Saturday, February 28, 2009

Seawolves 3 - UAF 0

A second consecutive shutout for the Seawolves tonight gave them their 3rd straight Governor's Cup. Tonight was a much more defensive oriented game yet it generated 3 times as many goals. College hockey is crazy sometimes. The Seawolves had half as many shots as last night. They hit twice as many posts as last night. There were two breakaways for UAA compared with none for either team last night. Two Seawolf players missed the net on WIDE OPEN chances. UAA could have had 6 goals ... but they weren't exactly dominant. Credit UAA's power play for both wins this weekend. They controlled the puck well and moved it well both horizontally and vertically while keeping their feet moving. They got many more good looks on the power play because of the puck and foot movement. Nice job.

I wasn't able to get to the game but I was glad to hear it was a good crowd. Coach Shyiak emphasized the crowd support twice during his post-game interview. On a night when I couldn't make it to the rink I'm glad lots of other people did too. I'd echo Shyiak's sentinment when he noted that the atmosphere tonight was what it SHOULD be every night for this Seawolf team.

This series sweep confirms a couple of things for me. For one ... WCHA 9th place is> CCHA 4th place. The second is ... the rest of the WCHA teams seriously SCREWED THE POOCH when it came to non-conference action. I'd been mentally debating for some time whether this was a so-called "off year" for the WCHA. I never bought the hopeful bullshit from writers outside the WCHA that somehow the league had less talent than other years or that other leagues were catching up. It simply isn't the case. It is true that more than a few WCHA teams fumbled, stumbled and bumbled their non-conference games. But it isn't true that other leagues are somehow catching up. I don't know how many WCHA teams will ultimately get into the NCAA playoffs but if they get the courtesy of not having to face each other in regional playoffs then I'd put 20 bucks today on 2 WCHA teams reaching the Frozen Four.

Congrats to all the Seawolf players; look for Bryce Christianson to be named WCHA defensive player of the week this coming Tuesday. I thought they played a strong game overall. There were mistakes here and there but the Nanooks were so inept at goal scoring that those few mistakes never cost UAA anything. All weekend the Seawolves looked stronger shorthanded than UAF looked with the man advantage. If the series had been played 5-on-4 the whole weekend I'm pretty sure that UAA would have still won. Dean Talafous the 2nd up in Fairbanks has some young players that were big time scorers in juniors. If he continues with the trapping strategy he used this season those offensively minded players and the STUDS he has coming in (and they do have some hella good looking prospects coming into their program) aren't going to be happy campers.

I just about sent an email to Erik Drygas last night when I listened (though his incessant "uhhhhs") to his obtuse and inaccurate description/analysis of the Seawolves WCHA season. Erik was a good defenseman and showed a lot of promise before his horrible injury and he's an integral part of the Fairbanks hockey community. I'm sure he's well-liked and respected. But if someone is paying him ANY amount of money to do color commentary they are pissing their money down the toilet. The fact that he's coached High School hockey and continues to be so involved in the game is a credit to his character as a person. But really Erik ... get off the air buddy ... the Seawolves were competitive in 90% of their WCHA games and had home playoff possibilities until very recently.

Thanks especially to the "Hockey Mom" Governher for not showing up. Once I knew I wasn't going to the game I figured my seat mates would at least be glad that I wouldn't be there to heckle that bimbo.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Seawolves 1 - UAF 0

I literally could not start writing this until there was no time on the clock. The outcome was in question until the very last second. The game tonight seemed virtually the same to me at just about any random point you'd pick between the start and the 53rd minute. Both teams played very tightly in their own end and both teams tried to use their transition game to generate chances. It seemed like every 2nd time up the ice resulted in a quality scoring chance for each team.

There were good individual moments from more than a couple of players on each team. Sweet passes and "nifty moves" were pretty abundant. There were no breakaways though nor were there any 2 on 1's that I can remember. No matter what part of the game you choose to look at you'd see two teams forcing turnovers and challenging for the puck.

But with about 7 minutes left in the 3rd period the intensity of the physical ramped up steadily as both teams pressed harder for scores (and they both had multiple good chances). Somewhere around the 5 minute mark I noticed Paul Crowder in a couple of physical battles and thought to myself that he was pissed off and would score a goal. He unleashed the angriest slap shot of his career on the power play for the game winner. It was a rocket. And you know what? A rocket was about the only thing that was going to get past Johnson tonight.

Not to take anything away from Bryce Christianson who had another stellar outing. Both teams poured 31 shots onto the opposing goalies and that was in a game where there were dozens of blocked shots. It wouldn't surprise me if the scoring chances were 50% of the shots. Though both teams played good defense ... this was the least defensive 1-0 win I think I've ever seen. Really good hockey game by both teams with superior goaltending on both ends.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

2008-2009 Senior Tribute

I enjoy watching my team play hockey. I'm grateful that I've seen almost every single minute of hockey the Seawolves have played this season. Thanks to the folks that hooked up the GCI deal for that even if that is someone at GCI (whom I generally dislike as a company). UAA fans are lucky for getting to see so much of their team. Lots of other WCHA fans don't get to see their team nearly as often as we do. Awesome stuff but, watching on TV isn't nearly the same as a live game. Even in a half-full Sullivan Arena there is a palpable excitement that just doesn't exist watching a game on TV. So I'm a bit jealous of UAA fans this weekend that are road-tripping to UAF. I wish I was because Saturday night is the last chance to see this group of Seawolves live. Those of you going to Fairbanks get two more live games. Of course there's probably a few of you that will get to see the team live in Duluth and perhaps even follow them on the road for the playoffs. I envy you as well. So before I sit down and watch my last live game of the year I wanted to take today to express my thanks to three guys that I'll probably never get to see play hockey live again. This year's Senior Class is one of the smallest in my memory. 3 guys: Shane Lovdahl, Jeremy Smith and Mat Robinson are all winding up their NCAA careers. Wow. 4 years goes so much faster when your a 48 year old fan than it does when your 30. Sigh.

Shane Lovdahl
Shane has had an interesting career at UAA. He came in fairly highly-touted. He had a great career with Cedar Rapids in the USHL where he was a fan favorite and still holds the club record for points by a defenseman in a single season. As a freshman Shane hit the ice at UAA and showed much promise. His 4 goals and 9 assists were a quality addition that season. He showed fans that he had a cannon hidden in his stick. His sophomore season was shortened due to a niggling NCAA rule about the classes he took. Apparently, he took and passed the minimum number of classes but somehow or another he was declared ineligible and had to sit for half a season.

As a Junior Shane began to show another side of his game. His soft hands became evident especially in the offensive end of the ice. There were times I thought Merit Waldrop had donned his jersey as he put moves on opponents that were quite simply sweet. This season Shane has certainly had perhaps his most interesting season. He has played more at forward than he has on the blueline. The departure of two forwards early in the year forced the move and Shane answered the call. The work he has done at that end has been overwhelmingly positive regardless of his point production. It's the sign of a consummate team player to fill a role as a fourth line forward during your last season. Shane is a class act. He's been tagged as not having the quickest feet but I don't subscribe to that as a negative for him. He's smart and his stick skills are so far above average that his foot speed isn't an issue.

Over the next couple of years I'd expect Shane should be able to find a path to some sort of AHL career. His physical play and abilities on the point (i.e... cannon of a shot) would benefit any AHL team. The NHL could be a possibility for him but honestly he's probably a bit of a longshot. That perhaps might be exactly the sort of personal challenge he thrives on and I hope he makes me wrong. Thank you Shane for giving me the pleasure over the last four years of your efforts for the Seawolves. I've enjoyed watching you and have always wanted to see you succeed. Local guys like you are very important to this program and always among my favorites. Best of luck with the remaining season and your future career whether it includes hockey or not.

Mat Robinson
I was excited to have Mat join the Seawolves from the first time I heard he was coming. Mat came to UAA from the Calgary Royals in the AJHL and was very much anticipated as every scouting report tagged him as an excellent playmaking puck-carrying defenseman. The scouting reports were exactly right. He is the very definition of an undersized blueliner that can really "bring it". Mat is speedy, smart and one of the best passers I've ever seen on the blueline.

In one of the first games I saw Mat play he made a cross ice pass from deep in his zone to the opposite blueline that absolutely took my breath away. I can still see that pass when I close my eyes. Nothing came of it but it was so absolutely perfect that at that moment I knew Mat would be a very key player on the team. Mat's scoring contributions may have been modest when compared with some other NCAA blueliners but I wouldn't trade him for anyone. He hits like a frigging freight train. There is nobody in the league who can compare to him when throwing a hip-check. I couldn't begin to count the number of opponents I've seen flipped over by Robbie when they might have otherwise broken in for a chance.

This season we've seen the culmination of his growth as a player. He leads with his play. His patented rushes from his own goal line up the ice are almost always productive. A blueliner flying past opponents with the puck and creating something offensively is a thing of beauty and Mat has created more of those than anyone in a Seawolf uniform since Martin Bakula. I'll miss Robbie greatly. Best wishes to him in his future career. His size might create some concern for potential pro coaches but if he gets the right opportunities I could see him in the NHL at some point. Thanks for the 4 years Robbie, you've been a stud in your time here. It is my greatest hope that someone at the next level recognizes that.

Jeremy Smith
Jeremy is an absolutely great college hockey story. If I had press access and was getting paid to write I'd nab Jeremy for an interview and let him tell his story. By almost any measure this is a guy that perhaps shouldn't be playing Division 1 hockey. Jeremy had an extended 4 year junior career. After 3 years in the USHL this undersized defenseman got no offers from any school. So he moved on to play an overage year in the NAHL and became a big fan favorite in Youngstown as an enforcer. I doubt there is a Seawolf player that would want to drop the gloves and face Jeremy. He's tough as nails. Just look at him. He oozes hard-ass. He had 198 minutes of penalties in his final junior season.

With no college offers Jeremy came home to Anchorage to get on with his life. He enrolled at UAA but walking past the rink was too much for him. He got in touch with the coaching staff, laced em up and showed them enough to earn a roster spot. Jeremy is one of a couple of hundred guys playing college hockey who are absolutely responsible for keeping the sport going. These are guys that toil in near complete anonymity. They show up to every practice and make their teammates better. Look at any roster in the NCAA and you'll find a guy like Jeremy. Some people might refer to them as benchwarmers but that's such an unfair term. They are team warmers.

He likely isn't going to play professional hockey unless he gets a spot as a fighter; and honestly ... what pro team hires a 5' 9" fighter? So I'm guessing this is it for Jeremy. When the Seawolves are done for the year I'd guess Jeremy will be done for his career. In his first year Jeremy saw action in 1 game. But this season when the 2 guys left an opportunity presented itself and Jeremy took that bull by the horns and rode it hard. Early in the season he was a monster on the checking line. He hit everything that moved and hit it hard. And he came oh so close a few times to nabbing his 1st collegiate goal. I can't think of anything sweeter than for Jeremy to nab that first goal somewhere in these last few games. I'm not sure if his broken wrist is healed completely but I doubt that would stop him from playing if given the choice. I hope he makes it back into the lineup this weekend versus Fairbanks. As a local kid I can imagine there'd be nothing he'd like better than to play against them.

Saturday night is Senior Night. Be there to show your appreciation for these guys. College sports are special. Being a successful student/athlete is difficult at best and every kid that gives us fans their best on the ice while doing classwork deserves a standing ovation for their efforts. Get to the rink and join me on Saturday. I'll be standing ... and as always on Senior night, I'll have a tear in my eye.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Secret of UAF's Success

One might think that a team who has spent most of the season in the upper half of the CCHA standings and is currently only 2 points out of 3rd place in the league standings would get more national press in the college hockey world. But when you're the most remote school in all of college hockey it apparently takes more than a mildly successful season to get anyone's attention from the eastern-centric hockey press. It's got to be difficult for those folks to wrap their heads around a team that is 4,000 miles away.

Luckily, I'm only 350 miles away from UAF and after extensive research and much analysis I believe I've nailed down exactly why UAF has been (comparitively) going great guns. They hired former boxer/toughman Butterbean to coach the squad.

With no hockey experience Butterbean has instituted a "knockout" policy with regard to his team. If a player causes or contributes to a goal against then that player has to lace up the gloves and face Butterbean in the ring to atone for the mistake. Who the hell is going to let a puck get past them if it means getting pummelled on Monday by Butterbean?

UAF goaltenders Scott "Eggs and" GreenHam and Chad "Pull your" Johnson take not getting beaten up by their coach very seriously. Greenham has a save percentage of .958 in 5 games and Johnson has a save percentage of .937 in 28. Fear is obviously an excellent motivator. I hear that St. Cloud State is currently negotiating with Chuck Norris to become an Assistant Coach. If that happens then what's next? UND hiring Dick Cheney? Minnesota replacing Don Lucia with Mike Tyson?

It's been said that a primary reason that UAA alum Tim Molle got stuck in the AHL and old IHL was because he didn't want to take part in the "staged" fights in those leagues. If he had it's quite possible he would have seen some time in the NHL. When asked about his two sons playing for a former toughman champ Molle reportedly said,
"Both Dustin and Bryant play defense. I'd like to think that their efforts on the ice have contributed greatly to UAF's success this year. Neither one of them has spoken to me about getting beaten up by the coach for any mistakes they've made. So I assume they haven't made any mistakes. I'm not sure getting beaten up is a fair punishment for an error on the ice."
Current Ranger's GM Glenn Sather was a bit more supportive regarding his son's coach,
"Back in Alberta it's common practice to put on 12oz gloves and beat up the kid that caused you to lose. I whole-heartedly support Butterbean's practice of this time honored tradition. I knocked the hell out of Scotty Gomez a couple of weeks ago for a lazy game he played. The next day he picked up a goal and two assists."
Seawolf Coach Dave Shyiak had no comment when contacted for this story but Assistant Coach Regg Simon boldly predicted that if Dave got into the ring with Butterbean that an upset of immense proportions would ensue. Shyiak whoop Butterbean? Regg isn't known for hyperbole so he must know something the rest of us don't. Maybe Shyiak had some secret training sessions with Kimbo Slice?

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Recruit Report: Regular Season Winds Down

Any creativity required for busting UA_ and/or Fairbanks in the chops is absent today. Blame a rhinovirus that was surreptitiously foisted on me. So instead, let's take a look at how next seasons incoming class is performing. The BCHL's regular season schedule is complete. Both the NAHL's and USHL's regular season ends around the end of March.

Matthew Bailey
6' 1" 185lbs - Winnipeg, Manitoba
Right Wing - Tri-City Storm/USHL
Matt has likely not been having loads of fun with Tri-City this season. To put it succinctly, the Storm are the worst team in the league at 8-35-1. They recently were mired in a 19 game winless streak. Matt turns 18 this April 5th and is in his 2nd full year of juniors. With the Neepawa Natives in 07-08 Matt tallied 13 goals and 15 assists in 56 games. Looking to upgrade after giving his committment to UAA, Matt tried out initially with Sioux Falls where he impressed. However, with just two spots available for imports Matt was left on the outside. Word got to Tri-City and viola Matt found himself a spot. This season he has scored 7 goals and 12 assists in 43 games. My evaluation would be that Matt has put together a decent season in a tough situation and he's done so as a 17 year old. The next step for him should present a challenge. Not many true 18 year olds in the WCHA on the whole; and generally they take 1/2 a season at least to come up to speed. As a kid who's been described with "top end potential" I'd expect we'll see him improve each year.

Lee Baldwin
6'3" 210lbs - Victoria, British Columbia
Defenseman (LH) - Victoria Grizzlies/BCHL
Lee is a veteran junior player. He turns 21 this April 26th. Lee played Jr. B from 03 through 06 before playing the last three seasons in the "B", first with Burnaby in 06/07 and 07/08 and this season with Victoria. Lee was traded for several players so Victoria could add a physical puck moving D-man for it's RBC year. Lee hasn't disappointed. He lead the league this season in scoring from the blueline with 13 goals and 40 assists in 56 games. 7 of his 13 goals came on the power play and he scored one shortie. This very recent article in the Victoria Times Colonist has some good quotes ... Grizzlies Assistant Coach Victor Gervais said,
"I think he's the best defenceman in the league. I think a lot of guys are scared of him. Anybody that big who can hit that hard - they don't want to test him."
Lee should be able to hit the ground running at UAA. His maturity gives him a bit of a headstart. He won't come into the WCHA and lead the league in scoring as a freshman defenseman but Seawolf fans should expect at minimum to see another big good skating blueliner that can handle most situations.

Gustav Bengtson
5' 10" 180lbs - Stockholm, Sweden
Forward - Kenai River Brown Bears
Gustav was the first of the early recruits that UAA has begun to pick up over the last couple of years. Many other teams pick up committments from 16 year olds but it was new for UAA. Such things come with a bit of risk. Gustav has had a tumultuous junior career. He made a very very good Cedar Rapids USHL team in his first season but his youth combined with a strong lineup found him sitting more than playing. After about 25 games he was traded to Texas in the NAHL and played regularly there scoring 9 goals with 13 assists in 37 games. This season Gustav found himself without a home while Texas took a year off. He was picked up by Topeka and bada-boom right back on a deep team where he seemed to only move down on the depth chart. Topeka had a high number of veteran returners. And no matter how you slice it ... those kids are getting ice time first. Gustav only skated in 14 games for Topeka before being traded to Kenai. With Topeka he had 0 goals and 2 assists; in 19 games with Kenai, he has 2 goals and 7 assists. My evaluation is that Gustav will come to UAA needing to show the coaching staff that they were right when they recruited him. I was told he is a shifty playmaker. I believe that his junior career has been plagued by ill-fitting situations. He'll have to find a way to put all that behind him and become a competitive WCHA player. He turns 20 on August 31st.

Chris Crowell
6'2" 205lbs - Williams Lake, British Columbia
Forward - Vernon Vipers/BCHL
Chris is a mature (turned 21 on February 5th) 4 year Junior A veteran. Chris is the 5th leading scorer and Captain of the team. His 12 goals and 31 assists in 58 games is a small rise since it was announced a few weeks ago that he'd be joining the Seawolves this coming fall. His 112 penalty minutes is the lowest in his 4 years at Vernon. My initial thoughts about Chris is that he is a "character" recruit. He will almost certainly be a role player on the ice but I'm expecting the coaching staff will be looking to Chris' leadership potential as time goes by.

Wes McLeod
6' 1" 185lbs - Kamloops, British Columbia
Defenseman - Prince George Spruce Kings/BCHL
When Wes was still a toddler in Kamloops there was a pretty good defenseman named Scott Neidermayer playing for the hometown Blazers. Wes was listed on the most recent Central Scouting Service NHL draft report at #119. In 58 games with PG he nabbed 6 goals with 24 assists. This was his 2nd season in the "B" with Prince George. As a 17 year old, he scored 3 goals and added 11 assists in the 58 game season. Wes is an elite recruit for the Seawolves. He turned 18 back at the end of September. He should adapt to the WCHA relatively quickly though he'll likely have a bit of maturing to do before he reaches his full potential. If he progresses as projected then perhaps he becomes a flight risk before his senior season.

Mickey Spencer
6' 1" 185lbs - Gibbons, Alberta
Forward - Cowichan Valley Capitals/BCHL
The "Mick" finished the BCHL regular season with 31 goals and 23 assists in 60 games. That goal count was 7th best in the league and highest on his team: and his point total was 4th best on the Capitals. It's difficult to peg Mickey as a pure "scorer" watching boxscores and following his career from afar but his goal count in both of his seasons at Cowichan was significantly higher than his assists. At minimum we should expect to see another quality power forward in the mold of Josh Lunden, Tommy Grant or Craig Parkinson.

So that's it for now. The BCHL playoffs start this weekend. I'll have another recruit report/update following the end of the USHL/NAHL regular seasons. I'll include info at that time on the 10/11 class. Don't expect much coverage of the 11/12 recruits as they're far enough out that I can be lazy for now about covering them. These 5 players replace outgoing seniors Mat Robinson, Shane Lovdahl and Jeremy Smith. They also replace the two players (McCabe/Daychief) that left the program in October. One other player joins the team next season as a transfer; Anchorage-born defenseman Brad Gorham transfered from tOSU and should have at least two years of elibility.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: Is Everything Just Politics?

Shyiak's tirade against over-calling some penalties seems to have borne fruit this weekend. Wisconsin's John Mitchell was booted for what was intially called "excessive roughness" on a hit which the WCHA notified them after the game carries the dreaded game DQ. Then later they changed the call to a double minor and a game misconduct which would allow Mitchell to play next Friday. Then when Wisconsin called back to complain that their guy sat for 5 minutes instead of the 4 now on the books, so the WCHA re-recalled the penalty; this time to "roughing contact to the head" for 5 minutes with a game misconduct. Viola ... John Mitchell doesn't have to sit out Friday's game. Nice to see that former Badger Coach Jeff Sauer is running the WCHA in Denver eh? Nice for John Mitchell and Wisconsin anyway: Send Shyiak a thank you note.

Hey Sarah ... if you've got an ounce of integrity to go along with your kooky beliefs then you sure better turn down the Federal stimulus money. Seriously, show some balls and say that "Thanks, but no thanks" which you never said before. Enough of the demogougery. Live up to your alleged ethos and turn it down!

Ok ... enough fantasy-land stuff. We all know you have zero integrity and that you're going to snatch up all the free money you can get. It would be exceptionally stupid to not take the money since it will just go back into the pot for some shithole state like Florida instead of Alaska. So yeah ... grab it as fast as you can and get as much as you can. Then announce 90 million for a new on-campus hockey arena at UAA. A new arena is the exact sort of infrastructure project this stimulus effort is meant to kick-start. More construction jobs. More long term facility jobs. I know Sarah is a useless git but maybe she can do something right ... once? Please ... oh please you dumb bimbo pull your head out and do something positive for UAA. I sure know how to ask nice ... huh? I bet Steve Cobb cringes everytime I dis Sarah.

Wow ... whats up over at KTUU? Maria Downey doing the 10pm news on a Saturday? Steve McDonald fired and rehired but not on TV? I've been monitoring the change in tone and yesterday I saw the classic example. Maria's lead for a story about Abu Ghraib re-opening went something like this, "Saddam Husseins former torture prison reopens". OMG. I laughed my ass off. A joint made famous by low rent Army grunts torturing Bahgdad cabbies is "Saddam Hussein's"? What a brutally disingenous spin that is. That TV station was always a friend to the power structure with John Tracy's well known sycophant tendencies. But this new ownership is obviously out to promote their agenda. They look to be trying to align themselves with Fox News. Just ... Wow.

Effective drunk dialing cannot be accomplished from a room with non-drunk folks in the room where the call originates. The non-drunks simply cannot understand the need of drunk people to share and spread their delight to the far corners of civilization. They think that somehow their sleep is more important than the glad-tidings being expressed by the drunk dialers. Shame on non-drunk people for wanting to sleep. You wussies. Time enough for sleep when you're in the ground. However, drunk-dialers need to be aware of the 3 or 4 hour time difference that comes into play negatively when someone (er .. me) way out west drunk dials them in 'retaliation'. My 3am is your 7am. Hehe.

I was glad this weekend to get a chance to meet several sets of parents/families that I'd never met before. To those I met; it was a pleasure. I now know that Tommy Grant got his height honestly. The Parkinson's sure seemed like the epitome of a happy well-adjusted family. The Robinson's were gracious. And of course, it was nice to see parents/families that I've met before. Your kids all are where they are because of your excellent parenting and support. I know there were a couple of other folks that expressed interest in putting a face on what they read here and I'm sorry I didn't find more time to make that happen. It isn't that I don't like hearing compliments (and thank you all again for the nice words) ... just that searching through a thick booster room crowd to find someone I don't know isn't a personal strength. Did anyone else think it was mean of Paul Crowder to trip his Mom during the red-carpet intros?

The Friday game this week in Fairbanks starts at 6pm? What's up with that? Do we get to listen to Bruce Cech? Is Fairbanks really better than Grand Forks with the exception that you can drive out of Grand Forks to somewhere in any of 4 directions? Is a compost heap and a battery-backup system really higher quality infrastructure than the Ralph?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seawolves 2 - UND 6

I don't want to say that every Seawolf player on the ice tonight gave up on this game. But enough did at enough times to make a huge difference. All too often Seawolf players looked like they didn't believe. It's got to be hard to believe you can comeback when you gift wrap a 4-1 lead to your opponent. UND didn't make any sort of comeback easy. They smartly opened the 3rd period with a neutral zone trap and played the way you have to play with the lead. There were some signs of belief after the 2nd UAA goal closed the gap to 4-2 but the early attempt to capitalize by pulling Olthuis with 4:20 left in the game sealed the deal.

In one sense I understand giving up. The Seawolves had any number of decent chances to score through the first two periods. And after a while when you can't get the puck to cross the line it's got to be frustrating. There's no secret remedy to cure that sort of disbelief. It's really the first time I've seen that kind of shoulder slumping on the bench. I'm afraid the lack of finishing could become habitual. The Seawolves have scored 4 goals only twice this season in confernce play and in both of those games Tommy Grant picked up the empty netter.

I don't want what I'm saying here to be an indictment of the players but instead I think it raises legitimate questions about the primary offensive tactic employed by the Seawolves. Both last year and this season the idea has been to use our size in the opponents zone to establish the cycling game and create opportunities off of that. On Friday night UAA had some crazy high possession numbers deep in UND's zone but during much of that the Seawolves never generated a shot.

Here's the thing I'm thinking. There's no lack of good skaters on this Seawolf team. So let em skate. Play pond hockey the rest of the season. Run up and down the ice with anyone who wants to play that way against you. Tonight when the game was flowing up and down I thought the Seawolves were pretty much giving as well as they got. If anything I thought UAA outchanced UND in the first period. Tonight again though in the 2nd period the offensive effort rarely penetrated. UND pushed everything to the perimeter and there was just no real penetration.

Friday, February 20, 2009

UND 2 - UAA 1 OT: Whatcha Gonna Do?

Often a theme emerges for these posts while I'm driving home. Tonight all I could think in that 10 minutes was "What more could they have done?". The Seawolves excelled in all phases of the game tonight bar one. Of course scoring goals is the most important phase of the game. But sometimes another teams defense does a good job and the opposition goals plays well enough. And you find yourself facing an opportunistic team in OT only to give up a quickie. It happens ... Whatcha Gonna Do? It was an honest loss.

Eidsness was solid for UND making pretty much every first save. And his team picked up the rebounds and/or disrupted UAA's chances with regularity. At least two Seawolves will be having nightmares tonight. Kevin Clark had a clean chance while stationed at the top of the crease. He was wide open and when the puck came it skittered a bit and he missed. 9 out of 10 times Kevin would bag that. Sean Wiles is going to have nightmares as well. In on a 2-on-1 rush Sean could see a huge gaping hole on the right side of the net. Somehow his shot couldn't find it's way into the net.

Bryce was strong and confident between the pipes all night. As has been the case over his last few starts he came up big when called on. Lunden Bales and Clark were reunited and put together a number of sweet rushes. Brian continued his stellar play in the neutral zone creating turnovers. Josh was "johnny on the spot" with his goal. Clarkie needs to stop picking on little Joe Finley. I really liked what Jade Portwood brought tonight. Perhaps his best game of the season. He was good with the body, strong with the puck and showed passion. Luka Vidmar turned in a noteworthy performance playing his first game of his collegiate career at center.

I liked seeing a return of a dominating cycle game. It was the epitome of "the best defense is a good offense". I think UND had one real shot in the 2nd period (stats says 4 but that's generous) including a 2 minute power play. That was primarily due to UAA's efforts in UND's zone. And when they needed to be sharp in their own zone they were.

My assumption is that Shane Lovdahl and Craig Parkinson were sitting their suspensions tonight. I'm fairly certain that is all behind us after tonight.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Susies Drive Thru

My impression of North Dakota? I think they're a team that looks for and takes every opportunity to put on pressure. No matter the situation. When they're on the power play they can swarm. When they're killing penalties they continually harass the puck. And they've shown an ability to draw on emotion and kick their game into an even higher gear.

I think it means that whatever lineup hits the ice this weekend had better be prepared to respond in kind. They'll need to match North Dakota at every turn. Whether it's defending 3-on-2 chances or moving the puck forward to create a 2-on-1.

On the power play they'll need to get the puck to the net and bang it home. A pretty one-timer would be sweet but dirty goals in close come more frequently. 5-on-5 play has been a strength this season but over the last few weeks I haven't seen quite as much possession as earlier in the year. Granted there is so little 5-on-5 play anymore that such an assessment is not much more than a guess.

I hope that the defensemen can continue to contribute so well in transition. Everybody on the blueline has been making the effort and it's been a big positive overall. But I've got to add here that we've seen a bunch of offsides calls that were avoidable. Some sync is needed there.

The PK and goaltending have been sharp as far as I'm concerned. I'm expecting we'll see Bryce on Friday night. If he plays like he has been playing then Saturday night will probably be his as well. If he falters I've got no doubt after Jonny O's last couple of outings that he can come in and give the team a chance to win. Last weekend I thought the team did a good job keeping their feet moving when they were killing penalties. Same thing this weekend. If they can be aggressive and disruptive (and teammates cover for each other as they have been doing) then they might find themselves with shorthanded chances here and there.

Parents weekend really ought to be some encouragement to any sort of emotional play the team is able to muster. Every Seawolf on the ice should be primed to play their best with mom and dad in the barn. Right?

I've got no insight as to what lineup we're likely to see this weekend. I'm pretty sure there are suspensions outstanding; who they are is the question. "Jeff" noted in the comments section yesterday that Tommy Grant was wearing a no-contact jersey at practice. I suppose that means he's questionable for the weekend. Perhaps since it's parents weekend Coach Shyiak might consider suspending the remaining suspensions for the Duluth series?

I read that Coach got a call from Bruce McLeod regarding his comments to the press after the Saturday night game in Minneapolis. It seems that Bruce felt Dave was walking a fine line and wanted to touch base with him. I'm all about what Shyiak said to the press. It seems to me he was indeed walking a fine line but he did so perfectly. He didn't cross the line and he made his point very clearly. I was just happy that he was saying what he said while I was typing UAA 2 - UofM 2 - Referees 2.

There are still enough points available for UAA to improve itself in the conference standings. Going to one of the top three rinks is a tougher row to hoe than matching up with the 4th or 5th place team. There's 8 points left to be had. No doubt the plan is to start by getting 2 points this Friday night.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Best Commented Blog in D1 Hockey

I wanted to simply take note today that during this season this blog has seen a nice very quantifiable rise in quality comments from readers. For the first couple of years, comments here have all too frequently been the domain of marginal potshots from trolls and then my ownage of them. Much as I enjoy putting an idiot in their place that dynamic can get a little old.

But this season we've all been witness to a high level of insightful comments from UAA supporters. We've seen well-thought out analysis. And we've seen no small measure of each. The rise has been particularly notable since the beginning of 2009. Since January 1st there have been 25 posts with more than 10 comments attached. Comment strings have reached 30 or more on 7 times.

So today is dedicated to thanking all my readers and commenters in particular. Thanks for your insights. Thanks for your words of wisdom. This sort of good participation is exactly what I hope this blog facilitates. The discussion can and should be more important than what I write. So please keep commenting and challenging and opining frequently.

Please also remember that I always welcome submissions via email. I posted the only one I've ever gotten ... so you could be number 2. Don't let my rough exterior here make you think that any sort of different take from another Seawolf fan wouldn't be welcome. I would enjoy different views on events. So would other readers. I'll make up a psuedonym for you if your anonymity is important to you.

That said, I'll continue to plug away at pretty much the same rate as the past. My most fervent hope is that other folks continue to comment at the same rate and quality.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Grand Forks versus Fairbanks

The two teams I like least are the next two teams coming to the Sullivan Arena: The Susies and the Nookies. A recitation of my reasoning (or lack of it) for disliking these team isn't in the offing here today though. In the past I've thoroughly taken each place apart and shown when compared to even a semi-cosmopolitan city like Anchorage that they fully don't meet muster. One typical response to unveiling each of them as shitholes-in-their-own-right has been their resident's retorting how they like their town just fine and are happy to be there. Good on them. I'm happy you're happy because anyone with that sort of poor judgement is someone I don't want driving on the roads in my town. With them being synergistically linked schedule-wise I thought I'd take the time to compare and contrast Grand Forks and Fair Banks.

On first glance one might think that both places have the same sort of geographically inspired names. But Fairbanks is actually named for a person instead of the Fairly muddy Banks of the Chena river. Surprised me when I found out. Grand Forks ... not named for a person. I fired off "Google Earth" to have a look at for myself at these Forks which are exaggeratingly labeled Grand. I'd post the view here but nobody ever clicks on the pictures to enlarge them so just take my word for it; nothing particularly Grand there. It's a "Y" spot where a couple of rivers meet. Fairbanks wins just for having gotten it's name honestly. Overselling was apparently a mindset of the founders of GF; something that continues today.

Next I thought I'd compare the general ambience of each place. I give this comparison whole-heartedly to GF. Downtown Fairbanks has a solid 50s/60s feel to it. Does nothing for me. Downtown Grand Forks on the other hand has some wonderful art-deco facades from early in the century that really appeal to me. Outside of downtown, Fairbanks is a mind-numbing mish-mash of roads that meander along the same paths they did when they were nothing more than trails through the sticks connecting homesteads. Grand Forks appears to have grown more in the same style as many other American cities. The further away from downtown you get the more strip-malls and subdivisions you find. Airport Road in Fairbanks is really just too far beyond stupid to get into here. If you're scoring at home that's 1 for GF and 1 for FBX.

Next we have to look at interesting/important infrastructure relevant to each area. I'm going to name two things for Fairbanks and compare/contrast those with a single GF thing. I hope you don't think that is too unfair. Truth is that GF is quite a bit bigger than FBX so I'm trying to even the field here. You already know I'm all about fairness right? For Grand Forks there is one obvious choice. The Ralph Engelstad Arena. Named for the gambling magnate with a nazi fetish who donated $100,000,000 to have it built, the place is a palace rivaling anything that Saddam Hussein built for himself. If it didn't have the faggy NHL sized sheet it would be the best Arena in college hockey. It has a myriad of do-dads to enthrall the insipid masses that fill it for Susie games and it seats over 11,000 of em. It would be a place of pride for ANY city in the 100,000 - 500,000 population range. This is why I have to give Fairbanks two things for this comparison.

Fairbanks has the largest Electric Utility Battery-Backup system in the world. Seriously. THE. If the city of Fairbanks has a power outage the batteries they have could supply about half the city with power for as much as 4 hours. WOW. That's a helluva lotta juice. Long ago I worked what's called "inside plant" for a telephone outfit. They have big banks of batteries to keep the phones working in power outages. You couldn't get me near those little rooms full of batteries. I sure as hell wouldn't want to be in the warehouse full of batteries that Fairbanks must have. Good grief. Fairbanks other claim to fame infrastructure-wise is their shitpile. OK. That wasn't a nice way to describe one of the largest compost facilities anywhere. When whoever it was that decided to crank up a compost heap came up with the idea, he was told Fairbanks was too cold. The folks that told him that were obviously wrong. Fairbank's compost heap is going great guns! Don't snear at it. Composting will save the world one day and I for one am happy to have our neighbors to the north lead the way in turning shit into organic fertilizer.

So what wins here? The Ralph or Batteries and Turds? I say it's a push. Farmers in North Dakota agree with me. The Ralph never did anything to help their Alfalfa come up healthy. But a chance to drive 60 miles to watch some hockey in comfort is something they can appreciate. So yeah ... it's a tie. GF vs. FBX: 1-1-1

If those were the only things that mattered for our comparison then I'd be happy with the outcome. But unfortunately, there are other things that tip the scale dramatically in Grand Forks favor. They have less driving time to a real city. Fairbanks to Anchorage = 361 miles. Grand Forks to Minneapolis = 314 miles or Grand Forks to Duluth = 267. Also you can drive out of Grand Forks in any of four direction and actually get somewhere worthwhile. Drive any direction out of Fairbanks other than south and you end up in no place. Fairbanks does have natural trees and scenery on the horizon, while Grand Forks .. um ... doesn't. Both places get cold enough to freeze a few ounces of water immediately when tossed into the air. So what I'm saying here is that Grand Forks is better than Fairbanks but mostly only due to the fact that it is near the real world and Fairbanks isn't. Fairbanks rules though in the lower average windspeed contest.

2-1-1 for Grand Forks. Nice. I'm expecting a "We're Better Than Fairbanks" cheer next time UND plays at home.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

UAA 2 - UofM 2 - Referees 2

Two brutally bad calls gave the Gophers a two goal win tonight. It started with two of the absolutely weakest calls I've ever seen made in hockey at any level early in the first period. Weak calls like that happen so it didn't bother me too much. But then they missed a goaltender interference call when Bryce was behind the net to play the puck and was knocked down. I've NEVER seen that NOT CALLED and it was immediately followed by the gayest goal ever from the point. Bryce hadn't gotten fully set in the crease after being tripped and the worst shot ever took two brutal bounces to beat him. What a crock of shit from Campion and Walsh on that play. Ridiculous is the only word for that non-call unless you're a big fan of the word pathetic ... ok ... it was pathetically ridiculous ... ridiculously pathetic?

The second call will be defended by all the faggy "don't want to see Bina-type injury" whiners but the initial contact by Robinson was shoulder to shoulder. The Gopher player was trying to play the puck back up the boards when the hit took place so his body was twisting in the opposite direction of the play when Robbie hit him. Not only was it not a 5 minute major ... it shouldn't have even been a penalty. Players have a responsibility to protect themselves. The Gopher player was rushing to the boards to challenge for a puck. Robbie was rushing to the boards to challenge for a puck. Replay watchers will be all up in arms about the violence of the contact. But it's a game with lots of violent contact. Dufus tried to do too much and got himself into a bad position. There was NOTHING Robbie could do except to not play the game as it was intended to be played. I suppose all the whiners would argue that Robbie shouldn't have went for the puck but I'll respond by saying that takes you down the road to a non-contact game. Maybe Wayne Gretzky and Dean Talafous like that sort of game but I don't.

Don Lucia is definitely a punk. No doubt about it anymore. He sends the one guy on his team out (Miller) who had ZERO ice-time in the preceding 59:30 after the Seawolves get called for too many men and that loser brings his stick down on Bryce's head at the end of the game? Then I'm watching Seawolf players try to not fight while Gopher players who'd barely seen ice time during the game want nothing other than to fight? LOL. What a classless fucking program those dickweeds have turned into. I complimented the shit out of that program before this series. Never again. I hereby promise to lay the nastiness on in layer after layer after layer in whatever manner that I can possibly imagine when writing about them in the future.

To use my Pop's favorite phrase, "The whole thing was disgusting".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seawolves 2 - Minnesota 2

All year long the knock on the Seawolves has been that goaltending hasn't been up to snuff. I don't see anyway that sort of talk can continue after the last few performances by both Bryce and Jonny O. They haven't just been good lately; they've been excellent to spectacular at times. Doug and the Rug called Bryce as player of the game and they were certainly right tonight. He made at least 3 GREAT saves to keep the team in the game.

Though I thought the undermanned Seawolves played well and gave a respectable account of themselves, they were outplayed at times; enough times that one might say the Gophers should have won the game. But Bryce wasn't having any of that tonight. Shyiak shortened the bench in the third period and it turned out to be an effective move. The Seawolves were at thier best in the 2nd and 3rd period. They played well during OT generating one solid flurry with a scoring chance.

Credit (along with Bryce) has to go to quality defensive play by all the skaters. I thought they did an excellent job throughout the game getting to pucks in their own end and clearing the zone. They challenged and won their fair share of free pucks in the slot as well. The Gophers are no slouches when it comes to attacking the net from all different angles and they definitely got their share of chances. Congrats to all the shot blockers and to players who stayed with their man defensively.

I'd classify it as a good tie for the Seawolves since they came back twice from deficits. A point is a point, and you can't turn your nose up at it when it comes on the road.

I'm already looking forward to tomorrow nights game after the last couple of Saturday performances that the guys have put together. The lineup tomorrow will be of particular interest. The 4th line of Selby, Lovdahl and Carlson didn't play badly by any means but I also noticed they seemed a bit lost at times going forward. That's to be expected with a D guy that has never played center and two guys who have seen tons more bench than ice over their careers. Props to them for their efforts.

The PK is to be congratulated as well. I liked how well everyone moved thier feet shorthanded and stayed aggressive. Other than the first Gopher goal on the power play the Seawolves didn't really give the Gophers many good looks. When they did ... Bryce was dead solid.

I don't know whether to expect a gentlemanly game tomorrow night. I agree with Doug and the Rug that neither team tonight really wanted a tie and there was some serious looking chirping at the end of the game with Stoa and Clark exchanging cheap shots.

For tomorrow UAA will have to find a way to increase their possession in the Gophers end. Jade Portwood had a good game in the Gopher end. He was real strong on the puck and effective whenever he touched it deep. Tyler Moir showed all sorts of hustle. Craig Parkinson might be the very definition of a 2-way forward. He wins draws (by hook or crook), blocks tons of shots and goes forward with abandon. Paul Crowder and Kevin Clark both had strong games and like the Gopher scorers were just a bounce or an inch away from scoring on more than a couple of chances. All the blueliners were sharp. Nils and Mat had strong games and both contributed offensively. Lafranchise was effective physically in his own end showing strength along the boards and was smart with the puck. Congrats to Nick Haddad on his 2nd goal ... good freaking eyes Nick ... he really picked up the rebound perfectly to score his goal.

The team should certainly feel good about their chances tomorrow. Does Shyiak go with Bryce or Jonny tomorrow? Tough question if you ask me. I know there's a solid philosophy that says go with the guy who had the hot hand. But who's to say that Jonny won't play equally as well as Bryce did tonight? He played excellent in the loss to SCSU last weekend. If the call were up to me ... I'd go with Bryce.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I'm Spartacus

It is time to face the evil. Tomorrow night the UAA Seawolves take on America's Team.  They are the New York Yankees and the Dallas Cowboys combined.  When one thinks of college hockey; one thinks of the Minnesota Golden Gophers and that upside down W.  Seriously, what font has an M with queerly splayed legs?  An "M" has straight legs everywhere on Yahweh's green earth except in Minnesota.

Lucia is Sauron, the Roman Emperor, Xerxes, Longshanks, the Borg, Dick Cheney and yes ... the Grinch; he is embodiment of whatever evil nasty opponent you can think of.  I bet he is from Iceland.

It's always sweet to beat the Gophs.  Ask any of the WCHA teams that have swept them recently.  Their burgers and fries tasted better all week after downing the ugly M's.  Defeating evil is like that.  This weekend perhaps the biggest prize that awaits the Seawolves is confidence.  This is a team that has concrete recent examples of how the best efforts pay off. Both of the last Saturday wins came with the adversity of some of the leading scorers sitting on the bench.  But "THE TEAM" pulled together and doubled their efforts.  The players have to know that if they play as a team then they can impose their will on their opponent.  Win two against Minnesota and I see a team that will have the confidence to beat anyone.  And with only 6 games remaining before the playoffs that sort of confidence could mean the difference between disappointment and making lots of noise.

I'm sure the players are excited to get at it.  They're deep in enemy territory at the grandest of the grand locations for our sport.  There is no other weekend or venue this (or any other) year where a team like the Seawolves can make the big statement they can make this weekend.  It can be a coming out statement. Win these games and I guarantee that college hockey fans all over the country will take notice. There are hundreds (if not thousands) of fans just waiting to adopt the Seawolves as their sweetheart.  Beating the Gophers will be the consummating event.

You should already know that Wisconsin fans are pulling for the Seawolves. UND fans are always obsessed with seeing the Gophers lose.  SCSU fans are Gopher Junior fans by default so they won't be happy with Seawolf victories; which should be more motivation to beat them eh? I know some Duluth folks would be thrilled with 2 UAA wins.  The 2 CC fans should be pulling for UAA since it will help them in the standings.  There's also a sort of amorphous alignment between DU and UAA fans which should mean DU fans will cheer UAA's wins this weekend. MTU fans too. So you see ... the rest of the WCHA are pulling for the Seawolves.

Destiny awaits.  It is only by taking ones fate in ones hands that the sweet nectar of victory can be had.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Spewing On The Gophers

Today I figured the best thing I can do is spew out everything on my mind about the Gophers. I included the above video just as a reminder. It was a good game and a good example of exactly how the team will have to play to win. That's not the point of writing all this but to summarize ... the Seawolves will have to play like they did the last period and OT against DU and the last two periods against SCSU. That fire, that passion and that effort are required. The specifics of all that are for tomorrow. Today, it's all Gopher.

Quite simply the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers program and its fans can claim just about any "best of" title with regard to college hockey. They have the long and storied history dripping with tradition, success and respect. Every team that plays against them gets up for them. They play in the premier college hockey arena in the country. I doubt any real Gopher would go into the bathrooms at Mariucci to take a dump. Seriously, the joint is like a shrine to Gopher hockey. Shrine's are religious right? Okay then the Mariucci has got to be pretty much like a church to Gopher fans. Right on I say. If I was a Gopher fan I'd hit the head at my house before I headed out to the John.

Yeah ... it's a better rink than the Ralph. Why? Because it was built for hockey and nothing but hockey. The Ralph wasn't and they play hockey on a stupid NHL sized sheet. The college hockey crowd in Minnesota recognized that the game is better on an full sheet.

Not everything in Gopher-land is sunny and beautiful. With one of the most active outspoken fanbases in D1 they have their share of nutbags, rubes and diletantes that almost rival the huge number of St. Cloud morons. There's more than a few this past week or so busting on Gopher goaltender Alex Kangas. I thought that was hilarious. I think I watch just about see as many Gopher games as Seawolf games (certainly more than any other team). They aren't struggling because of their goaltender. They have some defensive weaknesses that have been getting exploited. There's lots of speculation that the backup will see time against the Seawolves because UAA is a "bottom tier" team. Not the brightest thing for a fan of the Gophers to say considering they have all of a 3 point lead on that "bottom tier" team (though they do have two games in hand).

Against UND, Mankato and Wisconsin the Gophers got beaten by opportunism and determination. They've been giving up odd man rushes in droves over the last few weeks. Lots of Gopher fans would put that problem on their blueliners. Nope. They are not getting the kind of backchecking they should be getting. The Gophers like to start fast and the longer that doesn't turn into scoring then the more frustration sets in and the Gopher forwards start pushing and pressing. And all too often they've been caught pressing. So all that said ... If I were Lucia, Kangas would be playing both nights and I'd tell him that yesterday.

I think that with all the hope we UAA fans have that our team will start taking fewer penalties that we should just forget about it. Even if the boys all suddenly wore halos they'd still get more calls against them. That isn't a bright sign for the weekend. Because there is almost never a Gopher team that can't move the puck around the offensive zone on a string during a power play. The Seawolves will need to limit good looks by the Gophers and always be aware of the back door opportunities. But if the Seawolves get penalized too much the Gophers are likely to make them pay. Conversely, the Seawolves will need to make the best of the fewer power play chances they're likely to get.

I think UAA is a much better hockey team than last year. I'm not convinced that Minnesota is. That doesn't automatically mean that the Seawolves leave Minneapolis with points though. The games of course are in the players hands. It's a matter of them taking it one puck challenge at a time, one shift at a time, one period at a time and one game at a time. Much laser-like focus on the task at hand is called for. If Seawolf players decide they are going to play the way they already know they are capable of playing then I'd think more than 2 points from this series isn't out of the realm of reasonable possibilities.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BCHL's Alex Gellert for 10/11 to UAA

Forward Alex Gellert from the Cowichan Valley Capitals has committed to the UAA Seawolves for the 2010 season. He is 6ft 1in and 175lbs and turns 20 years old on September 15.

Alex is a teammate of existing UAA recruit Mickey Spencer. In 54 games this season Alex has potted 23 goals and supplied 28 helpers (2 points ahead of Spencer). In 56 games during his rookie season he scored 9 goals with 8 assists. Tripling your output from one year to the next is bound to get you noticed.

There's not much other than the usual mentions in game stories in the BCHL-related press about Alex. He was traded from Westside to Cowichan in early January of last year for a overager overachiever who Westside wanted for their playoff run.

He's got good numbers, isn't small and if Mickey Spencer and him are already pals then maybe he'll have a ready made linemate. Welcome to the Seawolves Alex.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Spencer Bennett To Join UAA For 10/11

Listed at #93 on the NHL Central Scouting Bureau's Mid-Term Rankings, BCHL's Surrey Eagles forward Spencer Bennett has committed to UAA for the 10/11 season.

Spencer turned 18 this past October 31st. This season is his third in the BCHL. In 06/07 he skated in 7 games with Burnaby and notched a goal. In 07/08 in a full 58 games the he managed 6 goals and 11 assists. Through 54 games this year he has scored 19 goals and added 21 assists.

Along with recruit Wes McLeod, the 6ft 3in, 185lb Bennett played in the CAJHL Prospects game in December and was named 3rd Star of the game. Amongst the 5 BCHL players listed by the CSS, Spencer is the highest. McLeod is second at #119.

Getting Spencer to come to UAA has got to be a bit of a coup. There is little doubt other (non-Gopher) schools would have been interested. It will be interesting to follow his development next year. I initially titled this post incorrectly thinking he was a fit for the 09/10 class before I noticed he is listed for 10/11. So with another year of juniors we should expect to see him filled out and capable of becoming a potentially impactful freshman.

Welcome to the Seawolves Spencer.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: Suspended Edition

With a personal internet histoy much acclimated to suspension for various fan forum violations and the recently announced suspensions on the UAA team for curfew violations there is little choice but for me ride that synergistic horse here on my Sunday drive. At least for the title and picture anyway.

Before the weekend I mentioned how important 4 points was for the team to have a sniff of a chance at a home ice spot. Did Friday's loss pretty much seal the deal? With 18 points and only 12 more available getting into the 27-30 point range for home ice would take an pretty unusual winning streak for the Seawolves and cooperatively feeble play by everyone else. I'm not saying it couldn't happen; nothing I'd like better than to see UAA put together a run of points that gets them close.

So the suspensions ... what's up with all that? Here's the best I could glean from rumor since little has been said by the Uni: 15 players have each been suspended for one game each for violating a 1am curfew on Saturday night in Denver. There is speculation about earlier infractions that went unpunished ... and so on. The most important thing at this point is that the team pull together. The infringing players should take the opportunity to watch their game from the stands and decide how they'll impact the game positively when they get back on the ice. The infractions are in the past. The punishment is the present. The positive results are the future. Right? Right.

In the last 8 games the Seawolves have a 3-3-2 record. UAA's next opponent has gone 2-6-0 over the same number of games. For this week it's best for Seawolf fans to pretty much ignore anything you read on the internet from 99% of the Gopher faithful. They'll be all about inflating their team's chances against the bottom-dwellers by saying crap like, "UAA is easily beatable" and such. Don't think for a second though that any Gopher player or their coaching staff has those thoughts. They'll be preparing their varmint assess off.

It would be ridiculous to think a team that is 3 points behind you in the standings wasn't a threat to take points on your home rink. Winning at the Mariucci isn't necessarily an every year thing for UAA but it isn't anything new either. Donnie will have his team ready to play. The Seawolves better expect that they'll have to play 120 minutes of hockey like the last 40 from Saturday night. The Gophers have got to be hungry they've lost 7 out of their last 10 league games. Their NCAA hopes are greatly diminished. This is an unacceptable situation in a year when they are hosting an NCAA regional.

I'll have something up Monday evening/night talking about some of the good things that I think I saw this weekend from this and that player.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Saturday: UAA 2 - St. Cloud 1

An overall team effort by the Seawolves was responsible for salvaging a split tonight. With Tommy Grant and Paul Crowder in the stands and Kevin Clark providing color commentary for Kurt Haider the Seawolves repeated their effort from last Saturday night and got the well-deserved win. The work ethic through the whole game was good for UAA but it wasn't until they tied the game that they began to dominate. The 2nd period was all Seawolves but they could only manage one goal to tie the game. Same story in the 3rd. Sometimes the ice was even tilted in UAA's favor. It wasn't until about 7 minutes had passed in the third that SCSU even registered a shot.

There was no real issue with St. Cloud forcing/trapping in the UAA zone tonight as the Seawolves were didn't sit back with the puck but instead moved it forward right away. Having Mat Robinson back in the lineup contributed to a better transition as he is always strong carrying the puck out.

I thought the referees did everything they could to help St. Cloud win the game. The last 3 or 4 penalties called on UAA were pretty much bogus calls. If an SCSU Skating Angel did happen to go to the box you could guarantee that a Seawolf was going to join him. Nevertheless, the Seawolves capitalized on a bad defensive error while killing one of those many penalties and from behind the net Josh Lunden found Craig Parkinson barrelling up the middle. Parky found a way to get the puck in. On the replay it looked to me that the puck crossed the line by all of about an inch before it came back out.

The Seawolves fully, wholly and totally deserved the win. Bryce was sharp in net which after Jonny O's sharp play last night means we're likely to continue to see a rotation next weekend in Minneapolis.

Everyone on the ice tonight deserves a pat on the back for their effort. Congrats to August Aiken for his first collegiate goal. He finished it well and since he's joined the team I've noticed he has a good nose for the net and he has a dangerous shot from the top of the circle on down. Craig Parkinson will do whatever it takes to win a face-off or at least make it a push. Tonight he did that and much more. He was strong on both ends of the ice and deserves some recognition for the number of shots he blocked this weekend. Karma loves a committed shot blocker and rewarded him with the game winner.

Tonight was the result that Coach Shyiak was hoping for by disciplining the team. Coupled with last Saturday's win this team now has to have learned that they can win when they play as a team no matter which players are on the ice.

Friday, February 06, 2009

SCSU 3 - UAA 1

I've got what I believe to be some relevant but perhaps strongly critical things to say tonight. Before I do though, I'm going to watch the rebroadcast to help me confirm what I think was the problem for the Seawolves tonight. So I'll write more in a couple of hours.

Well. The rebroadcast appears to have been dropped as GCI goes with the "Jewlery Television" instead. Irony ... I love you. Thanks a lot GCI. Oh well ... I hope the folks that didn't go to the game are pissed off that they can't see the game now. They don't deserve to see it. What a ridiculous crowd. Anchorage sports fans are the top of the shit heap.

So here's my deal. Shyiak got outcoached by Motzko tonight. Motzko smartly utilized a high zone trap to hem the Seawolves in their own end. I saw no indication of Shyaik trying to counter it. Instead I saw players again and again trying to work the standard breakout only to be met by forecheckers at the half-wall again and again and again.

There were a few times where UAA blueliners realized the situation and skated through the trapping or even went over it. But that was the exception to the rule.

Down by two goals with a bit over two and half minutes left in the game Shyiak had two chances to pull the goalie ... Jonny O was trying to come off and got sent back. That led to a waste of a good 30 seconds where the team could have had an extra attacker on the ice. That certainly wasn't to blame for the loss. But a coach has got to do the right things from the bench to give his team a chance to win. Dave Shyiak didn't do that tonight in my mind. I should repeat my criticism of him in the Friday night loss to MTU during the last home series. With a one goal lead and a power play and under 1:30 to play Shyiak doesn't call a timeout and tell his team to protect the lead. Instead he sends out guys that are keyed up to score a goal. Then Leinweber gets a shot blocked and MTU goes on a counterattack and scores to tie the game. They Shyiak blamed the mistake that Leinweber made? Nope Coach ... that one was on you too.

It's time for Dave Shyiak to stand up and take some responsibility for this teams performance. Again and again during his tenure we've seen a team in a position to win a game only to have it frittered away by a mistake. You get a timeout for a reason ... use it once in a while to motivate your team or to teach instead of just holding onto it in case you might need it to set up a play from a late faceoff at the end of the game. Tonight the trainer had to run off the ice to get a board so they could diagram the play. What sort of preparation is that?

The Seawolves had enough good chances to finish and win the game. The Wiles breakaway, the Grant penalty shot etc. Jonny O played perhaps his best game of the year if not his career. He made at least three great saves and one that could easily be labeled as the NCAA save of the year. Seriously, it was ESPN Top Ten saves of the year kind of stuff. I really would love to have seen it again.

Dear UAA Bleacher Nazis:
If Mr. Suze and I decide to start a "BULLSHIT" chant in response to a horrible call by the referee don't even think about coming anywhere near me to attempt to stop it. Seriously. We'll end up in court. If a thousand students in Michigan can chant "Fuck You State" for 5 minutes then Bob and I can chant bullshit three times.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

An Opportunity Arrives

I note here often how it seems that each new series in the WCHA is the most important series of the year. Once again, this weekend the Seawolves face a very important series.

UAA is 3 points behind this weekends opponent the St. Cloud Huskies and only 5 points away from the 3 teams currently tied for 4th place. A 4 point weekend (something the Seawolves haven't had this season) will position the Seawolves for that sniff of home-ice for the playoffs that I've mentioned.

But with opportunity comes risk. Underperform this weekend and you can pretty much kiss dreams of a home-ice playoff series goodbye. St. Cloud faces much the same scenario as UAA this weekend. Get some good points up here and they continue to have a chance at home ice. Lose all 4 points and they'll be in a bit of a hole.

I think that last weekend's benching of Tommy Grant and Josh Lunden should have sent a strong lasting message to the whole team. The proper effort must be given by each and every Seawolf player to hit the ice. Anything less at this point is unacceptable. I have to applaud the coaching staff for ensuring that their team understands the importance of putting out that 110% effort.

Lots of guys had their best games of the year last Saturday night. But let's not forget that more than a few had one of their worst games the night before. In this league, at this level and with so much on the line there can be nothing less than maximum effort both nights this weekend.

It will be interesting to see which of the multiple line-ups we've seen recently take the ice Friday night. I'm not about to try to predict it. I'm also not bothering to check team stats etc... and assign any importance to same here today. I just don't care. Regardless of PP/PK percentages, number of penalties, height/weight differentials and whatever else might be enlightening in the usual sense, the most important thing to know is that a quality WCHA opponent who is just ahead in the standings is coming to the rink. Beat them twice and you have a bit of something going. Fail to beat them twice and it's pretty much time to start talking about upset wins in a playoff road series.

This Seawolves squad is every bit capable of sweeping the Huskies. They just have to believe that and give the proper effort. Not really much else to say. For me, I'd like something other than beating UA_ for the Governor's Cup to hang my fan hat on.

AJHL Okotok's Quinn Sproule to UAA

Defenseman Quinn Sproule of the AJHL Okotoks Oilers has committed to the UAA Seawolves for 20110-2011. Really.

Chris Heisenberg highlighted this listing using upper-case ANCHORAGE. He also emailed me to confirm. Thanks Chris. I had a nice little laugh about the whole thing. Unlike the mis-listed Beck kid I've found enough background on Quinn so I won't have to fill with crappola about his relatives.

The 5ft 11in, 181lbs, 18 year old Hussar, Alberta native has 11 goals and 15 assists in 52 games this season. Quinn turns 19 on May 5th of this year. He is another converted defenseman having played forward until this season. He spent last season with the UFA Midget AAA Bisons and his performance garnered some interest from QMJHL teams after his All-Star performance at last years Macs tournament. Quinn rejected their advances in favor of keeping his NCAA eligibility.

Okotoks coach, Dan McDonald has praised Quinn's versatility saying,
"Some guys might say: There are scouts out there and I’m a defenceman, I don’t want to play forward, but he plays where we need him.”
Sproule's addition to UAA's incoming players list continues the trend of nabbing guys earlier than in the past. With a couple of 16 year olds and 3 18 year olds the Seawolves staff are getting ahead of the usual curve. For now I'll assume that Quinn is pegged as a blueliner for the Seawolves but who knows where he'll end up at this point. It looks like to me that Quinn will be happy to fill whatever role the UAA staff asks of him. I know that one of the primary things that UAA looks for in a recruit is positive character. Quinn seems to fit that definition in spades. Welcome to UAA Quinn.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Colton Beck Not a UAA Recruit

Forget what I said in my last post about Barry Beck's nephew coming to UAA. He ain't. Chris Heisenberg emailed me this morning to apologize for the mistake. Of course I accepted his apology because I understand his grandfather's "Uncertainty Principle" (ok ... I don't really understand it ... even real Quantum Physicists have a hard time with it and just learn to accept it).

I considered deleting the post. But that might be construed as being nice to the folks in Fairbanks.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

BCHL Langley's Colton Beck to UAA

The current 4th leading goal scorer in the BCHL has committed to UAA for the 2010-2011 season. 5ft 10in 175lb, 18 year old Colton Beck has been added to Heisenberg's list for UAA.

In Colton's first season with Langley (07-08) as a 17 year old, he managed 4 goals and 6 assists in 46 games. So far this season he has netted 33 goals and 24 assists in 53 games for #12 on the BCHL overall scoring chart. Colton turns 19 on June 10th of this year.

Colton is the nephew of former NHL'r Barry Beck (#2 overall in the 77 NHL draft) who started his career with the old Colorado Rockies the 2nd year I started watchng them at McNichols Arena in Denver.

I didn't see it but the way I heard the story, in a preseason game a veteran trying to make his team decided he'd try out the Rockies rookie defenseman's fighting skills. He failed to tie Beck up ... and Beck leveled him with a single punch. Seeing the destruction didn't stop another opponent from squaring up. Beck used the same overhand right to dispatch that guy too. Bubba only went on to score 22 goals that year. Unfortunately for Barry a guy named Mike Bossy began his career the same season otherwise he would have been a shoe-in for the Calder Cup.

The Little Volcano That Could

100 miles west/southwest of Anchorage lies Mt. Redoubt. It's part of the famed Pacific Rim "Ring of Fire" which is a continental subduction zone that surrounds the Pacific Ocean. One tectonic plate subducts (or is forced under) the various continental plates. This creates a geologic situation that gives birth to volcanos. Click on the image above that I grabbed from Google Earth to get an idea of the geographic relationship between Anchorage and Mt. Redoubt.

For a couple of weeks now Redoubt has been rumbling. Geologists thought they had this particular volcano pegged. An eruption in 1989 provided them with a template for predicting any future eruption. A certain level and pattern of seismic activity was noted in conjunction with that earlier eruption and they saw a very similar seismic signature recently prompting them to raise the alert level. Unfortunately, Mt. Redoubt isn't following the template.

As it stands, the volcano literally could erupt at just about any time. Recent flyovers show active fumeroles expelling typical pre-eruptive volcanic gases. The activity right now appears to be something the volcano-types call dome building. A large pocket of magma is moving up inside the mountain accounting for a myriad of what are called shallow earthquakes. At some point it is likely that increasing pressure inside this lava dome will reach a critical point and some sort of explosive eruption will follow.

Here's the important part: Nobody really has any clue what sort of explosive eruption will happen, when it might happen and frankly whether or not it will reach that point. If an eruption does occur, two things will be important for residents of Anchorage (and/or visitors): the scale of the eruption and the prevailing winds. If the eruption is large enough and the winds are in the right direction then Anchorage could see some ashfall.

In 1989 a KLM 747 unwittingly flew through a Mt. Redoubt ash-plume and suffered engine loss and a couple of minutes of horror for it's passengers before the crew restarted the engines and returned to the Anchorage International Airport. The KLM flight was outbound from Anchorage and using an atypical flight path. Typically, approaching airliners come into Anchorage from the east/southeast. With Mt. Redoubt 100 miles to the west/southwest there should be little concern for any inbound flights. The constant vigil by the Alaska Volcano Observatory in conjunction with airport operations in Anchorage means that any such future incident is all but eliminated.

With the St. Cloud Huskies travelling north this week for games in Anchorage there really shouldn't be too much to worry about. But then again ... who knows? This picture below was taken on January 31st and along with many others can be found at the Alaska Volcano Observatory website.

image credit: Christina Neal, Alaska Volcano Observatory/USGS

Curtis Leinweber: WCHA Rookie of the Week

Congrats to Curtis Leinweber for being named the Rookie of the Week in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. The 5'8" 170lb defenseman from Calgary scored the game winning OT goal with 18 seconds left against the University of Denver on Saturday night while playing on the wing.

Stationed alone in front of the DU net Curtis received a sweet pass when Craig Parkinson fought for the puck along the half wall and dished it squarely to the waiting Leinweber. Curtis deked the DU goaltender left pulled the puck to his backhand and shoveled it home. It was a not to be denied moment ... and he certainly wasn't going to be.

Curtis' skill and versatility has given this years Seawolf team an additional facet. He is deft with the puck, flat out speedy and always knows exactly where the net is. His numbers on the year (2 goals and 7 assists) don't reflect the whole contribution he makes to the team; in my mind he lost the moniker "rookie" in the first half of the season. Over the next four years if the team can have some moderate success then we'll see Curtis on some All-WCHA lists: impossible to say whether that will be a list of defensive players or offensive players.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Weekend Reflection

For about the 3rd weekend in row the WCHA has lingering controversy following the completion of its games. A couple of weekends ago it was UND/UofM fans calling the other team goons, hacks and cheaters following the series where UND absolutely ate UofM's lunch. Then we had the DU/UND gala. UND fans didn't like Gwoz's little dance across the ice so much that they held an email rally when someone saw Gwoz with a headset after he'd been booted. Again there was much finger pointing and goon calling.

Then this past weekend the controversy belongs with Mankato and UofM. There is much labeling the opposition as goons (particularly from the Mankato side of things) after road cone Brian Schack mugged Carol Channing resulting in a broken leg for her. The big deal this week however is that Donnie told the press that if the league isn't going to call penalties then he's going to recruit players that can be enoforcers. That's got fans of the two biggest perpetrators of thuggery all atwitter. UND fans usual obsession with all thing Gopher continues. MSU fans are aghast that tDon would essentially say that he needs thugs to deal with Mankato. Well ... of course goonery is going to be at the top of Donnie's list when playing the two dirtiest teams in the league. Why it surprises the dolt followers of those two programs is a mystery to me.

The league standings are so close it is ridiculous. Even with only 5 current league wins UAA still has a mathematical chance to finish in 5th. The Seawolves are sitting with 16 points in 9th. 8th place SCSU has 19 points. Just above them in 7th MSU-M has 20 points. After that the next three teams up the ladder are tied with 21 points. So UAA is 5 points out of 4th place. The major variables that affect those numbers is that 4th place Minnesota has played 2 fewer games than everyone else and Mankato has played 2 more than everyone else.

So a sweep for UAA this weekend would go a long way toward making for an exciting stretch run for home ice. Granted ... for it to happen the Seawolves would probably need some help from other teams. But with everybody on the schedule currently ahead of UAA in the standings much of what plays out will be in the Seawolves own hands. There are 16 points left available for UAA to snag. 10 of those 16 points would give UAA a sniff at home ice. There isn't a team in the league that would want to come to Anchorage for a playoff series. Anyhow, it's time to start cheering for certain teams to win. For this weekend ... cheer for MTU versus Colorado College; hope that Wisconsin sweeps Minnesota; and lastly pray that DU get's it's shit together versus UMD. And of course get your ass to the Sully to watch UAA take out the skating Yo-Yos.

Don't forget to grab your Duncan Yo-Yos and head out to the Coaches Luncheon this week on Friday at 11:30 in the Lucy Cuddy Center. If you don't get the Yo-Yo reference don't worry, SCSU Coach Bob Motzko will. Also note that many UAA fans are using this weekend to bring a friend or two to the game in an effort to fill some seats. Three cheers for them. If you can snag someone ... do so. The attendance figures could use any help they can get.