UAA best stay on its penalty-killing toes

TAKING ADVANTAGE: Denver has WCHA's best power play.

Anchorage Daily NewsJanuary 26, 2012 

On an otherwise unrewarding road trip to start the second half of the season -- four games, four losses -- one thing UAA did splendidly was kill penalties.

The Seawolves shut down all 16 of their opponents' power plays in Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at Michigan Tech and Wisconsin.

Judging from the power-play prosperity No. 15-ranked Denver carries into a WCHA series that opens tonight at Sullivan Arena, UAA will need to continue its penalty-killing stinginess in order to halt its five-game losing streak.

Denver has scored at least one power-play goal in six consecutive games -- the Pioneers went 5-1-0 in those games -- and converted on 10 of 25 chances during that stretch for 40.0-percent efficiency. In their last eight games, the Pioneers are 13 of 35 on the power play (37.1 percent).

Denver's 23.6-percent power-play efficiency overall is the best in the 12-team WCHA and ranks eighth nationally. In WCHA games, the Pioneers click 23.2 percent of the time, just behind Colorado College (23.8).

The Pioneers' top three scorers are their top three power-play threats. Junior center Drew Shore (15-20--35 totals in 23 games) has delivered nine man-advantage goals, which gives him two more goals on the power play alone than any Seawolves skater owns overall. Sophomore winger Jason Zucker (13-16--29 in 20 games) has furnished six power-plays strikes. And freshman defenseman Joey LaLeggia (9-15--24 in 24 games) has chipped in with three power-play goals.

Not surprisingly, the Seawolves have enjoyed success when they perform well on special teams. When they don't, things don't end well.

In the five games in which UAA has scored more power-play and short-handed goals than its opponent -- not counting empty netters -- the Seawolves are 4-1-0. When special-teams goals are even, UAA is just 1-6-1. And when its opponent wins that battle, UAA is just 1-7-1.

The Denver series starts of a run of three straight home series for UAA, which hasn't played at Sullivan Arena in seven weeks -- granted, there was an extended holiday break of more than a month in there.

This marks just the second time in UAA's 19 seasons in the WCHA that it plays three straight WCHA home series on consecutive weekends. After playing Denver, the Seawolves entertain Minnesota-Duluth, currently ranked No. 1, and then Minnesota State-Mankato.

Seawolves notes

The only other time UAA has played three WCHA home series on three consecutive weekends was in 2003, and it went 0-4-2 in that stretch. Of course, that was the season UAA won its first game of the season, a nonconference match against rival UAF, and never won again, going 1-28-7.

UAA once played four consecutive WCHA series at home, but that stretch was interrupted by the holiday break, with two series before the break and two series after it. That was in 1994-95, and the Seawolves went 5-3-0.

The only other time UAA has played three straight WCHA home series was last season, when it had two home series before the holiday break and one after it. The Seawolves went 3-2-1.

Denver junior goaltender Adam Murray of Anchorage is 7-2-1 with a 3.21 goals-against average and .903 save percentage. Sophomore Sam Brittain, the WCHA All-Rookie goalie last season could make his season debut -- he's been out since offseason knee surgery. The Pioneers also expect to get back senior defenseman John Ryder, who has missed 13 games with a fractured kneecap.

As part of Seawolf Puck Palooza/Parents Weekend, kids wearing a hockey sweater get into tonight's game free. Saturday offers a promotion in which the purchase of one tickets get the buyer a free ticket.


Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.

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