The Blog dropped by UAA practice today -- the Seawolves were on the ice in full for the first time with coaches -- and checked out the session, which came after the annual team picture was taken at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex.
Good to see Anchorage boy Barrett Heisten, the former first-round NHL draft pick, NHLer (albeit, briefly) and Alaska Aces winger. He's helping as a volunteer coach -- the former University of Maine standout also is the Anchorage Hockey Association's director of coaching.
"He's been at the level these guys are at, and he's reached the level these guys want to,'' said UAA first-year head coach Matt Thomas. "He has instant credibility.''
Let it be noted that Heisten, 33, is also the rare hockey player who actually looks like he has LOST a little weight since he played. He cleans up pretty good too. The Blog believes today may have been the first time he's seen a clean-shaven Heisten in person since he was a pup at Dimond High.
Presumably, he will help teach UAA forwards how to be a complete pain to opponents at the edge of the opposing crease, for he excelled at that in his career. (Side note: Heisten as an Ace also was arguably the fastest post-game dresser in hockey history -- man, you had to get yourself down to the room in a hurry to catch him before he was out the Zam door and gone into the night).
Senior center Matt Bailey, arguably UAA's most complete player -- he can score, he can lot big minutes and he has menace in his portfolio -- looked like he was doing his best to keep a stern, strong jaw while the team picture was being taken. He was all smiles between clicks of the camera. Same for most of the boys.
Thomas said he's impressed with the team's conditioning. They have been working in groups of four on the ice, as permitted by NCAA rules this time of year. And hitting the weight room. And doing bike sprints daily. And occasionally getting over to the workout facility operated by Aces assistant coach Louis Mass (yes, that Louis Mass, the amazing 3-on-3 player -- hey, never too early in the season to start pumping Louis' tires).
Oh, and couldn't help notice that UAA forwards Hayden Trupp and Bobby Murphy have the long hair going. Oh, The Blog fondly remembers the day of his world-class mullet, before the dawning of his ever-expanding bald spot. Anyhow, if the hockey doesn't work out for Trupp and Murphy -- and here's hoping it does -- they might be able to get work as extras in "Sons of Anarchy.''
One last thing: The short practice session -- NCAA rules limit on-ice time to two hours a week for a little longer -- focused on defensive-zone coverage. Just throwing that out there for all you "systems'' geeks.