Seawolves betting creating crease chaos will pay off in goals

Doyle Woody

The first practice drill UAA conducted Thursday afternoon at Sullivan Arena sent forwards to the net to screen the goaltender and deflect shots.

The second drill featured more of the same.

Ditto for the third drill, which also incorporated defensemen into the attack.

The Seawolves were working to generate something they haven't been able to manufacture much lately -- goals.

"When you've been outscored, I think 15-6, in our last four games, that's what you need,'' said UAA coach Matt Thomas. "It's not so much scoring goals as scoring timely goals. The reality is you need to go to where you score timely goals, and that's the front of the net.''

UAA heads into its first Western Collegiate Hockey Association home series, which opens Friday night against Alabama-Huntsville at Sullivan, coming off two league losses (6-1 and 1-0) at Bowling Green, where its offense never got untracked.

The Seawolves only goal last weekend came when junior Scott Allen scored on a deflection during a two-man advantage in the second period of the opener against the Falcons. After that, they went 0 for the next 92 minutes, 53 seconds.

Thus, their final full practice before entertaining the winless Chargers focused on creating more scoring opportunities. The Seawolves average just 23.0 per shots per game and Thomas said they are missing the net too often when they do generate quality chances.

"That comes down to bearing down and seeing the mesh in the net, and getting shots on net, instead of trying to be too perfect,'' said sophomore center Blake Tatchell. "We need to just get more traffic, get pucks to the net and create more offense.''

Ideally, the combination of screening the goalie and getting the puck to the net prevents the goalie from an unobstructed view of the initial shot and furnishes rebounds that serve as second-chance opportunities. Also, defending players -- those guys are searching for the rebound too -- are more likely to miss assignments with chaos around their crease. And if the defending team sags back toward its net, that retreat should afford the attacking team more room at the points and give defensemen opportunities to shoot.

All that, of course, is predicated on getting bodies to the edge of the crease, which is not an area known for gentle play.

"Once you're there, you've got to stay there, and that's a hard area to stay,'' Thomas said. "You're getting hacked and whacked.''

Thomas has juggled his top two lines in an attempt to bolster the offense. That switch has put left wing Allen on a line with center Matt Bailey and right wing Brett Cameron, and put left wing Jordan Kwas on a line with Tatchell and right wing Dylan Hubbs.

Alabama-Huntsville likewise will be trying to find some offense this weekend. While UAA sits 50th among 59 Division I teams in offense at 2.17 goals per game, the Chargers sit last nationally at 1.00 goals per game.

The Chargers' first-year coach is Mike Corbett, the former Air Force associate head coach who was a finalist for the UAA job that went to Thomas.

Seawolves notes

Thomas said senior Rob Gunderson will start in goal Friday. Gunderson is coming off a 24-save performance in that 1-0 loss at Bowling Green. He is 1-2-0 with a 2.53 goals-against average and .903 save percentage.

Thomas said freshman Brad Duwe of Soldotna will make his college debut Friday at right wing.

Thomas said he will dress 11 forwards and seven defensemen Friday instead of the traditional 12 and six -- he also dressed 11 and seven in the first three games of the season.

After losing 3-1 to UAA in the season opener for both teams in the Kendall Hockey Classic at Sullivan Arena, Quinnipiac has reeled off the nation's longest current winning streak with eight consecutive victories. The Bobcats, ranked No. 5 and No. 6, respectively, in two national polls, have outscored opponents 32-11 during their streak. In that span, they've clicked at 26.5-percent efficiency on the power play and killed 95.0 percent of opposing power plays.

Find Doyle Woody's blog at or call him at 257-4335.


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