated the unique humor of the TV show "Northern Exposure", pretty much none of us liked the continuous inaccuracies. Aside from these sorts of commonalities though, Anchorage and Fairbanks don't dig each other. What's up with that?

It's a big vs. little thing. It's a resentment thing. It's about distribution of resources. It's about frontier-life vs. city-life. Folks in smaller cities don't fully understand why people like living in larger cities. Those in the big city don't understand the appeal of a smaller town. People in Fairbanks resent the attitude of those in Anchorage, they think we have a "high and mighty" attitude. People in Anchorage resent the disproportionate funding that UAF receives when compared to UAA (more on that later this week). Anchoragites can't imagine doing without their much greater range of choices of where to spend their money. Fairbanksans don't get the need for 49 movie screens in 8 locations when they get by with 16 in one place.

All this and more carries over to the ice. There are only two schools in the state that compete in NCAA athletics. UAA and UAF. UAF is the flagship school of the UA system though. UAA however is the recognized flagship athletically. UAF has more graduate programs. They are a recognized center for arctic studies both environmentally and geophysically. Though they're 400+ miles from the ocean in 3 compass directions they host the only oceangraphic studies in the state. There is much pride in that for UAF alumni and students. There is much resentment of that here in Anchorage (located on the Pacific Ocean) at the school with a much larger enrollment. The resentment and rivalry even likely played some small role in the departure of former UAA president Elaine Maimom. Wow. Ousted because you wanted the bigger school to get funding that was inline with it's population? I can't help but think there is some defensiveness among the fully funded professorial elite in the Interior if they're gonna boot someone simply for bringing it up. No doubt UA President Mark Hamilton likes his status as a big fish in a small pond in Fairbanks and isn't about to let anyone threaten that with something like logic.

For most of the earliest years of competition in D1 hockey UAA flat out dominated on the ice. The teams played each other as many as 8 times a year at one point. I can remember being sick and tired of seeing Nanook jerseys even if we mostly pounded them. Even during those early years both teams had their share of studs; in Fairbanks they had Steve Moira who led all of the NCAA in scoring one year. They had a couple of -chuks, most notably Dean Fedorchuk who was no slouch at burying the puck. They had a couple of pain in the ass pint-sized guys (Ricky Pitta and Shawn Ulrich) who both always played their best games vs. UAA. UAA had it's share of Fairbanks killers in Dean Larson and Robbie Conn and Brian Kraft always seemed to be a thorn in their side. Aaron Voros scored more than a few goals in the series for UAF while Mike Scott returned the favor quite often for UAA. Anchorage born and raised Derek Donald and Paul Williams scored their share of goals vs UAF. No doubt Fairbanks born Greg Milles and Pat Williams have both fond and not so fond memories of the series; I seem to remember Greg's brother as a linesman/referee on a few occassions vs. UAA back in the day when "home-cooking" was more prevalent than it is today. Of course, we in Anchorage had our own famous "chef" referee (whose name escapes me damnit! ... who was always yapping at the players ... argh! I can't think of his name but maybe some kind soul from Fairbanks who remembers getting screwed will comment with the name and I can edit this frustration out) EDIT: Jimmy Brett, who didn't ever play for UAA but was "all-Anchorage" through and through. Over the years a number of players went from one school to the other (mostly UAA to UAF): Todd Skoglund, Tom Kowal, Nathan Rocheleau and recently Dustin Molle (who's dad played at UAA) all left UAA and turned up at UAF. A couple of brothers from Palmer chose differently with Cotton Gore going to UAA and Forest Gore choosing UAF. Don Lucia went from UAA assistant to become the Head Coach at UAF. As he brought that program up in respectability the rivalry intensified. Former UAF coaches Tavis MacMillan and Wade Klippenstein both played against UAA. Fairbanks radio color commentary man Erik Drygas played for UAF against UAA. There hasn't been a time that I can remember though where players on either side of this rivalry didn't passionately want to beat the other. Multi-generational sports rivalries sustain and stoke themselves by remembering the past. Any long time fan of either of these programs surely have memories from the past fueling their current passion to see the other team beaten down. I know I do.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sunday Potpourri

Warning: Not clicking on the links I'm providing here means you'll miss out on the context of my smartassery. It was an interesting week or so here on the Interweb for this blogger. I'd thought the MMOTW (metaphysical moment of the week) was when Clarkson's Hockey blog was infected mysteriously with my powerful kung-fu through the ether, when a post they'd made turn up with an identical post title which I'd made the day before. I promised I'd make the effort to secure my obviously growing psychic abilities so as not to infect other innocent folks using UTBSoT (uncle teds big series of tubes). Apparently I failed; my regular use of the tag Potpourri apparently snuck out while I wasn't paying attention. I know it's my responsibility to redouble my efforts to enable other folks on the internet to blog without the aforementioned psychic interference. I'm trying, I really am.

More than a few UAA fans weren't enamored with this article from a (he who shall not be named) local hockey writing guru/maven. We expressed our displeasure and were met with that always deeply meaningful Jungian mantra, "Why can't we all just get along?". Um ... because some of us are miscreants?

Big weekend coming up for those of us obsessed with the all-important question of which school in Alaska has hockey bragging rights. The Anchorage portion of the 4 game series to determine who'll possess the redesigned and and MILF awarded Governor's Cup takes place at the Sully; Heretofore to be known as TJWHWSNBNIWBOTF (the joint where he who shall not be named is welcomed by only the few). I think I've been infected with a dose of CUOAF (creating unwieldy obtuse acronyms fever). Thanks Donna. Must have something to do with the fact that UMD played NMU over the weekend. Maybe RWD can make the same commitment as I'm trying to make to ensure these things aren't spread. In any case, look for a series of posts this coming week to illuminate why this series matters so much to us. I'm not saying I'll be channeling Dickens ala last season but hopefully there's a snicker or two in your future.

As to this past weekends games; Luka Vidmar on Friday night, Shane Lovdahl on Saturday night. With excellent depth on the blueline I can only guess that we'll see some regular shuffling among the defensive corp from game to game. Rookies Vidmar and Lafranchise showed this weekend they can get the job done at this level. Lovdahl reaffirmed his abilities and I thought played an impactful game on Saturday vs. BU. He had two good rushes taking the puck to the net. He ripped the hardest shot of the night on an absolutely beautiful one-timer that went just wide at about 1000 mph. He masterfully broke up a dangerous 2-1 and the rest of his play in the game was stellar. Coach Shyiak is to be envied because no matter who he decides to sit for a game there is someone to step in and play very well. It should give him the ability to keep the blueline very fresh week in and week out. I thought Josh Lunden, Paul Crowder and Kevin Clark played very well together this weekend. Enough so that it isn't going to be long before they really have a big target on their backs. 17 goals in three games (yes yes ... i know one of them was an exhibition vs. an underpowered Canadian college) is a stat worthy of note. Take the exhibition out of the picture and 4.5g/game still looks nice. If the team can maintain that sort of output in WCHA play then they'll be a force to be reckoned with. It's early to get too excited but after just the first two games 3 rookie forwards have already gotten the first NCAA goal monkey off their backs. Congrats to Daychief, Parkinson and McCabe on that milestone; may there be many many more to come in your careers! Tommy Grant was a close but no cigar on the weekend. He'll get his though (soon), of that I have no doubt. We almost saw freshman Sean Wiles. He dressed for the warmups but didn't make the gametime lineup. Jonny O played well both nights. No. Sorry. He played well Friday night. Saturday night he played great making a couple of highlight reel game-saving stops. It might be a while before we see Matt Gordon in a game.

UAA's lone announced recruit (for 09), Gustav Bengtson has finished his first three regular season games with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. He's picked up one assist thus far and his plus/minus rating is 0. It's his first season playing junior hockey. He did well in preseason picking up 2g and 2a in 6 games. Cedar Rapids looks to be one of the top teams in the USHL this season and are off to a good 3-0 start. I'll have a more in-depth look at him in coming weeks.

Finally, use the "Bitty Browser" on the right hand side of the page to access the UAF Hockey Blog. Eric Carlson has forgotten more about the game than I'll likely ever know. His insights about our rival in the interior are not to be overlooked. Hopefully, somone can pick up some useful scouting info there.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nye Tournament: Night 2 Wrap-Up

I'll publish this post a number of times as I type it since there's actually more than a few people reading right now. So if you're reading this and it's incomplete then refresh in a few minutes and it should be closer to complete. 1st: Congratulations to the Robert Morris Colonials for winning the championship. No doubt it wasn't really in the mind of their coach and/or players that it would turn out this way for them. I'd have to imagine from Derek Schooley's comments at the Friday luncheon that he was just hoping for a decent early season performance. The team conducted themselves with class on the ice this weekend and their tournament championship was well earned.

Game 1: RMU 4 - Wayne St. 1
RMU used it's maturity and experience to get and keep the upper-hand in this game through all three periods. I'll have to admit less than 100% focus on this match-up as I was busy anticipating the UAA/BU game. Christian Boucher was the all-tournament goaltender and certainly deserved that accolade for his excellent efforts both nights. RMU will certainly looks to be the primary contender for the CHA championship this year and whoever draws them in the NCAA's had better not look past them. Overall I'd say the game had a decent flow. It wasn't run and gun hockey but both teams had decent rushes and opportunities with good possession in the offensive ends. However, RMU's times in the Wayne State end were much longer and of course more productive. Kyle Funkenhauser wasn't horrible in net for Wayne State and the defense in front of him wasn't incompetent so much as they just seemed inexperienced. The Colonials however had a complete team effort and didn't make any glaring errors that Wayne State could cash in. The Warriors had their moments in a spirited 3rd period as they took the momentum in the game and earned a couple of power plays with their efforts. Jon Grabarek managed a late goal on one of those power plays which at least took the sting out of deficit. Jason Towsley was the second RMU play on the All-Tournament team. The Colonials certainly will have the most enjoyable plane trip home. Congratulations to them again.

Game 2: UAA 4 - BU 4
This game certainly had many great elements. It was was mostly wide open. It was full of hits. There were lead changes. There were plenty of power play chances for both teams and spirited penalty killing. There was excellent goaltending on both ends as Jon Olthuis and Brett Bennett came up with more than a few saves each to keep their teams in the game.

The game began with a momentous gulp in the throats of Seawolf fans. UAA won the opening draw and carried the puck into the BU zone. A good breakout after UAA quickly lost possession and BU was counterattacking with good speed. Luke Beaverson was unable to tie up Bryan Ewing on the rush and just 17 seconds into the game BU was up 1-0. The joint was stunned except for the small contingent of traveling BU fans. A second rush just a minute or so later and there were more than a few palpitations amongst the Seawolf faithful. The joint was still quiet. Then the ref began to insert himself into the game. I'm sure he wanted to gain control and make a statement about who was in charge. He called a couple of imaginary ones and a couple of valid ones. It broke up the flow of the game a bit but after he got that wild hair out of his ass play returned to 5 on 5 and shortly thereafter rookie Winston Daychief netted his first Seawolf goal with assists to fellow freshman Kane Lafranchise and Craig Parkinson. It was a contribution indicative of what the freshman class did both nights. They played eagerly and though occassional "freshman mistakes" were evident more often they looked like veterans competing equally for the puck. For the rest of the game the referee (Albers) didn't insert himself and stuck to calling things that were penalties. He missed a couple both ways but at least he wasn't a factor in the outcome. Late in the first period Josh Lunden (Tournament MVP with 3g-2a) bagged his first of the night assisted by Kevin Clark and Peter Cartwright. UAA took the 2-1 lead into the locker room at the first break. The nervous atmosphere in the Sully had been replaced by hope, anticipation and some belief.

BU though came out in the 2nd as they had opened the game. With speed and lots of hard charges to the net. The effort paid off early in the period getting a goal from Matt Gilroy just 1:25 into the period. Ryan Monaghan put BU back into the lead with their 3rd goal just a little over 4 minutes later and it remained 3-2 for the next 12 minutes. 12 minutes that was full of quality hockey at both ends. As with most of the rest of the game, there was plenty of hitting and hard checking. It was enjoyable hockey. The Terriers were playing well enough and the Seawolves were battling but perhaps outplayed. BU has good team speed no doubt. They were quick to the puck and always looking to move it up the ice quickly. At 17:21 of the 2nd Chris Tarkir scored the prettiest goal of his career to regain the tie with an excellent quick release from near the top of the circle to upper corner. It was a laser, Brett Hull style. Good for Chris. Hopefully that gives him some goal scoring confidence. The period ended with an unfortunate freshman mistake for the Seawolves. Brad McCabe who had been playing well the whole game slammed a BU player to the glass from behind with about a tenth of a second on the clock. A hit like that at the end of a period doesn't accomplish anything and it was clear that Brad should have seen the big numbers on the guys back. Albers had little choice but to call a 5 minute major. It wasn't a violent hit. But it was a call you can't really argue about.

So the 3rd period began with UAA needing to kill 5 minutes of a BU power play. Winston Daychief served McCabes penalty. With plenty of rest and time in between periods to focus UAA was able to repeatedly break-up rushes at the blueline early in the penalty. Merit Waldrop deserves props for his hard PK work especially. The Seawolves had a couple of decent shorthanded chances including Paul Crowder ringing one off the post, but BU did gain the zone and manage some pressure. With about a minute remaining in the advantage though the Terriers got caught with too many men on the ice (called by a linesman) and it was 4-4 hockey for the next 60 seconds. With the PK over, the momentum took a slow turn in the Seawolves favor though I wouldn't say they had BU on their heels. At least the play was fairly even. However, a bit after the 10 minute mark of the period Blair Tassone crushed Ryan Weston into the glass near the penalty boxes and the ref immediately pointed Blair to the exit door. UAA killed off about the first three minutes (with Daychief again getting the honor of serving) of this second major penalty of the 3rd period but Bryan Ewing buried a good chance to put BU up 4-3 with less than 8 minutes remaining in the game. Play for the next few minutes was spirited and mostly up and down the ice with chances at both ends. Jonny O played very well throughout the game but made some game saving chances in the second half of the 3rd to keep UAA in the game. With a little under 4 minutes to go UAA went on it's final power play of the night (coincidentally, given to Weston for CFB; the two minute variety). The Terriers were able to break up almost anything that UAA got going though until a final rush at 17:21 when Kevin Clark found a breaking Josh Lunden with a great cross-ice pass that Josh absolutely buried. The joint erupted. The remaining 2 and a half minutes was all Seawolves. They were buzzing and the ice looked tilted. UAA dominated the OT period as well. I'm not sure who missed a backhand (I think it was Crowder ... nope it was Cartwright) on an almost empty net with about a minute to go but perhaps "the fates" were interested in a tie. I'd say that BU was playing conservative; not taking a chance on making a mistake. UAA must've spent at least three and a half minutes in the BU zone with the Terriers certainly not getting into the Seawolf zone for much more than 30 seconds total.

It was a great 3rd period in a really excellent hockey game. I'm a bit disappointed in not getting the win. But the bright side is that the Seawolves showed character in coming from behind twice as well as leading the game. They certainly had their chances to win. BU had their chances to win as well. Coming all the way from the right coast to Alaska and going away winless has got to mostly suck. Colin Wilson and Matt Gilroy were named to the All-Tournament team which should take a little bit of the sting out of the winless trip for those two guys anyway. Kevin Clark was the one All-Tournament representative for UAA though as I mentioned earlier Josh Lunden was named Tournament MVP.

I'll have some more thoughts tomorrow in my regular Sunday Potpourri post. It's nice to start a season unbeaten even if it is only 2 games old. Thats it for tonight. If you're reading these words you don't need to hit your refresh button again.