Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Red Line Report: Bennett "rising" on Sleeper List

Kyle Woodlief's Red Line Report on March 20th placed UAA Seawolves 10-11 recruit Spencer Bennett in the "rising" section of their listing of possible sleepers in the upcoming NHL draft. Bennett was one of only two current Junior A players so mentioned out of a total of 16 other so-called sleepers. The blurb on Spencer says:
Spencer BennettHad a quiet finish to the season, but has been Surrey's best player early in the BCHL playoffs. Has great touch around the net, we just wish he'd use his 6-3 frame more aggressively.
Another year in the BCHL should prove hugely beneficial for UAA when he comes for 10-11. If he has a good year next season with Surrey then I'd expect he's a threat to become an impactful freshman player of the few and far between variety.

I don't see a realistic opportunity for Spencer to accelerate his committment purely due to UAA's current roster size. If somehow there were dramatic unexpected departures then perhaps. But in terms of chances I'd say they are pretty low.

Expect to see 09-10 Seawolves recruit Wes McLeod's name called at the NHL draft as well somewhere in the 4th or 5th rounds as the mid-term rankings had him listed at 119 out of 200.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: The Putz Edition

Bobby Jindahl or not there is a quality system of volcano monitoring going on over at the USGS. Those folks have been on top of the Mt. Redoubt eruption situation pretty much from day one. And combined with the weather peeps they've given everyone up here good accurate information about ash fall. In a week's worth of blow ups Anchorage has only seen a miniscule dusting that lasted about an hour.

So can anyone tell me why putzes are running around with masks on the next day? Anchorage has been through a much heavier ash fall. And it was nothing compared to the ash that St. Helens spewed. Yet, if you look in the paper or listen in on other people's conversation you'd think that armageddon had come. What a bunch of putzes Anchorage has.

I don't remember any of this sort of chicken little arm waving hysteria when Mt. Spurr let go and we ended up with about a half an inch of ash. Yesterday evening tons of businesses closed. Not just for the hour or so when the ash fall was active (around 5pm), but for the day. Putzes all.

I suppose I can stand listening to Bob Norton and/or Barry Melrose just once a year. But I don't wanna really. Bob Norton is proof positive that a person can be around a sport forever and still be a putz. Barry Melrose is just a putz all-around. Learn just one thing about teams that aren't in your area code eh Barry? It wouldn't be that hard; it's the "information age" ya know?

Duluth got dicked on a goal review call (oops ... no they didn't ... see comments) against Miami of Shitcinnati. The NCAA changed the "in the crease" rule this year clearly spelling out that just having a skate in the crease isn't an infraction you have to actually "interfere" with the goaltender in some way. But some putz ref looked at a replay over and over and said that a UMD player was "backing into" the goalie? What? No. He was standing there screening the goalie and flinched when the puck went past. Worst call of the weekend.

Ohio State's goalie has a marijuana leaf painted on the chin of his mask? I know someone will come here and explain that it's a Buckeye leaf. Ok. That's why college students at Ohio State paint it on their masks. Because it's the venerated Buckeye leaf. Sure. If you say so.

Latest SarahPutz news? When up in Nome to congratulate her hubby on his 6th place (did more than 7 teams finish?) finish in the Iron Dog, Sarah donned her snazziest Arctic Cat gear for the cameras. Arctic Cat apparently sponsors Mr. Sarah's snowmachine team. Dunno if she already had the jacket in her closet or if the AC corpories handed it to her when she got to Nome. Anyhow, someone like me, a dirty-biased-liberal-commie-Sarah-hating-blogger (DBLCSHB) filed an ethics complaint wondering if she pimping out the governorship to advertisers etc. The bitch has no sense at all. She really doesn't. Not just no sense. No brains. How stupid do you have to be to not realize that some DBLCSHBs are just waiting to find ANYTHING we can to criticize and/or embarrass you. There is no denying there is but one person responsible. You Sarah ... you putz.

Friday, March 27, 2009

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Gustav Bengtson

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Gustav Bengtson (5'10" 175lbs) has 2 goals and 9 assists in 28 games this season split between the Topeka Roadrunners and the Kenai River Brown Bears.

In 37 games last season with the Texas Tornado he scored 9 goals and had 13 assists.

Gustav's junior career has been a bit of a mess with stints on 4 different teams in the last 2 seasons. He began with promise on last seasons Cedar Rapids squad in the USHL. But a winning team in that league depends on veterans and Gustav didn't crack the lineup on a regular basis. Cedar Rapids was one of the most talented teams in the league. Gustav asked for and was granted a trade to Texas where he performed well and played regularly.

Texas suspended operations for a year and Gustav found himself with an opportunity in Topeka to begin this season. Topeka is one of the top teams in the NAHL this season and Gustav found himself in a similar situation to his stretch in Cedar Rapids, unable to crack the lineup consistently behind returning Topeka veterans. Since being traded to Kenai, he has played regularly and virtually all his points have come in a Kenai sweater.

I've followed his junior career as much as any recruit. I'm convinced he is a top six kind of player. I'm not convinced he has shown his coaches what they've needed to see in order to skate on either of the top two lines. There are more questions than answers at this point and I think he'll have a lot to prove next season.

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Matthew Bailey

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Matt Bailey (6'1" 185lbs) has 9 goals and 14 assists in 54 games (4 games remaining) for the Tri-City Storm in the USHL.

The Storm are in last place overall in the 12 team league with 23 points on 11 wins.

Matt is still 17 years old (turns 18 on April 5th). Originally, he committed for the 10-11 season but has shown enough in his 2nd year of Junior A for the Seawolves staff to bring him in a year early.

As a true freshman Matt will perhaps have the biggest challenge in adapting to the WCHA game. I've greatly anticipated Matt's arrival since Heisenberg first announced it.

I'd classify Matt as an overlooked gem. He was selected to the Canada West U-17 squad and his numbers at Neepawa as a rookie were pretty nice. His coach at Tri-City said,
"Matt is a strong power forward that skates very well and is good along the walls"
When UAA announced his LOI signing Coach Shyiak said,
“Matt is a typical forward we like to recruit here at UAA. He has good size, can skate, and really hounds the puck. He is one of the younger players in the USHL and has demonstrated good offensive abilities. We think he has very good top-end potential and will develop into a solid two-way player for us.”
Playing as a 17 year old in a league loaded with 20 year olds and getting good comments like that encourage me to belive that Matt could adapt fairly quickly to the WCHA.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Chris Crowell

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Chris Crowell (6'2" 205lbs) finished his regular season with 12 goals and 31 assists as Captain of the Vernon Vipers for 5th best on the squad.

This was Chris' 4th season in a Vipers uniform. So far in the BCHL playoffs he has scored 5 goals and 4 assists in 9 games.

The Vipers are currently tied 2 games each with Salmon Arm in the Interior Division finals.

The 21 year old forward is well liked in Vernon for doing whatever it takes to help his team win. Chris doesn't back down from a fight.

With only modest numbers throughout his career, Chris is clearly a recruit being brought in for his character, maturity and toughness.

Don't be surprised if at some point in his Seawolf career that he becomes a Captain here as well. The one comparison that occurs to me is Regg Simon. We shouldn't expect anything flashy from Chris but I'm guessing that he will put out 115% on every shift he takes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Wes McLeod

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Wes McLeod (6'1" 185lbs) finished the BCHL regular season with 6 goals and 24 assists for the Prince George Spruce Kings.

The left-handed defenseman added 3 assists in 5 playoff games before being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round by Penticton.

The 18 year-old Kamloops native was rated as a one of only three BCHL players projected to be drafted by the NHL in the upcoming draft. One of the other three is UAA 10-11 recruit Spencer Bennett.

Wes is currently listed at #119 on the list which projects where players might be drafted. He also played in the annual CJAHL prospects game in which the 40 best Junior A Canadian players were showcased for NHL scouts.

Upside and potential are the two most frequently used adjectives/descriptors you'll read when researching Wes. He'll join a set of UAA blueliners that is already deep and talented.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Mickey Spencer

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Mickey Spencer (6'1", 185lbs) finished the BCHL regular season tied (with Wisconsin recruit Mark Zengerle) as the 7th leading goal scorer in the league.

The left-handed forward from Gibbons, Alberta scored 31 goals and added 23 assists for the Cowichan Valley Capitals.

In 10 playoff games he scored 5 goals with 4 asissts. He turns 20 on June 11th this year. 10 of his 31 goals came on the power play.

The Capitals season is done after they lost a 7 game series to the Victoria Grizzlies last week.

The "Mick" as I'm calling him, seems to be at his best with the puck on his stick somewhere in front of the net.

I've done as much research on him as anyone coming to UAA. And other than game reports there just isn't much describing exactly what sort of player he is.

My best guess by looking at his performances in the BCHL though puts him in a similar category as Josh Lunden and/or Craig Parkinson.

Photo Credit to Shane Power of Lasting Images Photography.

UAA 09-10 Recruit Update: Lee Baldwin

UAA Seawolves 09-10 recruit Lee Baldwin (6'3", 210lbs) finished the BCHL regular season as the leading scoring defenseman in that league.

The left-hander scored 13 goals and added 41 assists for the Victoria Grizzlies who finished the season with 90 league points for the best record in the league at 43-13-4 (overtime shootout losses not listed).

In 9 league playoff games so far Lee has registered 4 assists. The Grizzlies wrapped up a 7 game series with Cowichan last week taking 4 out of the 7 games.

This week the Grizzlies began their 2nd playoff series facing the Powell River Kings and have run into a hot goaltender losing the first two games in OT.

Victoria will be hosting the RBC this season (May 2nd - 10th) regardless of their finish in the BCHL's Fred Doyle Cup playoffs. Obviously they'd like to do that as the BCHL Cup winners.

Click here for past updates on this blog regarding Lee. There's some good stuff there like comparisons to Rob Blake and one of Victoria's assistants noting that other players in the league are scared to play against Lee.

WCHA Expansion: My Thoughts

As most of you are aware, the WCHA is entertaining expansion possibilities. Back in February they voted to end their long moratorium on expansion. This was done mostly as a reaction to College Hockey America's demise. So far there is one primary applicant that is known. Bemidji State in Minnesota has an obvious geographic affinity with 5 other Minnesota teams already in the WCHA. There is a fair bit of speculation that Northern Michigan might also be interested in returning to the WCHA (and nobody at Northern is denying it). So with the possibility of expansion comes much discussion about how an 11 or 12 team league might work scheduling wise. Most (if not all) of that discussion focuses on an expanded use of the current method of assigning "rivalries" etc.

Here's the nuts and bolts; the WCHA mandates a 28 game league schedule. To get to 28 games the 10 teams in the league must play each other an uneven number of times during the season. The way it's currently set up, balance is only acheived every two years. Thank Donnie Lucia for the current schedule as it was originally his proposal (yes ... Lucia says UAA and Mankato are "rivals"). Expanding to 11 or 12 teams means the already unbalanced schedule becomes even more unbalanced. And since everyone wants to see the "big boys" come to their rink there are all sorts of Lucia-like propositions that favor making regional rivalries etc ... and none of them are any different/better than the mess we already have. But of course I've got a much better solution that doesn't seem to be part of the discussion.

Reduce the number of league mandated games. The WCHA plays 28 games to protect itself. It's an insular effort that does help keep the league strong but it doesn't do anything except hurt the WCHA in big picture terms. It is part of the reason that the WCHA only got three teams into the tournament this season. With only 6 non-conference games for each league team the number of comparisons for RPI/PWR purposes is low enough that any non-conference losses can hurt dramatically come tournament time.

So, if the WCHA expands; it should seriously consider dropping the number of league games to whatever level balances it. If there are 11 teams then there should be 20 league contests for each team. If there are 12 teams then there should be 22 league games. So instead of 6 non-conference games each league team would play 12 or 14. The only argument I've heard against such a proposal is that coaches would have extra work making up their non-conference schedules. Aw ... the poor coaches would have to make some extra phone calls during the off-season.

Someone moaned to me that they wouldn't want to give up their 4 game rivalry with "X". Then play "X" in non-conference games. Hockey East teams play non-conference games against each other every year. Dropping the league mandate doesn't mean that Minnesota and Wisconsin can't play each other 4 times a year. Hell, if they wanted to they could play each other 8 times under my proposal. CC and DU would get to play each other 4 times every season. UAA and UAF could return to 4 games a year. And any other real rivals would be free to maintain their rivalries as well.

Is WCHA expansion a done deal? Far from it. To add a team, 75% of league teams would have to vote yes. That means 8 out of the current 10 teams. As it stands today there are 4 schools which look like they'll vote no. UAA, Michigan Tech, DU and CC. My proposal would most likely turn UAA to a yes vote. The Seawolves have the advantage of the NCAA exemption and would have no problem getting opponents to come to their rink. Adding NMU could very well be enough to get Michigan Tech's vote as they have an existing strong rivalry with Northern. That would seem to be enough to reach the 8 votes needed.

The bottom line is that UAA should vote against expansion unless it comes with a reduced league schedule. A yes vote from UAA without such a change would be stupid.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: No Girlie Pic Edition

In case you missed one of the several times I've noted it; I will not be posting with any sort of regularity during the off-season. I will be trying to think about things other than the upcoming season ya know. I suppose if there is some big news that I won't be able to keep myself from chiming in with my 2 cents. So if you see some news somewhere else and wonder what Donald thinks about it then visit here. Otherwise, there should be almost no reason to visit this joint.

I will give you all something comprehensive with regard to the incoming recruits this week. I have decided that I'll dedicate a post to each, so there'll be at least 6 more posts before I pack it in for the offseason. By every measure one might use to predict future performance the Seawolves should put together the most successful WCHA season they've ever had. So don't think I'm not excited about it. I am. But there is life outside of hockey fandom.

With Paul Crowder gone the question of whether other current Seawolves might bolt arises. That's a tough one to answer. I'd tend to think there are 3 players that are some sort of risk. Josh Lunden has performed well enough over his career to be noticed. Kevin Clark's mad skills and good numbers and growing reputation make him a risk. And Tommy Grant's blow-up year saw him being mentioned as a flight risk back in December. I couldn't begin to guess the likliehood of any of these three guys leaving. I suppose it would just take the right offer to make it happen. Will it? Your guess is as good as mine.

Of the three, I personally think that Tommy Grant has the most to gain by returning. For Josh and Kevin, we can only hope they are all about getting their degree and that they don't see another year of D1 as a risk. I believe either of them could excel at the AHL level today.

None of those three guys were NHL draft picks and as such, it makes them nice fodder for NHL GM's that are looking. Draft picks have a nice advantage under the new collective bargaining agreement. The team that drafted them have just a few months after their senior year to sign them or they become free agents. That is why I don't believe Nils Backstrom is a flight risk. It would be in his interest to stay another year and increase his worth. He's dropped deep down Detroit's prospect list. Another quality year in the D1 ranks can do nothing other than move his stock upward. He's also a good student.

There could be other unknown risks on the team as well. Jay Beagle's departure is a good example. He didn't think he would be a successful student and took the unusual route of signing with an ECHL team. In many many cases that doesn't make a lot of sense. But Jay had enough confidence in his abilities to believe he would move up and hey ... he skated in the NHL this season. Good choice by him. Nathan Lawson made a similar signing with an ECHL team. He signed a contract with the Islanders recently and is owning at the AHL level. So what might normally be considered a risky move turned out nicely for two recent Seawolves. There are any number of current Seawolf players that could opt for the same thing. The chances that any will are slight ... but don't think it can't happen.

Let's all hope that Duluth wins the National Championship. It'd be nice to spend the offseason knowing that our team went 3-0-1 against the NCAA champ eh? UAA's collective regular season record against the three NCAA-bound WCHA teams? 5-4-1.

I'm looking for a partner. I have something specific in mind. If I can find someone who wants to cover alumni then I think the added dimension would be a great thing for the blog. I simply don't have enough time. My email address is there on the right column, so if you are interested then please contact me. You can write under a psuedonym if you want, if you require an editor I'll fill that role for you. I'd just ask/hope that anyone volunteering would be committed to regular posts. As always, the blog is open to other submissions especially those which express a perspective different from mine.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

UAA Hockey Fan Blog Awards: 08-09

It's actually past time for me to present my annual awards. I'm sticking with the same four categories that I've used for the past 2 seasons. I considered adding categories but ultimately I like the simplicity of this format even if it doesn't recognize as many players as I'd like. So I'll encourage readers to make their selections in the comments section and/or add any categories you think are appropriate. With these awards in hand and 6 dollars in their pockets these guys can get a Grande Mocha Latte at Starbucks!

Rookie of the Year
Curtis Leinweber
At .55 points per game the 5ft 8in, 170lb defenseman was far and away the top producing rookie for the Seawolves 08-09 season and ranked him 5th on the team in points per game. In 22 total games Curtis scored 2 goals and added 10 assists of which 8 were the 1st or primary assist. His goal in OT versus DU on January 31st was quite probably the most memorable goal by any player this season. Curtis showed energy, enthusiasm and intensity whenever he took the ice this season. He spent two short stretches on the sidelines injured missing 12 games overall. Dynamic is perhaps an overused word when describing hockey players but I find no other adjective that does a better job of defining his play. Curtis has an ability to quickly size up the on-ice situation and makes quality decisions with the puck faster than 90 percent of his peers. He is a skilled puck handler with wheels to match. Curtis came to UAA after leading the AJHL in scoring by blueliners. With minimum polishing this gem will shine for the Seawolves in the next three years. Count on it.

Most Improved Player
Tommy Grant
Doubling one's output from one season to the next can often be used as a milestone to measure improvement. This season the 6ft 2in, 190lb winger tripled his goal production from 5 during his freshman season to 15 which included 2 shorthanders. Tommy had a helluva nice stretch from late October through the middle of January where he scored 12 goals in 16 games. Playing on a line with Paul Crowder certainly helped him succeed so nicely this season. Crowder provided 5 primary assists. But more importantly, Tommy did the finishing. His confidence with the puck was evident from my balcony seat. In every season one hopes for a super-soph season from some player on the squad. Not every year does such a player turn up as it seems that a sophomore jinx takes hold at least as often. Next year as an upperclassman he should be a legitimate scoring threat on just about any shift he takes.

Heart and Soul
Nils Backstrom
I certainly couldn't have gone wrong by naming either of last years Heart and Soul players to this years award. Both Mat Robinson and Kevin Clark had very very solid seasons and contributed so much to the team's success. But I was so impressed with Nils consistently excellent play from the 1st game to the last that I simply couldn't pass him up for some recognition. My template for this award is former Seawolf Justin Johnson who never gave less than 115% effort. Nils matched that this season. He lived up to the potential that the Detroit Red Wings organization saw when they drafted him. Since being drafted Nils has quietly slipped further and further down Detroit's prospect chart. Someone down there ought to be paying attention. Nils didn't have spectacular numbers this season but he played nearly mistake free hockey in his own zone. I think he matured greatly during the past two seasons. He may not light up the league next season in terms of scoring but more importantly he'll be keeping the opponents top lines from adding to their scoring stats. And hey ... the Wooger has much love for him.

Most Valuable Player
Paul Crowder
I struggled with this choice more than any other. It wasn't that I had any doubt about Paul's contributions to the team or his worthiness. Those things were clear in my mind. But instead, I had to talk myself out of naming Kevin Clark as a co-winner. Kevin's very strong finish to the season weighed heavily for me. Ultimately though, it was Crowder's ability to make anyone he skated with a better player that tipped the scales. Of course, Paul's 14 goals and 19 assists trumped Kevin's 13 goals and 18 assists and his team leading plus/minus of +11 outpaced Kevin's -3. I remember talking with his dad between periods one night after Paul had been in a bit of a tussle near the end of the period. His dad told me that Paul was going to score because whenever someone pissed him off he usually scored. He was dead on right of course (fathers know best). I think everyone assumed that Paul was a free-agent flight risk and his signing by the Rangers was really only surprising in terms of how quickly it happened. He'll be missed.

Friday, March 20, 2009

End of Season Report Cards

This will not be some sort of even handed objective comparison. Grades given will be subjective and take into consideration the player's history as well as my expectations. In other words, like everything else around here ... it's how I see it. Doesn't mean that comments aren't welcome; in this case they're encouraged.

So ... in alphabetical order:

August Aiken: B
After joining the team in mid-season August dressed and skated in 19 games. He tallied 2 goals in those games. More importantly, August showed he will grow into a valuable offensive asset. He was never shy about shooting the puck and many of those shots proved dangerous. August has real good wheels. The only negative to mention is that intermittently he wasn't in the best place on the ice. That's to be expected in the first half of a freshman player's season. 99% of freshman aren't going to get an A from me at the midpoint of their freshman season.

Nils Backstrom: A+
Without a doubt Nils had his best year in a Seawolf sweater. He filled the role of a lockdown defenseman all season and had one of the top +/- ratings. He didn't let his defensive responsibilities limit smart offensive forays and he was rewarded with tying for the highest goal total among UAA blueliners. In his own half of the ice though, Nils was MONSTER-good. From using his speed to catch-up to a break, clearing the front of the net or winning the puck in the corner Nils was excellent.

Brian Bales: B+
Brian missed out on an A grade for only one reason. You have to score more than one goal to get an A. I think he was a bit snakebit when it came to scoring. Brian is a natural playmaker and as such always looks to pass. He hit an ungodly number of posts which was reminiscent of Merit Waldrops career here. Brian's defensive work ethic (particularly in the neutral zone) was outstanding all year long. His skills were shifted around a bit from line to line during the season. I thought he played his best hockey with Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden.

Jeff Carlson: Incomplete
Unfortunately for Jeff, UAA's defensive lineup this season was a tough nut to crack. Jeff filled in on a couple of occassions at forward but only dressed for 5 games. It's almost impossible to fairly evaluate him based on his limited appearances. I haven't seen any particular weaknesses in his game. His history as the leading blueline scorer in the NAHL tells me he should be more than capable.

Bryce Christianson: B+
Inconsistency was the defining factor in the first half for Seawolf goaltending. Sharing time equally with Jonny O, Bryce never established any great difference between him and his goaltending partner. But once the staff made the decision Bryce stepped up spectacularly. Not only was he solid. He was crazy good at times. Bryce's abilities with the puck on his stick are a clear asset and he utilized those abilities well. He'll be the number 1 going into next season. And if he plays the way we saw him play at the end of the season then the Seawolves won't have to worry about goaltending.

Kevin Clark: A
I didn't give Kevin an A+ only because I believe he wouldn't give himself one. He had an VERY strong run over the last 8 games where he played at his absolute highest intensity for every moment he was on the ice. The result was 7 goals and 3 assists during those games and a WCHA Offensive Player of the Week award after lighting up Duluth for 4 goals and 2 assists during UAA's regular season ending sweep. Kevin's usual modus operandi includes being a major pain in the ass for anyone he's on the ice against. He is a pest in the best tradition of Ken Linseman but with better offensive tools. Occassionally, Kevin takes a selfish penalty.

Paul Crowder: A+
How can I give Paul anything less than an A+? I couldn't. And it has nothing to do with him earning a shot to play for the Rangers. Paul made every player who skated on a line with him a better hockey player during all three years he played here. It's a bit of bummer that he won't be back for his senior year. But that doesn't take away any of the shine from the past 3 years. I'd have to say that by a smidgen Paul was the best all-around player on the team this season. I think the guy has eyes in the back of his head.

Tommy Grant: A-
Tommy had a super-soph year. He spent a long time at the top of the WCHA scorers list until the late middle part of the year. He developed a good chemistry with linemate Paul Crowder and benefitted greatly from it. His team leading 15 goals speaks as much to Crowder's abilities as it does his own. Tommy has a sharp release on his shots. His shoulder injury late in the season seemed to affect his confidence upon his return. In 7 games prior to his injury he scored 7 goals. After his injury he was limited to one goal in his final four games.

Nick Haddad: B
Only production kept Nick from a higher grade. His effort was A+ all season and he was a much more effective player this season than his first year. Nick utilized his size exceptionally well this season. Filling a role on the checking line kept his numbers from being higher perhaps. He is an intimidating looking force when charging hard up the ice and next year bodes very well for him in the green and gold. Nick did have chances that we would all like to see him finish. That's the crux of the reason I gave him a B.

Trevor Hunt: A-
Trevor had his best season in a Seawolf sweater this season. Buoyed with obvious confidence from the coaching staff, Trevor hit the ice running and never looked back. He tied with Nils Backstrom for the most goals by a blueliner. His rink long rushes with the puck became more and more effective during the season. He improved DRAMATICALLY at the point on the power play. In past seasons, pucks often got past him but that didn't happen nearly as often this year. I think Trevor can improve his play in his own end so I only gave him an A- because of that.

Kane Lafranchise: A
As the season progressed Kane's presence on the ice became more and more apparent. In fact, I'd say he became a force to be reckoned with. He is exceptionally smooth in so many aspects of his game. He is fast as can be but rarely had to show it since his postional play was so solid. His passing is always sharp. His head is always up. By the end of his senior season I'd expect we'll all be relishing the fact that he lived up to his surname. There's no real knock against him keeping him from being an A+ in my book but since he's just a sophomore I wanted to leave room for growth. Kane has all skills necessary to gain some league honors over the next couple of seasons.

Curtis Leinweber: A-
From the first moment I saw him hit the ice in the preseason Wasilla game, I knew Curtis was a stud. With a couple of dings that kept him off the ice there was perhaps a little bit of inconsistency in his play. But hey ... he's a freshman. His potential upside is unlimited though. I mentioned at some point during the season that I thought he was a bit over-excited a couple of times. Managing that enthusiasm is perhaps the one thing he needs to work on. His skills with the puck and his speed will take care of the rest. Curtis has the potential to be the most productive UAA defenseman ever.

Shane Lovdahl: A
Maturity and steadiness were the two biggest factors for Shane this past season. He filled whatever role he was asked to fill and did it 100%. He had stints at wing, center and defense in all situations. Shane killed penalties, skated on the power play and always gave his best. Coach Shyiak wasn't ever a fan of Shane's skating abilities but he wouldn't disagree if I said that Shane's soft hands made up for any lack of jets.

Josh Lunden: A-
Finishing the season with the 2nd highest goal total on the team ought to rate an "A" instead of the A- I've given Josh. But he only matched his total from his sophomore season. If he'd nabbed 15 goals instead of 14 then perhaps I'd have raised his grade to a full A. Josh has to be one of the "got to" guys on the team in terms of scoring. The team's success depends on it. The junior year in school can be very tough. Schoolwork gets a bit more intense as a junior so perhaps that kept him from increasing his production on the ice.

Tyler Moir: B
Tyler opened the season with a game winning goal against UConn. Little did I know that he wouldn't match that production over the course of the season. He sure didn't look like he wasn't going to score. Tyler filled a crucial role for most of the season on the 3rd line. He was often called upon to play a defensive role and his +4 rating over the course of the year shows he learned that part of the college game well. It can be a tough road in the WCHA for a freshman but Tyler adapted quickly and should turn into a dependable goal scorer when given the opportunity.

Jon Olthuis: B
Jonny O proved what he is capable of doing between the pipes over the last few games he played. He was nothing less than stellar. Unfortunately, his play in the first half of the season was a bit inconsistent and we never really saw him stand on his head. It seemed that after Bryce was named #1 that Jon decided he had something to prove. He proved it to me. If he hadn't played so well in his last few games I would have given him a C+.

Craig Parkinson: B+
I thought Craig had an up and down year. His obvious strength was his ability to win faceoffs and he used whatever tactic he could to do so. That skill earned him the + onto the B. But his finishing was streaky. He had two long stretches without a point including no production in the last 10 games. Craig played most of the season on the top two lines and clearly has the necessary skills to continue in the top six. He matched his output from his freshman season with 7 goals; his production however must increase in the future.

Jade Portwood: B
Along with Tyler Moir, Jade was a key cog in the cycle game for the Seawolves this past year. Jade showed some potential to be the next Paul Crowder in my opinion. He has the size and strength to possess the puck and control play deep in the offensive zone. If there was any player on the team that deserved more goals I'd say it was Jade. Down the stretch he was inches away from providing game winning goals against more than one team. His shorthanded play was exceptional I thought. I leaned heavily toward a B+ but instead left room for growth. If he doesn't tally double digits in goals next year I'll be surprised.

Mat Robinson: A+
Mat was often the fuel for the Seawolf engine this season. I really don't know if there was anything that he could have done better. I guess he could have found the back of the net more often but with everything else he brought to bear that wouldn't be a fair criticism. His ability to carry the puck was a strength all year long. He keyed so many rushes and set up so much in the offensive end it was sometimes difficult to realize that his job was also to keep the other team from scoring. His team leading +11 rating though tells that story well. Mat was the clearest team leader this season. Though his captaincy was stripped for whatever happened in Denver at the end of January he continued to lead on the ice.

Ken Selby: B-
I've been a fan of Ken Selby since day one. I've often complained here about his lack of playing time. This season he dressed for 23 games which is more than his first two years combined. He was often called upon to "fill in" for injuries and that led to some inconsistency in his play. I'd love to see Ken find a permanent spot on one of the top two lines. It's been commented here that he lacks hockey sense and since the first time I read that I watched him specifically looking for such signs. I don't want to blame him specifically for looking confused or being out of position from time to time since he hasn't ever played consistently enough to make such a judgement fair but ... he did look out of place often enough to warrant the B-. Sometimes a player and a coach just don't meld. I think that is the unfortunate situation for Ken and Shyiak.

Jeremy Smith: A+++++
For a guy that honestly had marginal D1 skills Jeremy performed in the absolute best manner he could have this season. He was given an opportunity and he rose to the occassion. If there was a guy on the team that deserved to score a goal more than Jeremy I can't think of his name. He defined Seawolf Hockey for me this season. Hire him as a graduate assistant!

Jared Tuton: A
I can give no less of a grade to the one guy on the team that absolutely embodies the term "coaches player". Over his career Jared has been the one guy that Coach Shyiak could count on to fill any role that needed filled. And he has done it well in all cases. This season Jared spent most of his time on the blueline. He's probably the reason that Jeff Carlson hardly sniffed the ice.

Luka Vidmar: B+
I thought as the season progressed that Luka began more and more to come into his own. There was little if any time spent with his head other than up. His skating was strong and his passing sharp. He was responsible in his own end and showed he could be an offensive threat moving forward. He played a couple of games at forward and did well. With two more years in a Seawolf uniform he should grow into a leader.

Sean Wiles: B
Sean filled a number of roles during the season skating with different lines. He found a solid niche though on a strong checking line with Nick Haddad and Jade Portwood which I named the WHiP line. If he can learn better how to use his size and strength to be even stronger on the puck and utilize his skating in open ice then we'll likely see more and more production from him over the next couple of years.

Coaching Staff: B
I almost went with a B- here. I was mostly satisfied with the way the staff prepared the team over the course of the season. I feel a little critical of the way in which they handled the Denver curfew incident. It may perhaps be easy to second guess the situation. I have to say it was both a positive and a negative. Mostly the reason for the B is the fact that the team finished 9th. It was perhaps the best 9th place finish in WCHA history but nevertheless ... it was still 9th.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Paul Crowder Gonzo

The NHL's free agency rules have struck once again; this time taking our Paul Crowder before his time. Unless I've missed my guess this isn't the first place you've read that Crowder signed with the NY Rangers. Much congratulations must be tendered to Paul and his family for this momentous change in his life. No longer will Paul have to juggle homework and hockey. He can focus solely on hockey and you know what? That spells bad news for opponents.

Looks like Paul will be assigned to the Hartford Wolfpack in the AHL. Whether he remains there or graduates to the show, Paul's style of play will greatly benefit his chances for success. His strength on the puck combined with his calm decision making is better suited for AHL and/or NHL play. While he was able to succeed in the frenetic WCHA, he'll likely do better in leagues where the play is more controlled.

Paul was certainly at the top of the list for undrafted Seawolves to turn pro owing mostly to his maturity. Don't think for a second that there won't be a hole next season for someone to step up and into. Paul is the guy on the team that makes everybody else around him better. The Seawolves will miss him. So will me and every other fan that has enjoyed watching him play for UAA the last three years.

Good luck to you Paul. Give the Seawolves and their staff props whenever you're interviewed eh?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Back in Biz

I sucked it up big time. I went out and bought the very first new computer for myself since I bought my very first computer. After getting zero useful anything out of that original Windoze 3.1 machine I purchased, I either acquired a Macintosh to use or bought a used Mac.

I've never been one that needed crazy processor speeds and/or massive amounts of RAM to play graphics intensive games so a 2 year old Mac always suited me nicely. I was still using the original Mac PowerPC (acquired through work) until around 5 years ago. And since then I've gone through one of the original iMacs and then the 800Mhz machine that just died.

My new machine? The 2.4Ghz, 1Gig RAM, 230Gig Drive latest 20" iMac. Sweet ride. I might have to buy a copy of Halo and spend some time in Halo-Multiplayer mode using this machine. I could own. Of course, I hope I'll find some way to utilize it for the blogs benefit. On my old machine there was no way I could capture video. I imagine that effort will benefit from the extra cycles.

Having my computer die in the middle of UAA's last playoff series has thrown me out of kilter a bit. It couldn't have been more weird timing.

For whatever it's worth I'll have a long "report card" post up tomorrow evening and on Friday sometime I'll post the annual "UAA Fan Blog Awards". After that I'll work on something comprehensive regarding the recruits; then I'll wrap things up with some thoughts about league expansion. So that's pretty much all (unless something brilliant occurs to me) for the next 10 days or so and of course I'll give my perspective regarding any news that occurs.

For the extended off-season, I will only be posting if there is something newsworthy.

And thanks as well for the expressions of concern regarding my well-being. Whether or not you speculated that I was dead or in jail matters not. The fact that such questions arose in anyone's mind is both humbling and gratifying. For the future, I'll try to ensure that if any such unexpected interruption arises that I'll utilize one of many alternative ways to communicate it.

I liked the Chat Room widget and will certainly consider utilizing it in some way next season.

Monday, March 16, 2009

When It Rains It Pours

I was ok with the way the team played Friday night. I didn't like the result. I also didn't want to write; mostly because the chat room thingy seemed to be generating interest. On Saturday, I sat down and read a couple of recaps and comments and I decided to make a post. And suddenly my computer froze. It's an ancient G4 iMac 800mhz machine (the half-globe with the LCD swingarm). It's time had come I guess. Yahweh called it to come to electronics heaven.

Well that sucked entirely. Then Saturday night. I thought the Seawolves were the better team on the ice on Saturday. I haven't really read what anyone else has said since my access is limited by not having a computer. I am using (and will again this week) my lovely daughter's computer. Count on only a couple of more posts through the rest of the week. I'll be looking around for a good machine at a good price but I don't expect to post much this offseason so I don't know that I'll be in a big hurry to get one.

That's it for now.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

14 Seawolves on All-Academic WCHA Team

14 UAA Seawolf Hockey players were named to the WCHA All-Academic team today. This is the highest number of UAA hockey players ever listed and it contributed to a record 107 players league-wide named to the team. The UAA players named are:
Mat Robinson - 3rd award
Kevin Clark - 2nd award
Paul Crowder - 2nd award
Trevor Hunt - 2nd award
Josh Lunden - 2nd award
Jon Olthuis - 2nd award
Jeremy Smith - 1st award
Nils Backstrom - 1st award
Brian Bales - 1st award
Jared Tuton - 1st award
Kane Lafranchise - 1st award
Craig Parkinson - 1st award
Luka Vidmar - 1st award
Sean Wiles - 1st award
To earn recognition as a member of the All-WCHA Academic Team, member team student-athletes must meet the following criteria: 1) have completed one year of residency at present institution, prior to the current academic year; and 2) have a grade point average of at least 3.00 (on a 4.00 scale) for the previous two semesters or three quarters, or may qualify if his overall GPA is at least 3.00 for all terms at his present institution.

Congratulations to all these players for doing good work in the classroom while still performing at a high level on the ice. There's a reason student comes first in student/athlete.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

It's Only Wednesday?

Writing can be hard. Ideas that seem clear and precise in one's mind don't always come out so when the words hit the page. Normally, I try to profile the opponent during the week. Even if it turns out to be only a vague profile. I look for something that I find interesting or amusing in some way and try to magnify it in an entertaining way. Today as I tried to write something along those lines I found my efforts seriously lacking.

I've decided it's because I'm so highly anticipating this series that I've sort of got "ants in my pants" about it. Therefore nothing I have to say seems insightful or even entertaining in any manner. Nobody reading here needs me to tell them that DU is a quality opponent and that winning a best of three series is a tall order.

Invoking a comparison of DU and UAA with some sort of "Joe Blow State U" versus "Rich Kid Private School" with an expanded diatribe about the social evils that the privileged inflict upon the masses wouldn't interest anybody.

A point by point player comparison is more meaty stuff but do you know how long that takes? With the number of tangents I'd likely take such a thing would take me all day. And honestly, there isn't anything in any statistics or comparisons of these two teams that aren't overridden by the fact that it is a WCHA playoff series and in one of the tightest WCHA regular seasons anything can and will happen. Tech took UND to three games last year so one has to say it's possible for any WCHA team to advance this weekend.

What about just something funny? I'm a smartass right? The "ants in the pants" thing is blocking my smartassery. Seriously, I just want Friday evening to get here.

What about an impassioned plea/speech to the team to reach down and find the level of effort (that by now must be ingrained in muscle memory) needed to win a game. If I could write something better then I wouldn't have posted the battle speeches youtube a couple of weeks ago. Besides, the players know they have to do that already. And I'd likely get too dramatic with some reference to how the fabric of the universe will be shaken to it's knees with a Seawolf victory. It's not a time for hyperbole. Why not? The "ants in the pants" thing.

So this is what we get? Unless there's "news", um ... yeah. Except to say:

Go get 'em Seawolves.
Tear 'em all a new asshole.
Fold their tent.
Pull the rug out from under them.
Rip off their heads and shit down their necks.
Hit them hard enough that their third cousins get bruises.
Take no prisoners.
Offer no mercy.
Bang it home again and again and again.
Grab your best destiny.
Make them walk away from the rink shaking their heads.
And do it all TWICE!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Kevin Clark: WCHA Offensive Player of the Week

Kevin Clark's 4 goal and 2 assist weekend versus Minnesota-Duluth earned him the Western Collegiate Hockey Associations Offensive Player of the Week for the final weekend of the regular season. Here's the text of the announcment:
A 5-9, 167-pound right winger from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Clark scored four goals in the series and added two assists for six points as the visiting Seawolves swept on the road for the first time since Nov. 10-11, 2000 (@ Wisconsin) and extended their winning streak to four games - a feat that hasn't been accomplished in over a decade (Dec. 4, 1998-Jan. 8, 1999). Last Friday (March 6) at the Duluth Entertainment & Convention Center, Clark led the UAA attack with a two-goal, two-assist night in a 5-4 victory over the host Bulldogs. He scored the game-opening goal in the first period, tied the score at 3-3 with a goal in the second, and then set up both of his team's goals in the third period - including teammate Josh Lunden's winner. Last Saturday (March 7) evening, Clark came back with a two-goal night to lead Alaska Anchorage to a 4-3 win over UMD. In addition to his six points in the series, he also fired 10 shots on goal and earned a +3 plus/minus rating. On the 2008-09 season, Clark ranks second on the UAA team in scoring with 29 points in 32 games (11g,18a).
Congratulations to Kevin for receiving this award. His scoring keyed both wins against UMD but his numbers don't tell the whole story for the weekend. Kevin was a pest; he got into more than one UMD player's head and his play created opportunities for others. Great weekend all around for Mr. Clark. It was the sixth POTW award for a Seawolf player this season.

Monday, March 09, 2009

LetsGoDU Blows Up: All Hail DG

The UAA Hockey Fan Blog is not the best blog in the college hockey blogosphere. Not even close actually. This season the blog published by Damien Goddard called LetsGoDU has absolutely and completely gone through the roof in what could only be called an explosion.

The joint is averaging somewhere around 750 visits per days with 1200 page views. That easily doubles the much improved numbers here on this blog. Last season I averaged about 200 visits a day ... this season has seen a 50% rise to about 300 visits a day. Last month LetsGoDU had 19,256/32,894. Compare that to 8,988/12,480 (my all-time highest month) here. But numbers don't really tell the story. Damien has found an issue that resonates deeply with his readership.

Unsatisfied with an obtuse jelly donut for a mascot, Damien has tirelessly taken up the cause of restoring "Boone" as the University's logo. About a decade ago the school properly realized that their Disney cartoon image of a smiling boy in a coonskin cap was well and truly stupid. They believed that the image wasn't inclusive and frankly they were right. If you were a female basketball player would you want to run around the court with a cartoon boy on your shirt? So they dumped Boone.

Of course, that stuck the school in the position of being called the Pioneers with a logo of what they say is a stylized Red-tailed Hawk. I think the incongruity is precious. But that's just me. Now the University is promoting the "Denver Arch" and the jelly donut seems to be a thing of the past. They didn't think the incongruity was precious.

So in an era when decrying political correctness is the height of fashion, Damien grabbed hold and took off. And he has done an amazing job. By leveraging his alumni connections and combining that with a well organized dormitory posse he has become Grand Imparator of the college hockey blog world. Damien Goodard is to the Boone issue like P.T. Barnum was to the Circus. He's the ringmaster, the emprasario. If he didn't get a marketing degree when he went to DU, the marketing school ought to give him an honorary one based on his performance selling this issue. DG knows pretty girls in T-shirts can be a powerful positive image for an issue. Take a look at his blog today. I'm just sayin. All Hail DG.

DG's efforts have been recognized, linked to and praised by local sportwriters. A local nutcase radio loudmouth even joined the Boone bandwagon. He has encouraged, promoted and supported any number of efforts to keep the Boone issue in front of the schools administration at whom he freely throws insults. He has stirred genuine emotion amongst the Boone faithful. And his efforts to engage them have been spectacularly successful.

During the season the school came out and publicly acknowledged that they couldn't control what students wore to hockey games. Boone T-shirts flew off the online racks. Now they're raising money for a mascot costume. He's raised $4,700 of $7,100 needed for the costume. Wow. This will be an unofficial mascot worn by a volunteer. There's really no guarantee that at some point the school wouldn't exercise an option to deny them wearing it. But it would take some big balls for the school to do that though, so the folks buying/wearing it are probably ok. There seems to be a distinct lag of testosterone in the DU administration these days. They fear DG.

"We're here, we're queer and we're not going back". Ok. I doubt most of DU's fanbase would like that phrase to describe their efforts but it's really no different than the beginning of the gay-pride movement. It's meant as a positive comparison. Anyway these folks are sick and tired of "Political Correctness Run Amok" and they're speaking out in no uncertain terms.

And Damien Goddard is the man behind the curtain.

As for me? Boone is a dorky looking Disney cartoon. Would I want that for my logo and/or mascot? Hells no.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: For Your Consideration

With the end of the regular season all eyes turn to the PairWise. To be truthful, plenty of eyes had turned to it quite some time ago. There's a segment of fans that begin looking at NCAA brackets at the beginning of February. They love the what if's I guess. It isn't anything that fascinates me. On the contrary, I think guessing what the NCAA playoff brackets are going to be before they are determined is the strangest kind of mental masturbation.

Here's what I see when I look at the PairWise today and it has nothing to do with which 16 teams will eventually make the NCAA's. There are 9 WCHA teams that are currently what is called a "Team Under Consideration". That's right, 9 out of 10 WCHA teams have good enough regular season records to be in the top 25 and on the list from which it is determined who goes to the NCAAs.

Denver leads the way at #4, UND at #7, Minnesota #13, CC and Duluth are ties with others at #14, Wisconsin comes in tied at #19, SCSU #21, UAA #22 and Minnesota State at #24. UAF is #25 confirming that indeed 9th place in the WCHA is better than 4th place in the CCHA.

That is competitive parity from the top to the bottom that no other league can match. UAA's inclusion as a "Team Under Consideration" solidifies the positioning for all the other higher ranked WCHA TUC's. Plenty may decry the WCHA as having a down year and they're right I suppose. But the league is BARELY down. Just a smidgen. A wee bit. The eastern-biased press have been mostly ga-ga about Hockey East this season but with only 5 teams in the top 25 proclaiming that league as better than the WCHA can only be done subjectively. Objectively, the WCHA is still better.

As to making the NCAAs? The only way that is happening is for UAA to win it's series versus DU this weekend and then go on to win the WCHA Final Five conference tournament. Possible? Yes. Probable? No team has ever advanced from the Final Five "play-in" game to win the tournament. Doesn't mean it can't happen.

UAA's finish at 14-15-5 is the best winning percentage posted by any Seawolf hockey team since joining the WCHA.

The team is staying in the lower 48 this week in preparation for the upcoming DU series. As one of the two teams that eclipse every other teams travel schedule it's a smart move. Blowing two days of rest for travel makes no sense. I hope they move onto Denver quickly enough to help with the altitude adjustment. Expect WCHA player of the week honors for both Kevin Clark and Jon Olthuis. Kevin would seem to be a shoe-in ... Jonny O could get dicked because he only played one game. Thank Doyle Woody for the math ... the Seawolves power play is 25.6 in the last nine games. With goalie save percentages over the same period well above .900 for both of UAA's netminders things are looking good.

Here's a rundown of the various WCHA playoff series as I see them:
Michigan Tech @ UND
Though I'm sure there are MTU fans that hope for an upset, I doubt any of them suspect it will really happen. If this series were on MTU's ice then I'd give them a shot a the upset. But three playoff games at the Ralph most likely means that MTU loses in two. Don't be surprised though at one tremendous effort that pushes the series to 3 games.

UAA @ University of Denver
With the Seawolves on a 4 game roll and the team getting stellar goaltending from both Bryce and Jonny O the Seawolves have a legitimate chance at an upset. The Seawolves bench wasn't long when they put together the OT upset of DU earlier this year after being worked the night before. If there is a team from the bottom half that knows exactly how to accomplish an upset in the playoffs it is the Seawolves.

Minnesota State @ Wisconsin
Who knows? Seriously, neither of these teams has displayed any sort of desire to win more than one hockey game lately. Someone has to win. I'd put my money on Wisconsin. Mankato plays best when it is playing with emotion on home ice. Otherwise, they don't.

Duluth @ Colorado College
Have to go with CC here. I'd like Duluth to win this series. I think the odds of this going to 3 games is pretty good. Conventional wisdom would peg this as a battle between Stalock and Bachman. For UMD's sake I'd hope that doesn't happen. Bachman's been sharp lately. The Seawolves just showed how beatable Stalock is.

St. Cloud @ Minnesota
St. Cloud fans dream about playing the Gophers in the WCHA playoffs. However, their dream takes place at the NHC. This series will be at the John. The Gophers opened their regular season with two wins against SCSU 3-2 and 2-1 ... then in January the Gophs took two games at the NHC by 5-1 and 8-6. I think this is most likey a two game series for the Gophers.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Seawolves 4 - UMD 3

After the 1st Period:
About two thirds through the 1st period I was relatively happy at how things were going. The Seawolves had some good play deep in UMD's zone more than a couple of times. I was going to compliment the team for bottling UMD up with aggressive forechecking at times. And on the other end mention that I thought the guys were doing a good job moving the puck out of their own zone. They did look better than the 1st period last night.

But somewhere in the last 6 or 7 minutes they lost the momentum badly. Let's hope the penalty called at the end of the period doesn't cost the team. They've got a few minutes at least to rest up and focus on the penalty kill. A goal at the beginning of the 2nd wouldn't be good. The Seawolves have to find a way to get the momentum back.

After the 2nd Period:
One good penalty kill then 3 big saves for Olthuis (really big saves) then a power play goal for them. First six minutes of the 2nd sure seemed the same as the last six minutes of the 1st. There was no really big momentum switch but the Seawolves did manafacture a couple of small chances and the game opened up a bit. And after a close chance for UMD; Clark, Crowder and Grant rushed up the ice and Clarkie buried it to tie the game with a nice tip in. Then OMG again ... Shane Lovdahl is my favortie player ever.

I think the two quick goals hurt the Bulldogs feelings. The next time the Seawolves were in the zone a little fracas erupted after the whistle. The Seawolves should have been on the bench feeling pretty good about themselves. And then Clarkie gets the gift of the year. Nice boards there at the DECC. I hope they move those to the new arena. This has definitely been a game of momentum changes.

Going into the 3rd period with a 3-1 lead is always a good thing. The Seawolves will probably look to continue pressuring the puck deep into the UMD end. Make em go 180ft. And be ultra-responsible in your own end. They're facing another power play so once again they have to focus on the penalty kill first. Keeping the shifts short and having legs as fresh as possible is important. The fewer penalties the guys commit the better too.

Post Game Thoughts:
The Bulldogs looked dangerous to me in the first half of the last period. And with a 2nd power play chance they got the job done around 8 minutes in and turned it into a hockey game. And then they continued to look dangerous time after time after time. But Jonny O was a wall. Nobody in Green and Gold gave up even though there was long shift after long shift defending against a relentless attack. And as I writing that sentence nobody on UMD gave up either making it 4 to 3. Thank god Nick Haddad hustled and buried the empy netter after he'd missed.

Ok back to recapping ... the Seawolves stole this game. Larceny. Jonny O was the main offender. There are warrants out for his arrest in Duluth tonight. End of story.

Hey Shyiak ... 4am curfew ok? Let em enjoy themselves if you're overnighting before coming home.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Seawolves 5 - Bulldogs 4

I wrote down comments after each period so I'll just go with that ...

After the 1st Period:
I thought UAA was lucky to get out of the 1st period down just one goal. Kevin scored a beauty high on Stalock's glove side (totally invalidating what I said yesterday about a shot high to his glove being a gift save) after a sweet takeaway at the Bulldog blueline. The flow of the game was totally in UMD's favor. Only briefly did UAA look like they weren't chasing the Bulldogs around the ice. My stated hopes that 4-on-4 play might be important for UAA also turned out badly as 4-on-4 UMD tied the game. The Seawolves really need to get their feet under them or they could get run outta the building. There was zero real pressure offensively by the Seawolves other than a lucky break that lead to a couple of shorthanded chances. They could easily be 3-0 behind.

After the 2nd Period:
Wow is my first impression for the 2nd period. Much of it was pretty similar to the 1st and I wouldn't have been surprised if 3-1 had been the score at the end of the 2nd. But omg ... the Seawolves were very very opportunistic on their 2nd goal. They hadn't had many chances and when they finally did August Aiken put his 2nd of the season behind Stalock. They'd killed a couple of penalties and though they weren't really chasing the Bulldogs around I didn't think they were looking particularly sharp. After the 2nd goal there was an incredible change in momentum. Clark, Crowder and Lunden came out and absolutely controlled play in the UMD end. They were getting chances and the shift was so long that everyone's legs were dragging. Kevin Clark had a chance to go off but stayed with the puck, getting it in deep. When Portwood and Haddad joined him they managed to get the puck in front of the net and with Stalock scrambling Clarkie tied the game; good choice by him in not changing out. I'm still "wow". UAA outplayed UMD for a total of 3 minutes so far in this game. 3-3 is a good position to be in. I know the Seawolves know how to play with a tight score going into the 3rd. This should be an interesting 3rd period.

Post Game Thoughts:
Still wow ... no please, allow me to correct that .... "WOW". Unreal. Two sweet power play goals from Josh Lunden in the first part of the period did the trick tonight. The Seawolves were outplayed in all three periods. Coming out with the win is really nice. The Seawolves did a good job in their own zone blocking shots and clogging passing lanes even though UMD had a lot of territorial advantage. I think it seemed to be another overall good team effort. Everyone seemed to contribute something positive at one time or another and the few mistakes made were covered by teammates or squandered by UMD. I thought it was a good game overall by both teams.

Credit on the night to the UAA penalty kill. The team may not have played its best 5-on-5 game of the year but they were sharp on special teams. Clark, Crowder and Lunden made a statement tonight about playing together ... whether they wanted to or not. How can they not keep playing together? Nick Haddad was visible tonight often and it always seemed to be with him charging hard into the UMD zone. He and Jade Portwood contributed nicely on Clark's first goal. Most of the pats on the back though should go to everyone who did their job backchecking. And that was everyone in a green sweater tonight.

My B2 was a bit jumpy at times so it was hard to get a sense of some aspects of the play. I must say that fans standing in front of the camera didn't make me a happy camper the last 2 minutes of the game. The referees stayed mostly out of the game. Their radio guys gave Josh Lunden the first star nod but I'd go with Clark. It was his invitation to Stalock to slash him that put UAA on the Power Play for Josh's go ahead goal. Josh Meyers apparently through some sort of hissy fit at the end. Smart money would bet that Kevin had something to do with that as well.

I watched the Gopher game before the UAA game came on. How sweet was it that 3 minutes into the game after the Gophers scored their 1st goal that Doug and Rug were all but proclaiming the game as over only to see MTU eventually build a 4-1 lead? It was very sweet. MTU winning 6-5 in OT. Bonus.

We now know that UAA will be going to DU for the playoffs since North Dakota beat Wisconsin tonight. Tonight's win is potentially a big one for the Seawolves. If they can feed off the energy of this win (combined with last weekends sweep) and get more points tomorrow night they can go on the road in the playoffs with a better chance for a big upset.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Seawolves vs. Bulldogs Preview

There it is ... the College Hockey News Tale of the Tape for this weekends UAA/UMD series. (click it to enlarge or follow the link). Everything you could possibly need to know about the upcoming matchup. Ok well not quite everything. The Seawolves have a 7-9-5 record against UMD since the 02-03 season. Duluth's last win in the series came on February 24th, 2007. The Bulldogs have 12 upperclassmen. For anyone that thinks it matters ... they have 5 NHL draft picks.

There are lots of highlights for the Bulldogs this season. Most notably I'd say has been the play of the freshman Connollys. Though unrelated they share some commonalities in their play. One of em has 11 goals and the other has 7. Good numbers for any WCHA freshman.

One disappointment must be the continuing slide of senior Michael Gergen. After a 14 goal freshman season Gergen only scored 19 goals in his final three years. Defenseman Josh Meyers has good looking numbers on the surface. Of his 8 goals none have come at even strength and Kevin Clark owns him. Senior MacGregor Sharp isn't disappointing. He just had a hatty versus the Gophers. Nice. He did however finish a -2 in that game.

I've never been impressed with defenseman Trent Palm. Somehow he looks like a football player on skates to me. Maybe it's the stupid #54 he wears. The teams two best defenseman are both sophomores. Chad Huttel and Evan Oberg. None of the blueliners should give anyone on the Seawolves any nightmares about Bobby Orr.

The Bulldogs generate some of their offense off the cycle. UAA fans should be familiar with that tactic. I watched the Bulldogs and the Gophers last weekend. The Bulldogs were cheating more than any cycling team in hockey history. The number of basketball style picks was amazing. Want to bet they take a few penalties for interference in the UAA zone this weekend? The Bulldog forwards can skate and they will present some challenges on transition. They have some creativity in the lineup and some strength.

The Bulldogs will rely on Alex Stalock. They count on him being the 3rd defenseman. UAA will have to make good changes on the PK or Stalock will burn them with a long pass. With his wanderings there is always a chance for a mistake ... the Seawolves will have to pounce on those if they come. And oh yeah ... there's no point shooting high on his glove side. That'll just help his save percentage.

There'll be no big changes in the Seawolves game plan. It is most effective on a small sheet of ice so expect our forwards to try to get the puck in deep and possess it along the walls working for a chance to break to the net. Obviously it will be important for UAA to cash in on it's power play chances. We've seen some strong 4-on-4 play from the Seawolves so that may be something they can utilize successfully this weekend. The guys will have to continue to play tight in their own end as they did against UAF last weekend. A blocked shot can't go in the net ya know.

And in case you hadn't noticed. No TV this weekend. I understand that B2 Networks has it available.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Duluth: Almost Wisconsin

Regardless of the fact that I don't not like Duluth there is still plenty of reason to take a critical look at the city our favorite team is visiting this weekend. The first thing to point out is one fact that virtually all Duluth residents don't want you to know about. Duluth is almost Wisconsin. You can literally be in Minnesota one second, stumble over backwards and find yourself in Wisconsin the next. Now you and I both know that there is really no tangible difference in the intrinsic value of a chunk of land along some random border between two states. So why then does the citizenry of Duluth guard the secret that their city touches the state of Wisconsin?

Because they hate Wisconsin. Despite being long lived neighbors they hold secret parties in their basements that are "Hate Superior" themed. Residents of sister city Superior, Wisconsin are shunned and insulted and/or tarred and feathered whenever they have the courage to cross the river into Duluth. In Duluth they know how to spell M-I-N-N-E-S-O-T-A, Minnesota Minnesota .. Yeah Minnesota. Whenever UMD plays the University of Wisconsin hockey team you'll see the exact same adjectives and adverbs used to describe the opponent as Gopher fans use. They co-opt the whole "evil commie" theme directly from Goofland. So ... for the ongoing general repression of Superior, Wisconsin by Duluthians I'm comfortable indicting them. Shame on you Duluth. Shame.

"I don't know, ... Duluth Sucks," said Minneapolis/St. Paul resident and UMD's RunninWiththeDogs blogger Donna when asked why UMD doesn't have any sort of TV broadcast contract. Since the games this weekend aren't on TV here in Anchorage, I'd hoped to find out the reason; but that's all she had to offer in the way of explanation.

My question also went unanswered on the UAA/UMD thread at the Bulldogs fan forum "the Penalty Box". Which is administered by guess who? The same Gopher fan who administers the Gopher fan forum "GopherPuckLive". What's the deal? Are Duluthians getting their marching orders from the Gophers?

I guess what it really comes down to is that no Duluth TV stations found it profitable to put the Bulldogs games on. Well maybe if Duluthians didn't beat up and shame the citizens of their sister city in Wisconsin people there would watch the UMD games and make the ratings higher. It's a shame that the provincialism of Duluthians directed at their hated Wisconsin neighbors keeps college hockey fans from being able to view a game from the DECC.

Duluth, Georgia is named after Duluth, Minnesota. It was a sarcastic joke after an 1871 speech by a Minnesota blowhard congressman that described Duluth as some sort of paradise. I'm sure Georgians are proud.

Duluth is only marginally more diverse than the nearly all-caucasian Mankato. 92.65% of Duluth is white. They had an NFL team in Duluth from 1926-1927 called the Eskimoes; George Clooney's "Leatherheads" used it as some sort of basis but changed the name to Duluth Bulldogs? With a current Native American population of 2.44%, I find it hard to believe there was a plurality (i.e... like maybe ... um ... 2?) of Eskimo people in the city in 1926. I guess it was their way of honoring the Inupiat nation from afar?

Curling is big time stuff in Duluth just like in Canada. I wonder if Duluthians get their milk in bags?

And there's no Bong's in Duluth. They're all in Superior.

I'll have some sort of decent comparison previewing the Seawolves and Bulldogs series tomorrow. Will this weekend turn out to be a goaltending duel? Can the Seawolves use their size to advantage on the tiny DECC rink? Will the referees call the basketball-style picks that Sandelin has his team using when they're on the cycle? Will the Bulldogs lack of effective backchecking be exposed by the Seawolves transition game? Can the Bulldog fans come up with soemthing better than "Whats a Seawolf" and/or some lame Palin chant? I can see Wisconsin from my house? Ironically weak.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Bryce Christianson: WCHA Defensive Player of the Week

Bryce Christianson's performance this past weekend has earned him the WCHA Defensive Player of the Week honor. His 46 saves in back to back shutouts of UAF was the hands down best performance by an individual WCHA player on the weekend and it was a foregone conclusion that he'd grab this award. In his last 8 games Bryce has a save percentage of .925 and a GAA of 1.75 per game. For the season his numbers are .898 and 2.45.

Bryce is currently delivering the types of performances that were lacking for much of the season. He is giving the team in front of him an opportunity to win whenever he plays. I don't think anyone could ask any more of him than that. Congrats Bryce on the excellent performance and of course for receiving this well-deserved recognition.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Why I Don't Not Like Duluth

Or ... learning to accept the mild success of a once long suffering basement mate.

It hasn't been season I'd hoped for back when the Seawolves faced UMD to open the WCHA regular season. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of how the team has played overall and I think I've shown that with what I've written here this season. But it would be the height of delusion to not acknowledge that I was hoping the team would be fighting for a home ice playoff spot this weekend. No doubt we all were.

And then there's our season bookend partner and their fans who are getting to experience the excitement and possibility of overcoming a lengthy period without seeing their team on their own ice for the WCHA playoffs. So I figure I can't not like them. It's perhaps a big step for me as a fan to move away from the not like end of the attitude spectrum with regard to any WCHA opponent. Along with Michigan Tech, UMD has often accompanied UAA near the bottom of the WCHA standings. It isn't every year but there's been enough of them that (in my mind at least) a sort of natural fan affinity has developed. I guess I don't really not like Michigan Tech either. That's it though ... I still hate everyone else. Not really not disliking two other teams is enough for me.

There are other reasons for this very UnDonald-like perversion of the time honored tradition of fandom hatred. The Duluth fanbase is mostly ok on the whole. Drunk Hockey Guy once perpetrated the all-time greatest disrespectful slam on the USCHO fan forum. I could probably easily find the picture he took and post it here but I'd rather describe it. He snapped a picture of himself in his UMD sweater, beer raised in right hand and smiling, standing in front of a pillow sheathed in an SCSU jersey which gave the impression of a person kneeling in front of him with the name "Rabib's Girlfriend" on the back. On top of the SCSU jersey was a paper bag with DHG's left hand cradling the back. Ok ... maybe you had to see the picture? It was beyond hilarious.

The fanbase also found perhaps the best way to deal with ongoing futility. Win or Lose They Booze. Good on them for not overly lamenting things the way some fans do ... 'cough'. It's an admirable attitude. Taking things too seriously isn't what being a fan should be about. It should be about enjoying yourself. There's plenty to don't not like about that.

Then there's RunninWithTheDogs blogger Donna. If you haven't read her blog you should do so a few times. I enjoy her writing. She's funny and adds a unique perspective to the online college hockey fan world. That's all good but the bigger thing is ... I know she mostly "gets" what I write here. I'm pretty sure that at some point or another almost anyone reading me regularly will shake their head in disbelief and/or just wonder what the hell I'm going on about (coulda happened in this very post). But Donna appears to me to have fewer of those moments than most. I certainly don't not like her.

So there it is. Now ... the Seawolves better go down to Duluth and ruin all those fine people's weekend. I may not don't not like them but that doesn't mean I wouldn't not be happy if they were all mostly pissed off that their team's season came to a disappointing end.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Sunday Potpourri: Koyaanisqatsi

I really get sick of hearing the stupid 6 months of darkness comments from lower 48 types. Today's number of hours of daylight in Minneapolis is 11 hours and 12 minutes ... daylight hours for Anchorage today? 10 hours and 24 minutes. Before the week is out Anchorage will likely have more daylight hours than Minneapolis. OK?

Dear loyal readers. I know you want to read about the Seawolves. I know you'd prefer to keep the focus here on that subject. But, I'm not always going to restrain myself and shit is going to come out of my mouth that isn't relevant to that focus. It generally isn't the rule of the day. In fact I'd tend to think historically about 95% of the words on this blog ARE directly focused on the Seawolves or their opponents. I'm not a journalist. I wouldn't want to be one. I'm here to express myself about Seawolf Hockey and anything else that comes to mind. So ... now; blame a commenter for the following.

Sarah Palin is a whoring bitch with nary a working brain cell. Her hubby is a zero-integrity cuckolded wimp. I forgive dimwitted idiots for voting her into the Governorship. You were duped into believing this broad was something more than a smiling waving pose-queen. It isn't your fault. She looks good on TV and since TV is your GOD you believe what you see. I get it. Exercising any reasoning faculties between your ears gives you a headache. I get it. Why bother to think for yourself when John Tracy at KTUU is showing you pretty pictures and laying on the bullshit? I get it and I forgive you. Now that said, if you support the Seawolves and can't separate my disdain for the aforementioned slut then quit reading here. I'm going to attack her personally and professionally in any manner I see fit whenever it occurs to me to do so. Get it?

I think she's an embarrassment to Alaska and too many people around the country actually think that everyone in Alaska loves this bimbo. So if my derision for her has the possibility to open up just one person's mind in Timbuktu to the possibility that her infidelity is a sign of poor character then I'm going to do it (not withstanding all the other stupidity that she spews). Get it? I could care less if she is some fantasy Mother You'd Like to Fuck because unless you're partnered with her hubby in a snowmachine business it ain't going to happen.

Perhaps you look at her and see something of yourself in her. Perhaps you imagine that with different circumstances in your own life that you could have been her. Well, if you really want someone governing you that is "just like you" then vote for her. Personally, I'd prefer that the people who govern me be somehow superior to me. And the bitch we're talking about here simply isn't. That's right ... I'm smarter, have more integrity and am generally an all around better human than that trollop.

Nice weekend by the guys. I'm not like many other Seawolf fans who take great satisfaction in seeing the team beat UAF. I'd trade the two wins this weekend for two wins against any other WCHA team. 4 WCHA points > Governor's Cup in my book. Yes the program has bragging rights for another year and a threepeat. Good stuff. But really, beating up a little sister doesn't do that much for me.

I think losing the Governor's Cup 3 times on stupid shootouts has a lot to do with my attitude about it. Seeing UAF fans dance all over the Internets with their "We have the cup" bullshit made me realize how little it actually means. Three times UAA split the series with UAF but because they won a shootout they got to proclaim dominance? Nonsense. You won't see me jumping up and down celebrating the Governor's Cup record. I prefer the actual head-to-head record. Know what that is? 80-48-11 ... including a 34-29-6 record in Fairbanks.

You can't begin a review of the weekend without the first mention being the play of Bryce Christianson. Bryce was "ON" again. He made more than a few spectacular saves. He gave the team in front of him exactly the sort of performance they need to win a game on both nights. I think that two other Seawolf players stood out from the rest this weekend. Not to take anything away from anyone else but Paul Crowder and Kevin Clark were very effective in my opinion. I'm not even paying attention to their stats for that assessment. If they'd both finished with 0 points on the weekend I'd still say the same thing. Clarkie was as energetic as I've seen him all year and Crowder played with an edge that isn't necessarily always there.

I think it's obvious that the blueliners were in good form. Their stats do tell that story. 4 of the 11 scoring points came from defenseman this weekend including 2 of the 4 goals. Nils Backstrom had a monster weekend in terms of his all-around play. He dominated in his end time after time dispossessing Nanook puck carriers and putting them on their asses and his intelligent 4-on-4 play gave UAA the goal that put the stake in UAF's heart on Saturday night.

I think Kane Lafranchise turned a corner within the last few weeks. He has taken his level of play up a notch and right now I think he and Nils are playing the best of all the defenseman. Trevor Hunt always delights me with his sharp play and this weekend I thought he was great both keeping the puck in the zone at the point and carrying the puck on the rush. He always seems to deke someone out of their breezers and who doesn't love to see that. Robbie of course was sharp and effective. My failure here to praise him shouldn't reflect poorly on him.

This weekend was an exercise in role playing and every forward on the team filled their role well. Moir, Portwood, Selby, Smith, Haddad, Parkinson, Lunden, Lovdahl, Aiken and Bales all played well. They all contributed effectively to keeping UAF from scoring. Bryce noted to the ADN that the shutouts were team efforts and I'd agree. The forwards worked hard in all three zones both nights.

The Seawolves can't climb out of ninth place. They'll almost certainly be heading to DU or UND for the playoffs. Having already won games this season against those two teams on their ice should give us some measure of hope for an upset. This coming weekends games against UMD have almost no real meaning for the Seawolves. Lose 'em both and you go to DU or UND. Win 'em both and you go to DU or UND. UAA's fate in that sense is out of their own hands.

However, there are some potentially very interesting things that could come from a couple of Seawolf wins this weekend. Right now the team's RPI has them sitting in 28th with a score of .5033. Beating UMD twice could put the Seawolves (it depends on other results also) into a TUC (Team Under Consideration) position with an RPI of .5124. This would mean that every team the Seawolves have played this season would see some benefit from UAA's wins this weekend. This could be especially helpful to Minnesota in particular if I'm interpreting things correctly. They can't help themselves much by beating MTU twice in their last two games so expect Gopher fans to be hoping for UAA wins this weekend. 3 other WCHA teams are likely also to benefit from a couple of UAA wins ... Wisconsin, CC and SCSU are in a position to benefit though they all need to win their remaining games more than they need UAA to win.

And oh yeah ... Koyaanisqatsi is a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance". You can watch the entire film here on Google Video. It's worth it if you haven't seen it. It contains some of the most beautiful cinematography you'll ever see and the Philip Glass soundtrack is one of the greatest American musical compositions ever.