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).
The Seawolves struggled to score last season, when they averaged less than two goals per game and couldn’t, as they say in hockey, put a puck in the ocean from the wet sand. Twice this season, though, they’ve pumped six goals in a game.
Senior wing Justin Bourne, who dedicated himself to training in the off-season, already has nearly reached half his junior production with two goals, four assists and six points in four games. (He was 5-8—13 in 35 games last season). Sophomore center Jay Beagle, who came on strong at season’s end as a rookie, already has halved his freshman production – he’s 3-2—5 in four games after going 4-6—10 in 31 games last season). Junior wing Merit Waldrop has five assists, four more than he had in 31 games last season, when his totals were 7-1—8. And senior defenseman Chad Anderson is off to a strong start (1-3—4 after 3-3—6 in 30 games last season). Didn’t hurt, either, that all goaltender Jon Olthuis managed in his college debut Saturday night was a sparkling 34 saves.
UAA in 2003-04 pulled one of college hockey’s biggest turnarounds in the last decade when it won 13 more games than the previous season – UAA went 14-23-3 in 03-04 after the misery that was a 1-28-7 season in 02-03. That turnaround was the biggest in Division I in 03-04.
Trivia: Think you know which team pulled the biggest one-season turnaround in Division I in the last five seasons? Answer below.
Next up for Team Turnaround: At Michigan Tech on Friday and Saturday. The Huskies (3-1-0) are coming off a sweep at Vermont.
(Got the Sabres-Canadiens game on while I’m typing and, well: Break up the Sabres. They’re ahead 3-rip – Drury just roofed a wrister and Briere scored not long after – and looking to go 9-0-0 to start the season. Oh, and defenseman Matt Carle of Anchorage already has an assist tonight for the Sharks, who are in Columbus).
As for former Seawolves, one of my all-time favorites, third-year pro Curtis Glencross, is off to a strong start with the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates. He owns 1-4—5 totals in six games, and is plus-6. Glencross, who scored 21 goals as a sophomore for UAA in 2003-04 and helped propel them to their only WCHA Final Five appearance, is in the final year of his three-year contract with the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
Ducks assistant general manager David McNab, who signed Glencross after that Final Five, touched base here recently. McNab said the question for Glencross is whether he can ever stay healthy for an entire season. Glencross played 51 games his first pro season, just 41 games last season.
McNab loves Glencross’ gritty game, but like all of us wonders if the 6-foot-1, 192-pounder’s body can take the constant banging. The problem isn’t the hits Glencross absorbs; it’s the ones he delivers. He’s not one of those guys who glides the last stride or two before administering a check. He pretty much skates through his target, which is how he injured three opponents his sophomore season with unpenalized hits, and which is how he ends up either too hurt to play, or playing hurt. Problem is, Glencross can’t play soft and be the same effective player.
Trivia answer: Ferris State with a 16-win turnaround in 2002-03, but you knew that, right? Ferris went 15-20-1 in 2001-02, then rebounded to go 31-10-1 the following season.