As he heads into his team’s final regular
season games, Alaska Anchorage rookie coach Dave Shyiak
is thinking he might have to prepare his club for what may
look like the longest distance home-and-home series in WCHA
If the Seawolves finish in last place in the
league, which is likely, and Minnesota wins the league title,
which is also likely, Alaska Anchorage will have a week
off after this weekend’s home series with the Gohpers
to prepare for a playoff series at Minnesota.
“If the playoffs started today, obviously
we’d be playing them, so we’re going into this
series with the mentality that we might have to play them
again in two weeks,” Shyiak said. “Either way,
we just need to get a win, to get rewarded for some of our
hard work and get some belief in what we’re doing.”
Things were looking up in Anchorage on Jan.
6 when the Seawolves upset North Dakota. Since then it’s
been all downhill, as the team has struggled offensively
and dealt with key injuries in a 0-9-2 streak. If the first-year
coach is overwhelmed by the troubles, you don’t hear
it in his voice as he already talks about areas the team
needs to improve on for next season.
“You’re always looking for areas
of improvement,” Shyiak said. “The special teams
have got to be better, and we clearly haven’t gotten
enough goal production out of our forwards or our defensemen.
Goaltending has been the strength of this team.”
Who will or won’t be seen between the
pipes for the Seawolves this season has been an adventure,
too. Top netminder Nathan Lawson has been out of the lineup
since a knee injury in late January put him on the shelf.
And normal backup John DeCaro, who has struggled, had to
fly from Houghton, Mich., to Anchorage on short notice a
few weeks ago when his girlfriend went into labor with the
couple’s first child. Those developments have put
the bulk of the goaltending duties in the hands of freshman
walk-on Mike Rosett, who is 0-3-0 so far but has put up
decent numbers – including a 41-save night in the
Seawolves 3-1 loss at Colorado College last Saturday.
“Lawson was just getting into a groove
when he got hurt, but we expect him to come back strong,”
said Shyiak. “And the way Rosett has played, that’s
definitely a bright spot for our future.”
When he looks to the immediate future, namely
the prospect of playing as many as five games against top-ranked
Minnesota in the next two weeks, Shyiak looks back a few
months to his team's 4-3 loss at Minnesota on Nov. 12 –
a game the Seawolves led 3-1 with less than 10 minutes to
“College hockey is a one-game deal and
on that particular night, I thought we were the better team,”
In his first winter in Alaska, where the locals
endure plenty of cold and darkness knowing warmer, brighter
days are ahead, the first-year coach sounds like he’s
adopted some of the natives' optimism already. Despite all
of the struggles and the losses of this year, Shyiak is
clearly still a man with a belief in a bright future.
AND HEARD IN THE WCHA
Comparing CC’s latest centurions:
Minnesota coach Don Lucia knows the last two members
of the Century Club at Colorado College quite well. He coached
Jay McNeill for three seasons as the right wing scored exactly
100 goals for the Tigers and became the school’s first-ever
Hobey Baker Award finalist in 1995. And he’s seen
plenty of Brett Sterling in the past four years, as the
winger has scored 102 goals (and counting). Lucia said there’s
definitely some similarities between the two.
“They’re both left-hand shots
and they’re about the same size, although Jay is maybe
a little bit taller,” Lucia said. “What made
both of them such good goal scorers is their great release.
The biggest difference is that Jay scored more of his goals
from the top of the circles off one-timers, while Brett
is so good around the front of the net.”
The one place Sterling hasn’t been good
this season is against Lucia’s team. He was held scoreless
during the Tigers’ January series in Minneapolis.
After the Gophers shut down another probable Hobey finalist
– Denver defenseman Matt Carle – last weekend,
Lucia credited his goaltender and talked of the importance
of shutting down the marquee players when you’re in
a race for points.
“At the end of the year, you certainly
want to be able to force someone besides the other team’s
top-end guy to have to beat you,” Lucia said.
Great Weekend Getaway
at Minnesota State Mankato (Fri.-Sat.) The Badgers, once all but anointed as league
champs, enter the final four games of the regular
season two points behind Minnesota and desperately
needing a pair of wins to keep pace. The Mavericks
played spoiler last weekend at the Midwest Wireless
Civic Center, beating St. Cloud State twice to deny
the Huskies the DQ Cup and possibly cost them home
ice too. Fans in Mankato would love to see their team
play spoiler again.
While You’re There: Some will
tell you downtown Mankato is the post-game place to
be. But for the real feel of nightlife near southern
Minnesota’s farms and ranches, head just up
the hill to Mully’s (1040 E. Madison Ave.),
an apology-free country bar with no cover and live
music all weekend. An inexpensive cab ride from the
rink will get you there, where Friday and Saturday
nights the Canyon Cowboys take to the stage at 9 p.m.
and play until they kick you out at 2 a.m.
pros have spent the Olympic break lounging on a beach
somewhere, two ex-Gophers proved
that you can go home again. Jeff Norblom hosted Coyotes
defenseman Keith Ballard and Sabres forward Thomas
Vanek in his Mariucci Arena suite last Saturday, as
the pair opted to spend their time off enjoying the
nightlife in Dinkytown instead of in the tropics.
a little to see the Canadians bow out just a few hours
later, but Team USA’s performance in
Torino still leaves a bad taste in the mouths
of American hockey fans. Maybe we’re overly
nostalgic for an earlier era, but I recall an American
team made up of Gophers, Terriers, Bulldogs, Badgers
and Sioux doing a little better 26 years ago than
this collection of Red Wings, Islanders, Flyers, Devils
and Stars. Bring the college kids back!
Denver’s two Georges: Reporters
covering both games of Denver’s series at Minnesota
last weekend got to see two very different sides of Pioneers
coach George Gwozdecky after the games. The coach displayed
what can be best described as “controlled disgust”
after Friday’s 3-2 loss in which the Pioneers had
two five-minute power plays and got no goals (and almost
no shots) from either.
“I’m not disappointed at the loss,”
Gwozdecky said, after the Gophers killed an extended power
play with the score tied 2-2, then scored late for the winner.
“I’m more disappointed with the way we performed.
We worked hard to create opportunities, and then when we
had opportunities, we quit working.”
By contrast, Gwozdecky was much calmer after
Sautrday’s game in which the Gophers scored twice
in the first 97 seconds and handed Denver one of its worst
losses of the season.
“I’m really proud of our team,”
he said after the 5-1 loss. “The way that first period
shook out we could’ve gotten frustrated and taken
out some of those frustrations, but we didn’t. I felt
we could do better than we did this weekend, but Minnesota
is playing very well right now and we’ll live to fight
FRIES AT THE BOTTOM OF THE BAG
• Michigan Tech’s senior class
found a nice way to say goodbye to MacInnes Student Ice
arena in their final home game last Saturday. Upperclassmen
combined for three goals and three assists in the Huskies’
4-4 tie with Wisconsin. Trailing 4-2 at the second intermission,
the Huskies got a pair of goals with less than three minutes
left in regulation, including the equalizer from senior
• With Colorado College battling for
home ice and Minnesota Duluth battling to stay out of the
league cellar, one might look at the series this weekend
at the DECC as four easy points for the Tigers. But the
Bulldogs are 6-1-1 in their last eight games with CC, including
a split in Colorado Springs earlier this season. That could
make for an interesting final home series in Duluth.
• Someone might have to show the Fighting
Sioux how to get to Magness Arena this weekend when they
visit Denver. North Dakota hasn’t played in the Mile
High City in 27 months, last visiting Denver in November
2003 when they swept the Pioneers. Since then the teams
have played a total of nine games in Colorado Springs, Grand
Forks, St. Paul and Columbus, with the Pioneers holding
a 6-2-1 advantage.
• Prior to last weekend’s two
overtime losses in Manakto, St. Cloud State had only lost
one game at the Midwest Wireless Civic Center since the
building opened in 1996. A wild 7-6 setback against the
Mavericks on Nov. 15, 2002, was the Huskies' only prior
loss in the building.
A variety of sources were utilized in
the compilation of this report.