Coming off a home-ice sweep of Alabama-Huntsville, the Seawolves feel good emotionally.
Physically? Not so much.
After finding out between wins over the Chargers that freshman winger Dylan Hubbs will be out indefinitely with mononucleosis, UAA doubled its dose of bad news this week. Turns out junior winger Brett Cameron won't travel to Bemidji State in Minnesota for the Western Collegiate Hockey Association series this weekend because an upper-body injury has him shelved.
That means the Seawolves will be without two of their top six forwards -- the top six invariably are a team's top scoring threats and get the vast majority of power-play time. Cameron is fourth in team scoring with 3-3--6 totals in eight games and leads the team with three power-play goals, and Hubbs has three assists in seven games.
Thus, the absence of both Cameron and Hubbs means lines have been reshuffled.
Ditto for power-play units.
"It changes a lot in terms of the chemistry among the guys who were in our top six,'' said Seawolves coach Matt Thomas. "As cliche as it sounds -- and it's a cliche -- it creates opportunities for other guys, guys we need to step up.''
At Wednesday's on-campus afternoon practice, hours before the team was scheduled to fly out of town, the retooled top two lines had senior Matt Bailey centering junior left wing Scott Allen and freshman right wing Tanner Dusyk, and sophomore Blake Tatchell centering freshman left wing Hudson Friesen and senior right wing Jordan Kwas.
Dusyk and Friesen are the new additions to the top six. Also, freshman center Zack Rassell will get power-play time, Thomas said.
"We're hoping those guys give us a boost and fill those spots admirably, and they should,'' Thomas said. "I tell them, 'Smell the blood in the water. Those guys are out -- steal their jobs.' That's not to say the guys who are hurt won't come right back and gain their spots. But the guys getting a chance have to make the most of that opportunity.''
Friesen owns 2-1--3 totals in eight games and Dusyk has one assist in eight games.
Coming off 3-1 and 6-1 victories over winless Alabama-Huntsvlle -- UAA scored seven power-play goals in 15 opportunities -- the Seawolves will no doubt face a motivated opponent in the Beavers. Bemidji State was swept in a pair of WCHA games at league-leading Ferris State (Mich.) last weekend and lost the game before that at home against Minnesota State-Mankato.
Expect senior Rob Gunderson to get the start in goal for UAA on Friday night. He's allowed just one goal in each of the last three games and stopped 54 of 57 shots in that span (.947 save percentage) to raise his season save percentage to .916.
The Seawolves on Friday will be shooting for a third straight regular-season WCHA win, a feat they haven't pulled off since Jan. 29-Feb. 5, 2011, when they won 1-0 at Minnesota, then turned around and swept visiting Michigan Tech, 4-1 and 4-2.
Thomas said all three goaltenders -- Gunderson, senior Chris Kamal and redshirt freshman Michael Matyas -- would travel to Bemidji.
Matyas, the only goalie besides Gunderson to see game action this season, did not dress for either game against Alabama-Huntsville because of a lower-body injury. But he was back practicing this week and is cleared to play.
Bailey leads Division I in game-winning goals (4), and his six goals in eight games ranks him 12th nationally in goals per game at .75.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
5-3-0 overall/2-2-0 WCHA
3-6-1 overall/3-3-0 WCHA
Friday, 4:37 p.m. AST; Saturday, 4:07 p.m. AST
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By DOYLE WOODY