Clean slate. Empty canvas. Fresh sheet of ice.
Whatever the figure of speech, the UAA hockey team Friday night opens the second half of its season having flushed a difficult first half that dropped it into the basement of the 12-team Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
After finishing the first half with four straight losses, and losses in six of their last seven games, the Seawolves entertain Wisconsin, which is tied with Michigan Tech for 10th place, four points ahead of UAA. Colorado College and Bemidji State are tied for eighth, six points ahead of UAA, which has two games in hand on Michigan Tech and Bemidji.
"A couple of wins and you get rolling,'' said UAA senior center Daniel Naslund. "The league seems more even than any year I've been here, so a couple of wins can really help you.''
So can protecting home ice. The Seawolves open the second half in need of improvement at Sullivan Arena, where they are 1-4-1 in league games this season.
"Obviously, we're optimistic,'' said junior center Matt Bailey. "We try to get points every weekend and, especially in the second half, every point matters.''
Though the Badgers also find themselves low in the standings, they are riding a six-game unbeaten streak overall (3-0-3) and a four-game unbeaten streak in league games (1-0-3).
Like UAA, Wisconsin has struggled to score goals -- the Badgers have averaged just 1.92 goals per league game, which ranks 11th, and the Seawolves check in last on the circuit with 1.75 goals per game.
But the Badgers have surrendered just 2.42 goals per league game, making them the second-stingiest team in WCHA games.
Naslund said UAA's three-week break furnished a much-needed physical and emotional break it needed. Rested and recharged, the Seawolves aim to open the second half with results that can kick-start a season in which they have yet to win consecutive games.
"We have faith in our systems and the players we have,'' Naslund said. "I think everyone in (the locker room) believes we can make a push.''
Junior winger Brett Cameron remains out with a broken collarbone that required surgery. He's missed seven games and is likely still weeks away from returning.
The Seawolves don't return to classes until Jan. 14, so they'll play two series -- they travel to Minnesota next week -- before they're back to the books.
Wisconsin sophomore defenseman Jake McCabe, the team's leading scorer on the blue line (2-7--9 in 16 games), is captaining the Team USA at the World Junior Championship in Russia, where the Americans on Saturday play for the championship against Sweden. McCabe was instrumental in a 5-1 semifinal win over Canada on Thursday, scoring the first two goals and assisting on the third. McCabe owns 3-3--6 totals in six games and his plus-7 rating is tied for tops on Team USA.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
By DOYLE WOODY