by Doyle Woody
After more than a month off during the holiday break, UAA opens the second half of its hockey season still missing two key players. Senior winger Josh Lunden, who missed the last six games of the first half, remains out with a shoulder injury (rotator cuff) and is back home in Canada rehabbing his injury. And junior defenseman Luka Vidmar is still out with a knee injury.
But look for the Seawolves to get a new face in the lineup when they play a Western Collegiate Hockey Association series at league-leading and No. 2-ranked Denver starting tonight.
Brad Gorham's long wait is likely over.
UAA coach Dave Shyiak said he expects to play the sophomore transfer from Anchorage -- Gorham transferred from Ohio State a year ago -- on defense in the series. Gorham, who played 12 games for the Buckeyes as a freshman in 2007-08 and can play defense and forward, has not played in a game in nearly two years. And that's why Shyiak prefers he keep his game conservative.
"A guy who hasn't played in a long time is going to be anxious,'' Shyiak said. "You tell them to try to keep their game simple. You tell them, 'Don't do too much,' because that's their natural inclination when they haven't played in a long time.''
Gorham, 23, said he gets the message.
"Hopefully, I'll stay calm and take it one shift at a time and try to keep my emotions under control,'' he said. "I just want to contribute anything I can to help the team have a better second half.''
Granted, the Seawolves haven't endured the same lengthy layoff as Gorham, but they begin their second half with a two-week road trip that opens against a powerhouse. The Seawolves split a home series with the Pioneers in November, so they have that going, but Denver is unlikely to carry the same rink rust as UAA. The Pioneers last weekend beat Nebraska-Omaha and Boston College to win the Denver Cup.
"For us, it's an extended break that isn't ideal,'' Shyiak said. "All you can do is get them in shape and work on their rhythm and timing, but nothing replaces actual games.
"But the guys are re-energized and focused. They really needed the mental break. They were in frustration mode.''
The Seawolves will remain on the road after the Denver series.
They'll fly to Minneapolis on Sunday and then bus north to Duluth, where they will stay until Wednesday, when they are scheduled to bus to Houghton, Mich., for their series at Michigan Tech.