Getting a little late here inside Sullivan Arena as midnight nears and home is calling, but time for a few quick thoughts on UAA's 2-0 start under first-year coach Matt Thomas.
Winning a third straight Kendall Hockey Classic, which UAA did tonight with a wickedly entertaining comeback that forged a 4-2 win over Air Force, is precisely what the Seawolves needed to reinforce their new, refreshed attitude after last season's, um, difficulties.
Thomas doesn't need The Blog to pump his tires, but with UAA's offense largely stagnant through most of two periods -- the Seawolves trailed 1-0 at that point -- you have to like his willingness to make changes. Namely, he invented a new forward line by putting together center Blake Tatchell with Matt Bailey and Jordan Kwas. Bailey had centered Kwas and Andrew Pettit all weekend to that point, but Thomas put Tatchell onto that line at center and moved Bailey to wing. The result: the line scored all four of UAA's goals. Kwas (3-1--4) put up a career high for points, Bailey (1-2--3) tied his career high and Tatchell racked two assists.
The Blog likes coaches who play their horses, especially in college. After all, college teams only play two times a week, the guys are young and should be very fit, and you would be hard-pressed to find a hockey player complaining about too much ice time.
Despite five woeful power plays over the first two periods, UAA scored on each of its final two power plays. On the weekend, which dropped with Friday's 3-1 win over Quinnipiac, UAA went 3 for 13 on the power play for 23.1 percent efficiency. UAA killed all nine opposing power plays it faced on the weekend, so no complaints there.
Defensemen Derek Docken and Chris Williams proved especially good on the kill. And it says here, for what it's worth, Docken was UAA's all-around best defenseman on the weekend.
Thomas also has moved junior Brett Cameron from wing to center. He struggled in the face-off circle against Air Force, winning just five of 15 draws after going 6 of 12 against Quinnipiac, but at center he seems like he is better able to use his speed and size. Cameron also was an important part of the penalty kill.
Be interesting to see if Thomas continues to dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen, as opposed to a more customary 12 and six.
Goaltending was strong, both from Rob Gunderson on Friday and from Michael Matyas in his college debut Saturday -- they combined for a .942 save percentage.
Granted, two games is an exceedingly small sample size. There will be rough spots -- every team goes through them (hey, remember, Detroit had eventual Stanley Cup champion Chicago on the ropes earlier in the playoffs last spring). UAA will need some other offensive players to step up at forward and it doesn't get a lot of offense from the back end. Remember, this is a rebuild.
Decent crowds at Sullivan, and with the balconies mostly closed in the building under UAA's new seating arrangement, it made for a little more noise, especially when UAA's comeback got crazy tonight. (The seat covers UAA intends to put in the balcony to make the building look less empty have still not arrived. They should be in place on Nov. 8-9, when UAA is next at home, entertaining Alabama-Huntsville.
Anyhow, nice start for the Seawolves. As Thomas no doubt told them, savor it Saturday night and Sunday, and it's back to work on Monday.