You might not recognize this year’s version of the Alaska-Anchorage Seawolves.
Most of the names (Clark, Crowder, Lunden) are the same, and the jerseys haven’t changed. But after scoring a league-low 1.93 goals per game last season, UAA is buzzing along with a scoring average of 3.1 goals this season. The Seawolves are scorching hot on the power play and have received outstanding goaltending from an unlikely source.
Coming into the season, Anchorage felt comfortable between the pipes with junior Jon Olthuis (6-17-8, 2.90 GAA, .886 SV last season). But it has been the surprising play of sophomore goaltender Bryce Christianson (unbeaten in five games) that has them buzzing up where “you can see Russia from my house”.
North Dakota is struggling to stay healthy on the blue line. Senior Joe Finley and junior Chay Genoway have both missed time (and may not play this weekend), and senior Zach Jones is also playing hurt. The Sioux need steady contributions from sophomores Jake Marto and Derrick Lapoint and freshmen Ben Blood and Corey Fienhage in order to compete during this early stretch of games. Senior forward Brad Miller has played the past two games at defense and is expected to do so for the near future.
The other concern on the blue line is scoring. After leading the nation in points by defensemen last season (thanks to contributions by Taylor Chorney, Robbie Bina, Chay Genoway, and Joe Finley), North Dakota is last in that category this year. Sioux blue liners have collected zero goals and six assists in eight games, and two of those assists came from Brad Miller, a converted forward playing defense at Colorado College last weekend.
Alaska Anchorage Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Shyiak (4th season at UAA, 31-72-16, .328)
This Season: 5-3-2 Overall, 2-2-2 WCHA
National Ranking: NR
Team Offense: 3.10 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 2.70 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 22.8% (13 of 57)
Penalty Kill: 79.7% (59 of 74)
Last Season: 7-21-8 Overall, 3-19-6 WCHA (10th)
Key Players: Junior F Kevin Clark (4-7-11), Junior F Paul Crowder (6-7-13), Junior F Josh Lunden (6-4-10), Sophomore G Bryce Christianson (3-0-2, 1.94 GAA, .903 SV)
North Dakota Team Profile
Head Coach: Dave Hakstol (5th season at UND, 109-61-15, .630)
This Season: 3-5-0 Overall, 3-3-0 WCHA
National Ranking: #18
Team Offense: 2.50 goals scored/game
Team Defense: 3.88 goals allowed/game
Power Play: 11.7% (7 of 60)
Penalty Kill: 79.2% (38 of 48)
Last Season: 28-11-4 Overall (NCAA Frozen Four semifinalist), 18-7-3 WCHA (2nd)
Key Players: Senior F Ryan Duncan (3-4-7), Junior F Chris VandeVelde (3-3-6), Senior F/D Brad Miller (2-3-5), Senior F Ryan Martens (2-2-4), Freshman F Jason Gregoire (3-1-4)
By The Numbers
Last Meeting: January 26, 2008 (Grand Forks, ND). UAA outshot UND 36-13 and carried the play for much of the hockey game, but the Fighting Sioux got great goaltending from Jean-Philippe Lamoureux (35 saves) and won 3-1 to complete the series sweep. North Dakota won Friday’s opener by the same 3-1 score.
Most Important Meeting: March 19, 2004 (St.Paul, MN). The Fighting Sioux and Seawolves met in the semifinal round of the WCHA Final Five, and UND cruised to the championship game with a 4-2 victory.
All-time Series: UND leads the all-time series, 36-15-3 (.694). The Fighting Sioux are 23-2-3 (.875) against UAA in games played in Grand Forks.
Game News and Notes
The Seawolves are converting on over 22 percent of power play opportunities, tops in the WCHA and good for third-best in the nation. Sioux senior forward Ryan Duncan has eleven career points (6 goals, 5 assists) against Anchorage in eight games; no other Sioux player has scored more than three career points against the Seawolves. UND and UAA are tied with Mankato for fifth place in the WCHA standings heading into this weekend’s series. Anchorage is in a stretch of games that includes Mankato, North Dakota, Colorado College, and Wisconsin; eerily similar to UND’s conference schedule thus far: Mankato, Wisconsin, Colorado College, and now Alaska Anchorage.
At full strength, this would be a different series. But that phrase takes on a double meaning due to North Dakota’s injury situation and UAA’s blistering power play. A split is a very likely result, but I’ll give three points to the homestanding Sioux. UND 4-3, 2-2 tie.
As always, thank you for reading. I welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.