Tuesday, August 25, 2009

WCHA Previews: Alaska Anchorage

School: Alaska Anchorage
Mascot: Seawolves
National Championships: snickering…
Head Coach: Dave Shyiak, 40-86-19, 5th season

Last Season: 9-14-5, 9th Place WCHA; 14-17-5 Overall

Predicted 09/10 WCHA Finish: 7th

Key Departures:
F Paul Crowder, 14-19-33*
F Brian Bales, 1-15-16
D Mat Robinson, 3-12-15
*All stats listed from 08/09

Key Returnees: (80% of scoring returns)
F Kevin Clark (Sr), 13-18-31
F Tommy Grant (Jr), 15-10-25
F Josh Lunden (Sr), 14-6-20
D Trevor Hunt (Sr), 4-8-12
D Curtis Leinweber (So), 2-10-12

Top Sieve:
Bryce Christenson, 8-8-4, 2.60 GAA, 0.893 save %

Key Additions:
F Daniel Naslund (Sweden J20), 23-32-55
D Lee Baldwin (BCHL), 13-41-54
F Mitch Bruijsten (USHL), 16-25-41
F Alex Gellert (BCHL), 24-31-55
F Mickey Spencer (BCHL), 31-23-54

Freshman Scouting Report: UAA has actually assembled a pretty good class here. Daniel Naslund is a big forward from Sweden who should fit in w/ other big forwards like Tommy Grant and Sean Wiles. Baldwin was a teammate of Derek Lee w/ the Victoria Grizzles last season and led their blue line in scoring. He was often filling the box scores when I checked on Lee. Bruijsten is from the Netherlands adds another big forward to the roster. Gellert and Spencer were teammates in the BCHL last season and were the top two goals scorers on their team. Of the four teams I’ve previewed so far, this might actually be the best class.

When Wisconsin Beats UAA: KC 11/13 & 11/14

08/09 Recap: After a few seasons at the bottom of the WCHA, while finishing 9th, UAA was right in the battle for home ice until the last few weekends of the season. They were only 6 pts out of 5th. They fought to the bitter end going to Denver and forcing DU to come from behind twice to move on to the Final Five. UW swept the season series, taking all four games last season. The Seawolves had several bright spots on the team including Paul Crowder and Tommy Grant. UAA also swept both games against in state rival Alaska Fairbanks.

Team’s Biggest Strength(es): This coming season, their biggest strength is experience. The Seawolves have two goalies w/ a lot of WCHA experience, and a nice group of upperclassmen.

Team’s Biggest Weakness(es): Travel. I’m sure there are others, but no other team in the WCHA has to make 7 long trips on an airplane throughout the season. They seem to lose steam in the second half of the season.

09/10 Thoughts: I don’t think many other people will place UAA above 9th, but why not? They have two experienced WCHA goalies and Christenson looks to be the better of the two and improving. They have a solid group of forwards including Josh Lunden and Tommy Grant, and a decent blue line. Sure the loss of Paul Crowder early to a pro contract hurts, but they have a lot going for them. It’s a small window for UAA though, the team is old and will lose a lot of their talent after the season. The freshman class looks solid, a few other teams are down this season, so it might be UAA’s best chance at home ice anytime soon.

The Badgers don’t make the trip to Alaska this year, which I think is a good thing for UW.