Thursday, January 31, 2008

Series Preview: MTU vs. UAA

The above picture is a partial screen grab from the College Hockey News "Tale Of The Tape" compare feature that is one of my primary references when compiling a preview going into a series. Hopefully, Adam Wodon won't really mind me grabbing the image and posting it here since I do try to pump their tires whenever I think about it. I purposely didn't include the whole page so to see the additional comparisons (Scoring Leaders and Goaltending) you'll have to click on this link. In any case, Adam probably rarely visits so any chance of him discovering my felony and objecting to it is pretty low.

You will note this week that MTU and UAA have very similar numbers in several categories. Physically, UAA isn't much bigger than the original WCHA Huskies; Adam added that particularly category as a result of an email request that I made. Usually, I post the "ranking" for each team (i.e... UAA is 2nd tallest and 6th heaviest; MTU is 15th tallest and 16th heaviest) and I get those from links on CHN's Almanac page. Both teams have identical power play percentages. Goals for each team are only .25 per game different with that mini-edge going to UAA. Goals against are .76 per game in MTU's favor. MTU's penalty kill is a fair bit more effective (5.1%) than the Seawolves. Over the last 10 games MTU leads with 4 wins - 3 losses and the teams have tied 3.

The points available this weekend seem about equally important to each team. The Seawolves most recent two losses to UND created a bit of a gap (6 points) between them and the three teams immediately above them; MSU-M, SCSU and of course MTU. So in order to keep pace UAA could really use a sweep. Tech now has two games in hand over 8 other teams in the league so whatever points they get this weekend will obviously help them in the race for 5th where they are currently 2 points behind Duluth and Wisconsin. With a 3 point weekend in their last series versus CC, the real Huskies should be pretty confident coming into the Sully. UAA's confidence shouldn't have taken a hit last weekend since every player and the staff knows how dramatically they outplayed the hostile and abusive co-opters of Native American imagery and names. Coach Shyiak's optimism and positive attitude as displayed on last nights Coaches Show is indicative of that.

I think the key for the Seawolves this weekend will be goal scoring. I know that sounds ridiculously obvious. But as with last weekend the guys are going up against a hot goaltender and a team that has a very definite team-oriented defensive strategy. Getting to at least 3 goals is the key. I know ... I know. Like I said, it's obvious. Painfully obvious in this case. Getting denied by hot goalies, posts and crossbars and/or referees is not an option this weekend. Here's my advice: Shoot early, shoot often and don't stop shooting. Shoot from the blueline, shoot from good angles and bad angles, shoot from no angle and then shoot again. Go to the net and pick up the rebounds from all those shots. Try wraparounds, wrist-shots, slap-shots, snap-shots, backhands, deflections, tip-ins and even use the dreaded Aaron Voros "thigh-in" shots. Pick up the puck and throw it at the guy. Get as much rubber headed in Teslak's direction as possible, as often as possible. Shoot the puck before and after the whistle if you have to. Whatever it takes. Make Teslak (and possibly Nolan) sick and tired of rubber. Make them wish they'd never see another puck in their lifetimes. Make them eat rubber. Give them nightmarish rubber flashbacks. And in your own end make it as easy as possible for Jonny O and/or Bryce Christianson. Block shots, clog shooting lanes and plaster Huskie forwards to the wall.

I see no reason we shouldn't expect to see the Shyiak cycling game in full evidence. The Seawolves will get the puck in deep and work it to create chances. They'll use size and strength in the corners and behind the net to create chances. We should see defensemen carrying the puck forward and inserting themselves into the offense. Every player on the ice ought to be looking for a way to contribute to offense. Offense, Offense, Offense. That's my choice for the mantra. Go forward, keep going forward and go forward again.

See ya at the games. I have a pass for Friday's luncheon and I'd like to go but I'm not counting on it. Big week on the homefront for illness and minor surgeries and Friday looks like a helluva busy day already. But if I can manage it I'm all about a free feed.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Supporting the Team: Being a Fan

I will endeavor here to bring forth my utmost eloquence with regard to the important subject of fan support. Sports fans indulge themselves in watching their favorite team engage in battle for a vicarious thrill. That is the core. Certainly there are tangents to that core rationale such as community or regional pride. However even in those tangential situations the voyeuristic vicarious enjoyment remains. Colloquially, we "get off" on it.

In my case, over my lifetime I've slowly abandoned viewing all the major professional sports. The egotistical salary hounds and greedy owners with their pissing contests and strikes have soured me permanently. I haven't watched an NHL or NFL game in years. I stopped watching and following baseball after the strike in the early 80's. For a time in the 80's living in Omaha I was a college basketball fan however lure of the NBA and the goals of the individual star players caused that game to lose it's glow.

Thankfully we have virtually none of that in college hockey. Sure, some players are using it in the hopes that it will lead to a gig in "the show". But most kids are playing in exchange for higher education. That is why I go. I go because the players are risking permanent physical injury to entertain us while trying to win a hockey game. They aren't giving it their all because someone stuffed a million bucks in their pocket. They aren't giving it their all because someone is likely to stuff a million bucks in their pocket. They are giving it their all for the purity of competition. For me it is the closest thing remaining to the once adhered to values of the Olympic games; that the participation is the most important thing; that as in life, the struggle surpasses in importance the triumph. Google "Bud Greenspan" and "The Olympiad" and buy the DVD set if you want to see someone put these ideals into words greater than I can. His documentaries defined the truth of sport for me and should be watched by anyone calling themselves a sports fan.

I disdain the fan at a UAA hockey game that boos the effort of the amateur student/athletes on the ice. Thankfully, such things don't happen very often. These young men deserve better. They deserve our full support. I know as well as everyone reading this that winning makes the experience better. But you know what? Losing shouldn't detract from it. Whether the team won or lost in the past has no bearing on the efforts of the current team. If you are the kind of fan that will come to the rink for half a season and then stop going because the team hasn't lived up to expectations then I'd implore you to stop going altogether. Don't turn up next season. And please don't show up when the team starts exceeding predictions and/or expectations. There is nothing worse in my mind than a bandwagon fan.

I know when the team wins, that the Sullivan Arena will start to fill up. And I know I'll be sitting in my seat looking around thinking, "Half you bastards don't deserve to be getting this vicarious enjoyment". Now to be less than eloquent: If you don't dig what you're seeing then stay home wanker. I know we all want the team to succeed for their own sakes; but for now that success is likely to be intermittent. There are many many reasons for that but it is the reality today. Tomorrow is another day. I'll be at the Sullivan for the today's, tomorrow's and the next day's. Join me for the pleasure of the game and the effort of the squad. They deserve it. If they win great, but I applaud the struggle and the purity of their competitive spirit.

I like the picture below. It says what I'm trying to say but from the players perspective. It does a better job of it than I have. Click it to enlarge it and then read it several times.

Thanks for reading my blog. This entry is in no way directed at anyone specifically or any comments made here but instead is the product of my thoughts regarding some of the comments. Hopefully, it gives everyone something to ponder.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Seawolf Recruit Update

I thought it'd be a good time to review the progress of UAA's currently listed recruits. All are performing well. Curtis Leinweber and Tyler Moir are scheduled to join the team this coming fall. Gustav Bengtson and Mickey Spencer are due in the fall of '09. All four are forwards.

Curtis Leinweber (5' 8" 169lbs) turns 20 the coming February 20th. He is in his third season with the AJHL Okotoks Oilers. His first year he played only 11 games and scored 1g and 1a. In his 2nd he had 9g with 18a in 57 games. So far this season he has doubled that production with 14g and 33 assists in 47 games. 6 of his 14 goals have come on the power play. Much of Curtis' play this season has been spent in left wing lock mode so his 1 point per game production is a nice stat. On an AJHL fan forum thread announcing Curtis' commitment to UAA a fan described Curtis:
"Curtis is a very quick and shifty player. He sees the ice well and generally makes good decisions with the puck. He is also able to find his way to the net and put the puck behind the goalie when he gets there. Is also strong along the wall. Fun to watch!"
I also noticed some Okotoks fans mentioning (with some agreement from others) that Curtis was unfairly overlooked for the recent AJHL All-Star game. Part of that was the probably due to the number of players from the Okotoks team that were named to the team. Okotoks has the #1 goalie in Canada as well as a couple of other highly rated players. They are currently in 2nd place behind perennial powerhouse Camrose.

Tyler Moir (6' 1" 205lbs) of the Drumheller Dragons in the AJHL turns 20 this coming September 17th and is in his 3rd season of Junior A hockey. He spent his 1st year with the Drayton Valley Thunder and scored 4 goals with 6 assists in 51 games. In 06-07 he played 40 games and scored 12 goals with 24 assists. So far this season with both Drayton Valley and Drumheller he has played 45 games and has 19 goals with 42 assists for a nice 1.4 point per game average.

He is the 2nd leading scorer on the roster. More interestingly perhaps is the fact that Tyler currently sits at 4th league-wide in total penalty minutes with 206. You don't get minutes like that without dancing with a few opponents. That sort of toughness bodes well coming into Division 1 hockey but obviously will need to be harnessed since fighting isn't part of the NCAA game. Tyler was traded early in the season from Drayton Valley and was named to the South Division AJHL All-Star team.

Gustav Bengtson (5' 9" 175lbs) turns 19 on August 31st. He began the season with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders in the USHL and though he had a couple of fairly promising preseason outings he wasn't able to crack the lineup as a skilled playmaker. With those roles filled by 2nd and 3rd year players and Gustav not suited for energy or checking line play he didn't see much ice time. He was traded to the Texas Tornado and since then he has played 22 games and scored 9 goals with 8 assists. Earlier this month Torando's coach Dwight Mullins said this about Bengtson;
“He’s really added an offensive spark that we were lacking early on in the season,”
In half as many games as his teammates he is already the 7th leading scorer on the team and leads in shot percentage. He has 3 power play goals. After lots of success in the last few years the Tornado have been struggling so far this year. Though in January they have posted a record of 7 wins and 2 losses and look poised to make a move up the standings. Gustav is the only UAA recruit that I've noticed has his own Wikipedia page.

Mickey Spencer (6' 1" 180lbs) of the Cowichan Valley Capitals turns 19 on June 11th. In his first year playing Junior A hockey Mickey is currently 4th among rookies and 11th overall in goals scored in the BCHL. His 27g and 12a put him at 1st in goals and 3rd on Cowichan's team in points and is their leading rookie. 15 of his 27 goals have come on the power play.

Cowichan isn't having their best season ever as they sit in 6th place in the 8 team Coastal Division but are just 8 points out of 2nd place and 6 points away from 3rd.

I'll have another recruit update at the beginning of April. I look forward to the addition of Moir and Leinweber next season. They both look to bring a different set of skills but also both appear to be able to fill roles well also. Leinweber looks to have some playmaking skills and toughness. Moir looks to be a classic power forward that can both put the puck in the net and make room for teammates. He should probably be thought of in the same manner as Winston Daychief. Bengtson reminds me of a Kevin Clark like player but perhaps doesn't have quite the chip on his shoulder that Kevin does. Mickey Spencer is a bit of a guessing game to me but the fact that he can bury the puck sure holds promise. It will be interesting to watch both Gustav and Mickey through their next junior seasons and we should get a better idea of exactly what each could bring to the team in 09.

Sunday Potpourri: Reality Sucks? Nah ...

If adversity truly does build character then the UAA hockey team has accumulated a boatload of it so far this season. Saturday night versus UND was the latest example. The Seawolves outshot, outskated, outworked, outchanced and in every way outplayed the Fighting Sioux. Obviously, they didn't outscore them though; hence ... Reality Sucks. Even without the nightmare that is "Instant Replay" the Seawolves probably still wouldn't have come out on top. UAA had it's first goal disallowed on Saturday night because Craig Parkinson was in the crease when the puck crossed the line. Let me say two things about that. Parkinson's presence in the crease was a result of continuing contact with a UND defender and the puck when in off a UND defenders attempt to clear it. Parkinson had NO contact with the puck after ending up on his butt in the crease. And consulting with the linesman on the Instant Replay call? I told you that Bruce McLeod was turning his referees into empty shirts with his apologies and suspensions didn't I? Well, that was example #1. Do you think for a moment that Anderson would have called the linesman in to review the play if he wasn't concerned about having Bruce second guess him? Hell no he wouldn't have. Nevertheless, they got it wrong. If Parkinson had anything to do with the puck going into the net then perhaps you've got a crease violation. But he didn't (a UND player directed the puck into the net!) and he was in the crease as a result of continuing contact with a UND defender. But like I said, if the ruling had been different the result wouldn't have necessarily been different. But that said ... wasn't it wonderfully karmic to bag a "real" goal just seconds later? And to see the Seawolf fans in the stands sarcastically "waving it off" was a thing of beauty! Good on ya's for that!

I was real happy with they way the team played on Saturday night. The were buzzing most of the time and often tilted the ice at the UND end. They pretty much hit everything in sight and today their opponent is probably thinking they are the Fighting Bruise as a result. But all that good effort and work couldn't overcome the 2 goal lead they spotted to UND. What a rough second start for Bryce. The first two real chances he faced in his second start were hellaciously good shots that would have been difficult saves for any goaltender. Not that I want to be over-critical here but he was a bit deep in his crease, if he'd stepped out and cut off the angles he might have had a better chance on each of them. But hey, he played solid the night before and there's no real blame in finding out if he could be a Cinderella. If you don't try you don't know eh? That said, I think he had no pressure Friday night and lots of pressure Saturday. Lesson learned for Bryce I think and with time I think he'll step up and be a valuable asset. He is athletic and definitely confident with the puck on his stick. Merit Waldrop was definitely the most effective Seawolf forward this weekend and if anyone tried to put the team on their backs it was Merit. He is so skilled and should have much higher numbers over his career.

Everyone played great. Saturday's game was a true team effort at 110%. There was a series where Seawolf after Seawolf carried the puck back into the UND zone where it truly looked like they could do anything they put their mind to. First Merit, then Robbie then Big Luke. Shave Lovdahl had a great series on both ends of the ice. Josh Lunden played with intensity. Paul Crowder was as determined as I've ever seen him. Kevin Clark was a huge pest and effective everywhere. Peter Cartwright, Blair Tassone, and Chris Tarkir all had good chances and played one of their best games of the season. Tommy Grant looked a quarter of a step away from being a dominant player on quite a few shifts Saturday. Craig Parkinson was shuffled around a bit from line to line and looked good in all roles including the power play. Nick Haddad and Sean Wiles seem to be rotating regularly and I'm pleased with what each have been bringing. I think Nick seemed more ready at the beginning of the season but Sean's has looked progressively stronger with each outing. Brad McCabe simply can't be called a freshman anymore. I really liked everything I saw from him this weekend. Which leave Jared Tuton who was perhaps only quietly effective this weekend but effective nonetheless. His energy and hitting game was in evidence and he generated a couple of chances as well. All in all, every forward showed some effectiveness this weekend. The team didn't miss Winston Daychief. That's not a knock on Winston's stellar play though. When his ankle is healed I'm glad I'm not the one that has to set the lineup. As for the blueliners; Kane Lafranchise stood out this weekend to me in the defensive zone. Like Brad McCabe I'd have to say he has "graduated" beyond being labeled a freshman. I can't wait to see how he develops over the next three years. He's definitely got All-WCHA potential at some point. Like I noted above Shane Lovdahl was really strong going forward this weekend and I thought he was very responsible in his end as well. He really has great hands and is effective with the puck on his stick in traffic. Mat Robinson is a stud. Do I have to go on? He is the most underrated defenseman in the WCHA; plain and simple. Speed, hands, eyes, hitting, passing, shooting, rushing ... he has it all. Luke Beaverson has turned into a great Captain. He is leading on the back line with a quality physical game. TJ Oshie did get around the outside of him for one goal this weekend but 9 out of 10 times it wouldn't happen twice. Quite simply though Luke's hitting game has been fabulous over the last 4 games. He is laying it on thick. Trevor Hunt was good in his zone this weekend and should be gaining some confidence going foward. He made a couple of good rushes with the puck and showed some smarts while doing it. I'm real happy with what I see from Luka Vidmar. He has really developed since the beginning of the season and I'd expect he is the next player in line to lose the "freshman" label. Great hands and is an effective shooter in the sense that he gets the puck to the net versus having his shots blocked.

So the reality so far is that the record doesn't look great. I know everyone is tired of the "this team is better than their record" speech. The record is the "Reality" right? Nah ... the "Reality" is that they simply are much better (that's right I said "much") better than the record indicates. The scoring will come. The record will improve. They'll win some games as long as they allow the character of these adversities to set in. What that will mean for the players is a renewed vigor and determination in each upcoming game. It might look like a setback. But it only looks that way. This team has every reason to continue to believe in themselves. A couple of dings on the record doesn't mean a thing. Next weekend is an opportunity as are the weekends that follow. One game at a time. Be confident Seawolf players. You are doing the right things and learning what it takes to overcome. You will have more success. I'm confident of that. The mountaintop is attainable. If you didn't believe that you wouldn't be here.

Friday, January 25, 2008

UND 3 - Seawolves 1: Quick Recap

There are just two keys to the loss for the Seawolves tonight. The first was (and I think it's perhaps obvious to say this) was lack of production. You can't score if you don't shoot and the Seawolves were simply unable to generate a decent number of attempts much less actually get those shots through to the UND goaltender. One play in particular stands out as Paul Crowder was denied on what looked like a very open net when Lamoureux flailed wildly ala Hasek and got a pad on what otherwise would have been a tying goal. There was a post hit in the first period but other than that there were only a few memorable attempts. Luke Beaverson broke in with Peter Cartwright but was denied on his attempt. Josh Lunden managed to get a couple of shots through but couldn't find the back of the net.

The second key to the loss was quite simply that UND played a good hockey game. The Seawolves were pretty effective with their physical play but UND never allowed that to bother them much. They took the hits and continued to play. The Seawolves got screwed a bit when Darcy Zajac blasted Merit Waldrop after the whistle and with the ensuing scrum, UAA got called for two minors. Waldrop got two minutes for receiving the cheapshot and Luke Beaverson got two minutes for explaining the offense to another Sioux player. Weak. Combine that power play with a couple of other dumb penalties the Seawolves took in the 3rd and they just couldn't hold off the 3rd goal.

Bryce Christianson played very well in his first game. I wasn't personally surprised to see him get the start. The UAA coaching staff needed to see if he could play. Bryce answered the call with more than 30 saves on the night and definitely gave his team a chance with his solid play. Bryce is definitely not shy about playing the puck. He is active outside the crease and confident looking with the puck on his stick. I thought maybe there were a couple of times where he looked a little off-balance or perhaps overwhelmed. It's obviously only one game but I'd tend to think he is the type of goaltender that could give those Seawolf fans with weaker hearts a little fluttering in their chests. It's worth noting that his puck handling skills were effective and that he made no serious mistakes with the puck. I'm thinking of nicknaming him "traffic-cop" because during play he constantly was pointing to this side or that side of the net as the puck moved from one to the other. He did well even though 3 got by him. A couple of really nice saves through the first two periods and one awesome glove knockdown in the 3rd that otherwise would have been #4 for UND. He looks promising and perhaps as the season winds down he could potentially challenge Jonny O for starts. Only time will tell though at this point.

With a regroup and some offensive adjustments from the coaching staff I'd think that the Seawolves certainly have the potential to upset UND tomorrow night. Check College Hockey News or for boxscores. I'm out.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How To Beat A Sioux? Rape and Murder 'Em

Don't call George Armstrong Custer if you want to beat the Sioux. Did you know he was the first Michigan Wolverine that couldn't get the job done? It could be said that the best way to beat the Sioux would be to take some smallpox-laden wool blankets as presents. But I hear that Uncle Ralph's Arena storm troopers are pretty vigilant about what they let you carry into the gambling millionaires marble ediface he built as a legacy to his ego. Besides, the incubation time for Smallpox is just too long to make it effective. The folks in Mankato way back when had a good method; they built the biggest multiple gallows in history and hung 38 of them at once. But with the natural litigious attitudes of the folks in North Dakato it would probably take too long for that to be an effective strategy either this weekend. I guess I'm left with the exact same method that the early American pioneers used on their great westward (Manifest Destiny inspired) push. They raped and murdered the aboriginal peoples they happened across at every opportunity that arose. Rape and murder are certainly quicker methods than any of the previous ideas. I say the Seawolves give them a try.

Naturally, I'm using the terms rape and murder as metaphors for plastering every Sioux player in view to the boards (i.e... raping them) and burying the puck with extreme prejudice (i.e... murder) at every opportunity. That's my keys to a Seawolf victories this weekend. Plain and simple. Outhit the team that thinks they are physical and tough. The Sioux players certainly believe they are tough. They have the penalty minutes to prove it this year and are consistently one of the penalty minute leaders in the WCHA. There isn't a year that they aren't characterized by the media as a physical team. The Seawolves should show them what physical play is all about. The rink at Ralphies joint is 15ft narrower than the Sully. The smaller Sioux team will be vulnerable targets. As a reminder UAA is the 2nd tallest and 6th heaviest team in the NCAA. For comparison UND is 36th tallest and 47th heaviest. This is as big a discrepancy in overall team size as UAA has seen all year. We've seen the Seawolves skate well with every other team in the league so we know they won't be outskated by the Sioux. If there was ever an opportunity to dominate another team with physical play and hitting; that opportunity is this weekend. The Seawolves need to hit and hit again and then hit them another time. Wear them down in all three zones. Give them a lesson in physical play that the fans in the Ralph will never forget. Rape them. If the Seawolves do that, then the chances for murder will present themselves and it's just a matter of pulling the trigger, burying the knife and cinching the garrote.

How can we Seawolf fans witness this potential felonious violence? It won't be at The Peanut Farm as I speculated in my previous post's comment section. I've spoken with the man in the know there and they no longer use anything other than commercial carriers to show games. Apparently the advent of DishTV and DirectTV in Alaska has obviated the need for discrete receiving systems. But fear not oh my hungry for something other than a webcast fans. I believe I have found the one possible solution. Steve's Sports Bar on Fireweed has an operational C-band receiver. I spoke with the proprietor at 4:30 today (as I'm typing this) and he says there is nothing on the channel right now but that he can receive that channel. I've indicated to him that there are many of you asking about this and he thinks if the game is on that he shouldn't have any problem. Of course that isn't a guarantee and I won't hold him to it. I explained the effort here and he asked me to call back tomorrow at 3:30 (or so) and he'd know for sure. My gut feeling is that it will work out. If you don't want to chance going to Steve's fine establishment then there are two webcasts available. One is from the Sioux and the other from UAA. Guess which one I'm going to link to? That's right ... click here to watch a webcast via the UAA Splash Zone. So please feel free to discuss and arrange to meet at Steve's Sports Bar for the games this weekend in the comments section. Friday's gametime is 4:37 and Saturday's is 4:07.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

UND: Short Man Syndrome

There is an insecurity that pervades the culture and environment that surrounds University of North Dakota hockey. We UAA fans are pretty familiar with opponents that suffer from insecurity since we play UA_ so often. Grand Forks and Fairbanks both have a lot in common. They both have descriptors in their names which are false. There is nothing "Fair" about the "banks" of the Chena River as it winds through that town just as there is nothing "Grand" about the "Forks" of the Red River. Apparently, the forefathers of each of these 'bergs knew that the towns would need something to make themselves feel better about themselves. When you start with that sort of insecurity, it is reasonable for it to continue I guess. It can all best be analogized by someone we've all seen; the guy that drives around in a big 4x4 with the gun rack in the back. When he steps out of his oversized rig we understand the problem. He is overcompensating for the fact that he is only 5'5" tall. It's the classic little guy syndrome. He's got a great big chip on his shoulder and feels like he has something to prove. Driving a big truck and shooting powerful guns makes him feel taller. And often as not he'll be wearing a Cowboy hat to improve his apparent height.

There's example after example of this psychological affliction in the area. When a group of students figured out that "Flickertails" was a wimpy name as compared to their rival at North Dakota State (the Bison), they rectified it by adopting the name of a group of humans who were masters at killing the Bison. Insecurity at work. When the University of Minnesota opened the finest college hockey rink in the nation Uncle Ralph came along and built a rink that an NHL franchise would be proud of just to outdo their rival. But let's face it; the state is completely and entirely nondescript. There's nothing of significance in the whole state. South Dakota has the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore and Wall Drug. Minnesota has 10,000 lakes, 50 times more people, and the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Montana has Glacier National Park, the Big Sky and men who are fond of sheep. North Dakota has um ... what? The fewest number of trees per square mile on the western hemisphere of the planet? The ever-present unabated wind? A sense of insecurity is a natural reaction to all that overwhelming blandness. Their hockey fans obsession with all things UofM is a good example. Check the two fan forums next time something happens of significance at UofM. Siouxsports will have double the number of posts as GopherPuckLive. Watch how many "you don't know shit ... you live in an igloo ... go hunt some penguins" replies this post engenders. The folks down there just aren't comfortable with the reality of who they actually are. If ever a state collectively needed a double-dose of Viagra it is North Dakota.

When UND began playing hockey way back when they looked up the road to the University of Minnesota and knew they'd have to be something special to succeed against them. And they have been something special. 7 National Championships since 1959 under three different coaches. They've excelled. No other school can claim that much success in the last 50 years. No doubt the Short Man Syndrome has it's benefits when carried to the degree it has been in North Dakota.

This years version of the Fighting Sioux hockey team is no less insecure. They began the season as consensus #1 picks across the pundit landscape (excepting me of course). USCHO, INCH and CHN all proclaimed them the team to beat. Virtually everyone with an opinion (excepting me of course) picked them to dominate. Here's what I said:
I definitely underestimated UND last season. I guess what I really missed badly was the performance of Hobey Baker winner Ryan Duncan. I didn't even mention the guys name in my preview. I certainly wouldn't have pegged them as a Frozen Four participant. But there's definitely something to be said for their continued excellent 2nd half performances. It was a trait of the team under Dean Blais and it has continued under Dave Hakstol. Goaltending in my mind is a big question in Grand Forks. Lamoureux played 37 games last season and would have played more but for an early season injury. Consider me a Lammy skeptic. There'll be a lot of pressure on him to play a lot of games this coming season and while he had good numbers I'm attributing much of that to team defense and limiting quality shots. Lots of folks would disagree with me about Lammy. They have a bit of a tougher schedule this year as well, though that isn't reason enough to downplay their chances. This squad has the potential to finish in the top half of the league (lots of people expect them to win the league) but I believe last year was exceptional and unlikely repeatable. I'm not sure they'll be an NCAA participant. Sue me.
I'd say that the goaltending question has mostly been answered. Lamoureux has performed well enough to erase the doubts so far. He has been the only goalie of record in their 23 games and has real nice numbers with .929 sv% and a 1.87 gaa. I've only seen UND play twice this year so I guess I can't say with surety that they're playing the team defense game as well as last year but there's every reason to expect that is the case. They currently sit in 3rd place and without a serious run from someone below or a complete meltdown on their part they should make the NCAA's. Nothing's guaranteed of course. Ryan Duncan isn't putting up Hobey-like numbers this season; 10 goals so far compared to 31 last season. Their other primary offensive talent T.J. Oshie seems more intent on whipping his "thingy" out on elevators than scoring goals on the ice though he is on pace to have a career best season with 10 goals so far this season. Sophomore Chris VandeVelde has 9 goals this season and Andrew Kozek has scored 8 without a single assist to round out the primary threats. The rest of the goal scoring is spread out with the only noteworthy exception being no-talent thug Rylan Kaip amassing an amazing 6 so far this season. Who'da thunk? The Sioux are the most likely WCHA team to be engaged in goonery this season without a doubt starting with their early season antics in Wisconsin, Hakstol sending nondressed players into the stands to silence an opposition MTU fan who was mocking him and now last weekends goonfest in Mankato with 12 roughing penalties in the series and one actual drop the gloves fight (it was a bit of a purse fight with dingleberry Kaip resorting to the jersey over the head tactic instead of squaring up like a man).

I'll be back tomorrow with an some analysis of what the Seawolves will need to do this weekend to come out of "Grand" Forks with some points. And oh yeah, best I can tell is there is no TV this weekend.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Hockey Gods Say, "No! Not Tonight"

Seemed like no matter what the Seawolves did tonight it wasn't enough to satisfy the hockey gods. To me that makes the hockey gods a bunch of bastards. Yep, I said it; the hockey gods are bastards. Their mothers are harlots and their fathers are wayward scum! They denied UAA at every turn from the victory they worked so hard to acheive. I wasn't going to write anything because it sucked to watch my team lose, but I've got a couple of doses of Seagram's Canadian perspective booster in my system and have realized who screwed the Seawolves. They didn't screw themselves, the ref didn't screw them and even Bucky didn't screw them.

Wisconsin played a good enough game. They weren't dominating or demonstrably better in any particular phase. They did just enough obviously to get the win. Referee Mike Hunt (I'm mean Marco) didn't make any hugh gaffs. I've got a bit of a question in my mind regarding the apparent UAA goal that he waved off but without having seen a replay I can still accept that the net came loose prior to the puck crossing the line. I'd think it had to be "just barely" but as I said I haven't seen a replay. Even though I'd disagree with a couple of Hunt's penalty calls on the Seawolves I'll give him credit for doing the usual WCHA "even-it-up" job of not screwing either team. The Seawolves didn't screw themselves. They put more than a few shots wide of the net that probably should have been on the net but I blame the hockey gods for inserting themselves at those critical moments and influencing the physcis of those shots. They clearly got involved in the middle of the 2nd when a blistering Seawolf shot (I wish I remember who shot it) rang off the inside of the post and came out. This loss is in the laps of the hockey gods; I hear they really like "Whine and Cheese" and they've had plenty of opportunity to indulge themselves this week eh?

The Seawolves tonight played an overall competitive game. The first period wasn't all it could have been with Wisconsin getting the better of limited chances. The Bagers scored at 13:45 on a heavily screened wrister to the top left corner from high in the slot that Jonny O never saw. It was a good shot, but if Jonny had seen it he would have easily gloved it. UAA had good stretches early in the period and some flashes here and there in the second half of the period but honestly they were a bit outplayed through the middle portion of the period. Olthuis was sharp and Connelly was sharp as well.

The Seawolves regrouped between periods won the 2nd period. But it was the 3rd where they really played with passion and dominated more than a few stretches. After just 3:40 gone in the period Josh Lunden made no mistake off a good feed from Craig Parkinson and Kevin Clark. It was a pretty nice goal and gave the crowd some life for the first time in the game. The rest of the period there was a buzz on the ice and in the stands. Even after Matt Ford picked up a lucky pass in the slot and buried it at 14:45 there wasn't any apparent quit in the Seawolves. In the remaining 5 minutes the Badgers had a couple of decent stretches of possession but UAA had that never say die look about them. After pulling the goalie with about 40 seconds left the Seawolves controlled the puck and were all over the Badgers like ugly on an ape. A three or four second span from about 11 seconds to 7 seconds was the last opportunity for the hockey gods to stick their fingers into UAA's eyes and it seemed no matter what they did with the puck foundering in the crease that none of the 4 Seawolves close in could bang it past Connelly. I'll give credit to Marco Hunt for not blowing the whistle early. The Seawolves had an additional brief chance in the remaining 7 seconds but that wasn't to be either.

I was stunned at the end of the game. The only thought I had was, "How could that puck not get into the net?" What the hell did they have to do? Someone pissed off the hockey gods I guess. Well ... screw the hockey gods. I'm not praying to them anymore. I'm taking a page from Conan the Barbarian's book when he said to his god Crom, "And if you do not listen, to hell with you!" This Seawolf team deserves the respect of the hockey gods but if they're going to ignore UAA then I'm all about pissing on 'em. That's right. Piss on the hockey gods. They don't deserve anything positive from me. The team will do it without them tomorrow night.

Friday, January 18, 2008

ADN Profiles Mat Robinson

Andrew Hinkleman from the Anchorage Daily News wrote this great profile of Mat Robinson today. As those of us familiar with the program already know Mat is an important offensive driving force on the blueline. In the article Coach Shyiak says,
"His greatest asset is his skating ability. He's got good hockey sense on top of that. For a smaller guy he brings a tremendous physical presence. He's out there in every critical situation. He's a person who represents everything we want in our program. He's a solid citizen, a great student, he'll probably be on the all-academic team this year, he's over a 3.0. He leads by example. When he does say things, other people listen to him."
The article talks about Mat from the time he was 4 through coming to UAA with his good friend Jay Beagle to his possible future in hockey. Mat is a favorite of every fan that appreciates a skating defenseman with great eyes and hands; and what hockey fan doesn't appreciate those things? Here's what I said about Mat in my post called Early Season Player Evals,
"Mat Robinson couldn't rate any higher in my book. The first time I noticed him was in his first game when he made an absolute laser of a cross ice pass from deep in his own zone onto a rushing forwards stick. It was a thing of beauty and since then that sort of play has continued consistently. As an undersized defensemen his play is huge. How many beauty hip-checks has he delivered this year? There was a word I used last year to describe the play of former Gopher Tyler Hirsch. It applies to Robbie as well ... that word is elegant. He is smart smart smart. He is quick as a bee. And he'll rock your world with a hit out of nowhere. He's great along the boards coming up with the puck out of a scrum. He is leading the blueliners with 1 goal and 5 assists and there's no reason to expect those numbers won't grow into something real nice by years end."
In my Sophomore Class preview following Mat's first year at UAA here's what I had to say about "Robbie",
The freshman I was most excited to see before last season started was Mat Robinson. He came out of Calgary with all sorts of good buzz about his abilities as a skating defenseman. And in the first two games at UAA he put up 1 goal and 6 assists (1 goal and 2 assists in the exhibition vs. whatever Canadian school we played and 4 assists vs. RPI). His season total? 1 goal and 6 assists. I don't think its unreasonable to think that Shyiak probably asked Mat to play a defensive role last year. The fact that he played 35 games means that Shyiak likes the kid and the way he plays. I hope Shyiak also likes Mat's offensive upside. The kid has great eye-hand coordination and is as smooth a skater as UAA has. I mention his eye-hand abilities because frankly ... Mat is "Mr. TakeThePuckOffYourStick" ... he's quite possibly a poke check genius and he positions himself on the boards in his own end to steal the puck and skate away. In the RPI game Mat made a cross ice pass from deep in his zone that was definitely one of the best passes I've ever seen made. He has the best rink vision on the team and could grow into a powerful quaterback-style defenseman in all situations. Obviously I don't think that the role Mat played last year (in the last 33 games) really gave him a chance to be all I think he can be. Hopefully this season we'll get to see him put his best skills to good use.
I'd expect that Mat will get some consideration this year in terms of All-WCHA teams. Where that will be depends a lot on the teams success through the remaining 14 games. A lot of players get probably more recognition than they deserve simply because of their team's success. A player like Mat doesn't get the recognition he deserves because of the Seawolves overall lack of success. So when you read something in the national press about a kid like Chris Butler at DU you should be thinking about Mat Robinson. He actually brings more to the ice than Butler but the disparity of UAA and DU's records gets one kid recognized.

Now get your butts to the Sully tonight and make your appreciation known to Mat and all the Seawolves. With wins tonight and Saturday UAA will climb out of it's lone position in the basement and join a number of teams (including Wisconsin) in a logjam of teams pushing for a WCHA home ice playoff spot.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

All The News That's Fit To Print

The UAA Athletic Department announced today that goalie Bryce Christianson had finally (my word not theirs) made it through the NCAA red-tape hullabaloo screw-with-a-kid's career Clearinghouse and is eligible to play. This is great news and will provide Jonny O with a proven backup. I don't have a good guess as to when we might see Bryce in a game but hopefully it comes in a starting role as opposed to a mop-up role or going in for an injury. With 14 regular season games remaining I'd expect to see Bryce get in between the pipes sometime in the next 4 games so the staff can evaluate him in an actual game. If he does well, he'll see more time I'd think. Having two guys that you know you can depend on is an important thing.

Unfortunately, the other news we received today via the ADN was that Brian Bales had been ruled ineligible to play by the NCAA red-tape hullabaloo screw-with-a-kid's career Clearinghouse. Coach Shyiak indicated in the story that the ruling was due to a "technicality" and commented that it was an injustice. Here's his most important quote from the story:
"It's too bad because he's worked hard. He's a great student, great personality, comes to practice every day with a smile on his face, great in the locker room, wants to be here, loves our guys."
I was hoping Brian would be on the ice this year but I suppose it is some solace to us fans that he'll have his two full years of eligibility left. Hang in there Brian. I'm sure you can contribute to an improved team over the next two years. Two years that look to have the potential to be perhaps the best Seawolf teams to ever hit the ice.

I looked into the meaning of the "technicality" label and while I didn't learn anything earth-shattering I could at least add it appears to me that somewhere along the line there was an "i" left undotted; and my interpretation is that the NCAA is punishing a player for the mistake of a school. Shane Lovdahl was a victim of the same sort of niggling BS last year during the second half when he'd had some niggling issues with some BS technicality about his class standing and number of credits even though he'd passed all his classes and carried a full load. The NCAA decision they reported today was the result of an appeal that UAA had filed. Blargh.

Speaking of "appeals". Unless you've been in a cave you're probably aware of the Instant-Replay fiasco last Friday night involving DU and (UAA's opponent this week) Wisconisn. Short story: Wisconsin scored with less than a second to go. Referee Randy Schmidt blew it. DU won the game. Wisconsin whined. WCHA commish Bruce McLeod officially said "sorry". Wisconsin did an appeal-whine. Today the WCHA said nope. Did they really think that the league would award them a point? Today they're all saying that they didn't have any expectation that their appeal would be granted. So why did they bother?

Anyhow, it'll be nice to see the end of all that. But in honor of it I've got a couple of suggested chants for this weekend. The list was originally longer but I've narrowed it done to the two prime ones that I believe will be the most fun. If you hear us start these (and I can promise you section 213 will start them) please join in.

If Eaves gripes to an official ...
GO CALL BRUCE ... clap clap ... clap clap clap

If in the (unlikely) event that Wisconsin scores ...
INSTANT REPLAY ... clap clap ... clap clap clap

Apparently the games will be on TV in Wisconsin this weekend. Hopefully Kurt Haider's microphone will pick up one or both of those chants up so the cheeseheads back in Whinerville can enjoy them too.

And now to clarify I situation that I was bitching about earlier this week. I'd moaned that someone used my texting widget and had sent a text identifying themselves as "real uaa" in which they called me a shitbag. I made a bad assumption. My "Sherlock-ing" was completely and entirely wrong. I should apologize here to the UAA fanbase for thinking that someone amongst you would be so weak.

I know I was wrong because I got another text from "real uaa" ... Let me first say that I was inaccurate in describing the first event. When I went back into my inbox I see that the message came from "real uaa f" and I neglected to leave that part off my reporting. My bad there. Additionally, (and this is the funny part) the boob that sent the message didn't even bother to replace the "Type your message here" text so the message I got actually read "Type you message here get a life shitbag". I figured all this out last night when I got another message from "real uaa f" that said "Type your message here get a job" at midnight. I happened to be on Halo-multiplayer when the message came in so I bailed from killing virtual representations of Italian noobs to look at my stats counter. Guess where it came from? Fairbanks. Without a doubt. Nailed. I guess in my CC game recap when I mentioned that it looked like UAF players had jumped into UAA sweaters that I hit a nerve up in the craphole on a river. Hey doofus ... next time you send please try at least to erase the "Type your message here" part first eh?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How To Beat a Badger

Back in the day, some fine gentlemen in the English countryside were a pretty bored lot. Their daddy's daddy's daddy had socked away enough loot and titles to keep these gentlemen so comfortable that in their free time they rounded up little critters to torture. One of the little games they came up with was to trap a little bugger called a "brock", put it in a homemade pen then send in each other's dog to determine who's dog could "badger" the poor little git out of the pen. Wow, what a sporting bunch of fine upper-class twits! Sounds almost as fun as setting a couple a dozen hounds on the trail of a lone fox. Ahhhh, the human culture that is created from wealth; where would we be without bored rich assholes? I prefer to believe that my ancestry doesn't include any such elitist turds and instead that I came directly from cave-dwelling neanderthals who took their clubs and smashed little round stones into holes thereby inventing golf. However, my obvious tendency and desire to bait hot-headed over-reacting rubes probably has it's roots in the former. Sigh.

The Badgers we're talking about his week however won't be so easily manipulated. The Seawolves won't be penning them up and pecking away at them. Or will they? First things first here, we need to examine exactly what the Badgers bring to the party. No reason to start anywhere other than with the highly-touted semi-phenom Crosby-to-be freshman Kyle Turris. Ok, so maybe I'm overstating Kyle's potential; he was the 3rd pick in last years NHL draft. So at least a couple of guys probably have the right to the "Crosby-to-be" title. In any case I guess we'll get to see for ourselves what the NHL scouts believe will be a star in that league one day. Turris is the leading scorer on the Badger team with 9 goals and 13 assists in the 18 games he's played in. It is worth noting that only 4 of his goals have come against WCHA competition but that 2 of those came last Saturday vs. DU. His first 5 goals came in the Badgers first 4 games all against non-conference opponents Notre Dame, Ohio State and Robert Morris. Second leading scorer on the team is Ben Street who has potted 6 goals this season in WCHA play with 9 overall. The rest of the scoring the Badgers have done can easily be classified as "by committee"; with 10 guys having between 3 and 6 goals (3@3, 3@4, 2@5, 1@6). So while they aren't scoring at a blistering pace the goals the Badgers get could seemingly come from anywhere on the roster.

Since Eaves took the job at UW they've made their living in their zone first. They won a national championship two years ago with great goaltending and stifling defensive play. Coach Eaves brought the neutral zone trap back to the WCHA week in and week out and they've done well with it. I'm sure Dean Talafous has had more than a few satisfying thoughts at seeing the scheme succeed. Here's what I said in my preseason look at the Badgers:
I overestimated Bucky last year. I gave too much credit to their always excellent defensive play and (like everyone else) didn't see the scoring deficit coming. I placed a lot of weight on their drafted youngsters and expected them to produce. They didn't. But with a year of experience under their belt I'd have to think this year that they'll make up for last years deficit. The addition of Kyle Turris can't do anything but help. I said in the CC section that Tyler Johnson could turn out to be the best rookie in the league. In order to do so Kyle Turris will have to dramatically underachieve. Whoever plays on a line with Turris will likely have career best numbers. Goaltending is a bit of a small question in Madison but don't expect that to hold them back. A year without NCAA participation is a big deal on State Street in Madison and probably not something they'll have to experience in 07-08. For the rest of the league's sake lets just all hope Turris only stays one year. It might not be enough for the Red menace to get to Denver for the Frozen Four but don't count on it.
The small question of goaltending has been answered. Connelly (whom a lot of Badger fans were worried about) has done a stellar job in the nets just as his (overly-hyped) predecessors had done. With Eaves commitment to the defensive side of things pretty much anyone in between the pipes in a Badger sweater is going to do well. Turris linemate junior Ben Street has already surpassed his sophomore point total. It's worth noting that Eaves has juggled his lines a bit recently but some of that is out of necessity with players being at the World Junior championships. With only 4 points more than our 10th place Seawolves it remains to be seen if the Badgers will get back to the NCAA's this year. The Badgers have one of the more experienced set of blueliners in the league with three Seniors (Klubertanz, Drewiske, Engel) but also have talented youth on D with sophomore Jamie McBain and freshmen Brendan Smith and Ryan McDonagh all performing well. The key to their defensive game is the backchecking efforts of the rest of the team. These guys all pretty much know and execute their defensive roles. Penetrating to create chances to score could be a difficult task. But ... and I think this could be a BIG but ... if there is a tailor-made gameplan that can do so, I think UAA's strategy of getting the puck in deep and cycling it could be effective.

The first step for UAA to be effective against the Badgers will be to get the puck through the neutral zone as efficiently as possible. The Eaves-trap is all about denying the opposition time and space from inside the UAA own zone to the UW blueline. The Seawolves will have to use a mix of tactics in order to get the puck deep. UAA defensemen will need to take quick advantage in transition by carrying the puck or making early passes. Give time for the Badgers to set up after they turnover the puck and you're asking for trouble. The fewer times UAA has to "set up" behind their own net to start and the better off they'll be. This weekend the "smarts" of UAA's defensemen will be very important. The neutral zone trap is designed to create turnovers so everyone will have to be aware and smart with the puck in transition. The best possible judgement will be required every time the puck is on a blueliners (or backchecking winger's) stick. When the Seawolves are effective in getting the puck deep into the Bager zone (there'll probably be quit a bit of dumping the puck ... don't complain ... it'll be necessary) they're going to have to execute their cycling game with patience. If the forwards can all be strong on the puck and extend their possession time then they'll eventually create chances. That's how I think the Seawolves could "pen up" the Badgers and peck away at them.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Seawolves Finally Come Home

The last UAA series at the Sullivan Arena was more than a month ago on December 15th. That's a long time and I've been jonesin to see some live hockey. Many years ago I was returning to Anchorage from a long stint in a Milwaukee computer training school getting DEC Vax System Administrator certified and found myself on a plane with the Badger hockey team. My seat was among several players. The Internet didn't exist so I had no reason to really get too detailed in my conversations but nevertheless I did talk some friendly shit for the Seawolves which of course was entertaining to the players. My memory fails me regarding any names of the players at the time with the exception of Kirk Daubenspeck. The conversation that sticks out in my mind was the one where Badger players were trying to find out if Jeremy Mylomuk was still playing for the Seawolves. It took a bit for them to describe who they meant and when I suggested his name their eyes all got that look of recognition and talked about how he had put a body on everyone. Jeremy had graduated which elicited a look and audible sigh of relief. I guess Mylomuk had made an impression. Not surprising; that kid could really lay on the hits whether it was along the boards on in open ice. He was definitely the king of hipchecks while he was a Seawolf.

I wonder if any Badgers will be worrying about the same sort of thing on their trip up this week? Perhaps they'll be mentioning how difficult it is to get in front of the net when Luke Beaverson is on the ice. Or maybe a couple of them will have some Mat Robinson hipcheck memories. The player on this years Seawolf team that is most like Jeremy Mylomuk is Shane Lovdahl; he can definitely lay out a punishing hit. But I think most of the current Badger lineup has some pretty positive memories regarding playing against UAA. In 10 games over the past three seasons the Seawolves have managed a win only once.

There are a couple of interesting reunion tidbits this weekend. Paul Crowder and Kyle Turris are former teammates from the RBC Junior A champion Burnaby Express team of two years ago. This won't be the first time competing against Turris for quite a few Seawolves as 7 current underclassmen came to UAA from the BCHL. Freshman Sean Wiles is the only UAA player from the state of Wisconsin so perhaps he'll be uniquely jazzed about playing this weekend. Captain Luke Beaverson's junior career was spent in Green Bay as was Wisconsin's assistant captain Kyle Klubertanz which is the only other "reunion" of any kind that I can discern. Of course since Klubertanz and Beaverson are seniors they're pretty familiar foes.

The Badgers are coming to town tied for 6th place in the league just 4 points above the Seawolves. There is a hint of a separation in the WCHA standings between the top 5 teams and the bottom five teams. 3 points separates 5th from 6th. It must be noted however that 1st place CC has played 18 games while the next four down the list have all played 16; all five of the teams in the lower half have only played 14 league games. The way the standings look now without a doubt won't be the way they look at the end of the season. The teams that step up to the plate and hit for extra bases will move up.

Wisconsin is coming off a big 7-2 Saturday win in Denver after getting hosed out of at least a tie the night before by referee Randy Bungleschmidt. Sometime last week I mentioned that the Badgers couldn't score in a Mexican whorehouse with a pocketful of cash. They sure proved me wrong with 10 goals (only 9 of them of the official variety) last weekend. They raised their output to a pretty respectable 3.14 per game and are giving up 2.73. In a bit of a mirror image the Seawolves are scoring 2.7 per game and giving up 3.3. There is no significant difference in the Badger and Seawolf power play/penalty kill numbers. The Badgers aren't significantly smaller than the Seawolves. In the net both the Badgers and Seawolves have gone almost entirely with one guy; Connelly and Olthuis. The series has all the hallmarks of being a competitive couple of games. There's little doubt in my mind that the harder working team has the best chance of coming up with the majority of points this weekend.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Man Up

My consternation with this weekend is in force. That's right I'm bothered. I'm nonplussed, I'm frustrated and absolutely none of that has to do with losing twice to CC. That's right. Let me be extra clear. I'm not bothered that the team lost two games. What am I bothered about? I still irked about the text message that "real uaa" sent me. It isn't because someone called me a shitbag. I could care less about that. I've absorbed "better" insults from "lesser" people many many times on the Internet. I believe I've characterized myself more negatively at times than that. So why does it bother me?

Plain and simple reason is the source. I can't for a minute begin to believe that anyone other than someone who feels they are "real uaa" would bother to identify themselves as such. The text messaging widget is completely and entirely anonymous. I have no idea "where" any messages I get come from. I use page hit counter software that identifies commenters by location and IP address and even tells me what OS and browser the commenter used. The text messaging widget allows me no such thing. With that bit of info aside then, if someone takes the time to give themselves an "alias" it is because they want me to know something about them. So I can only assign a couple of different possibilities to the moniker "real uaa".

The first feeling is that they are expressing more validity as a UAA fan than me. Saying "real" is a way of elevating themselves above me in terms of fandom. It means I'm less than "real". The second attribution that I'm able to deduce is that it is from someone associated with the program. It is difficult to know exactly which part of Friday night's post bothered anyone so much that they'd send the "shitbag" message. Perhaps it was the title? Of course I've analyzed my own analysis and I stand by what I said about the game. The first four paragraphs are my accounting of what I saw; no different really than any other analysis of the team's play that I've offered here in the past. So it was either the title or my conclusion where I put the blame for the loss on the coaching staff. If it was the title of the post then whoever sent it is a pretty shallow person that they'd send such a message based on that. The title was "facetious". I was being realistic and at the same time trying to make light of the situation. If there is any doubt ... I don't think the wheels are coming off the bus because like I said ... the wheels haven't exactly "gone round and round" yet. One cannot look at the record and dispute that. Is it a slam from me to the program? Nope. If you think it is then you're just straight up wrong. So then in my mind the reason for the "shitbag" message is me calling out the coaching staff.

Well let's see what the reality is there eh? In two years, I've made negative comments about the coaching staff a grand total of three times. Search yourself. If you can find me dissing our staff more than 3 times then more power to you. I say you can't. And you'll find even less negative comments from me regarding any active player. So I put the blame for the loss on the coaching staff. Big whoop. They've got broad shoulders, they're professionals and as such better be prepared for the occassional criticism. It wasn't harsh anyway.

So that lead me to offer up this blog to any "real uaa" fan out there that is willing to do somewhat the same sort of job as I've done with this blog. And I mean it. I've gone to the overwhelming majority of Seawolf games since 1984. Definitely more than 90 percent. And you know what; I never let the teams record dictate my hopes for a victory or my core satisfaction with watching the team compete. Never. And I know there are plenty of other UAA fans who could offer up similar testimony. So whatever one of you that is equally enamored by this program but feels that I'm a "shitbag" should definitely MAN UP and send me an email offering to run this joint. I might actually enjoy the games more if I didn't have to analyze wins and losses for the benefit of those that didn't see the game or who simply enjoy reading others opinions about the result. So do it "real uaa", step up. Show us how much of the "real uaa" moniker you deserve.

I'll turn over this blog to the first person that truly wants to take it on. There is a built in readership of several hundred regular folks that are waiting for a "real uaa" fan to write here. My email box is waiting. Perhaps you've wanted to start your own UAA Hockey blog but decided against it because this one is already here? You no longer have to hesitate to share your views. You can jump into the drivers seat here. You don't even have to identify your personage. I didn't put my real name on the blog until the beginning of this season. I can't think of any reason you might have to keep you from doing it other than you just aren't willing to back up your disrespect to me. Perhaps you're just not man enough? I hope I'm wrong. I hope you are man enough and I'll wish you every success if you choose to do it. And passively watching from my seat and reading what others have to say is completely acceptable to me. Maybe you are someone associated in some way with the program; cool beans, you'd probably be able to share more pertinent info that I'm able to. Jump on if that's the case. As I said, you don't have to share your identity.

To be clear, I'm not making the offer because I feel the team is not worthy. They are. We've got as good a group of guys wearing the green and gold as we have ever had. I honestly believe this team is as talented as ANY that have ever worn the sweater and that isn't the first time I've said that. That said, there is plenty of hockey yet to play. Home ice for the WCHA playoffs is still a very attainable goal. I believe the team can achieve it.

One thing outside the UAA program that I'd like to comment on is Bruce McLeod's decision to (for the second time this season) apologize for a blown call by one of his officials. Ok, so it was the same official (Randy Schmidt) blowing another goal replay review call. By making this apology Bruce is once again turning his refereeing staff into empty shirts. Officiating is and always will be an integral part of the game. Sometimes they screw up. No doubt about it. Sometimes those screw ups cost a team dearly. Yep. Offering up apologies though is total joke. In the first apology to SCSU it seems that Bruce was in the NHC, was he in attendance at Magness on Friday night? Is Bruce influenced by his proximity? The team that feels they were screwed aren't helped by an apology; so unless you're willing to compensate by replaying whole or parts of games then it's worthless to apologize. Replaying whole or parts of games is such an absolutely ridiculous idea on pretty much every level that I'm just going to define it as ridiculous and move on. The real problem I have here is that Bruce seriously usurped the authority his officials have. Now that he has apologized twice where does it end? It is a BAD BAD BAD precendent. If WCHA Head of Officials Greg Shepherd doesn't resign in protest then he lacks credibility. He shouldn't resign because his officials blew a call. That doesn't matter. It happens. Fans have to deal with it. It sucks when it happens to you. I know it does. But we're going to have officials as long as we have the sport and like it or not they affect EVERY game with their calls and non-calls. That is the way it is. Bruce McLeod could have offered up private apologies, he'd done so more than once in the past. Making it public is a HUGE slap in the face to Greg Shepherd and all the zebras in skates. MAN UP Greg and step down. Or are you just Bruce's bag man?

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Better Game But Same Result

Sometimes no matter how hard you push it just isn't likely you can get the job done. After a 1st period tonight that looked awfully similar to the 1st period on Friday I was a bit hopeful that the team could put it together and climb the CC hill. Though CC mostly dominated the period there did seem to be a bit more jump in the Seawolves legs. They continued to keep CC on the outside and did a good job of staying in the CC offensive lanes. In my analysis last night I think I missed a big key. CC's defense ain't nothing to sneeze at. Yes, they can wheel with the puck in transition. Yes, they have speed and effective scorers. But overlooking the commitment that they showed both nights in their own end of the ice was short-sighted on my part. Yes, Bachman is a good goalie. But in the last four games he's faced less than 25 shots each night. That is a credit to the team in front of him.

Regarding the Seawolves game tonight I thought overall they played much better than Friday. Obviously it wasn't enough of an improvement to make a huge difference but losing 5-2 with a late ENG vs. losing 6-1 shows some improvement. I still think the Seawolves are a better team than their place in the standings would indicate. But that opinion is meaningless when it comes down to it, isn't it? What matters are the scores at the end of the games. I thought the team overall showed much more energy in transition. At times they looked more determined than the Black Bears and that translated to at least a few shifts where we saw the cycling game plan work as designed. They physical game was better I thought than Friday but still didn't reach a level where it probably should be. The team has utilized it's size more effectively than it did this weekend.

So yes I bought the B2 feed again. I think I figured out why it is how it is. B2 just uses the arena feed which is primarily intended for the folks in the arena to look at. Tonight we got slightly less floating Tiger head and instead got to look at intermittent shots of some boring faggotty football game and the feed from the DU loss to Wisconsin. I guess for six bucks I shouoldn't expect or hope for anything remotely like an actual TV broadcast but hey I'm stupid that way. In response to yesterday's post I get this lovely text message via the widget on the right side of the page:

From: real uaa
Get a life you shit bag

Nice. I love getting stuff like that. It's really life affirming and uplifting and just generally restores my faith in humanity. I know with folks like that in the world that humanity will be able to reach the heights of our genetic possibilities and eventually dominate the known universe. Just one thing my dear "real uaa" ... shitbag is one word or at worst a hyphenated word. You could have chosen to use the passive voice and said "bag of shit" if you insisted in separating the insult; but congrats at least for not making that mistake. Active voice is much more effective, but next time you want to flame me for my years of cheerleading and active support of this hockey team please parse your words correctly.

So with all that I'd like to make an open invitation to any real Seawolf fan to take over this blog. Email me indicating your interest and I'll give you the password and even answer any questions about how to change the look or whatever help you might require. Here's your chance "real uaa". Jump on it. I'd just ask that you write about 3 to 4 times a week and try to keep the focus on the team and supporting it the best you can. Let me be clear, I'll be happy to step away at the first sign that there is someone willing to fill the space. If you're willing, then let me know. It's all yours.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wheels Come Off The Bus

All right, all right, all right I know; you're right. For the wheels to come off the bus it would seem that they should have been going round and round at some point. With the exception of owning UAF the Seawolf bus really never got going in 07; and now in Colorado Springs, 08 hasn't started off with any great promise. The Seawolves were never really able to establish any sort of offensive flow with only a couple of brief exceptions tonight. I see three things as contributing causes; CC was damned effective in the UAA zone, there were zero quality hookups in transition and the physical play that is a usual hallmark of Seawolf efforts was not evident.

Using quickness, good passing and extra effort the Black Bears dominated play in UAA's zone pretty much all night. For evidence of this take a look at the number of times the Seawolves iced the puck. It was like UAF jumped into our uniforms with the number of icings they were forced into taking. Sure, UAA managed to clear the zone but it was almost never early in a shift meaning a Seawolf line change while CC regrouped and headed right back in. Overall UAA kept the Black Bears to the outside but as the game wore on that was lessened with defenders obviously tiring of the continuing effort. When your team spends that much time defending and puts out that much effort into it there isn't much left going the other way.

When UAA did manage to breakout cleanly it seemed that the sorts of passes you'd usually see to break into the other teams zone were just never there. Why? Was it a factor of the almost entirely new set of line combinations? I'm thinking that may have contributed. I saw very little (if any) of what I'd call chemistry between the forwards. With the exception of Tassone, Cartwright and Tarkir filling the "Energy" role as a line everything else was brand new. Brad McCabe centered Tommy Grant and Kevin Clark; Craig Parkinson centered Josh Lunden and Winston Daychief; Paul Crowder centered Merit Waldrop and Sean Wiles. I can only guess that the coaching staff were trying to find some new chemistry. In the first half (besides sporadic contributions from other lines) there had really been only one effective Seawolf scoring line (the 4th line has been effective in it's role all season IMO) which was Lunden, Crowder and Clark. Paul Crowder has been rotated here and there during the past few series but this was the first game all year that Josh and Kevin hadn't skated together. It seems to me that in looking for new chemistry they may have lost all the old chemistry.

Why did it seem like there was no hitting? Was that part of the game-plan dropped? This UAA squad is bigger than every other team on the schedule. In the case of CC the Seawolves are full on more than an inch taller and just short of 10lbs heavier on average. That's a big discrepancy. CC is down around 40th in height while UAA is 2nd. In terms of weigh UAA is 6th and CC is 50th. It's an advantage that UAA completely and utterly failed to utilize tonight. I didn't count but if there were 10 hits for the game on UAA's stat sheet I'd be surprised. Don't hit the waterbugs and they just keep wheeling. But if you put a body one them it gives them a reason to try another route.

So what am I saying? Well, it's unlike me to come out and say this but ... this loss is on the coaching staff in my book.

I should add this ... Eric Walsky 2 - UAA 1. Man oh man ... is that a boatload of suckage or not? That's the last thing I ever wanted to see. Now he's got two game winning against against us? Piss on that. I mostly liked him as a UAA player. That word is unlikely to pass my lips ever again in relation to him.

I watched the game tonight on the B2 network. It was irritating. Prior to the game, I exchanged 4 emails with their customer service staff before they understood the question I was asking. Naturally the question I'd asked was meaningless but if their inaccurate FAQ hadn't been obtuse then I wouldn't have had to ask a question 4 times to get an answer. I wasn't able to purchase the game until it had just started. Pain. But those little annoyances aren't my bitch here. The quality was decent (though after a while the streaming got jumpy) and I could see the puck bettter than the TV broadcast from Fairbanks. The irritant though was the continuous (and when I say continuous I mean at each and every stoppage no matter how brief) cutting to the decapitated horridly-ugly Tiger head floating graphic followed by an equal number of cutaways to the bored looking crowd at the World Arena. I thought Magness looked like a morgue? Man ... maybe its a bad impression on my part but those people were more interested in showing up on the camera than watching the game. Irritating? You betcha it was. I suppose I'd have rather looked at all those insipid faces than that ridiculous floating Tiger head graphic though. I don't think I can bring myself to spend the 6 bucks tomorrow night to watch the game. I'm just going with Kurt on the radio.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Notta Preview

I had honorable blogger intentions. There's been plenty of time to compile a preview and come up with something here. But I really didn't and don't feel like it. Maybe it's all the bye weeks? I don't know ... there's no break between this weekend and the end of the season so maybe I'm just making the most of whatever free time and skipping out on my responsibilities here. Maybe it's just that I realize that I'm viewing this as a responsibility and instead of the distraction and fun I usually assign to my feelings about writing here. Maybe I'm just lazy this week?

It isn't like there hasn't been some interesting developments here and there. Colorado College just recently suspended two players and "everybody" wants to know what they did to warrant being virtually kicked off the team. I could care less. It's a tough break for their teammates but perhaps it's an opportunity for another team to take advantage of them. I doubt they're seriously "reeling" from it and that it'll affect this weekend's outcome. Who knows though? I notice a bit of a buzz with everyone droning on and on about Lucia being a crappy recruiter (as an excuse as to why they aren't winning every game 8-1) since Motzko left ... funny thing is that most of the kids on the Gophers team are Motzko recruits. The reality is that Lucia has an easy job recruiting but St. Cloud fans have to have something to TRY to hang their hats on.

UND fans are pointing out how difficult their schedule has been as some sort of excuse for their underperforming against expectations (um note here Susies ... your schedule isn't that much more difficult than anyone elses in the league). Perhaps they're actually playing up to their potential and all the genius "pundits" were just wrong (excepting me of course). Enough Gopher fans are still preoccupied with the whole Snow/Okposo debacle to be mildly entertaining. I'm especially enamored with the ones that continue to throw the kid under the bus. UAA continues to be the most closed-mouthed school with regard to leaks of information about new and/or incoming players. Thanks guys for that ... makes it sooooo easy to write stuff here. Sigh .... you can tell I'm rolling my eyes right? What's happening in Mankato lately? Nuffin. They're exceptionally boring lately. Duluth? Boring. Wisconsin? Boring ... Turris was supposed to be the next Crosztky right? Not yet. He'll be gone after this year anyway.

NHL GM's are probably sick of talented offensive players being stuck in a league where EVERYONE is trapping constantly. See the Gophers vs. Wayne St. on FSN last week? The Gophers were trapping them! LOL. What the hell? See Wisconsin versus CC last week? Trap-Fest galore by both squads. Sigh. DU vs. Dartmouth? Trap-o-licious. Game two of the UAA-UAF series? Trap-o-rama! Every friggin night in the WCHA is "playoff-style" hockey no matter who is playing it seems. Did I leave any team off the insult every other team list? Oh yeah ... MTU; thanks Jamie Russell for jumping on the Eaves trapping bandwagon over the last couple of years and setting the trend for every coach to start using it.

None of this really takes anything away from cheering for the Seawolves though as far as I'm concerned. Our boys can high zone trap with the best of em; the effort and the result of that effort is what matters to me. I guess I'm just jonesin for a live hockey game. It's been almost a month since I've sat in the Sully and more than a month will have passed by the time Wisconsin comes to town next weekend. Sigh. I was gonna at least give you a picture of a sexy woman with a hockey stick but it was a little too risque' so you get the Chimp instead. Lastly, Doc DelCastillo/Yoda voting update: 55 votes say "dead ringer" ... 10 votes say "not at all".

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

New Recruit: Curtis Leinweber - Okotoks AJHL

Heisenberg has a new listing for the Seawolves on his 08 list. Forward Curtis Leinweber from the AJHL's Okotoks Oilers. Curtis is listed at 5'8" 169lbs and turns 20 on February 25th. He is in his thrid season with the Oilers and has 12g-31a in 41 games so far this year; 6 of his goals have come on the power play and he has 3 game winners. In 06-07 he put up 9g-18a in 57 games. His stats put him in the profile of having doubled his output from one season to the next which is always something that looks good to recruiters.

He is the 4th leading scorer on his team and 23rd on the league scoring chart. There isn't a lot of press about Curtis that I could find. His size and numbers would peg him as a bit of a playmaker. It appears he is also playing a left-wing lock role on the Okotoks team giving him some all-important defensive experience coming into the WCHA.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Welcome Jeff Carlson

I've made mention of this as recently as yesterday and today UAA officially announced that defenseman Jeff Carlson (6'2" 200lbs) has joined the team. Here is the relevant text from the announcement:
Alaska Anchorage head hockey coach Dave Shyiak announced today that Jeff Carlson has joined the Seawolves for the Spring 2008 semester and is eligible to begin practicing with the team.

A 6-2, 200-pound defenseman, Carlson tallied 15-24—39 totals in 59 regular-season games with the Southern Minnesota Express of the NAHL in 2006-07. The Richfield, Minn., product was his team’s top scoring defenseman and finished fourth among league blueliners in points. Carlson also posted seven power-play goals and three game-winning goals.
This makes an already deep UAA defense even deeper. Now with 10 guys on the blueline, each and every player will need to compete hard in practice and play well in games to guarantee playing time. I doubt we'll see Jared Tuton filling in on the backline for injured players anymore. There is every indication from Jeff's resume that he'll compete well for playing time at some point. Naturally, I'd expect that his conditioning is in question but that shouldn't be an issue for an extended period. Here's what I wrote about Jeff last year (Dec 2006) in one of my comprehensive recruit updates.
Jeff is one of the two verbal committments that UAA isn't allowed to comment on. He is in his second year with the Southern Minnesota Express of the NAHL. Jeff is currently the 2nd leading scoring defenseman in the league with 9 goals and 16 assists in 32 games this season. Last year he scored 9 goals with 27 assists for the Express in 56 games. His numbers are obviously good news. Last season Jeff had interest from a couple of other WCHA teams according to Chris at the Western College Hockey blog. Apparently there was some sort of academic issue which prevented him from entering a school but all indications are that those have been resolved. Chris also indicated to me that Jeff is a "really talented player". His maturity should mean that he'll be able to step in at UAA and contribute right away. If my memory serves me he is the third UAA Seawolf with that name.
Through the remaining part of last season Jeff continued to be one of the Express' leading scorers (finished 4th on the team) and was named to the Robertson Cup (league championship tournament) all-tournament team. I'll say it again here, Jeff is a young man that could become a high quality presence on the blueline for UAA. It's nice to see him finally in the fold after I'd talked about him for so long here (first mention was November 17th 2006). Welcome to UAA Jeff.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: The "Wow" Edition

On August 15th, 1977, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) received a transmission on the Ohio State University Radio Observatory unlike no other signal received before or after. In SETI lore it is simply called the "Wow" signal because of the annotation that radio astronomer Dr. Jerry Ehman wrote in the margin. If you're not familiar with what SETI does it can be summed up simply by saying they listen. They listen all across the radio spectrum and all over the sky for any signal that isn't naturally occurring. Space is a relatively noisy place. Virtually every object out there emits some sort of radio noise. SETI's job is to separate the "noise" (which is usually just a steady buzz) from any possible source from some civilization out there. A signal from a civilization is dramatically different from the background quiescent noise. The "Wow" signal was never seen again. The scientists confirmed it's origin as coming from from somewhere inside the constellation Sagitarius but subsequent attempts to "hear" it again have all failed.

That's been the story for this blogger the last couple of weeks or so as well only times three. I made the call that Bryce Christianson from the Vernon Vipers would joining the Seawolves to replace the injured Matthew Gordon. Additionally, I've been expecting to hear about defenseman Jeff Carlson joining the team anytime now. Lastly, there was every indication that transfer Brian Bales eligibility would allow him to start playing as well (he's been in school all of the 1st semester and practicing every day). But just like the SETI "Wow" signal I haven't yet received any hard confirmation about any of those three sitations. I could publish here what I've "heard" but those things aren't much more than speculation and rumor. So I won't burden you with reading all that. I will say that by all indications Bryce should be in the fold. I will also say that Jeff Carlson should be on the squad from everything I've heard. And last but not least I honestly don't know when/if Brian Bales will be playing. With any luck there'll be confimation and/or some clarity on all three of these guys this coming week. Wow?

What a boring week eh? How many "off-weeks" have we sat through so far this season? Four of them. But that's the end of that. No more off weeks without the guys playing. From now until the end of the season they play every weekend. No breaks. 4 away series starting this weekend at Colorado College and 4 home series ending with Minnesota Feb 29th/Mar 1st. 16 games in 8 weeks is what remains. 48 more periods of regular season hockey; 960 minutes, 57,600 seconds. When that's done (and likely not before) we'll know if the team has earned a home ice playoff series. There is plenty of work to be done and plenty of opportunity to make up the 4 points that separates them from 5th place. That's right. Only 4 points. 5 of the 8 series are against teams that currently sit in 5th place or below. 3 of the 4 road series come against the three teams currently occupying 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in the league.

Truthfully, there are only two teams that look to have a home-ice spot locked up. DU and CC will be playing at home (brave prediction by me eh?). But after that it is still wide-open. UND continues to fail to live up to the ridiculous preseason predictions that had them dominating everyone all season long. They split with St. Nothingelsetodoville this past weekend. Minnesota-Duluth is looking vulnerable losing to the USNDT and splitting with Bemidji. Wisconsin couldn't score with a pocketful of cash in a Mexican whorehouse. The Gophers swept #58 Wayne St. this weekend but didn't look impressive by any stretch of the imagination. Mankato lost to a less than good UNO team recently but managed two wins against Ivy-leaguers Yale and Princeton. St. Cloud lost 6 in a row before going 3-2 in their last five. My point here being that nobody is tearing it up and everybody will be fighting hard for the critical league points to earn those home ice WCHA playoff spots.