Saturday, October 13, 2007

False start: RMU 3-BU 2

The Terriers’ season opener was hardly what BU coaches, players or fans expected. A generally solid effort, with BU dominating for the first 45 minutes, was undone by a hot goalie, three RMU powerplay goals in the space of six minutes and BU’s failure to score on seven man-advantage situations. The turning point came in the third period with BU up 2-0. Twenty seconds after freshman Colin Wilson was whistled for hooking, fellow frosh Colby Cohen was called for cross-checking. The Colonials scored just before the 5-on-3 expired and then quickly added two more powerplays goals. BU couldn’t come up with an equalizer. Karson Gillespie, who stopped several 2-on-1s deserved a better fate. Captain Brian McGuirk (photo) had a goal and an assist to lead BU. For this blogger, there was a strong sense of déjà vu to another surprising early season loss, two years ago to RPI.

More details are in the BU/HE game account and in a wrap-up of both Nye Classic first round games from the UAA Hockey Fan Blog. Following below is a lengthy look at the Seawolves, also courtesy of the UAA Hockey Fan Blog.

Tonight’s game begins at 11 p.m. ET. To watch the Webcast, go to the GCI link and sign up for a gamepass ($4.99) On the radio side, Bernie Corbett’s usual sidekick Tom Ryan didn’t make the trip and his place was taken this weekend by former Terrier, U.S. Olympic and NHL forward Clark Donatelli.

UAA Preview for BU Fans (provided by UAA Hockey Fan Blogger)
Since the creation of the known universe four-thousand three -hundred twenty-six years, eleven months, twenty-two days, four hours and thiry-nine minutes ago by the almighty FSM, the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves (a mythical figure from the D’enaina aboriginal culture of Southcentral Alasak) have never beaten the BU Terriers (a little yappy dog bred by Limeys to bark a lot). The saving grace in that unsettling statistic is that UAA and BU have only played once in the preceding 4 millennia. BU won 5-3 during the 99-00 season opening Nye tournament. In this years Nye Frontier (a local car dealership sponsor) the Seawolves will look to even things up. Even though it is a “tournament” the schedule is fixed and the tournament champion will be determined by record. This could mean a shootout (which should make hockey noobs happy if things work out that way). The Terriers were the Nye champs back in 99.

BU fans can watch the game vs. UAA this weekend live on the web at GCI’s website. As of this writing they don’t have the latest schedule up. I’m not sure of the cost (I’m guessing around 6 bucks) but you’ll need broadband access and Real Media player. I’m not schilling for them so if they really want your business they’ll update their page. In any case, the point here is to give you BU fans a bit of information about what to expect from this years edition of the Seawolves, so I’ll get on with that.

UAA has won their tournament 3 out of the past 4 years (including last year). So they’ll be prideful about defending that title. Support in the home rink hasn’t been what it could be over the last few years (and a few before that) but there’ll be more than enough folks in the stands this weekend (Nye attendance averages around 5,000) to make good noise for the hometown team. UAA’s all-time record on home ice is substantially better than it’s road record indicating that travel has some impact. Last year the Seawolves were around the 4th or 5th tallest and heaviest team in all of D1 and this year they’re only marginally smaller. Coach Shyiak knows we play the majority of our games on Olympic sheets so there isn’t anyone on the squad that can’t skate; regardless of their size. So based on those tidbits the Terriers can expect an uptempo but physically tough game from the Seawolves.

Now onto more specifics about play. The Seawolves begin this season under Dave Shyiak in his third year. Under previous coach John Hill the mantra was uptempo and Dave has continued that basic philosophy. Seawolf defensemen always have the green light to lead or jump into the offense under Shyiak’s system. Additionally, possession is an important facet to the attack so BU fans can expect to see all four lines working the boards and the deep zone. Cycling and breaking for the net being the key to success in that mode. The clear #1 line in this years offense is an all-sophomore line composed of #9 Kevin Clark (5’9” 170lbs), #20 Paul Crowder (6’3” 203lbs) and #21 Josh Lunden (6’2” 202lbs). Clark is a hard-nosed playmaking center who can make things happen in just about any circumstance. Josh Lunden is the prototypical British Columbian power winger. He can lay on the hits, carry the puck with speed and is always near the net when appropriate. He scored 11 goals last season and added 9 assists for 3rd on the team. Paul Crowder came from the RBC champion Burnaby Express to UAA and scored 11 goals with 13 assists in his first season. Paul is strong on the puck and scored at least half his goals last season on the backhand. Expect these guys to rack up some quality minutes in the BU zone.

Additional offensive chances are most likely to come from Senior #14 Merit Waldrop (local Anchorage kid) who Doug Woog characterized last year as “…Putting on a clinic” during a playoff game versus the Gophers. Merit had a hat trick (including two shorties) against arguably weak competion last weekend in UAA’s exhibition opener versus Southern Alberta. Senior #27 Peter Cartwright looks to breakout some this season as well. His first three years were spent on the “energy” line but I expect him to look to cash in more offensively in his final season. The rookie class will be looked to this season to contribute on the offensive end. In the one practice and one exhibition game I’ve seen there are four freshman forwards that I judge could be dangerous. #34 Brad McCabe (6’ 201lbs) was ranked in the top 200 in last seasons CSB players to watch list though he wasn’t drafted. He was only two NAHL players so listed. #17 Craig Parkinson (6’ 190lbs) scored 42 goals (6th league-wide in goals) and added 37 assists in 55 games last season for the BCHL Cowichan Valley Capitals. His teammate on that squad Winston Daychief had 31 goals and 43 assists in 59 games. #16 Tommy Grant (6’2” 190lbs) joins the Seawolves from the BCHL’s Westside Warriors where his 36 goals put him at #13 league-wide in that category. When BU is on the power play they’ll need to be aware of #24 Senior Blair Tassone whose quickness and PK skills were key to a halfway decent PK of nearly 82% last season.

On the defensive side last year I said that UAA’s blueliners were all budding Bobby Orr’s. I wouldn’t change that this season either. Every blueliner can move the puck up the ice. The Seawolves Captain this season is # 5 senior Luke Beaverson (6’5” 220lbs) and his skating and puck carrying skills have improved each of his seasons here. Chris at the Western College Hockey blog agrees that Luke may be the most underrated defenseman in the WCHA. Luke does the job well on both ends. He controls play in front of the net or in the corners while in his own end and while he isn’t the top skating defenseman on the team he can (and will) carry the puck and does so well. He also has a very heavy shot. His defensive partner #33 junior Mat Robinson (5’10” 174lbs) is the best skater on the blueline and possibly the smartest defenseman on the ice for the Seawolves. He never gets into a position from which he cannot recover and virtually always comes away from the boards with the puck. I expect Robbie’s offensive abilities to come to the forefront this season. Swede #13 Nils Backstrom (6’1” 202lbs) is another excellent skating puck-possessing style blueliner for UAA. He sees the ice extremely well and makes smart passes in key situations. We all want to see Nils shoot more on the power play this year. Junior defenseman #10 Shane Lovdahl (6’1” 212lbs) is the best open ice hitter on the team (Mat Robinson might argue) and has a cannon in his stick. Shane knows the crowd responds to a good hit and he supplies more than his share in that area. Two freshman impressed me with their skating and puck handling skills this past weekend in UAA’s exhibition game. #4 Kane Lafranchise (6’1” 198lbs) is pegged to become a power play quarterback as he develops and he sure looks to have the skills to make that happen. I liked him in all areas on the ice last weekend and he has one of the great surnames an athlete could have. #23 Slovenian Luka Vidmar (6’1” 192lbs) surprised me with the quality and power of his shot from the point. He mixed his slappers with wrists for attempted deflections smartly and his skating was top-notch.

In the goal the Terriers will be testing #30 Jon Olthuis (6’4” 200lbs). Jonny O provides a big target that is hard for forwards to miss. Taking up a big portion of the net isn’t the best thing Jonny O does though. He is quick and always stays square. He handles the puck well and seems to be unflappable. Running him won’t accomplish anything other than to irritate big Luke Beaverson. Jon’s duties last year were limited but he appeared in 14 games (5 or 6 which were badly out of control and he was just mopping up). His numbers this season should vastly improve. In games he started he did exceptionally well.

So … to keep the summary short. The Seawolves aren’t small, they’re pretty fast and they try to play an uptempo game on the big sheet at the Sully. Hopefully, that will mesh with whatever style Jack Parker has the Terriers playing this season and make for an entertaining hockey game.

If your traveling up to Anchorage to watch the games there you’ll probably want to take a look at a post I made last year for visitors to The Last Frontier. You may have most of your itinerary in place already but there some useful info there. Don’t be shy about visiting the UAA Booster Club room behind the concourse on the north side of the arena. The folks there are always friendly to visitors. Ask for Bruce or Richard and tell them Donald sent ya and they should hook ya up; if they don’t lemme know and I give ‘em a noogie. If you’re looking for me I’ll be the guy the in shorts with a shaved head and goatee. Lastly, I’ll apparently being sitting at Jack Parker’s (oops should I have said Pahkah’s?) table during the Coaches luncheon this week so if you’ve got a question for the coach post it in a comment here and I will be happy to ask.

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