Woody on Hockey

Alaska is hockey heaven -- the Alaska Aces are perennial ECHL contenders, the UAA Seawolves play in the nation's premier college league and NHL star Scott Gomez headlines a contingent of pros. Join the conversation about the Aces and Alaska hockey with Doyle Woody, who has covered the game here at all levels for 29 years.

Contact: dwoody@adn.com

Here's a historically encouraging way of looking at UAA's WCHA series in Grand Forks - 10/25/2012 3:43 pm

Aces: Ambroz released (Plus, Courchaine note) - 10/25/2012 1:26 pm

Aces: Gee, those are some decent linemates Imbeault just got; plus, numbers changes - 10/25/2012 10:45 am

Aces add a defenseman in fourth-year pro Alain Goulet - 10/25/2012 9:59 am

A bunch of Alaska connections play in the Austrian League where Alexandre Imbeault began the season - 10/24/2012 5:41 pm

Man, UAA's Early Schedule Is Odd - 10/24/2012 5:07 pm

Former Aces Center Imbeault Is Now Current Aces Center Imbeault (UPDATED) - 10/24/2012 1:16 pm

North Pole's Copley Is WCHA Rookie Of The Week - 10/23/2012 12:19 pm

Pucks Perspective

Granted, Alaskans don’t have a rich, deep history in the NHL – only 10 players from our state have made it onto the sport’s grandest stage – but what Matt Carle of Anchorage is accomplishing with the San Jose Sharks is special.

Tuesday night, the defenseman’s assist on Joe Thornton’s first-period goal in a 3-1 win over the visiting Minnesota Wild made Carle the second-most prolific scorer among Alaskans who have ascended to The Show. In 28 career regular-season games, Carle owns 6 goals, 14 assists and 20 points. (He owns 3-11—14 totals in 16 games this season). His teammate, winger Scott Parker, who grew up in Eagle River, owns 6-13—19 totals in 262 career NHL games. Parker, who has been out with a balky back, made his season debut tonight with a modest five minutes of ice time.

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Rejoice, Rinkrats: A Night Of Firsts

Saturday was an altogether excellent evening for Alaska hockey, with teams and players notching a night of firsts.

To wit, (never really been sure what that means, but it sounds brainy; pretentious, too): The UAA Seawolves earned their first WCHA victory of the season with a 2-1 win over defending national champion Wisconsin (junior goaltender Nathan Lawson limited an opponent to one goal for the first time this season). The Alaska Aces earned their first ECHL road win of the season with a 6-1 torch job at Bakersfield. San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage scored a power-play goal in a 3-2 win over Pittsburgh and continues to be first in just about everything among NHL rookie blueliners. And Joey Crabb of Anchorage scored his first pro goal, gettin’ all lamp-lighter in the Chicago Wolves’ 10-5 American Hockey League win over the Peoria Rivermen, the Aces’ affiliate.

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We're Goin' Rinkwide, Nationwide

Let’s take a lap around the rinks – and we mean all the rinks (OK, most of them, lighten up), from the East Coast to Sullivan Arena.

Out in Manchester, N.H., former Alaska Aces forward Chris Minard finally cracked the lineup for the Lowell Devils of the American Hockey League. He played his first game of the season. Alas, the 24-year-old Minny failed in his post-overtime shootout attempt, and Manchester won 2-1.

In Hartford, Conn., a pair of Anchorage centers met in the AHL – Nate Thompson had two assists, including one of the game-winning goal, and his Providence Bruins earned a 3-2 win over the Hartford Wolf Pack, which included rookie center Brandon Dubinsky of Anchorage.

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Changing On The Fly

Today’s Alaska hockey report also serves as a travel advisory -- promotions, demotions -- and health update -- who’s well, who’s hurtin’. If you want weather with that, look out your window – we’re all about pucks here.

On the ECHL front, the Alaska Aces received defenseman Stephen Wood from the Peoria Rivermen, their American Hockey League affiliate. That gives the Aces eight blueliners for their games Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield – the Rivermen sent defenseman Patrick Wellar to the Aces last week.

Also hitting the road – in reverse, compared to Woods – is rookie forward Tim Wallace of Anchorage. On Thursday, Wallace was promoted to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (doesn’t that just roll off the tongue) of the AHL from the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. (Insert your obligatory South Park “Timmy!’’ chant here). An e-mail from Wallace’s parents that got forwarded to me made note of their son’s five-hour drive from Wheeling to Wilkes-Barre and referred to their son as “Turnpike Timmy’’ – nicely done, Todd and Janet, much blog love to you.

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Road Ruminations

The road starts rough for the Alaska Aces tonight – they take a red-eye flight to California, heading for their first road games of the season, Friday and Saturday in Bakersfield.

The only thing worse than a red-eye flight is a red-eye flight when you’re stuck in the middle seat between a screaming baby and someone who wants to share their life story -- good times. On the upside, red-eye flights are great for reading – there’s hardly any noise because most everyone is zonked out. Count on the Aces to be crashed out big-time – hockey players can generally sleep any time, any place.

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Couch Time

Rather than going to the Aces' or Seawolves' practices, coughing all over them and giving them this crud, I'm staying home on the injured reserve today -- hopefully, it's the 3-day IR, max, not the 7-day IR.

Anyhow, at least defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage and the San Jose Sharks are on the tube as I type, playing on the road against the Florida Panthers. Game is on GCI Cable Channel 39, on the network now called Versus (or Vs. -- either way, lame name). Carle's out on the power play at the moment, on the same unit as Thornton and Cheechoo -- pretty sweet company.

The Aces head to the airport Wednesday night for their first road trip, and that'll give us a glimpse of what kind of team they'll be away from Sullivan Arena, where they started the season 3-1-0.

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Bouncing Back?

Chris Beckford-Tseu will get the start in goal tonight for the Alaska Aces, who again face the Bakersfield Condors and will attempt to rebound from Friday night’s 7-5 loss to the Condors.

The Aces surrendered a three-goal lead midway through Friday’s game at Sullivan Arena, marking the first time in coach Davis Payne’s three-plus seasons that they’ve blown a three-goal lead and lost in regulation.

Beckford-Tseu went 16-1-2 for the Aces last regular season, then won eight games in the playoffs. Be interesting to see how sharp he is, since he hasn’t played since winning the Oct. 6 season opener for the Peoria Rivermen of the American Hockey League.

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Aces Ready to Roll

Here at Sullivan Arena, the Alaska Aces and Bakersfield Condors are going through warm-ups, and it looks like Derek Gustafson will start in goal for the Aces and Jamie Hodson will do the same for the Condors.

Looks like Aces forward Jimmy Dahl, the former UAA captain, will make his ECHL debut for the Kelly Cup champs. The healthy scratch for the Aces is defenseman Florian Iberer.

The Aces have placed rookie goalie Isaac Reichmuth on the 3-day injured reserve and winger Justin Johnson remains on the 7-day IR.

The Aces are warming up in yellow sweaters that carry an ad for the Yellow Pages and are bright enough to scorch retinas.

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'Linger' The Winger

Give it up for former Alaska Aces winger Charles Linglet (pronounced Ling-lay) – he scored the insurance goal Thursday night in the Peoria Rivermen’s 3-1 American Hockey League win at San Antonio.

‘Linger’ The Winger is off to a terrific start with four goals, two assists and six points in eight games. He is tied for the team lead in goals. Last season, Linglet posted 14-7—21 totals in 38 games in Peoria.

For you puckheads new to the area or old to the area but suffering short-term memory loss, Linglet played for the Aces in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 seasons. He racked up 48-69—117 totals in 134 regular-season games for the Aces and 8-15—23 in 22 playoff games.

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Scotty Update

Scott Gomez of Anchorage touched base Friday afternoon and said he’ll likely miss the New Jersey Devils’ home game Saturday against Columbus after injuring his groin in the second period of a 2-0 win over Florida on Thursday night.

Gomez said he heard a “pop’’ when 220-pound Panthers center Chris Gratton fell on his leg. Best-case scenario, Gomez said, is he only misses one game. After Saturday, the Devils are off until they entertain the New York Islanders on Thursday.

Gomez said he was going over some NHL stats Thursday when he noticed center Nate Thompson of Anchorage had been called up by the Boston Bruins. Gomez didn’t know Thompson had made his NHL debut last Saturday and said he planned to give Thompson a congratulatory call later today. Thompson is the 10th Alaskan to play in the NHL.

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More Puck Potpourri

New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez of Anchorage left the team’s 2-0 win over visiting Florida late in the second period Thursday night with an apparent groin injury – no word on how serious.

Gomez’s pops, Carlos, who was watching the game on television, said a Florida player (methinks Chris Gratton, who was whistled for interference late in the period) stepped on his son’s skate and put a hitch in Scott’s getalong.

Scott has enjoyed relatively good health in his six-plus NHL seasons. He’s played in 486 of a possible 502 regular-season games (96.8 percent attendance!) in that stretch, missing 14 with injuries and two as a healthy scratch, according to math calculated from the Devils’ web site. Scott twice has missed six games in a regular season, once with a broken left hand that required surgery and in another season with a balky back. He twice has played all 82 games in a season, including last season.

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Bouncing Back To The Big-Time

Center Nate Thompson of Anchorage is back in the NHL – as this is written, he’s in the lineup for the Boston Bruins, who are entertaining Montreal tonight.

Thompson made his NHL debut last Saturday in Boston, then was returned to the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League. According to John Bishop’s blog on www.bostonbruins.com, Thompson got the call Wednesday night that he was promoted again, and drove up from Providence this morning.

Expect Thompson to get a few minutes on the fourth line against Les Habitants. Check out his progress in real time at www.nhl.com

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Puck Potpourri

In the newspaper biz, what follows is known as emptying out the notebook. I have no idea what they call it in the blogosphere. (Seriously, I had to Google the spelling for blogosphere – hey, we’re working without a net here at Blog Rookie Central).

Anyhow, let’s take a couple of laps around the rink and work on our back-skating:

Nate Thompson, the center from Anchorage who made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins last Saturday, said he received a congratulatory text message that day from Matt Carle, the Anchorage defenseman who is a rookie with the San Jose Sharks.

Carle, the reigning Hobey Baker winner as college hockey’s best player, turned pro after his junior season at Denver. He had nothing left to prove there after two national championships, two All-American seasons and a Hobey. Carle is flourishing with the Sharks, with two goals, seven assists and nine points in 10 games.

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Missing Haunting Houghton

Alas, as the Seawolves depart Wednesday morning for Houghton, Mich., this Halloween week, I shed a tear – for the first time since they began making the nearly annual trip in 1993, I won’t be tagging along for the all-day, all-night journey to the Upper Peninsula.

Ah, how I’ll miss that lovely four-hour layover in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport, and that swell march to Gate Z-99, or whatever it is, for the connecting flight on a prop plane to Houghton. (Voted by me as “World’s Loudest Flight – Ever’’)

Some years, I drove from Minneapolis, or Green Bay, to Houghton, and I’ll lament missing out on dodging deer in the darkness, slamming on the brakes to avoid the deer-in-the-headlights Bambi while my 48-ounce cup of steaming hot coffee flies from the console of my rent-a-tin-can to the inside of its windshield, and I realize it’s 40 miles to the next available coffee and I’m cruising on three hours sleep. Good times.

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Team Turnaround?

Four games aren’t enough to prompt sweeping conclusions – probably too early to think about how to get tickets to the Frozen Four -- but the UAA Seawolves’ 2-0-2 start has to have them feeling good about themselves.

Remember, this is a program that finished last season on a 10-game losing streak and 15-game winless streak (0-13-2), and won just six games all season.

The Seawolves came back from deficits four times on the road against UAF on Friday night – they trailed 2-0, 3-2, 4-3 and 5-4 – to score a 6-5 overtime win. Then they forged a 1-1 tie Saturday to take the early advantage in the annual four-game series for the Governor’s Cup and put them in strong position to earn the Cup the Nanooks have had for five straight seasons. (The Cup series wraps with Games 3 and 4 at Sullivan Arena on Dec. 29-30).

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Welcome to The Show, Kid

Nate Thompson played just three shifts Saturday night in Boston -- the three best shifts of his young life.
Thompson, 22, of Anchorage, became the 10th Alaskan to play in the NHL when he made his debut for the Boston Bruins in a 6-2 loss to the visiting Buffalo Sabres.
Thompson, a center in his second season of professional hockey, was called up from the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.
The 6-foot, 207-pounder logged two minutes of ice time Saturday.
Thompson, a former Dimond High and Alaska All Stars skater, was a sixth-round draft pick of the Bruins in 2003.
Saturday, he joined New Jersey Devils center Scott Gomez of Anchorage, San Jose Sharks defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage and Sharks winger Scott Parker of Eagle River as active NHLers.

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Warming Up

The Alaska Aces and Victoria Salmon Kings are down on the Sullivan Arena ice for warm-ups, and that answers a couple of questions about their rematch in light the Aces’ season-opening 5-3 win Friday.

(Of course, it doesn’t answer why warm-ups for every hockey game on Earth seem to begin with Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle’’ blaring over the P.A. system. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that song is nearly 20 years old – can we move on, please? Look, I had as sweet a mullet as anyone in the 80s, but eventually I got over it.)

Anyhow, looks like rookie Isaac Reichmuth will make his pro debut in net for the Aces – he got between the pipes first in warm-ups and that means he gets the nod.

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All Together Now: Exhale

I suppose the Alaska Aces’ 5-3 season-opening win over the Victoria Salmon Kings at Sullivan Arena on Friday night made for decent pucks – you know, if you like a thundering sold-out house of 6,451, wild momentum swings, 3-on-1 short-handed rushes and highlight-reel goaltending.

On opening night in the ECHL, one thing was clear: referees in fact did receive the memo about cracking down on restraining fouls, and the result is ratcheting up the speed and skill of the world’s fastest game. In Stockton’s 6-1 win at Bakersfield, there were a combined 36 power plays – seriously, that’s not a typo. A relatively low 17 power plays transpired at the Sully, but as Salmon Kings coach Tony MacAulay pointed out, the crackdown means never having to say, ‘Game Over.’’ The Aces led 4-2 midway through the third period, which in days of old meant, “Warm up the bus.’’ Friday, the Salmon Kings cut the Aces’ lead to 4-3 on a power play with less than four minutes left and were on another power play, with goalie Dave Belitski pulled for a sixth attacker, when Aces’ winger Barrett Heisten scored short-handed into an empty net in the waning seconds.

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Let's Drop The Puck

Let’s drop the puck on this baby, but be forewarned: I know zip about blogging. Initially, I thought it was a cousin to the neutral-zone trap and the left-wing lock – you know, clogging up center ice. What the hell, though, let’s just wing it and see if we can make it through the first shift without stumbling face-first into the boards.

Here goes:

For a guy who early in training camp was worried his shaky start might hamper his job security, San Jose Sharks rookie defenseman Matt Carle has rendered that concern moot.

Check out the big numbers from the 22-year-old from Anchorage: two goals, six assists and eight points in seven games, which entering Friday night made him the NHL’s leading scorer among blueliners.

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