November 18 , 2004
Northern Lights

By Jess Myers

WCHA Notebook

UAA forward Charlie Kronschnabel

National TV Schedule

AHA/CHA Notebook
CCHA Notebook
ECACHL Notebook
Hockey East Notebook

The calendar reads “November” in Alaska, but for those who know the economy of sunlight the region gets in the winter, and for those who follow Alaska Anchorage hockey, it might feel more like January. The early days of every new year are the days when things finally start to look a little brighter in Alaska, and the days get a little bit longer. The natives know that even in January there’s still some nasty winter weather to be had, but there is promise of better days on the horizon.

It’s much the same for the Seawolf hockey program today. The worst (namely that one-win disaster of a season they experienced two years ago) is clearly in the past, and while the team probably isn’t as good as that spot in the national rankings they earned two weeks ago, it certainly isn’t as bad as 10th place in the WCHA, which is where most who follow the league (INCH included) had them picked.

In this time when retro sports are hot, some have said that the Seawolves have set the clock back a decade to the time when they first joined the WCHA and were almost unbeatable in Alaska, but rarely won road games. With the team beating Minnesota and Minnesota Duluth at home, but falling to Michigan Tech and Minnesota State, Mankato on the road already this season, that theory might hold water.

Seawolves coach John Hill notes his team is very young, especially on defense where he commonly has two freshmen and three sophomores manning five of the six blueline roles. That youth was in evidence early last Friday in the team’s 6-3 loss in Mankato, where defensemen coughing up the puck in front of the Seawolf net helped the Mavericks grab a quick lead.

“One sign of a team not being mentally ready to play is turnovers, especially in your own end, and we had some costly turnovers right away,” Hill said afterwards. “In the defensive zone, we were horrible, and we got what we deserved. We just weren’t intense and focused defensively.”

Offensively, the team is just as young, but somewhat deeper, than on defense. Thus far it’s been sophomores Justin Bourne and Brett Arcand-Kootenay, as well as freshman Chris Tarkir, who have led the way. Barely a month into his WCHA career, Tarkir – who came to Anchorage from Fresno, with a stopover in the British Columbia junior leagues on the way – has seen some dramatic highs and lows for his team.

“This is a good conference, and we’ve seen already that you can win or lose every night,” Tarkir said, noting that the travel to and from Alaska has taken a bit of getting used to. “But we can’t use the long trips and jet lag as any kind of excuse, because it’s going to be that way all season.”

It quickly becomes clear in talking to other Seawolves that this is a team that isn’t going to make excuses despite the rash of injuries, early defections, graduations, facility problems and in-house trauma they’ve seen since last March. The goal is simple: stay focused, keep improving, and win the games they should win.

“Offensively, we’ve been getting a lot of chances, and everyone has been pumped up in the locker room,” said sophomore forward Charlie Kronschnabel, the team’s top returning scorer from last season. “We’ve just got to get better every game and stop relying so much on goaltending, because we know that only works for so long.”

Despite the Seawolves' relative youth, the team speaks like a veteran crew that knows hard work will bring brighter days to southern Alaska’s favorite college hockey club.


Finally, Some Rewards in Mankato – Nobody, with the possible exception of Gary Bettman, had a worse month of October than the Minnesota State, Mankato Mavericks, who started 0-5-1 with one of the nation’s toughest early schedules.

Mavericks coach Troy Jutting doesn’t believe in moral victories, but credited his team for playing well in a tie and a one-goal loss with North Dakota, and felt his team had a chance to win at Minnesota, before a controversial overtime goal gave the Gophers a 3-2 victory.

But since that slow start, the Mavericks have won four in a row and have a good chance to get back to .500 this weekend with a home series against Alabama-Huntsville. The confidence and the victories have come as a result of the Mavericks enjoying the comforts of home, and getting some diversity in their offense. The notion that if you stop David Backes you stop the Mavs was dispelled last weekend when Backes contributed some offense, but left sophomore Travis Morin to do the heavy lifting. Morin scored four goals over the weekend, including his first career hat trick on Friday, to earn WCHA Offensive Player of the Week honors.

“David’s a great talent, but we have some other kids that can play,” said Mavericks coach Troy Jutting, sporting just a hint of a sly grin, after his team beat Alaska Anchorage last Friday.

It’s worth noting that those other kids who can play have contributed to the Mavericks out-shooting their opponents in eight of the 10 games they’ve played – a sign that the team didn’t give up even when the pickings were slim.

“Even early in the season, we’d played very well for the most part,” said Jutting. “I don’t think we’d ever lost our confidence.”

Great Weekend Getaway
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Wisconsin at Alaska Anchorage
It’s the classic “who’s for real” series this weekend at Sullivan Arena when Wisconsin visits Alaska Anchorage. The Seawolves are 4-1-1 at home, but just 1-3-0 in road games thus far, while the Badgers are 7-1-0 at home but were swept at Minnesota in their only road trip of the season. Wisconsin clearly has the more talented forwards, with the trio of Robbie Earl, Joe Pavelski and Ross Carlson putting lots of goals in the opponents’ net, and Badgers goalie Bernd Bruckler has been solid, as expected. As for the Seawolves, what they lack in skill they make up for in size, with rookie Chris Tarkir proving to be a nice surprise for hockey fans in Alaska. One wonders if the Seawolves have worked their way back to where the program stood a decade ago – deadly at home, and roadkill when they’re the visitors.

While You’re There: If you believe that the only thing better than a hockey game is two hockey games, you’re in for a treat Saturday. The Badgers and Seawolves play at 2 p.m. AST in order to facilitate a hockey doubleheader at Sullivan Arena. The nightcap is an ECHL battle between the Alaska Aces and the Victoria (B.C.) Salmon Kings. The Aces are coached by Michigan Tech hockey alum Davis Payne and feature former collegians Chris Heisten (Maine), Vladmir Novak (Alaska Anchorage), Mike Jones (Bowling Green) and Mike Scott (Alaska Anchorage). And, thanks to the NHL lockout, New Jersey Devils star Scott Gomez (who was thisclose to playing for Colorado College at one time) is lacing them up for his hometown’s Aces, for the time being, as well.

Stick Salute

We’re not even at Thanksgiving weekend, and already Michigan Tech finds itself in the WCHA cellar – a spot that’s all too familiar to the Huskies. But their on-ice struggles have come despite the stellar offensive efforts of senior Colin Murphy. While the Huskies are off to a 1-8-1 start and junior Chris Conner has thus far failed to replicate the magic of his breakout sophomore season, Murphy is leading the WCHA offensively with 18 points in 10 games.

Bench Minor

College football teams are legendary for eating up resources and personnel in athletic departments, but since the University of Denver doesn’t field a football team, we thought they might be a little more organized than some other schools where athletic resources are stretched thin. That’s apparently not the case when it comes to keeping track of trophies, after Pioneers coach George Gwozdecky admitted to the Denver Post last week that he doesn’t know the whereabouts of the Gold Pan – the traveling trophy his team battles Colorado College for each year. One would think that forcing the Pioneers to either find it or pay for a new one would be all the incentive the Tigers need to win it back later this season.


• They may be thinking what a difference a season makes in Grand Forks these days. About this time last year, the Fighting Sioux were an unparalleled offensive powerhouse, with questions to be answered in goal. Today, North Dakota’s defense of the MacNaughton Cup is struggling due to the fact that the offense has faltered despite stellar goaltending from rookie Phillipe Lamoureux. While the team has averaged just a little better than two goals per game, and heads into a home series with St. Cloud State on a 1-5-1 streak, Lamoureux is among the league’s top goalies statistically with a .940 saves percentage.

• According to the Minneapolis-based news service Quick Facts, video replay boards will be installed at Mariucci Arena in time for the WCHA Playoffs and the NCAA West Regional, to be held there in March. South Dakota electronics giant Daktronics has won the bid to install the video screens at the arena, contingent to approval by the University of Minnesota Board of Regents. WCHA fans are already familiar with Daktronics equipment, as the company has installed video boards at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and the National Hockey Center in St. Cloud. If approved by the Board of Regents at their December meeting, the Mariucci video screens are expected to be installed and operational by February.

• In the “strange injury of the week” department, Kevin Allenspach of the St. Cloud Times has informed us of the outrageous (bad) fortune of St. Cloud State sophomore forward Nate Raduns. After a freak badminton accident last week, Raduns was left with blurred vision in his left eye and had to miss the Huskies’ home series versus Michigan Tech. Apparently, a hard-hit shuttlecock hit Raduns in the eye and left him with vision problems. The good news is he’s expected to make a full recovery.

• Before a series in Anchorage a few weeks ago, UMD coach Scott Sandelin was recounting to UAA coach John Hill the story of Bulldog fans serenading the home team with the “OVER-RATED” at the DECC during a loss to Vermont. Hill joked that his team had never been ranked high enough to be considered overrated. Sure enough, after the Seawolves swept UMD and rose to 15th in the national polls, Hill’s team was the subject of an “OVER-RATED” chant courtesy of fans at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center during a loss to Minnesota State, Mankato last weekend.

Want to make your office or computer room sound like the DECC? Some members of the renowned UMD Bulldog Pep Band are maintaining a web site featuring band photos, schedules of upcoming games, and mp3 files of the UMD fight song and the band’s popular rendition of “In Heaven There Is No Beer.” Anyone who went to the right bars in Boston during last year’s Frozen Four knows all of the words to that one by heart.

• There was a kind of WCHA détente on the ice of the Xcel Energy Center this week, with a Bulldog, a Gopher and a Husky working together to try to get a win. The Minnesota Wild hosted a hockey fantasy camp for members of the media, with the team’s coaches playing a scrimmage alongside members of the Twin Cities press. One team featured Wild assistant coach Mike Ramsey (a star for the Gophers), Wild goalie coach Bob Mason (a star for the Bulldogs) and KMSP-TV news anchor Jeff Passolt, who was one of the leading scorers in St. Cloud State history when the Huskies still played at the Division III level.

A variety of sources were utilized in the compilation of this report.

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