The Seawolf hockey team is ready to open the book on the 2010-11 WCHA campaign as they go to battle with the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs.
UAA will travel to Duluth Oct. 22-23 for a pair of road contests against a perennial power in the conference. Despite the tough challenge presented in UMD, the Seawolves (?-?-? overall) are coming into the game having already found much success in the early season.
Last week, the Seawolves were in Fairbanks for the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament, hosted by rival UAF.
The Seawolves first took on No. 18 Colorado College, a fellow WCHA member, on Oct. 15. The action would be a see-saw tilt in which CC would score and UAA would answer back with one of their own.
However, the ‘Wolves couldn’t seem to get the equalizer a fourth time and would end up dropping the game 4-3 to the Tigers.
UAA got goals from sophomore Mitch Bruijsten, freshman Jordan Kwas, and the second on the season from junior Curtis Leinweber.
Rob Gunderson would end up stopping 23 of 27 shots in his second collegiate game.
Going into conference play, Head Coach Dave Shyiak knows that the ‘Wolves are going to have to roll four forward lines to keep having success.
“We need to get scoring by committee as it can’t just be Tommy Grant and Sean Wiles every night,” Shyiak said. “We’re going to need each of the lines to step up and help offensively.”
Case in point: The Seawolves had 11 players record points in the Kendall Hockey Classic back on Oct. 8-9. That weekend, UAA won 3-2 against Air Force and tied No. 2 North Dakota 5-5.
The team will also need their duo of freshman goalies, Chris Kamal and Gunderson, to perform like upperclassmen against a strong Bulldog offense.
The two goaltenders have split time and remain game time decisions as to who gets the next start, according to Shyiak. Neither has locked down the number one spot but that will come with time.
“At that position, it’s all about getting more games under your belt and being seasoned more,” Shyiak said.
Sophomore Dusan Sidor has yet to see game action but continues to work hard in practices and be a dark horse in the race for time in games.
Gunderson, a 6’1” Lethbridge, Alberta native, says the battle for supremacy between the UAA pipes has not been an issue at all between the goalies.
“Chris, Dusan, and I, we’re a bunch of brothers in the locker room,” Gunderson said. “It’s definitely a friendly competition but we strive to push each other as well.”
Continuing to lead the way offensively is senior forward Sean Wiles, whose (?-?–?) totals through four games comes from him doing all that Coach Shyiak asks of him.
“He said just keep playing my game, play hard, keep moving my feet, drive the net, and be a presence out there,” Wiles said, who this past summer attended the NHL’s Washington Capitals Development Camp.“
Fellow senior Tommy Grant also is doing his share as well by chipping in 5 points (1-4). Three seawolves Bailey, Cameron, and Bruijsten, currently have one goal and three assists on the season, and also are paying dividends offensively for UAA.
Despite being new to the college game, newcomers like freshmen Brett Cameron, Mark Pustin, Jordan Kwas, and Matt Bailey all have seen substantial ice time and have done well by adding point production and energy to supplement the top line of Grant, Wiles, and sophomore Alex Gellert.
The freshman defensive pairing of Wes McLeod and Quinn Sproule have done well on the back end and have been effective, according to Shyiak.