Previews: Seawolves look to climb out of the basement

Alaska Anchorage junior goaltender Rob Gunderson split time with classmate Chris Kamal in 2011-12. Gunderson ended the season with a 3.61 goals against average and .869 save percentage. (Photo credit: Michelle Bishop)

The 2011-12 season wasn’t one that Alaska Anchorage fans will look back upon fondly, and for good reason.

Apart from a four-game unbeaten streak to start the campaign, with the Seawolves winning three of those games, the WCHA’s westernmost club struggled throughout the season. UAA’s first trip of the season to the American mainland kick-started what ended up a six-game losing streak, and things never got much better from there.

Wins – and even ties – proved elusive for UAA in 2011-12. The Seawolves finished the regular season in last place in the league at 9-25-2 (5-22-1 WCHA), seven points adrift of Minnesota State in 11th.

It’s safe to say numbers were rarely head coach Dave Shyiak’s team’s friends over the course of the campaign.

UAA finished bottom of the WCHA in both scoring offense and scoring defense, and poorer power play units at Michigan Tech and Nebraska Omaha kept the Seawolves from finishing at the root of the table in that category, too.

Worse than and as a result of UAA’s lack of depth up front and at the blue line, the Seawolves conceded 134 goals in 2011-12 (3.72 goals per game), more than any other team in the league.

Goaltenders Rob Gunderson (3.61 GAA, .869 SV% in 2011-12) and Chris Kamal (3.46, .877) return for their junior seasons, but their numbers will surely have to improve in 2012-13 if the Seawolves are to escape the league basement.

It’s not all doom and gloom for the men in green and gold, though, as there are some bright spots in the Seawolf roster that will be expected to carry their team.

UAA will certainly miss the departed Curtis Leinweber (nine goals and eight assists in 2011-12) and his talent as a two-way player, but returning junior Matt Bailey (10 G, 7 A) and senior Mitch Bruijsten (8 G, 8 A) certainly both know where the net is, and senior defenseman Scott Warner will provide much-needed experience at the UAA blue line.

Let there be no doubt, though, that UAA is facing an uphill battle in 2012-13. Geography and the strength of the WCHA mean that the Seawolves always face a brutal schedule every season, and Shyiak’s bunch will need to keep as many plates spinning as possible if it wants to finish above the bottom of the WCHA table.

Head coach: Dave Shyiak (Northern Michigan ’91)
2011-12 record: 9-25-2 (5-22-1 WCHA)
Predicted finish in 2012-13: 12th
Home ice: Sullivan Arena; Anchorage, Alaska
-Capacity: 6,206
-Average attendance in 2011-12: 3,093

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