In the rough ride that was UAA's season – 8-22-4 overall and last place in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association – freshman goaltender Olivier Mantha proved smooth most nights.
Mantha will likely be voted the Seawolves' Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year when the team holds its annual awards banquet later this spring.
Mantha's .914 save percentage in 29 appearances marked the best number the Seawolves have received in a decade and the third-best in their 36-season history. Mantha's save percentage was fractionally better than the one Nathan Lawson posted in 2004-05 – Mantha checked in at .91377 to Lawson's .91359. Mantha ranks behind only Chris King (.921 as a senior in 2003-04) and Gregg Naumenko (.920 as a freshman in 1998-99, which earned him an NHL contract) in program history.
UAA's season ended last weekend when UAF's sweep in the final two games of the four-game Governor's Cup both eliminated the Seawolves from contention for a WCHA playoff berth and marked the sixth straight season UAA failed to win the Governor's Cup.
The Seawolves lose four principal seniors – so long, defensemen Derek Docken and Austin Coldewell, and wingers Scott Allen and Brett Cameron. Those four accounted for 28.6 percent of UAA's goals.
UAA retains its leading scorer in center Blake Tatchell, who earned 7-15—22 totals in 34 games and will be a senior next season. Also back will be wingers Tad Kozun (6-9—15 in 34 games) and Austin Azurdia (8-6—14), the team's two highest-scoring freshmen. Azurdia tied with Allen for the team lead in goals with eight, though that matched the lowest production by a UAA leading goal scorer – Chris Tarkir paced the club with eight as a sophomore in 2005-06.
Part of UAA's rebuild – coach Matt Thomas used that description recently – will no doubt be aimed at trying to boost its offense. The Seawolves' average of 2.06 goals per game ranks 51st among 59 Division I teams.
The Seawolves would also do well to skate lightly when opposing players are facing the boards and in close proximity to the wall. UAA was penalized for 15 major penalties in 34 games, the majority for checking from behind and boarding.
Still, UAA killed major penalties at a rate of about 85-percent efficiency. That was better than the Seawolves' overall penalty-killing efficiency of 80.7-percent efficiency.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing