Last season, things were starting to look up for Alaska-Anchorage.
The Seawolves had seven seniors, the most in six years, and it appeared as if they might have the necessary tools to get over the hump to finally get out of the league basement and join up with the middle of the pack.
They got close, technically finishing in a tie for eighth with Minnesota State with 20 points, but ending up ninth due to losing the tiebreaker.
This season, with the addition of two new teams to the conference, it appears as if this year will be the same old, same old for the Seawolves. However, there’s potential for movement if you look at a few of the team’s losses from last season.
The team had four one-goal losses. Switch those to ties and the team has 26 points — enough to be tied with Minnesota for seventh. Switch those to wins and you get 28 points, enough to take sixth place away from Colorado College.
It’ll take some work, though, and coach Dave Shyiak knows it. He also knows the main area in which his team has to improve.
“A big part of [it] is special teams. We need to get that extra goal when we need it and get that extra save when we need it,” he said. “We certainly understand and are aware we need to improve in those areas and we’ve got to get to the three-goal mark and in order to do that, you’ve got be strong on your power play.”
He also stressed the need for consistency in all aspects of the game.
Like a few other teams in the league this year, the Seawolves are going to have scoring by committee. It’s not because they lost the large chunks of scoring like other teams (though losing Kevin Clark and Josh Lunden will hurt), but it’s because the team just doesn’t score much.
Getting their power play working will help, but so will increased contribution from players such as Tommy Grant, Sean Wiles and Daniel Naslund.
On the blue line
The Seawolves are typically a fairly strong defensive team, though the score sheets may not always let you think that.
“I think in the past three or four years, we’ve always been in the top three as far as not giving up a lot of shots — we only give up 26, 27, 28 shots,” Shyiak said. “So we want to maintain how we play, a tougher team to play against.”
Still, the loss of Nils Backstrom and Trevor Hunt will still be felt, as well as the loss of Kane Lafranchise for the first half of the season due to academic ineligibility.
In the crease
With both Bryce Christianson and Jon Olthius gone this year, Shyiak is going to have to look to one of two freshman to step up in nets — either Rob Gunderson or Chris Kamal, as junior Dusan Sidor will most likely continue to play a backup role.
“It’s a tough position coming in as a freshman, especially in the WCHA, but as of right now, they’re both great team guys, work ethic is great and they look good right now in practice,” Shyiak said.