Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Midsummer Night's Dream

Billy Shakespeare I ain't. But I can steal the title to one of his plays. There hasn't been much dreamy about summer in Alaska this year though. By my count there has been exactly 1 day in Anchorage at 70 degrees or better. ONE? No dream there ... it's frankly been a nightmare. It might be light out but the Sun's only significance has been it's brutally obvious absence. None of that stops the world from turning though. The Summer Elite Hockey League provided a good example of that this evening with it's annual All-Star game and skills competition.

The SEHL provides a good summer hockey experience for locally based midget, junior, college and professional players. With only a few exceptions pretty much all the elite players from Anchorage suit it up every Wednesday and Thursday night for some fast paced action on the ice. Here are the rosters from tonight's game:
SBS Studs:
Brandon Dubinsky - New York Rangers
Moises Gutierrez - Texas Wildcatters
Nate Thompson - Providence Bruins
Blair Tassone - UAA Seawolves
Sean Curry - Providence Bruins
Evan Trupp - North Dakota Fighting Sioux
Cam Keith - Alaska Aces
Eric Walsky - Colorado College
Merit Waldrop - UAA Seawolves
JJ Waldrop - Fairbanks Ice Dogs
Damon Whitten - UAA Assistant Coach
Brad Gorham - Ohio State
Graham McManamin - Bemidji State
Tyler Morgan - Alaska Avalanche
Erik Felde - Texas Wildcatters
Corbin Schmidt - Alaska Aces
John DeCaro - Bossier-Shreveport Muddogs
Jeremy Smith - UAA Seawolves
Casey Shade - Trail Smoke Eaters

Miller Brewsers:
Billy Bagron - Texas Wildcatters
Kyle Bailey - Mahoning Valley Phantoms
Brian Bales - UAA Seawolves
Peter Cartwright - UAA Seawolves
Bo Cheesman - Alaska Aces
Kimbi Daniels - Alaska Aces
Jason Ryznar - Lowell Devils
JJ Johnson - Utah Grizzlies
Aris Brimanis - Hanover Scorpions (Germany)
Robb Haider - South High School
Campbell Blair - UAA Assistant Coach
Jack Woglemuth - Wisconsin-Stout
Cody Butcher - Bemidji State
Chad Anderson - Philadelphia Phantoms
William Wrenn - USNDT
Chris Tarkir - UAA Seawolves
Zach Tarkir - Trenton Titans
Steve Summerhayes - Belle Tire AAA midget
Matt Wichorek - Kenai Brown Bears
Gage Christianson - South High School
So that's 1 NHLer (I dunno where Gomer is); 4 AHLers, 9 ECHLers, 10 Division Iers, and 1 Division IIIer. The game of course was very fast paced with zero penalties called. There were few if any muffed plays and to go along with the 12-9 final score were at least 6 pipes. That doesn't begin to compare to an earlier season game that ended up 27-10. It was a bit difficult to follow everyone with having to refer to the rosters to know who was doing what. I didn't see it but I heard Campbell Blair slew-footed Damon Whitten to get his attention; I dunno if Damon noticed Campbell short-shifting himself but I did; that's ok Campbell ... I understand not being fit. They both played on the blueline and were mostly invisible to me. I was watching Brian Bales as much as I could hoping to get an idea of what he will bring to the rink for UAA this fall. It was nice to see some non-Anchoragites spending their summer up here playing hockey; Chad Anderson, Zach Tarkir, Chris Tarkir aren't "from" here but I'm guessing they're Alaska converts. Cool beans. Eric Walsky won the fastest skater competition versus Evan Trupp. Sean Curry had the hardest shot with a 99mph blast. I believe the shootout competition was won by Nate Thompson. All in all it was a pleasure to watch some good hockey and talk with a few hockey friends in the middle of July.

It's been a relatively quiet off-season from a Seawolves perspective. Since my last post, UAA added three recruits for this coming season. Left winger Jade Portwood (6'2" 197lbs; 14g-26a in 60 games) from the Brooks Bandits in the AJHL and left winger August Aiken (5'8" 165lbs; 17g-29a in 59 games) from the Trail Smokeeaters in the BCHL will be joining the team along with existing recruits Tyler Moir and Curtis Leinweber. The third addition is goaltender Dusan Sidor from the NAHL Alaska Avalance to replace the departing Aaron Mayo. In other recruit news it looks like 09 recruit Gustav Bengtson will be joining the NAHL's Topeka Roadrunners for this season as the Texas Tornado are taking a one year hiatus. 2010 recruit Matthew Bailey from Neepawa in the MJHL had an outstanding tryout camp with Sioux Falls of the USHL but it seems they weren't able to add him due to that league's import restrictions (2 per team). Apparently though, his performance at Sioux Falls camp impressed the GM at Tri-Cities; Bailey turned up on their 25 player protected list last week. 09 recruit Mickey Spencer appears to be on track for another season in Cowichan Valley. Of course I'll have regular updates on all three of these guys as the 08 season progresses. I'm curious to see if perhaps Matthew Bailey can perform well enough in the USHL to accelerate coming to UAA in 09; of course it's early to project that and I suppose it's just me being hopeful that he puts craploads of pucks in the net this season.

The only other issue worthy of comment is the lack of inclusion of a new hockey arena in UAA plan for upgrading their facilities. While there is no doubt that the existing facilities for UAA programs are in dire need of replacement, the fact that hockey got left out of the current plans is very disappointing. Ever see the movie "Defending Your Life"?

In it Albert Brooks plays a man who died and must defend his decisions during a trial of sorts before he can move onto the next level. In one scene you see Brooks talking with his wife and pumping himself up to demand a good wage from a new potential employer. Over and over he practices saying, "I cannot take this job for less than 60,000 dollars a year". The next day during the interview the employer offers him the job at 35,000 dollars a year and without hesitation Brooks says, "I'll take it." The prosecutor at his trial uses this event to portray Brooks as fearful. But Brooks explains that that it wasn't fear. He added that the guy had a smell and the smell said 35,000 dollars. It was a weak rationalization. Brooks character was clearly fearful to stand up for himself and demand more.

That's the UAA Arena planning committee in a nutshell if you ask me. The year before last they asked for money for their "dream" arena configuration. A joined facility that included separate arenas for basketball and hockey. But having that get turned down scared the planning committee. And rather than stand up for themselves, they settled for something they knew they could get; I guess they smelled something. I'm not happy that the hockey program bears the cost of that fear. Congrats to all the other sports programs. I honestly hope the new facilities are wonderful for them but the hockey team got the short stick in the ass on this one. We'll see what happens. Scuttlebutt says that perhaps there is something in the works. I don't subscribe to rumors and I'm not impressed with glad-handing reassurances that all will be well.

It is vital that as the hockey program progresses that a serious effort arise to build a hockey arena on campus. It is really difficult at this point to imagine how that might happen. One version in my mind has the Seawolves making some serious noise nationally (NCAA playoffs) and ultimately getting rewarded for that performance with a new rink. Another wait and see I guess. The team will have 17 upperclassmen in 2009 and if there was ever a time when they had a chance to make that kind of noise it will be then. Patience is of course always a great virtue. I guess it's up to us fans to try our best to be as patient as we can.

See ya in a month or so when I begin the previews. I'll have profiles of each class. I'll give my best shot at predicting how the other teams in the league look also. By my count it's only 70 days until the first exhibition game versus the U-18 team in Wasilla on September 25th.