Things are going so well for UAA winger Scott Allen early this hockey season that even a rare, and unexpected, foray into penalty killing turned out golden.
When teammate Brett Cameron was booted out of the game against Merrimack College midway through the first period in Fairbanks last Saturday, his departure robbed the Seawolves of a penalty-killing forward. With Cameron gone, coach Dave Shyiak used Allen in his stead.
Allen promptly delivered a short-handed goal.
The sophomore collected the puck, skated into the Warriors' zone and let loose a wrist shot from the slot. His shot immediately glanced off the stick blade of a defender, ricocheted off the body of another defender and tumbled past the goaltender.
Allen was already turning up ice to head to the bench for a line change when he glanced over his shoulder and realized he had scored. So, it wasn't a rocket of a shot -- as Allen's teammates quickly pointed out. It was, however, his first career shortie.
"I'll take it,'' Allen said with a smile before practice earlier this week. "The guys gave it to me pretty hard.''
Just four games into the season, as the Seawolves prepare to open Western Collegiate Hockey Association play with a series at No. 4-ranked North Dakota beginning Friday, Allen leads UAA in goals with three. That matches his total in 28 games as a freshman last season.
The rangy winger from Edmonton, Alberta -- he's 6-foot-3, 201 pounds -- has played all four games at left wing on the Seawolves' top line, which is centered by junior Matt Bailey and features senior Jordan Kwas on the right flank.
With graduations and departures thinning UAA's offense after last season, Allen figured there were prime spots to be filled in the lineup, and Skyiak confirmed as much.
"He said he'd give me a good opportunity, and it was just a matter of what I did with it,'' Allen said. "I always say, 'It's whatever you make of it.' I knew more ice time could be coming my way. I trained harder and got better conditioned in the offseason.''
Shyiak said Allen, 22, improved in his preseason physical testing compared to his rookie season, became stronger on his skates and worked his way onto the first line. Allen also plays on a power-play unit with UAA's top two active career scorers -- Bailey, UAA's most complete forward, and Kwas, a playmaker.
"He earned the opportunity to play those minutes with those guys,'' Shyiak said. "He's a size guy who is the consummate late bloomer. He's got a good shot and he's learning to compete along the wall.
"So far, he's risen to the challenge and continued to get better.''
Allen scored two goals in a 6-3 win over Merrimack in the Brice Alaska Goal Rush tournament and also added an assist to generate his single-game career highs for goals and points. He was also named to the all-tournament team, the only UAA player so honored.
Besides size, Allen brings some speed to Bailey's line, though his speed is more of the top-end variety and Shyiak would like to see him continue to improve on the quickness of his first couple strides.
Allen's four points tie Bailey for the team lead and already represent nearly half the number of points (nine) he generated last season. He's also tied with Bailey for the team lead in shots on goal with 10.
Still, Allen said he doesn't feel entitled to play on the first line, because he recognizes that prime position could be gone in a hockey heartbeat.
"I've got to keep working hard every day,'' he said. "Nothing is given to me. I feel like I have to earn everything I get.
"Here,'' he added, pointing to teammates on the ice at UAA's Wells Fargo Sports Complex, "everyone is nipping at my heels.''
The Seawolves have added a forward in Stephen Obarzanek, a freshman who is practicing with the team while the NCAA determines his eligibility, Shyiak said.
Shyiak said UAA expects to hear from the NCAA in the next couple weeks, when it will learn if Obarzanek is eligible immediately or must wait until next fall to play games.
In any event, Obarzanek last season put up intriguing numbers for Aberdeen in the North American Hockey League, with 26-9--35 totals in 37 games.
Meanwhile, three UAA recruits expected to join the team next fall are off to solid starts for their junior teams.
Forward Tanner Dusyk of the Alberta Junior Hockey League's Bonnyville Pontiacs owns 7-8--15 totals in 11 games. Forward Michael Stenerson of the British Columbia Hockey League's Surrey Eagles has 4-9--13 totals in 13 games. And forward Hudson Friesen has furnished the Selkirk Steelers with 4-6--10 totals in 11 Manitoba Junior Hockey League games.
Stenerson and Friesen on Wednesday were among 60 players Hockey Canada invited to the Canada West tryouts for the World Junior A Challenge next month in Nova Scotia. The tryout camp begins Sunday in Calgary. Stenerson played for Canada West in the tournament last season.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com or call him at 257-4335.
UAA (2-1-1, 0-0-0 WCHA)
at No. 4 North Dakota (1-1-0, 0-0-0)
Friday, 4:37 p.m. ADT; Saturday, 4:07 p.m. ADT
TV: Live, GCI Cable Channel 1
Radio: Friday, live AM-550 KTZN; Saturday, live AM-650 KENI
By DOYLE WOODY