Friday, October 31, 2008

Every Picture Tells a Story, Don't It?

MTU Huskies - 9 power plays: 3 goals. UAA Seawolves - 5 power plays: 1 goal. While MTU was officially credited with only 2 power play goals we all know what getting a goal seconds after a power play expires means. It's pretty clear that UAA is taking TOO many penalties. While the team's penalty killing looks sharp and has been full of excellent effort, it is just simply on the ice too much.

I watched the game and for most of it I'd say that UAA outplayed the undermanned Huskies. That's no solace when you get no points. But then again, this game is a great example of exactly why the two game series is so nice. As far as I'm concerned, the Seawolves have to make only one major adjustment to have success tomorrow night. Stay out of the box. These days that may be easier said than done, but it's got to change. Only UConn and Northeastern took more penalties in games against UAA; everyone else has taken fewer. With that in mind, I think I have to say the team should feel lucky to have the decent record they have. They won't survive the rigors of the WCHA this way.

The Seawolves had some real nice sections where they dominated play at even strength. I was mostly happy with the way the quality of the penalty killing. I thought UAA's power play was a bit unlucky a couple of times on the power play. Credit that to Rob Nolan and the MTU penalty kill. Being called upon on 5 times helps that effort for MTU.

Tommy Grant's two goals is a nice bright spot. He really has a nice release and both of his goals were well taken. I wonder if Jeremy Smith got a little over-excited for a second when just after his penalty expired he found himself skating in on a clear breakaway. He stumbled a bit a first but recovered nicely. I really didn't see how close his shot was but it was a fun moment for him I'm sure. I hope tomorrow evening that the #1 and #2 UAA lines can establish themselves a bit more in the MTU zone. Keeping the play 5-on-5 should help.

I have a feeling we'll see Curtis Leinweber tomorrow night. I think Shyiak has engaged in some minor sandbagging with regard to injuries (i.e.. Tuton and Moir both came back earlier than we were led to believe). Coach said on his show this week that Curtis wouldn't be making the trip but then he took him with. I'll assume we'll see Bryce Christianson in between the pipes tomorrow as well. Not that there was anything wrong with Jonny O's performance tonight that I saw (the video stream was down for about a whole period).

I'm disappointed they lost but I wouldn't go so far as to call it a frustrating loss. Discuss.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Who Has Video This Weekend?

So it's the first real road series of the year (Fairbanks doesn't count) and any UAA fan who is equally desperate as me wants to know where they can watch UAA pound MTU into submission twice this weekend. I had mentioned that UAA's SplashZone from the GoSeawolves website should be carrying it. Should is the keyword in that sentence. I've spent more than a few minutes on the GoSeawolves site to determine if that "should" is a "can". And I'm just not sure. I can't find a SCHEDULE on the website for the events. They're all about signing up people for monthly and/or yearly subscriptions but a definitive "click here to watch UAA vs. MTU" doesn't exist. If someone out there knows for sure then please comment because the next thing I'm telling Seawolf fans is to go to the MTU website where they have a CLEARLY laid out schedule of events and both this weekends games are available.

I don't work for UAA. I don't have an unofficial or official affiliation with anyone. But I can't imagine that the folks at UAA really want me pointing my readers (i.e.. their potential customers) to the opponents website to see the games. I have no idea how much of the 5 bucks or so that the University actually gets from selling a steaming webcast. But it seems to me that pointing a couple of hundred folks to the opponents website loses a few bucks for UAA. Sorry UAA. Put an upcoming live events schedule up and I won't recommend that to my readers in the future.

Let me be clear. I fully assume and expect that UAA will be offering the streaming video for this weekends games. But I can't confirm it through their website and you know what? I'm not a reporter. I'm not about to pick up the phone and get transferred between two or three people until I find someone at UAA to confirm the game is on. No doubt MTU's stream costs about the same amount as UAA's. I know who's getting my 10 bucks this weekend. Sorry UAA.

Friday Edit: I'm sure it will come as a shock to everyone that I apparently don't know everything.  It is something I've been aware of for the better part of my adult life but of course you'd never know it by the way I come across with what I write here.  I could have sworn I'd watched streaming video of an away game via SplashZone but as was pointed out in by the always valuable jjack in the comments section that service is audio only.  Thanks to Dr. Cobb (who by the way always knows more than I do about virtually anything) for stopping by as well and commenting. I've always been impressed with his accessibility.  The one thing I did seem to get right is that to watch the game you'll have to purchase it from MTU.  So my apologies for my (unrighteous) indignation toward the keepers of the UAA website.  And oh yeah ... it CLEARY says on the SplashZone page that it is an audio service.  Forgive my tizzy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

MTU Huskies Preview

It's that time of the season where nobody really knows the full capabilities of any particular WCHA team. Preseason coaches polls set the initial expectations then a smattering of a couple of non-conference games and a couple of conference games begin to define what each team's potential might be. MTU and UAA find themselves at an early crossroads. Is it the basement again for one? Both? What happens this weekend could help clarify the situation. The Seawolves find themselves sporting some reasonably nice statistics after the first six games. The guys that we hoped would be contributing are doing exactly that. The power play has looked good. The penalty kill (while tested far too often) is doing the job. Goaltending looks solidified. Youngsters are showing promise. Upperclassmen are showing leadership. The potential seems high.

Much of the same can be said about the WCHA's original Huskies. Their team stats don't look as good as UAA's but let's face the truth here. There hasn't been enough games for anyone to lay claim to anything based on the early stats. One good or bad weekend can skew those numbers hugely. I'm pointing this all out because I've looked at MTU's performances so far this season and I don't think their 8% power play is probably indicative of how their power play will look later in the season. They've got an 88% kill rate on penalties. Knowing that Head Coach Jamie Russell favors a defensive style I'd say the 88% number is probably a number that will be challenging to overcome.

This year's Huskies are fairly balanced in terms of class ranking; 9 seniors, 5 juniors, 4 sophomores and 9 freshmen. They aren't a small team (5th in weight, 17th in height versus the Seawolves who are 4th in height and 1st in weight). The surface at the Mac is narrow at only 85ft but has the same length as the Sully (200ft). I haven't found anyone calling the Huskies a fast or excellent skating team but I assume that the Seawolves won't have any huge advantage in that area.

MTU's primary offensive threats look to be from #9 senior Malcolm Gwillam, #22 sophomore Jordan Baker and #14 freshman Alex MacLeod. They are several key injuries at the moment that look to have an impact this weekend. John Schwarz, Ryan Angelow, Bryce Reddick and Justin St. Louis all seem unlikely to play this weekend. As with any team Coach Russell will be looking to other players on the roster to step up and fill in. I expect senior goalie Rob Nolan to play both nights. Nolan is a talented netminder with a career .898 save percentage and a 2.96 goals against average. Pretty good numbers for a 13-32-5 career record.

Expect it to be all about defense this weekend. Jamie Russell has depended on a defensive strategy since taking over the team. No reason to expect anything different this year. Will the Seawolves try to open up the game? Not likely. Virtually every coach in the WCHA takes his team on the road with the idea of playing a tight defensive game. Unless of course you count Bob Motzko when he takes his team from their olympic sized sheet to the smallest rink in the WCHA at Duluth and then tells the media he's going to let his players be creative and try to open it up. I laugh everytime I think about that stupid statement (what? did you think I wasn't going to bust SCSU's chops?) ... brilliant Bob.

I think these games will look much like last weekends games versus Duluth. Lots of blocked shots. Lots of physical play. Good goaltending. So what does all that mean? It means the difference between winning and losing will likely turn out to be ... drum roll please ... special teams. That's right. The same mantra again. We know the refs are going to call the games tightly. The team that stays out of the box is going to have the upperhand. The team that converts on its power play chances while effectively killing their own penalties should come out on top.

Success in the WCHA as overwhelming defined by the league coaches is to win at home and split on the road. UAA got 3 points at home. Come out of Houghton with 2 points and we'll be on track right?

The MTU Huskies are the 3rd Huskies named team that the Seawolves have faced this season. What is with all these teams outside of Alaska naming their sports teams after a breed of dog that became famous for pulling sleds in Alaska? It wouldn't surprise me if they have a mascot named Balto. Dave Shyiak is quite familiar with MTU from his time in Marquette. NMU and MTU have a long time rivalry with each other that is quite similar to the rivalry between UAA and uaF. The fans don't like each other. The student sections from each school have been known to be quite raunchy in their taunting of the other's team. Their favorite taunt when UAA comes to town is the tired old chant ... What's a Seawolf ... clap clap ... clap clap clap. Yes ... rgo ahead and roll your eyes now.

NOTE: These games are not on TV. I assume that "Splash Zone" on will have them available. If not then check the MTU website for their Internet offering.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

We Will Never Forget

Seven-hundred and thirty-two days ago an embarrassment of monumental proportions occurred. It was Friday night October 27th, 2006. The Seawolves traveled to Houghton for their first WCHA series of the season. Sporting a 2-0-2 record (beat Merrimack, beat uaF, tied UNO and uaF) things were looking fairly optimistic. I speculated before the series that a 4-0-2 record would look pretty nice. Then the Seawolves went out and got pounded 9-0. NINE to freaking ZERO! It wasn't some penalty-ridden game (UAA committed 7 penalties). It wasn't a matter of being shorthanded because of injury/illness (UAA dressed 18 + 2 goalies). It was just a classic ass-whooping by a well-prepared and motivated team.

MTU scored at 14:27, 16:12, 16:26 and 19:28 of the 1st period on just 14 shots against Nathan Lawson. Jonny O let 5 pucks past him over the last two periods on 16 shots. On Saturday night, UAA recovered a small bit of pride by losing 5-3 (which included an empty netter).

I visited The Alamo as a youngster while growing up in Texas. Texans are righteously proud of their history. It was a country before it joined the United States. And in the battles that followed their brutal defeat there, Texans did in fact "Remember The Alamo"; the passion imbued by recalling it meant bad news for Mexico. The Seawolves can emulate that spirit this week as they travel to Michigan later this week. Unlike the battle at The Alamo there are multiple survivors from MTU's 2 year old slaughter of our 'Wolves.

There are 9 Seawolves on this seasons team that experienced that event. Kevin Clark, Josh Lunden, Paul Crowder, Trevor Hunt, Nils Backstrom, Shane Lovdahl, Mat Robinson, Jared Tuton and Jon Olthuis. That's 9 guys that better be educating everyone else as to this chapter in Seawolf history. This weekend is the first trip to Houghton since that horrid outing. Such things shouldn't be forgotten. The past exists so that we don't repeat it.

Monday, October 27, 2008

New Recruit: Defenseman Wes McLeod

Chris Heisenberg today listed 18 year-old left handed defenseman Wes McLeod from Prince George in the BCHL as a 2009 commitment.  McLeod is in his second year of Junior A hockey. Last season he had 3g-11a in 58 games.  This season in 16 games he has 1g-10a in 16 games.  McLeod is currently the 2nd leading defenseman on PG's roster behind their 20 year-old leader and captain Davies.  Wes was recently listed on the NHL's Central Scouting Bureau Players to Watch list as a "B" player.  He was one of only three BCHL players on the "B" list.  No BCHLer's were rated "A".

As I look at this it occurs to me that Wes could be either an 09 or 10 recruit since he is in his second year.  He just turned 18 at the end of September.  I'm excited about this pick as it seems to continue a trend of finding guys to play for the Seawolves well before they've used up all their junior eligibility.  If a kid is good at 18 you know he'll be good at 20.  If a kid was only so-so at 18 but dominates as a 20 year-old then questions about how he'll do in D1 are pretty valid.  Finding and getting a kid to commit before his junior eligibility is completed is a positive sign for UAA's recruiting.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Burger Up

I love a good burger. Oh hell, I love a not so good burger. I'm sure much of my delight about burgers has to do with their convenience. I'm definitely part of the instant gratification culture and burgers epitomize that ethos. There isn't much that beats some hot juicy meat embossed with cheese between two pieces of bread. I enjoy a burger nearly everyday. Whether it's one purchased on the run from a fast food joint or one I've prepared at home. As far as fast food joints in Anchorage I'd have to give the nod to Carls Jr. But I don't consume any of the special burgers they always advertise. I go straight for the standard double-cheeseburger. There's not much to pick between the Carls Jr. double and a double whopper from BK. The BK burger has more of a "grill" flavor but otherwise I'd rate them closely. I prefer to make my own at home. I'm not picky about the cooking method. It's cold enough outside now that I'll be sticking to frying until spring. But that's not too big a problem.

Burger eating was a problem for me as a youngster. You see ... I don't eat rabbit food. Lettuce, Tomatoes, Pickles, Onions and whatever other cellulose-filled food that comes from the ground doesn't turn my crank. How did McDonald's decide that Onions, Pickles, Mustard and Ketchup are the preferred ingredients for a burger? As I kid I wanted to go to Burger Chef. They didn't predetermine what went on your burger. There's some great burger stops in Anchorage that I don't visit often enough. The White Spot, WeeBees, Max's Beefy Burgers, Tommy's Burger Shop, Burger Jim's and last but certainly not least Arctic Roadrunner "Your Local Burgerman". Roadrunner is "the shit" locally as far as I'm concerned but I wouldn't turn down a burger from any of the places mentioned. The burgers at the Sully don't make the list by a long shot. But I eat them too.

Yes I know burgers (especially in the amounts I consume them) aren't considered a "healthy" choice. Note here to vegetarians: your gut isn't designed for an all veggie diet. The reason your small intestine is one of the shortest in the mammal kingdom is because it evolved in a meat eating environment. My dietary choices respect those millions of years of evolution, yours don't. Your dietary choices lead to excessive methane produced as a result of your gut breaking down all that vegetable matter. Side-effect? You fart a lot more than I do.

Give some nice juicy burgers to both UAA goalies for their work in net this weekend. Jonny O and Bryce both played very well. I wouldn't imagine we'll see anything other than a rotation for a while. Neither guy has performed exceptionally compared to the other. It's my belief/hope that the situation will make both guys better.

I was glad to see Jeff Carlson get his opportunity to metaphorically take a bite out of a hockey burger. We haven't seen much of Jeff and everything about his history tells me that he has the tools to be a quality D-1 defenseman. There's a lot of competition for playing time. Hopefully, Jeff can keep his head up and work hard until he gets his chance. And when he gets some chances I think he'll show that he belongs. Last night he took a couple of early shifts on defense and I watched everything he did. He did everything right and looked comfortable. Later he played some wing. He didn't look comfortable on the wing. He played because Ken Selby sat. I'm not sure how thrilled I am to see a potentially effective winger sit so a defenseman who hasn't played much can finally get some ice time. Selby is a Lambroghini and the coach needs to find a way to get him into the lineup permanently. Yes, I know there are other guys who've earned their playing time. But you know what? Selby hasn't had a consistent chance to earn his time.

Give Nils Backstrom a triple cheeseburger for his efforts this weekend. He looked energetic and determined. His tough play along the boards was excellent and he found opportunities to push the puck up as well. He did drop a rather loud "f-bomb" after an errant short pass that he blew. I sit in the balcony and heard it pretty clearly. Good on Nils for that (and of course his overall play); it shows he is passionate.

I want to single out Craig Parkinson and Tyler Moir for their defensive efforts this weekend. They both blocked multiple shots, they both scrambled in their own end to challenge for pucks and they were both effective. In Tyler's case, to be so responsible defensively in this league as a freshman is a rare thing. Two Chili-Cheeseburgers for these guys eh? Nick Haddad and Sean Wiles continued their effective play in the opponents end this weekend. Send em both to Arctic Roadrunner for a Denali burger each!

The guys who are "supposed" to be getting it done are getting it done as far as I'm concerned. Lunden, Clark and Crowder were expected to be our "go to guys" and that is exactly what they are doing. They are all logging tons of minutes on the PP and PK so their teammates will need to support them by committing fewer infractions.

Before the season I'd hoped Brian Bales would turn into a contributor. He is. Doyle Woody did a nice profile of Brian on Thursday in the ADN. I'm thrilled that Brian came home and enrolled in school then talked to Shyiak about playing. I'm happy he didn't let eligibility issues get him down last year. Throw some nicely sizzled bacon and cheddar onto a burger for Brian.

Shane Lovdahl earned a big juicy mushroom and swiss burger for his efforts this weekend. He contributed on both ends and showed a deft touch here and there with some sweet passes and his always good stickhandling. I say mushroom burger for Shane because a couple of his hits just about put the lights out on a couple of Bulldog players.

There are two players who I think rate only in the Mickey D's double cheeseburger range. Both Tommy Grant and Luka Vidmar are contributing positives on the ice. But, they have taken 14 penalties between them (8 for Grant and 6 for Vidmar). I'm not quite ready to put Jared Tuton into that category but 3 penalties in 2 games doesn't get you a Wendy's Baconator.

Mat Robinson and Kane Lafranchise get their choice of burger. There's a joint in NYC that sells a Kobe beef burger for 41 bucks. They've both earned one of those. Jeremy Smith gets whatever kind of burger at whatever price it takes to satisfy him. I ain't gonna tell him he can't have one; would you?

I'm all about giving the coaching staff their burger due as well. Just a couple miles from the UAA campus is Max's Beefy Burgers near the corner of N.Lites and Boniface. Double Cheeseburgers from there for Shyiak and Blair. Regg Simon gets his burgers (if any) after the fall signing period.

I took a fair number of pictures this weekend. But I judged only 8 of them worthy of posting. I've put them in the "recent slideshow". I promise more and better pictures when the team returns home to face Mankato in two weeks. Lets hope there is a decent burger joint in Houghton for our guys to get sustenance on their longest roadtrip of the year this week.

I've found the best stats page and changed my link to reflect it. The WCHA has finally stepped up to take responsibility for stats and the page they've come up with is excellent. Visit it by clicking here.

Now lets talk about something that is likely to happen tomorrow. Polls don't matter. If UAA shows up in a poll or ranking tomorrow don't get all excited. Yes, it is some recognition that the team is doing well. But we already know that. I'm not about to pump the teams tires with polls and rankings when teams disappear from them every week. Talk to me about rankings in April.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Sister Kissing At It's Finest: UAA 1 - UMD 1

I can only imagine that both coaches feel like their team could have won Saturday night's game between UMD and UAA. Because either team could have won. Both Christianson and Stalock were rock solid. Both teams had multiple good scoring chances. The Bulldogs cleared their zone better tonight I thought. Seawolf forwards had a harder time establishing themselves deep because UMD was moving the puck forward more consistently. It was a close checking hockey game but didn't seem overly physical. Better Bulldog forechecking also helped make tonight's game much closer. They deserve credit for more energetic play overall. That was probably the difference tonight. Not a lot of recapping needed I think ...

I was pleased to see UAA outchance them in the OT. I think credit on the UAA side starts from the pipes out. Bryce was appropriately announced the #1 star. The #2 star for UAA in my mind was the backchecking UAA forwards. There are enough missed scoring chances to go around so I won't bother lamenting any of them ... ok I'll mention the one in OT. We had the perfect angle from our seats and I had an eyeball full of open net with a puck floating in front as Josh Lunden's stick headed to meet it. Then alas .... nooooooooooooooo omg noooo oh crap. No blame on Josh for not connecting. That was a helluva tough chance ... but finishing a chance like that in OT for a win would have been ultrasweet. He'll get the next one.

Summary: It was an evenly played game which was mostly up and down, highlighted with good defensive plays which countered good offensive efforts and included excellent goaltending. In other words, the sort of regular season hockey game you usually get in WCHA where it's playoff hockey every night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday Night: Seawolves 4 - Bulldogs 3

I don't want to overstate the impact of special teams play in light of the new enforcement. But again, it was special teams effectiveness that played the biggest role in tonight's game at the Sully. It was a real quality hockey game I thought. The Bulldogs came to play. They never lagged and for much of the night they managed to give as good as they got. I would credit UAA with a more effective physical effort by a good margin ... as it should be.

I know somewhere last week I said that the Seawolves would need to committ less penalties. 9 isn't less; so I'm a bit concerned. Duluth's 2 power play goals (granted ... the Seawolves killed off 7 of 9 power plays) is what kept them in the game. Let's not forget it was 4-1 in UAA's favor up until 17:23 of the 2nd period. After the 4th UAA goal at 12:04 of 2nd no UMD player took a penalty for the rest of the game. Six Seawolves did. Nevertheless, it is a positive sign to hold onto and win a game like that. A 3rd Duluth power play goal (to potentially make it 4-4) was disallowed after a fairly extensive video replay around the 10 minute mark of the 3rd. Jonny O was uncharacteristically perturbed after the initial call. Mat Robinson and Josh Lunden immediately got the ear of an official and they decided to review it. I believe they ruled it goaltender interference. Phew. The game really didn't have to be that close.

I couldn't name a Seawolf player that didn't contribute something positive. Sean Wiles is making a believer out of me. He musta let a stud get into his jersey tonight. I counted four times where he stripped the puck from a Bulldog player in their zone ... twice behind the goal line. He contributed to scoring chances and was strong on the PK. He went down and blocked the last shot of the game with .01 seconds on the clock. He left it all out on the ice ... body and soul.

Kevin Clark looked like a scoring machine. I honestly have to say that he ONLY got two goals. He easily could have had more. The post he hit will show up in some bad dream one night. ARGH! Pick a name at random on the roster and you'll find a Seawolf that did their job. Nils Backstrom had a very noticable presence all night. He delivered some strong hits and combined that with great play along the boards. Definitely his most postive game of the season so far. With the plethora of good puck handling defenseman that this team has it's perhaps unfortunate that a guy like Nils has to take a more stay-at-home role this season. He logged his share of PK time tonight and I'd say he was more "in charge" of his own end than he'd looked earlier in the season.

Of course, Mat Robinson was the best hockey player on the ice. I start feeling a bit self-conscious pumping Robbie's tires so often here but there just isn't anything he can't do. And tonight, he did more than a little bit of everything. Paul Crowder's strongest play of the game wasn't the pretty power play goal that he buried from a smart Brian Bales feed. I said Brian was cerebral last week and now I think his nickname should be "Brain" Bales. But back to Crowder here ... late in the game he picked up a puck at the blueline wide on his backhand. He established himself by putting a defenseman on his back until he could step inside of him while cutting across the goal for a scoring chance. The play resulted in a face off in the Duluth zone which allowed UAA preparation to kill off the remaining time. It was a key effort at an important time. It sorta came out of nowhere.

Now back to Bales ... Clark, Bales and Lunden is turning out to be a "sick" line. If Josh Lunden has the sort of year that I think he's capable of having then I'm not sure UAA will be able to hold onto him for his senior year. Undrafted WCHA players who score 20 are delectable tidbits for NHL teams looking for unoticed gems. I hope he puts himself into position to face exactly that dilemma eh? And then let's hope that he wants to finish his college career first.

Jared Tuton surprised everyone and made his first start of the season. I think it took him a little while to find his feet and after the first big hit that he delivered (I counted 4 high quality hits) he looked a bit stung going back to the bench. But he showed good confidence and by the end of the game looked strong. He really rocked a couple of guys. Good to see him all patched up. Ken Selby had a couple of good rushes showcasing his speed. Backstrom made a beautiful pass to Ken late in the 2nd period which I am still bummed didn't click because he would have been in clear. Trevor Hunt played probably his best defensive game of the season tonight and had at least one good offensive chance in the 3rd that just didn't quite click. He'll get other chances and he had a rare penalty free outing ... good on ya Trev.

Whenever Kane Lafranchise is on the ice I feel confident. He has all the tools. His pairing with Mat Robinson is as strong a pairing as exists in the league. They are both very responsible, very skilled going backwards and they are both dangerous going forward with the puck. Kane was responsible for the defensive play of the night when reached around a Bulldog forward (who was in a position to break clean into the zone) and stripped the puck away. Shane Lovdahl made a great defensive play in the 1st period sliding across smartly and blocking a pass which likely would have resulted in a goal. There were many other good defensive efforts as well.

Every Seawolf player was committed in their own zone tonight going down and blocking many many shots. I think Craig Parkinson left it all out on the ice. I especially noticed him in the defensive end where he was very effective. Tyler Moir's positives tonight were at both ends of the ice but I definitely noticed his backchecking efforts. That sort of effort from a freshman is always a good sign. Tommy Grant understands it all now I think. Perhaps here and there as a freshman he was half-a-bubble off level. Not now. He showed perfect anticipation on his 3 goal of the year when he positioned himself to trail the play as a 2nd wave and that tactic paid off. Tommy has been showing (and continued tonight) the ability to get around an opposition defenseman on the outside. Keep that up Tommy.

That's all I've got in me. I'm sure I missed commenting on how important this or that play was; hopefully a commenter or two will fill in any blanks.

Edit: Jonny O had a strong game. His best of the season as well. He came up with a sharp save on the very first Bulldog chance and was good the rest of the way with none of the Bulldog tallies being his fault.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

They Can't All Be Corkers

My primary Thursday offering this week is some sort of "interview" that I semi-conducted with Runninwiththedogs Blog author Donna. Besides having the most awesome three letter start to her name, Donna is funny, quirky and a die-hard Bulldog fan. When RWD does this thing on her blog she calls it "The Gauntlet". Using that moniker for this convo isn't appropriate. For ease of reading I've colored the questions and responses. Black text is from me. Red text is her answers.

Why do you hate Mike Connolly?
Aww, I don't hate Fuzzy. I'm pro Fuzzy. Some big bad Bronco player threw him into the boards last weekend and I about cut someone, but the REF called a PENALTY and I almost died.
Mike senses your overwhelming love for Jack and he isn't amused.
Oh really? Did your spidey sense tell you that?
I'm uncharacteristically intuitive about such things
I think he's probably happy I'm not a freak over him. He sleeps better at night I'm sure.
Do you agree with Hannes Alfven that in a Universe filled with Plasma that electric currents are pervasive?
I failed my plasma engineering course. The professor was a jackass though.
Will Sandy give Kenny Reiter a start this weekend?
I don't know. I don't even know if Kenny is there. I am attempting to find out. Bruce is being reticent. He threatened my life.
I'll handle Bruce this weekend. Was he pouty cos I didn't show up and say hi last year?
Bruce is pouty because I send him barrages of text messages about stupid stuff. While I am driving.
Did it snow there yet?
No. But every customer that I talk to that finds out I am in Minnesota asks me that. Or about the Mall of America.
Be happy that they know Minnesota is a state
It is THE state of hockey.
Is Sandelin's job on the line this year?
Yes. There is major talent on this team and if we don't finish better then there's no way I can defend him anymore. I will most likely usurp him.
What will tUMD fans consider "better"?
Home ice for the playoffs.
Coke or Pepsi?
Coke, definitely coke. And also Coca-Cola.
Rant on to your own satisfaction about USCHO ...
I don't really mention "that site" on my blog as I don't want to give them any undue publicity. It does give me a nice ego boost; it reminds me of how intelligent I am. It is a fruit roll-up of vulgarity, depravity, and the worst elements of the human psyche. It's like shower shoes covered in mold. I generally go on there only to offend.
As did I once upon a time
I can't say I ever read one of your posts but I know I'm much more reserved than you are. I usually forget what posts I've started things in.
Will the LHC create a black hole?
St. Cloud State will with all the negative pressure (vacuums don't suck, people!) coming out of there.
Compare the Bulldogs defense this year to last years blueliners
They are... um... Kind of the same? Palm is still Palm. Cascalenda is still Cascalenda.
Garrison is gonzo
Oberg is back and scoring us goals. Mike Montgomery has joined the blueline and is a big kid who knows how to play the offensive side of the game as well. Our penalty kill is not as strong.
What about Josh Meyers?
Josh is Josh. He is supposed to be another offensive defenceman but I just can't figure him out. He does score points. I don't know how I feel about him on the PP. I know that Scotty Kishel is going to be a great PP guy in the coming years. He is kind of in and out of the lineup.
Did you guys get whistled for boatloads of penalties so far?
Yes. But we always do. I think that we were spoiled last year with an outstanding PK.
Special Teams looks to be THE "theme" this year
I think coaches say that every year. They are always a key element of the game and no team is very successful without good special teams. I think the big problem is if there are more penalties on both sides that more guys need to be ready to fill those roles. Many guys play on both the PP and the PK and we really don't want to kill them.
The extra-emphasis this year on stick-related offenses is an adjustment all the players will have to make.
Those Canadians sure were confused during the exhibition games. "Thaaaat's a penalty, eh?"
What would be more fun --- me coming to Final Five ... or you coming to Anchorage for a series?
You coming to the Final Five. The Final Five is Holy Week, Donald. I will at some point come to Anchorage I am sure, but the Final Five is so awesome.
I have no doubt I'd have more fun at the Final Five than I would chauffeuring you around Anchorage
On your moose. Or your... what did you call it... snow "machine?"
What are the final scores this weekend?
You're done already? That's IT?
what? cos i asked the final scores? dont assume
Okay, then. I was concerned. 4-3 tUMD 4-0 tUMD Jacky with a goal. Fuzzy with 2.
I went above and beyond there.
Will you be watching on the web?
Probably. Is that naughty Santa going to be on?
I don't know who is advertising this year. I don't watch it much ya know. How is UAA's stream compared to others?
It is great compared to any of the crap I see on B2. Like CC's floating tiger head, for example.
That thing is psychologically damaging I fear When was the last time you and Bethlyn were stumble down drunk together?
We never have been. I don't think I've ever been drunk in her presence.
Sigh ... boring
I know. When I visited her I came down with bronchitis almost immediately upon arrival. So I didn't drink very much. I had like 1 sip of something. I do not need to drink to have a good time.
But you're more fun when you do.
Eh. Possibly. I'm a really mean drunk.
Shouldn't you really just turn into a Gopher fan? I mean ... isn't that how it works down there?
I don't see the point. I can not WAIT to see tDogs win their first NC. No Gopher fan can say that. They are not the Borg. Resistance is not futile. Not as many people in Minneapolis are Gopher hockey fans as you might think. I mean, Donald, if I was going to be a Gopher fan, I would be. I was born (technically) on campus at the UMTC medical center. I mean, you can't get any more into the heart of Gopher country than that.
Hence my question
But I grew up a Dogs fan. It's hereditary. I'd be disowned. Also I went to another big 10 school.
What team do you dislike (hate) most?
St. Cloud.
Are you as apathetic as me about Mankato?
No. I'm semi-pro Mankato. I have a lot of family there. But I can see how someone might be that way.
I'm trying to work up more hatred for them but I find them boring.
Juttz sucks. His wife is my idol though.
What about UND? Where are they on your list?
I could not possibly care less about UND. They bore me.
Denver is a force to be reckoned with this year.
Colorado College?
CC had better get on their horse and figure out if they're going to be a good team; er, a great team, because, um, 1-0 against UAH?
UAH's goalie stood on his head
They will be on the top 3 in the league but they need to transcend to the macrocosm if they're going to go anywhere. Great teams win those games. By lots of goals. I am overly critical, but whatever.
Are you happy to get a new rink before UAA?
I am happy to get a new rink sooner rather than later. It would be nice if UAA got one, too, but I didn't feel any competitive vibes. I'm listening to a song called "Anchorage" right now!
I recall you expressing suicide as an alternative if UAA were to get a rink before you guys
I am prone to hyperbole. And poor memory.
Ever had chicken-pox?
Yes, on Christmas. I gave it to my mom, too.
Ouch ... you bitch. Compare this years Bulldog offense to last years
This year >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> last year. What else can I say? I mean... last year was just sort of a mess.
Are the t'dogs a 2 line or 3 line team?
Right now they are a 2 line team but they will probably become a 3 line team.
How many games do you think Stalock will play this year?
Almost all of them. I'm thinking like 40
Do you think that will leave the team in a bit of a spot next year if Stalock doesn't return?
No I think Brady is going to be a great goalie for us.
But Sandy won't play him much this year? Wouldn't it be a good idea to play the backup versus UAA this weekend?
I think Stalock is the horse that Sandy is going to ride. I would have thought we would see Brady last weekend. I wonder what would have happened if we had...
UAA goes to UMD to play on the last WCHA weekend this season. Will you be at those games?
I might. If I have school I won't.
What is your earliest memory of a Seawolf?
It's fairly vague. When I was young we would sometimes go up to my grandparents's cabin on weekends in the winter and we would watch tUMD games on a super old tv. And sometimes those games would involve UAA. Now a whole generation of children will be deprived of that because tUMD is no longer on TV.
Do you miss Sertie?
I don't, I think it's great for him to enjoy retirement.
Does Sertie attend games at the DECC?
I don't know. Maybe? We're not BFFs.
I'm all out of prewritten questions
Those were prepared in advance??? Not as easy as it looks, is it? Bow to the master.
Let me find a mirror. What's gas going for down there?
$2.xx I rarely buy gas. I don't drive a damn tank.
I gots to run to pick up dinner
Oh, did someone drive by your house and hit a rodent?

Ok so that's it. Well not really. There's is a fair amount of leftover junk on the editing floor.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

How to Beat A Bulldog

You don't have to beat them. Just let them beat themselves to death flapping those saliva filled jowls. Tootoo is optional. Seriously, not a choice for a pet that I could ever find myself making. I had a boxer for a couple of years and that was bad enough. Bulldog jowls put Boxer jowls to shame in terms of potential for mucosal ejecta. The Bulldog jowl has the added benefit of hidden pockets where the special saliva/snot concoctions stew and ferment until they are released on the innocent. Seriously, look at the picture ... there's more than one end-over-end flying mass of mucosa about to nail some poor unsuspecting onlooker. Lets put some shorts on and hang around a snot throwing beast, whose head doesn't reach above our knees. I think it's clear that the inventor of tube socks was familiar with this breed of dog. Being a self-appointed contender for the little-known but highly-coveted "Adjective King" crown, I'm disappointed that a word other than disgusting doesn't come to mind. It is an inadequate single descriptor. Promise me that you'll never have a Bulldog for a pet.

My first question yesterday was whether or not the Seawolves could match whatever tempo that UMD wants to play at this weekend. I say there aren't many teams whom the Seawolves wouldn't match up well in terms of team speed. That's a bit surprising perhaps considering the Seawolves are in the top five in both height and weight. But Shyiak and company have been purposeful in their selections of players, only recruiting big guys that have good wheels. I've seen lots of decent Seawolves teams that still had 2 or 3 or 4 weak skaters. This years edition has no weak skaters in my judgement. There is speed and quickness throughout the lineup. With at least 4 players (Selby, Clark, Robinson, Leinweber) which I'd classify AFAAOYT (fast as anyone on your team). Then there is the nine players (Crowder, Grant, Haddad, Lafranchise, Lunden, Portwood, Selby, Tuton, Vidmar) I'd classify as FTYSPF (faster than your six-plus footers). So yeah ... the Seawolves won't have a problem with any speed issue that UMD might present.

I don't have the simple answer for Stalock i.e... he's got a soft five hole or high on his blocker side is his weak spot. I'm sure though there is some sort of player wisdom that makes its way around the league. Let's hope our players have a sense of whatever that weak spot is at least alleged to be. When you go up against a good goaltender you have to be thinking about getting in front of him. Well then Hallelujah! The power play is a perfect time to screen a goaltender. And there's been lots of power plays right? Ba Da Bing.

Can the Bulldogs deal with the Seawolves size advantage? I don't know the answer to that question either. I know that a well-executed game plan of dictating a physical game (i.e ... "Seawolf Hockey") should have a tendency to wear down an opponent. How well the Bulldogs deal with that is up to them. The Seawolves make that size advantage most evident with their cycling-possession game. The forwards are all strong on the puck along the boards. If they apply the amount of physical pressure that I know they're capable of delivering then at some point the Bulldogs could simply succumb.

One potential good in game tactic is to make UMD take penalties. To do so every Seawolf puck carrier needs to take advantage of EVERY opportunity to carry the puck in the Bulldogs half of the ice. If a puck carrier has the puck on his stick and is impeded then a penalty call is likely to follow. So whether it is coming off the boards during a cycle or in transition or when controlling on the perimeter. ... get the puck on your stick and as they say in "soccer" ... go at them. A puck carrier with even a slight momentum advantage isn't an easy thing to deal with given the rules change. Only the most athletic players are going to be successful in such a position without comitting a penalty. Seawolf players who "go at them" this weekend will be rewarded with either a scoring chance or a penalty against the other team.

The Bulldogs are going to get their chances. Defensively, the Seawolves will have to be focused, aware and sharp. There have been too many mistakes made with the puck in UAA's zone these first 6 games. Cool heads need to prevail and experience needs to dominate when it comes to taking control of the puck. No risky plays will be welcome. Goaltending is obviously a big part of the defensive effort. I expect Jonny O and Bryce to rotate again. This TEAM has shown an early season trend of giving up soft early goals. This TEAM needs to make sure they aren't working from a deficit. No hockey team could make a living in the WCHA coming from behind 75% of the time. It happened often enough last year to rate a special effort this season. No more early goals ok?

Last weekend Tyler Moir took an as yet officially explained injury (possible groin), Jade Portwood had his knee unceremoniously taken out by Mercyhurst's captain with less than 4 minutes to go on Saturday night and there is no word as to the extent of his injury. I won't guess about Jared Tuton's status. Curtis Leinweber strained his groin two weeks ago.

Kevin Clark: WCHA Offensive Player of the Week

The WCHA cited Kevin's award as MVP of the Fairbanks tournament along with his 2 goals and 2 assists in naming him their Offensive Player of the Week. It is Clark's first such award. Congratulations to Kevin. Here is the text from the WCHA announcement:
University of Alaska Anchorage forward Kevin Clark, who was named Most Valuable Player of the Alaska Goal Rush Tournament in Fairbanks while leading his Seawolves to a pair of victories over Maine and Mercyhurst last weekend, is the Red Baron® WCHA Offensive Player of the Week for Oct. 21-Oct. 27.

A 5-9, 167-pound junior from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Clark produced four scoring points in the two wins, on two goals and two assists. In Alaska Anchorage's 3-1 victory over Maine last Friday (Oct. 17), Clark scored a game-tying goal and also drew an assist on teammate Craig Parkinson's game-winner.

Then on Saturday (Oct. 18), Clark came back to score another goal and add another assist as the Seawolves overcame a 3-0 deficit to defeat Mercyhust, 6-4, and capture the first Alaska Goal Rush Tournament championship. In addition to his four points, Clark also fired six shots on goal in the two wins.

On the 2008-09 season, Clark ranks second in scoring among his UAA teammates with two goals, four assists and six points in four games. Alaska Anchorage, at 3-1-0, is off to one of it's best starts in years.

Also nominated were: Chad Rau, F, CC; Tyler Bozak, F, DU; Mike Carman, F, UM; Justin Fontaine, F, UMD; Trevor Bruess, F, MSU; and Chris VandeVelde, F, UND.
I think it's funny that the WCHA thought it good to add that UAA "is off to one of it's best starts in years" when they were 3-0-2 through 5 games last year. Even when "being nice" to UAA the folks outside can't quite get it right.

Monday, October 20, 2008

What the Bulldogs Bring

I miss Mike Sertich. Long before UAA joined the WCHA "Sertie" was one of only a few coaches of quality teams that would visit Anchorage for a series. He was the kind of guy that always had something interesting to say. He put together some hellaciously nice seasons in his first years at Duluth and then the Bulldogs spent the next 13 out of 14 years struggling to repeat that early-80s success. Scott Sandelin matched that success for the Bulldogs in his 4th year (03-04) when the Bulldogs went 28-13-4 and made a run to the final four. Coincidentally, it was UMD that ended UAA's mini-run in the WCHA Final Five that year. Since that time Sandelin has lead the Bulldogs to an overall record of 52-80-21.

Every Duluth fan worth his/her salt distinctly remembers the next year clearly. They were bringing back tons of guys who'd now been to the Frozen Four and everyone believed they'd contend. They finished 15-17-6. After a debacle with USA Hockey and word out that he'd mismanaged the Junior team talent he was duly labeled as a coach who couldn't manage talented players. In that sense, this will be a very illuminating year for Scott Sandelin; because he now has the most talented Bulldog roster in place since 04-05.

The Bulldogs two main strengths are up front and between the pipes. Proven goal scorer MacGregor Sharp returns and has 4g-3a in UMD's 4 games. 5 guys have 2 goals each and 4 other players have nabbed one each. Amongst those are two rookies called Connolly; Mike and Jack. They aren't brothers but they are both talented hockey players. They are both 5'8" tall. They both "tore it up" in juniors. Regular readers will recognize that I tend to stay away from "touting" freshman as a practice. My mention of them here is significant then eh? 6 of the players that have 1 or 2 goals so far this season are among the 11 upperclassmen on the roster. Michael Gergen is always a threat.

Alex Stalock is one of the most athletic goalies in college hockey. He gets up and down as quickly as anyone. He's got a great glove hand and quick feet. He handles and distributes the puck like an extra defenseman. So far this season he's given up 9 goals on 99 shots. Former UAA goalie Kevin Reiter's little brother is the back-up to Stalock and I'm hopeful out of respect for that association that Kenny gets a start this weekend. One less night of Stalock can't be a bad thing for the Seawolves.

The Bulldogs return a mostly experienced set of blueliners with 2 seniors, 1 junior, 2 sophomores and 2 freshman. Josh Meyers is overrated based on what I've seen of his play over the last three years. He's a 7th round pick of the LA Kings but he's not particular swift on his skates and has been prone to errors in his own zone. Trent Palm and Jay Cascalenda are probably the more dependable defensive defensemen. Meyers is going to get some points because he has learned how to sit on the blueline and crank off a decent shot on the power play. Don't expect to see him in the NHL without a lot of work in the AHL first. Evan Oberg and Chad Huttel are the puck moving defensemen for the Bulldogs. Outside of those mentions I think it's a fairly mundane group.

Coming from the little rink to the big rink Coach Sandelin could have little choice but to give his forwards the green light to try everything they can to get the best use out of the extra space. The addition of Connollys dictates it. So I think UMD will be looking for some pond hockey this weekend. They'll want to dictate the tempo when they can. They know they've got a goaltender that is way above average when it comes to performing one-on-one so they're a team that can feel comfortable about taking a risk or two offensively.

Put it all together and it is a team that is going to provide a difficult test for the Seawolves. The biggest questions in my mind are:
Can the Seawolves match the tempo?
How do the Seawolves get the puck past Stalock?
Can the Bulldogs deal with the Seawolves size?
I'll answer those questions (and maybe pose some others) in my next post.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: No Alternate Title

Let's hear it for the 4th line eh? Ken Selby, Nick Haddad and Jeremy Smith deserve the bulk of the early season accolades for their on-ice efforts so far. With a broader bench to consider during preseason I'm quite sure Coach Shyiak didn't have these three plugged into this combination. But when Jared Tuton breaks a leg and two other guys go bye bye an opportunity arose. All three of these guys seemed to have embraced that opportunity.

For whatever reason Ken Selby has never found a regular role in Coach Shyiak's lineup during his first two seasons. Whenever he did play it quite frankly made me want to see more of him. Ken was one of the fastest skaters in Canada for his age group. I've always thought he could stickhandle well and figured he had more shot than setup in him. Near the end of last season Ken scored the GWG against the Minnesota Gophers with a ripper of a wrist shot. On Saturday night he revisited that moment with anothe GWG against Mercyhurst. Both plays saw him carry the puck into the zone and fire that shot from the high slot. They wouldn't be perfect matches per se ... but similar enough to say, "Hey Ken, carry the puck to the high slot and shoot!". Sure, it's an oversimplification but you all know what I'm getting at.

Nick Haddad my be blossoming into a punishing center. This is Nick's first time playing the position. He's growing into the role and opponents are paying the physical price. The biggest story on the team right now has got to be the play of Jeremy Smith. Jeremy's 4 year junior career ended with the 04-05 season as a 21 year old with zero collegiate scholarship offers. He returned home and started going to school at UAA. Two years later he finds himself trying out for a spot on last years team and viola. He makes the team. He saw action in 1 game in the 07-08 season. Jeremy Smith was a defenseman; he looked OK in that outing. And this year it seems that Jeremy has found an opportunity and he is making the absolute best of the chance. Seriously, what I said last week ... um ...
... berserking frenzied binge of destruction ...
Jeremy creates the sort of havoc that would make Kenny Linseman proud. He is the kind of 24 year old player that ought to strike fear into the hearts of every opponent. He is going to hit everyone of them he possibly can and inflict as much hurting as possible in doing so. He's got good quickness around the net and shows good agility in tight spaces. He's got the tenacity to campout in front of the net while Ken and Nick work it along the boards. His time for a goal will come. I hope it's in the Sully.

The rest of the team are doing good things as well. Kevin Clark, Josh Lunden, Paul Crowder and Craig Parkinson were tabbed to be the leading scorers this season and that's exactly what they are doing. They've all come up with key goals and/or assists. They're showing maturity, leadership and heart. A commenter reports that Tyler Moir has a groin strain so that explains his absence for most of Saturday night. Not coming back too soon is the most important thing about groin pulls/strains. Tyler had been showing signs of growth already so we'll have to be patient for now and see what he can bring to the lineup when he's healthy again. "Wings" Portwood is Suze's favorite new player. She was all about him at the USNDT preseason game. She was dead on right. "Wings" looks to be a contributor this season.

Tommy Grant and Sean Wiles are both showing me something that either wasn't there last year or I missed. I liked what I saw from Sean in terms of patience with the puck. He showed a strength "on the puck" that I didn't know he had. And Tommy is showing me more speed than I gave him credit for. Tommy will get a breakaway or two in a lot of games this year. Lastly, I want to give credit to Brian Bales for playing what seems to me to be a cerebral style. Brian has good anticipation and reads the play very well. It enables him to be in spots before the puck gets there. Let's hope the injured guys all have solid speedy recoverys. UMD will be the toughest opponent we've seen this year.

Hating on FBX:
You had to know I was going to talk about the TV broadcast didn't ya? There is this postion in the sports TV broadcast industry called "Director". He is the guy responsible for everything. Apparently, with the understanably limited number of cameras this shouldn't be that tough a job. Camera 1 was dedicated to wide shots and camera 2 designated to follow the play and #3 was the handheld rover. If we'd seen nothing but 2 for the entire game then I would have rated it a decent broadcast. Every shot from Camera 1 was entirely useless. Maybe it's an old crappy camera. Who knows? I know the whitebalance was horribly misbalanced causing everything to be washed out. You couldn't see the puck and NEVER saw any action in the corners or along the near side boards. Let's get it together by next February eh Mr. Fairbanks TV Director?

Bruce Cech isn't a guy beloved by Anchorage listeners. We all love Kurt Haider and so even if Bruce were great we wouldn't acknowledge it. Bruce was fine this weekend in my view. I've seen enough homer broadcasts (the local boobs they used in St. Cloud are the worst) to give Bruce a break for his few small homeristic forays. But of course, I've still got advice to offer. Dump Scott Roselius. Get ahold of Eric Carlson and invite him to do color commentary. There isn't anyone in Fairbanks that knows the game better and can communicate it. Roselius's continuous fumbling and grasping for words ain't doing it Bruce.

An apology is in order for the fine folks of NW Pennsylvania on the edge of Lake Erie. The screengrab on the left is the graphic used by KTUU Channel 2 during their late sports show with Charlie Sokaitis. M E R C E Y H E R S T ?? R E A L L Y? Really? If you want to watch the video you can do so here on their website ... scroll forward to 4:22 to avoid all the other junk. Let's just make something clear ok? Charlie Sokaitis comes from Fairbanks. His pops is a long time well respected and successful basketball coach at various levels including the collegiate level at ... guess where ... UAF. Charlie went to the same broadcasting school that Billy Mays attended. Apparently the number one attended class there is ... "if you yell they can't help but hear you". He begins this short segment by misnaming UAA's opponent ... he says "UAA versus Maine" and ends it with a grotesque misspelling of the opponents actual name? Charlie is just flat out irritating. Channel 2 considers themselves (and they spend the money that puts them) at a higher level of local media as compared to their competitors. Yet they allow this bumpkin from Fairbanks to trounce on professionalism with his continuous romp of ignorance and obvious disdain for all things UAA?

Hating on the WCHA:
Mankato blew the chance that every other team in the WCHA would have cherished and completed successfully. They could have swept the Sioux but instead they folded in the last 5 minutes of the game. That was real "Mavericky" of 'em. The Gophers swept the Bluffskies destroying St. Cloud's hopes of a national championship. From the parts of the games that I saw neither team looked particularly impressive. Denver owned Wisconsin entirely. There isn't a measurement that I could invent which would put Wisconsin on the positive side of this weekends games. They got served. Sucks to be "teh Badgers". CC did what it's supposed to do (win) and MTU did what they are destined to do (lose). There were craploads of penalties all around.

I'll have a robust preview of UMD early this week.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Seawolves 6 - Lakers 4

I suppose it is obvious that a bad win is better than a good loss. I am nothing but relieved. The Seawolves dug a stupidly deep hole going down 3-0 at one point in the 1st period (it was almost a nightmare). If Mercyhurst had scored on it's only 4 real chances then I'd be a little less concerned. But they didn't. They scored on 4 of their WAY TOO MANY CHANCES. The Seawolves looked flat in a lot of spots. Not to say they didn't look inspired and/or determined at other times. In any case, it was far from 60 minutes of 100% effort. The number of defensive errors was as high as any game I've witnessed over the past couple of years. Bryce Christianson was hung out to dry at times and it cost the team. I'm sure the guys are probably proud that they managed to come back and win a game that they almost gave away in the first period. Good on ya fellas. You perservered and got the job done. It's just that you did so in such an ugly way that bothers this fan.

There were many sections of the game where the Seawolves absolutely dominated and the ice was tilted hugely in their favor. The good cycling game down low led to serious puck possession time in the Mercyhurst zone. It didn't look like a close game. But honestly, the outcome was still in question until Brian Bales knocked home #6 on the power play with under a minute left in the game.

I guess there are lessons to be learned in such a game. The coaching staff is sure to be busy reviewing the game tape and finding the errors. There are defintely a number of things to work on. There was some lackadaisical puck clearing. And perhaps some over-confidence with the puck at times. I was surprised by how much line shuffling there was. Only the Selby, Haddad, Smith line seemed to be intact for the duration of the game. Did Tyler Moir take a hidden ding that I missed? I don't recall seeing him much in the 2nd or 3rd period (if at all). Jade Portwood caught a knee on what hopefully was his thigh with 4 minutes left in the game. It resulted in the 5 minute major power play where Bales tallied. With luck it's just a bruise. "Wings" had a strong game and works the Seawolf game plan down low like he's been doing so his whole life.

It's a good job that scores don't go in the Win/Loss column. Only the W matters eh? Sorta. I guarantee if the team plays tonight's game next weekend versus UMD that they won't come out with that W.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Seawolves 3 - Black Bears 1

The Seawolves won both ends of the special teams game with a perfect penalty kill performance (0-8 including about 1:30 of 5x3 time) and a 40% conversion rate on their power play chances (2 for 5). The Seawolves gave up what has become the oft gifted 1st goal to opponent even-strength at 3:35 on a somewhat fluky bounce that found it's way through/around Jonny O's pads. But on their 1st power play chance UAA's Kevin Clark stayed with the puck in tight and slipped it past Black Bear netminder Dave Wilson.

Much of the 1st period was dominated by two teams who seemed a bit tight or perhaps unwilling to risk opening the game up. Granted UAA killed 4 Maine power plays during the period. The PK was tight and gave up little in terms of chances for the Black Bears. During the period break Coach Shyiak changed to a more aggressive penalty killing style and during the 3 power plays in the 2nd period they managed to create several good shorthanded chances. When both teams were 5-on-5 UAA also saw time of possession in their favor though Maine was able to counter and set up in UAA's zone for some short efforts. The Seawolves converted on the prettiest play of the night when Paul Crowder dropped deep near the crease and shoveled a backhand pass to Kevin Clark in the slot, Clark slid it sweetly over to a wide open Craig Parkinson who buried it into the open side. From that point on the Seawolves looked confident and in control of everything they did with a brief exception.

With well under 10 minutes left to play Maine's 1st goalscorer Gustav Nyquist flipped a puck past Jonny O which found the sport where crossbar and post connect. Jonny's (and UAA's) best friend on the night. UAA picked up their 3rd goal after goaltender Dave Wilson had at first been pulled. Wilson went out with more than a minute remaining but UAA cleared the puck deep into Maine's zone on a missed attempt at an empty netter. While the puck was being challenged in the corner Wilson flew back out into the crease only to find himself facing Josh Lunden and Brian Bales on a 2-on-none turnover. Josh took responsibility going backhand to slide it in for the clincher.

Key to this game (and most of the future games this season) ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ... Special teams ...

That's it plain and simple. The Seawolves will likely need to bring down the 9 penalties a game to have success most nights. The good thing is that they look confident killing penalties and have been getting that job done so far.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Daychief and McCabe: The Skinny

Confirmation came today that Winston Daychief and Brad McCabe are no longer members of the Seawolf Hockey team. There's no official release from the school. In his blog Doyle Woody indicates that Steve Cobb said they departed for "personal reasons". Privacy issues keep schools from saying much more but that only leads to speculation and rumors. So I'm going to speculate based on the bits of information I've heard.

Brad McCabe wasn't thrilled with having to compete for ice time. He and Shyiak didn't see eye to eye during his freshman year. He gave consideration during the offseason to not coming back. Brad didn't meet some mandated academic standards and was therefore a healthy scratch. Then he decided that he made the wrong choice by coming back. So he decided to leave.

Winston Daychief was "let go" because of academic issues. No further explanation warranted in this case as far as I'm concerned. Anything further might impugn Winston's good name. I really liked what Winston brought to the ice. He was certainly a hard worker.

I've got no issue with Brad's departure. I don't fault a 19 year old for making a choice and then changing his mind when his situation has unexpected challenges. It would have been less disruptive for him to just not come back from the offseason. But not a biggee. Young men all over college hockey find themselves in similar circumstances every year. Some leave. Brad was one of those. Good luck to him.

I only hope that the University did everything possible to support both of these guys academic efforts and I'm very inclined to believe that they did. Here's why; one of the reasons Dr. Cobb gave for renewing Coach Shyiak's contract for another 4 years was the excellent performance of the hockey team in the classroom. Dr. Cobb told me a couple of weeks ago that Shyiak was directly responsible for that. I'm assuming there are team rules which impact that. Both Winston and Brad appear to have ran afoul of those rules to varying degrees.

It's a bit of a drag that both of these guys are gone. They both brought a set of skills that would have benefitted the team under good circumstances. But their departure is mitigated by the play of guys that otherwise might have been sitting on the bench. Selby, Haddad and Smith fill the hole in the lineup. They may not match the potential production of Daychief and McCabe so everyone else will have to pick up their own production. This is an opportunity for Jade Portwood and Tyler Moir. They're going to see a lot of ice time for sure now. I also finally got some indication that August Aiken is still in the pipeline to play in the 2nd half of the season.

Mercyhurst Preview: The Bored Edition

Rick Gotkin has been Head Coach of the Mercyhurst Lakers for 21 of the programs 22 years. Most of that was in Division III and Division II. The Lakers began playng Division I in 2000. In 6 of the last 8 years Gotkin has guided the team to winning records. Last season the team went 15-19-7. With a strong core of returners which includes 5 upperclassmen on defense, 7 forwards and the starting goalie. I'd expect they'll improve on the 15 win mark by a nice margin. The Lakers were picked to finish 2nd in the Atlantic Hockey Conference this season.

Alaskan fans of either the UAA or uaF persuasion should bank on this Mercyhurst team coming to play. They got ambushed last weekend by St. Cloud's powerplay (twin 7-3 scores) on the big ice. I'd have to think that serves as an example for the Mercyhurst players coming to play on another big sheet this weekend. I imagine they'll adapt and I'd expect them to give both UAA and UA_ a good game.

Confession ... writing about Mercyhurst is boring. The place is on the Pennsylvania shore of Lake Erie. So ... um ... Lakers is all well and good for a name I suppose. I'm not going to dog them here like I do so many other teams. They're not a rival in any sense of the word and never will be. UAA has played them twice and beat them both times (in 2001?). So what .. meaningless really. It looks like a pretty small school with an enrollment of less than 3500. I bet is drops boatloads of snow at a time on Erie; I hate that 36 inch in 24 hours crap. I'm not gonna look it up on Wikipedia or anything though. See ... it bores me. And Mercyhurst fans shouldn't take that as an insult. Seawolf talk would probably bore you.

And for those of who thinking that I'm just too lazy to do the minimum amount of research required to make a preview like this something other than the current rambling bs it has devolved into ... well. Don't think like that about me. If I say this preview was boring it isn't to cover for my laziness. So now that I've baffled you with all my contemporaneous bullshit what is left to do? Um nothing ... seriously. I'm bored with Mercyhurst ... God bless em every one. And yes ... I know it's not a hopeful sign for a productive day when one is already bored at 7:45AM. But I'll take being completely done with this by 8AM as a positive.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Not Your Father's Maine Black Bears

The Maine Black Bears have a fairly short but very storied history as a Division I hockey team. They started playing DI just a couple of years before UAA in 1977-78. Unlike UAA though the Black Bears have had multiple successes within that timeline. They scored National Championships in 92-93 and 98-99. The common element involved in those success was Shawn Walsh. Walsh was certainly one of the most polarizing figures in college hockey history. He was beloved by many (including 99.9999% of Maine fans) and left a big hole when he passed away at 46 (a year younger me) in 2001 from renal cell carcinoma. During his tenure he was suspended by the NCAA for a year for multiple recruiting violations. The Seawolves have gone 2-2-1 versus Maine all-time.

Since Walsh passed on the Black Bears have had Tim Whitehead at the helm. Over 8 seasons Tim hasn't exactly built a wealth of support among the Black Bear faithful who express themselves on the internet. Walsh is a tough act to follow but that doesn't tell the whole story. Assistant coaches have bailed left and right. In case you forgot, UAA's Campell Blair came to us directly from Maine. And last year the long respected Grant Standbrook retired from recruiting leaving Maine fans wondering how the next phenom would be brought to Maine. Standbrook was "da man" finding diamonds that other prospectors had walked right past. One consequence of all this is the Maine fanbase is collectively wringing their hands with nervous anticipation while some are flat out calling for his head. The "Fire Timmay" contingent is neither silent nor limited.

As to what to expect on the ice this Friday afternoon? On paper one of the youngest teams in college hockey. A goaltender (Dave Wilson) with stunningly bad statistics over the 4 games he played last year. The Black Bears leaned heavily on the now departed Ben Bishop (so much so that the #1 backup transferred to UAA's second opponent Mercyhurst) and so there is a big hole to fill there. Putting the statistics aside, the Seawolves should assume they're going to see a competitive athlete in the opponents crease. The Black Bears don't return a lot of scoring. They are young throughout the lineup. They won and tied in a preseason series with Canadian opponent New Brunswick this past weekend. There is only one posted boxscore from that series in Canada; it says that NB scored 4 goals on 4 shots ... on the aforementioned Wilson. I don't know if I even believe that. Maybe a Mainuh will stop by and confirm it?

It's clear to me that none of this tells an adequate story regarding UAA's first opponent this weekend. Honestly though, there isn't a whole lot else to say. They have a couple of reasonably resume'ed freshman in the fold. None of this suggests to me that Maine will be some sort of walkover as an opponent. Instead they are just a bit of a mystery.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I'm Happy To Not Go To Fairbanks

In my 24 continuous residence in this state I've had a total of about 6 hours in Fairbanks that I would consider a good time. 2.5 hours watching the Seawolves win a game they shouldn't have and 3.5 hours getting drunk after watching the Seawolves lose a game they shouldn't have. I wouldn't classify the number of trips I've made to Fairbanks as extensive. Over the years I guess I've found actual reasons to go there about 10 times. I made two separate trips to watch the Seawovles play. One trip for work. One trip for the stupidest soccer tournament ever held in any city. And the other 6 times (or so) ranged from passing through to actually having Fairbanks as the destination.

I know there are plenty of people that live and work there who are quite fond of their little berg. Good on them. They have some hidden character trait that I don't. I'm quite sure there are plenty of people that live and work there who are simply stuck there. Poor bastards.

In summer the single defining characteristic of the place is mosquitos. Anything else is a distant second to the predominant nastiness of the bloodsucking menace. From what I could tell there really is no part of the town that could be considered as a respite from them. And everyone smells like deet (bug dope ... oh um .. insect repellent for you "outsiders"). Ever see what deet does to styrofoam? I spilled some on a coffee cup once ... it melted it minutes. I never put that crap on my skin again. It's a stretch to blame Fairbanks for deet's problems that but hey don't think for a second that I'm not capable of making such a connection. If you can manage to get far enough away from the deet-imbued populace then you're likely as not to be nasally innundated by smoke from some nearby wildfire. There is no real fall or spring in Fairbanks so lets talk about winter. -60F maximums (or would that be minimums) with below zero temperatures often lasting more than a month. Do I really need to say more. Ok then ... Ice Fog. How about vehicles running 24 hours a day to keep them from freezing up. At times you can't escape the sound of a diesel engine F350 clattering away in any part of the city. And of course there is the darkness ... lots of darkness (ok ok ... 2 hours and 42 minutes of "daylight" on the winter solstice).

Fairbanks served as a useful centralized trading post and destination through the first half of the 1900s. Once established it served as a useful destination for the Alaska-Canada highway. Over 1/3 of employment is on one government payroll or another. The city's "big-time" was during the pipeline building days when assholes like George W. Bush could be found in one or another of the many bars and/or whorehouses boozing it up and snorting cocaine (you voted for him .. not me). Nowadays the place is home to the world's largest battery backup system for the electric utility as well as one of the largest compost heaps in North America! Woohoo! Hey, don't underrate compost.

Since there really isn't much logical need for Fairbanks to exist in this modern era the University of Alaska system decided it was best to put most of it's investment in education into the area in order to keep the place a viable community. uaF has most of the really quality science programs the University system offers. Even though the place is at minimum 400 miles from ANY ocean it is home to the Ocean Studies program. They get pretty much all the Geological study money as well. Not surprisingly, uaF has the premier competive riflery program in the United States. I know if I lived there I'd want to sit in my basement and shoot things. Lastly, the absolute stupidest road in the United States runs right down the middle of Fairbanks. No matter why you go to Fairbanks you'll have to navigate it at some point. What makes it so stupid? For some unknown reason, an apparently drug-addled engineer put 8 foot chain link fences on each side of the road for nearly it's entire length. To get to Airport Way from virtually any business along it's borders requires backtracking in one direction or the other. It is unfathomable. If you wanted to walk 50 yards across the street you might have to cover a mile to get the job done. Crazyworld.

Don't go there if you don't have to. I don't have to since GCI will be televising the games. If they weren't being shown on TV, I still wouldn't go. I'd listen to mah man Kurt Haider on the radio. In fact, if I never have to go to Fairbanks again that will suit me just fine. Did I mention paying 140 dollars for a hotel room that used under-sized flatsheets instead of a regualr bottom sheet and when I questioned them they vehemently insisted that was common practice for any hotel room in the United States. I almost forgot ... state representative Jay Ramras lives there and bilks tourists out of their money; having that podunk ass in the vicinity acts as another deterent to any visit from me. A fact that no doubt makes lots of Fairbanks residents quite happy.

I'll preview Maine on Wednesday and Mercyhurst on Thursday.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday Potpourri: Kendall Wrap ... Plus

Kendall Classic Day 2: Fairbanks 5 - UConn 0
A disinterested UConn squad gave it up big time to the Nookies. UAA fans who'd cheered for UA_ the night before got exactly what they deserved. UA_ wins UAA's tourney.

Seawolves 2 - Northeastern 4
I'm not going to spend a lot of time analyzing this game today for one reason. It doesn't take a lot of analysis. The Seawolves didn't capitalize on the opportunities their opponent gave them and Northeastern did. NU had 9 power play chances. They scored twice. Add two softies, a near post shot through Jonny's feet and a high corner shot where Jonny hadn't squared up or cut down the angle. Game over man. I don't want to be rough on Jonny O. I honestly don't. But he let a couple past that he probably shouldn't have. It's just that simple.

The two teams combined for 27 penalties. Wow. The game was dominated by whistles so special teams play was the theme for the evening. Both teams saw about the same number of 5-on-3 opportunities. All the power plays (and 4-on-4 play) made for a somewhat frenetic pace overall. I wasn't real happy with UAA's power play. I'll characterize it as static. There was very little movement away from the puck. NU boxed up solidly and the only way to breakdown a box like that is to move both the puck and bodies around. The Seawolves passed it around the perimeter fairly decently. But there was little to no weak-side penetration or disruptive movement away from the puck. So there were few quality chances generated. NU was patient, they waited for a bobble and then jumped on the chance to clear.

Dunno what else to say other than Thiessen won the goaltending battle. End of story.

I didn't write up the game last night due to a post-game stop for libation which turned out to be a very positive experience (meeting an extremely engaging, funny, insightful and good looking woman is quite honestly a rare event for me in this town). The Seawolves didn't score enough to win but at least I'm satisfied with my own offensive production. It's a useful reminder that if you don't toss the puck at the net you can't score.

Other Junk:
UND and Wisconsin both lost twice on the east coast to open their seasons. Nothing wrong with those results from my perspective (I'm not one to cheer for other conference members just because they are playing outside the conference). SCSU lit up Mercyhurst twice and in doing so wrapped up the 08-09 NCAA championship. The rest of us NCAA teams can just stop playing now. Mankato beat Bemidji twice ... snooze. CC squeaked by Alabama-Huntsville in two very tight games. DU owned Notre Dame 5-2 last night in their single game. Duluth had a good weekend tying Lake Superior and hammering Northern Mich. MTU took it on the chin from Northern Michigan before pulling one out versus Lake Superior. The Gophers are yet to play a regular season game but did beat UBC 3-1 in exhibition.

Let's talk about the latest tightening of the rules for a second eh? There were lots of good examples this weekend of the type of calls that are going to be called this season. The players need to get used to it and adapt quickly. Committing fewer infractions than your opponent is going to be key this season. We saw "Kneeing" calls, "Embellishment" and shitloads of "Hooking" calls. Those aren't the only new pratfalls that are waiting to trip up an undisciplined team so NCAA players should expect to be hearing a lot about it from their respective coaches. I see 5-on-5 play as being the most advantagous situation for the Seawolves. The periods of 5-on-5 plays this past weekend were pretty much dominated by UAA's offensive gameplan. Every boxscore that I've perused today shows exactly the same thing. The premise for the rule changes was to open up the game and increase scoring. For now the question of how effective this will be is an open one in my mind. We didn't see "open games" this weekend. We saw penalty-fests. Of course it is very early to judge whether the intended consequences are the only consequences of the change.

I continued to like what I saw from the rookies this weekend though Curtis Leinweber was absent from the ice after straining a groin in the 1st period Friday night. Hopefully, that will heal quickly but groin strains can be troublesome and reappear if you don't wait long enough before stressing those muscles again. I think Jade Portwood needs a nickname. I'm going to call him "Wings" Portwood because of his massive reach. Ken Selby, Nick Haddad and Jeremy Smith established themselves this weekend with fiercely competitive play everytime they were on the ice. Selby showed his speed and used it effectively, Haddad showed strength and good physical play and finally ... Jeremy Smith isn't an Alaskan. He's a Tasmanian Devil on a berserking frenzied binge of destruction. Woe be to any opponent unlucky enough to be on the ice at the same time as "Taz".

There's no drop in my expectations for this team. Obviously, one unsuccessful night doesn't make a season. The short road trip to Squarebanks and then the return to home-ice for the first WCHA series of the season versus Duluth is a good situation. 5-1 would be a helluva start but I think we can be satisfied if it is something less than that. There are clear areas that need to be (and can be) improved between now and the end of the month. One step at a time, eh?

I'll have a link to the limited number of pics I took this weekend sometime later this evening. I had some battery issues so I'll remember in the future to take some spares. I think the image quality is improved so let me know what you think after you see them. I'll be honest and say here that I think picture taking has a minor effect on my ability to see the game. There were lots of "attempts" that didn't turn out. So I'm saying that I'm still not fully "up to speed". I'll keep at it though.