UAA hockey’s first line of defense

Scott, Cygan and Zaporzan.

Cygan, Zaporzan and Scott.

Zaporzan, Scott and Cygan.

Any way you pair them, Mike Scott, Steve Cygan and Gregg Zaporzan, the first line of the University of Alaska Anchorage men's hockey team, are more like interchangeable parts than rigidly defined cogs in coach John Hill's new up-tempo system.

Both captains are on the line and have a history of producing when paired with the speedy Steve Cygan.

Last season the trio got off to hot start before the rest of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association caught up with their style of play under ex-coach Dean Talafous' defensive-minded game plan. Talafous broke the line up during last season's 21-game winless streak, something the soft-spoken Zaporzan thinks went a little towards getting the players to gel.

“The fans and players don't like losing hockey,” Zaporzan says. “When (coach) Talafous separated us last season it was a hard adjustment to make, you get a feeling of how guys play after a while.”

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Cygan, considered the fastest player in the country by UAA's athletic director, sees the way his linemates work everyday in practice and knows why they were named captains, even if they say they don't.

“They make plays,” Cygan says. “They produce, they're tough and the young guys see that. It's no secret how they got that way.”

The three skaters are 1-2-3 on the team's list of leading scorers, and first-line defenseman Matt Shasby, the quarterback of the Seawolves power-play, thinks coach Hill's system has brought a new attitude to the team.

“We definitely have nothing to lose,” Shasby says. “Last season there was no flow to the games, but now we can use our speed, especially Stevie (Cygan) to involve the offense.”

It seems this season's Seawolf hockey team is all-compliments all the time. But it's a welcome relief from last season's edition, where players tried to remain upbeat while expressing their disbelief by answering reporters' questions with “I don't know,” or “We just need to work harder and make less mistakes.”

The 2001-02 season has gotten off to an up-and-down start, with the high point tying the Boston College Eagles Oct. 13 then getting swept to open the Alaska Airlines Governor's Cup Oct. 19-20 at the Carlsen Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Second-line defenseman Erik Lawson, also a senior, sees the trio of scorers as everyone else does, great players.

“They compliment each other well,” Lawson said. “They are the most intense guys in everything they do.”

They do the little things well, and that's something the younger guys should look at and learn from,” Lawson said.

Although the Seawolves can't expect the their first line to carry them, even with the added presence of Shasby and fellow blue-liner Lee Green, the offense they've provided in the first four games of the season has been better than last season's entry.

“I got off to a bad start last season, as did Scotty,” Zaporzan said. “This season we've gotten out of the gate and put the puck in the net.”

The second line of Vladimir Novak, Petr Chytka and Dallas Steward, back-stopped by Lawson and Tyler Schnell are quickly learning how to compliment each other on the ice, something Cygan and Shasby echoed.

“The other guys are learning and picking up the effort,” Cygan said.

“They're getting involved in the offense, which is a plus,” Shasby said.

The `Wolves already have a triple threat on the first line, but anyone who knows hockey also knows you need a second and third line to compliment your starters.

UAA may not have that now, but judging from the compliments and praise doled out over the team by their leaders, you have to think that somehow they'll figure it out and give Cygan, Scott and Zaporzan a break in the scoring department.

“We'll continue to make plays,” Cygan said. “But we need to work harder to produce more scorers.”