Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

06/16/2010

RPI Hockey’s A-Team

Filed under: college hockey — Tags: , , , , , , , — Joe Yerdon @ 2:24 AM

I shared this over at Without A Peer first, but I figured it was time to let the rest of you in on the madness that prevails when my mind gets a little too active. After RPI announced their captains for the 2010-2011 season, I got struck by a little pop culture inspiration.

I pity the fools messin’ with this line.

Is it October yet?

04/16/2010

Minnesota IS the state of hockey

Filed under: college hockey — Tags: , , , , — Joe Yerdon @ 3:13 PM

This is going to end up being a post done in mostly video form to help describe some of the nonsense that went on at the WCHA Final Five. Please excuse the mostly amateur hour commentary from yours truly in any of these videos as.. Yeah, it’s been a while since I’ve done any variety of video and/or camera work especially with a device as simple and useful as the Flip Camera.

As I mentioned eons ago in my post leading up to the Final Five, one of my side-missions of the Final Five was to spot an iconic figure known as Siouxbacca. Amazingly enough, of the five things on my list, Siouxbacca was the hardest thing to spot. It’s not as if we didn’t look for him, but he was highly elusive.

Thankfully, my host for the trip Brent clued me in on another legendary figure at the Final Five: Mullet Man. Now, I know what you’re saying, “Gee Joe, a guy with a mullet at a hockey game? That should be really hard to find.” To that I say, “Shut your face.”

The truth about Mullet Man is that he’s got one of the iconic, legendary mullets. Think of Dog the Bounty Hunter and turn that mullet up to 1000 on the Awesome Meter. Thankfully, that search would not fail. The fun comes while you play “Where’s Waldo” with the video.

I know you’re all disappointed that there was no Siouxbacca. He, apparently, decided to not make an appearance this year, unless others saw differently that is and if you did please let me know, my friend Lindsey was able to provide photographic evidence that he does exist.  You better believe this helps add to the Loch Ness Monster-like appeal too.

There he is, dead center of the video board from the 2009 WCHA Final Five. If you’re thinking I feel slighted that he didn’t make an appearance this year… You better fucking believe it.

As for the Xcel Energy Center itself, the facility is phenomenal and it was incredible to be at a building that was built specifically with hockey in mind. I checked out the games from various locations throughout from the lower to the upper levels to the very impressive Club level. Simply put, there’s not a bad seat nor view in the house. Obviously if you’re sitting way upstairs your views can get blocked by inconsiderate fools who can’t help but lean forward, but that’s a problem anywhere.

The hockey, to me, was outstanding. Aside from the Wisconsin-St. Cloud semifinal, most of the games were very entertaining. The folks who have been here more than a couple of times said they were really let down by both the atmosphere and the quality of games. I told them if they wanted to see they were living in the lap of hockey luxury they should come out and “experience” the ECAC Tournament one year so they can see mostly dreadful-to-watch hockey in front of small crowds with little-to-no fire to them.  Their response was only to move out to Minnesota already and spoil myself. Frankly, that wouldn’t be so bad – but I digress.

One of the other things on the list that was completed was taking part in some honest to God tailgating, complete with being shown the ropes in what should now become a nationwide phenomenon: Beer Darts.

Sounds dangerous, right?  Well… Not exactly. First, an introduction.

Not bad, right? Well now it’s time to play – and play I did. Thanks to my friend Kayla for taking reigns of the camera for this one.

I’ll just call that beginner’s luck.

Curious about what the first person perspective looks like while perched atop a cooler, drinking beer in 35 degree weather in Minnesota? Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered there, too.

Where there’s beer to be had, there’s also food to be eaten and where else was there to go but the now world famous Matt’s Bar, home of Travel Channel’s Food Wars winning Jucy Lucy.

For what it’s worth, I’ve now been to two places featured on Food Wars and both have come up victorious (Duff’s Wings in Buffalo being the other). I’m open to being paid to come visit somewhere to help spread my special brand of good luck. This kind of good luck also applies to home teams in NHL games (home teams went 4-0-0 in games I attended this year). So, you know, if you’re really hoping to win in the playoffs… You know where to find me.

Anyhow, perhaps the coolest thing of them all, as far as hockey goes, that I got to experience (aside from the greatness that is the WCHA Final Five, easily the best college tournament in the country that isn’t called the Frozen Four) was getting to hitch a ride on the Zamboni. If your computer can handle it, I suggest watching this one in HD.

Big thanks go out to the event staff at Xcel for allowing a big mook like me to get on the Zamboni and to Brandon at Sioux Yeah Yeah for helping set it up.  Even bigger thanks go out to Chris the driver for putting up with my shoddy camera work and asinine questions as we took the tour around the rink.

My conclusion on the trip: Perfect. Outstanding. A hockey-lover’s dream. I only captured a handful of the things actually going on around the Final Five itself because, honestly, I was caught up in soaking everything up myself. Videos from a small camera aren’t going to do the venue justice and they certainly aren’t going to do justice to the atmosphere of the entire thing.

Fans going bonkers over everything before and after the games and the easy-going camaraderie at the local watering holes afterward. Sure, everyone will be saying taunting, borderline awful, stuff to each other while the game is going on, but when it’s time for a beer to celebrate/drown sorrows in… Everyone’s patting each other on the back, having a laugh and most importantly, talking hockey. After all, the Final Five is the WCHA’s final outpost before the NCAA Tournament begins, and more often than not, fans of the WCHA want the conference to do well in the tournament because it looks good on everyone else. Why Boston College isn’t hated more out west than it is further down Commenwealth Avenue in Boston I’ll never know, but that’s just how it is in the college hockey world.

I’ve recommended to folks that seeing the Frozen Four in person is one of those sports fan bucket list sorts of things and after seeing the Final Five I’d add that to the list if you’re a hockey fan. The atmosphere is incomparable to anything else you’ll find in college hockey (and to think, I saw it during a supposed down year) and the knowledge of the game amongst fans is some of the best you’re going to find in any given location at any time, anywhere. Being as big a fan of hockey, college hockey especially, as I am this was akin to a trip to the holy land for a religious person.  Of course, you could argue that hockey is my religion and I really wouldn’t fight you too much on that.

03/24/2010

NCAA Hockey Tournament: Expect Chaos

Fans get confused when the term “March Madness” gets thrown around. I’m sure most of you attribute it to the NCAA basketball tournament and that’s fine and all but the last few years it’s applied more to the NCAA hockey tournament than anything else.

Back in 2003 when the NCAA expanded the hockey tournament to 16 teams and allowing a traditional bracket presentation to four regional sites (as opposed to the old 12 team format with the top seed in each region getting a bye), it seemed that the this format was made to allow the top seeds a game to warm up against a weak sister opponent.  In 2003, 2004 and 2005 no top seed lost their first round game against one of the bottom 12 teams in the field.

When 2006 rolled around it appeared as though things would continue along that same path… That is until Holy Cross shocked the college hockey world by beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first round of the West Regional in Grand Forks, North Dakota 4-3. Holy Cross’ win set off shockwaves as the Gophers are (or rather were) traditionally a tough out of the tournament and here they were getting bounced out of the tourney on hostile ice (no, that’s not a Sioux joke) and ensuring that North Dakota would always hold a soft spot in the hearts of Sioux fans everywhere.  Was it a fluke win for a team that just played the perfect game? A lot of folks believed that was the case but…

In 2007, two top seeds bit it in the first round as Clarkson was upended by Massachusetts 1-0 in the East Regional and Miami University took out New Hampshire 2-1 in Manchester, NH of all places.  Top seeded Notre Dame needed two overtimes to finally oust Alabama-Huntsville in their 1 vs. 4 game.  Perhaps parity was coming to college hockey after seeing a lot of the familiar names consistently floating to the top year after year.

2008 seemed to turn a hose on those thoughts as one top seed found their way out of the tournament, New Hampshire getting blown out by Notre Dame 7-3 in the West Regional meanwhile top seeds Michigan and North Dakota stormed their way to the Frozen Four while 2 seed Boston College knocked off 1 seed Miami in the regional final en route to winning the National Championship. Order restored, right?  Not quite.

2009’s NCAA hockey tournament went down in the books as the one where top seeds went to die.  Notre Dame, Michigan and Denver were all upset in the opening round of the tournament.  The Fighting Irish were taken out by the buzzsaw that was Bemidji State, Denver was ousted by co-buzzsaw Miami University and Michigan was shutout by Air Force.  Miami and Bemidji State both advanced to the Frozen Four and Miami moved on to the Finals where they gave the final top seed of the tournament, Boston University, all they could handle in the National Championship game before surrendering a two-goal lead in the final minutes of the game and then losing in overtime to give the Terriers the championship.

Two four seeds, a three seed and a one seed in the Frozen Four.  It still boggles the mind to think and know that this happened and turned out one of the best tournaments of all time and easily the most exciting one of the 16 team format.  So that leaves the question, can some kind of alchemy be thrown together to make things happen in 2010 the way they did in 2009?  It very well could happen. Taking a look at the top seeds around the tournament, there’s a handful of them who come in with glaring issues.

The top team in the East Region, Denver University, limps into the NCAAs after losing both of their games at the WCHA Final Five.  Denver has a boatload of talent, including two Hobey Baker Award nominees in senior forward Rhett Rakhshani (Islanders draftee) and junior goaltender Marc Cheverie (Panthers draftee).  Denver’s seeming disinterest in playing North Dakota and Wisconsin in the Final Five was a bit alarming, although they did have a top seed in the tournament locked up.  Were they too busy looking ahead to the tournament or is there actual reason to worry if you’re a Pioneers fan?  Tough to say, but if they don’t come out on fire in their opening round game against R.I.T. they could be in for a world of frustration.

For R.I.T. it’s their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament and head coach Wayne Wilson’s Tigers will be ready to roll on Friday afternoon.  Forwards Cameron Burt and Andrew Favot carry the scoring load while Jared DeMichiel and his 2.00 goals against average will do his best to keep the Pioneers off the board.  Senior defenseman Dan Ringwald brings stability and scoring touch to the blue line while freshman Chris Tanev has been a revelation for the Tigers working the rearguard. R.I.T. comes into the tournament on fire after steamrolling their opponents in the Atlantic Hockey tournament and already got their wake up call in the opening round when a terrible UConn team took them to overtime in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.

Yes, I realize that Atlantic Hockey is a brutal conference as far as competition goes and yes, I also realize that R.I.T. played zero teams this year who were under consideration for the NCAA Tournament and these things work against the Tigers, but the same thing could essentially have been said about that 2006 Holy Cross team too.  Denver comes into the NCAA Tournament as the #2 overall seed while R.I.T. is 15th out of the 16 teams. The Pioneers have been sleepwalking their way through March going 3-3-0 at the time of year when you should be kicking the snot out of everyone in sight.  Facing a jacked up R.I.T. squad may not be the medicine Denver is looking for to make their run at a title.

In the Midwest Region, Miami University sits as the top seed and they above everyone else in this tourney should understand what it means to come in as a hungry fourth seed as they’ve pulled two upsets of their own from that position but were they ever as motivated as their opponents this year, Alabama-Huntsville, were as a four seed?  I’d have to say no.  For the UAH Chargers, this is their last go-round until they land in another conference.  As was mentioned here before the season, the CCHA turned their backs on UAH and the growth of college hockey when they denied UAH’s bid to join the conference next season.

Fast forward to the College Hockey Association tournament this year, Alabama-Huntsville steals their way to the CHA tournament championship to enter the NCAAs as the only team with a losing record and, of course, get to face off against the top team from the CCHA.  Meanwhile, the team that was upset in the CHA tournament, Bemidji State, faces the University of Michigan in the other game in the Midwest Region.

You could refer to this region as the “Roll-over Region” as some conspiracy theorists have said that Miami rolled over for Michigan in the CCHA Tournament while Bemidji rolled over for Niagara in the CHA Tournament so their four-team conference could get two teams in the NCAAs since Bemidji State already had a spot in the NCAAs as it was.  I hope you folks had your tin foil hats on real tight there to handle that kind of black helicopter magic.  That’s besides the point here.  Instead you’ve got two CCHA v. CHA games in the Midwest and wouldn’t fans of karma love seeing a UAH v. Bemidji showdown to see who moves on to the Frozen Four in Detroit.

The downside here is that UAH is going to need all the heart and guts and puck-luck they’ve ever mustered to get by the Miami Redhawks.  Miami enters the tournament as the #1 team in the whole thing and they’ve got a lot of guys back from last year’s NCAA Finals team who have that stinging loss sticking out in their minds.  Hobey Baker Award nominee, goaltender Cody Reichard comes into the tournament with beastly numbers. Sporting a .924 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.79 are stunning numbers at the college level, especially in the CCHA.  Scoring-wise, the Redhawks have a quintet of scorers lead by senior Jarod Palmer (18-27-45) and four juniors Tommy Wingels, Andy Miele, Carter Camper and Pat Cannone.  Miami can fill the net easily and stop the pucks with ease… Unless they’re up against Michigan apparently.

What makes Miami ripe for an upset?  Since January, the Redhawks have had a handful of head-scratching losses starting with being swept in a weekend series by Robert Morris. While that could be chalked up to being a bad weekend, Miami has been prone to “hiccups” like losing to Nebraska-Omaha, losing and tying Ohio State, and then losing to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals.  Ideally if you’re a team looking to win a National Championship you want to have your “hiccup” games earlier in the season and Miami seems to be having them more regularly later in the year.

West Region top seed Wisconsin comes into the tournament after playing hard and coming away with a 1-1 record in the WCHA Final Five, losing in the semifinals to St. Cloud State while kicking Denver in the teeth in the consolation game.  Wisconsin has a boatload of talent including two Hobey Baker Award nominees in forward Blake Geoffrion (Nashville) and defenseman Brendan Smith (Detroit).  Not to mention WJC superstar Derek Stepan (NYR), freshman forward Craig Smith (Nashville) and undrafted senior forward leaders Ben Street and  Michael Davies and you’ve got yourself a pretty dangerous team.

Wisconsin finds themselves matched up against the University of Vermont, losers to Boston University in the National Semifinals last year.  Vermont has played beastly in non-conference games this year and luckily for them Wisconsin is not a Hockey East team.  What makes this game intriguing is that these teams both play the game with a special focus dedicated to team defense, which means that flukey things occurring could turn this game on its head as far as Wisconsin is concerned.  The Badgers have the superior talent in this game without a question and Vermont lacks the game-breaking talent that they had last year with Viktor Stalberg but if Vermont can put the clamps down and make Wisconsin try to earn everything in the game, Vermont could steal one. Wisconsin has to be wary though as Vermont has been wildly inconsistent this year and if the good Vermont team shows up, the Badgers are in for a real tough game.

As for the East Region top seed Boston College… They look good and strong.  The 7-6 overtime win against Maine in the Hockey East title game aside, Boston College has been a ferocious team comparable to past title-winning BC teams.  Their losses this year have been close ones and many of their wins have been thoroughly dominating.  If there’s a reason to worry if you’re a Boston College fan it would be that the bad John Muse shows up in goal against the offensively-maligned Nanooks of Alaska.  Dion Nelson and Andy Taranto are the only scorers of note for the Nanooks and provided that the BC defense doesn’t allow them any room, Boston College shouldn’t have any problems with Alaska.

Then again, there’s a good reason why they play the games and Alaska goaltender Scott Greenham is capable of shutting down big scoring teams.   Can he do it against a team that’s been punishing everyone for the last month and a half and has a stud from the WJC gold medal team in Chris Kreider (NYR)?  I’ll hedge my bets enough and say, “no” this time.  Boston College looks like a frightening team and have a potential second round match-up against a team they haunt in the NCAA Tournament with North Dakota.

Whether or not any of these four seeds can do the seeming impossible and take out their top seeded overlords remains to be seen, but as has been shown in recent years the chances are improving each year to see someone with high hopes to be crushed under the weight of expectations and perhaps looking too far ahead for their own good.

03/16/2010

Next Stop: The WCHA Final Five

After years of talking about wanting to go to the WCHA Final Five, I’ve finally got the opportunity to go.  For such a trip, I had to book it in advance knowing full well that more personal entanglements might have to be sacrificed in order to go. For one, there was the chance that RPI could advance to the ECAC Semifinals.  That didn’t happen.

Secondly, there was the distinct possibility that Oswego State would end up in the Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid and get to play on the 1980 Rink.  That will happen as Oswego throttled Bowdoin 9-2 in the quarterfinals and the Lakers move on to face the St. Norbert’s Green Knights in the National Semifinals.  I have to admit, the more I read notices and messages from the Alumni office about alumni meet-and-greets in Lake Placid it’s twisting my alumnus innards to pieces to not be there to watch them, potentially, win a National Championship in person.  The fun twist is when Oswego State won the National Championship in 2007, they did so in Superior, Wisconsin located near Duluth, Minnesota while I was parked nervously in front of my television watching everything unfold on CSTV as the Lakers lost a third period lead against Middlebury to send the game to overtime where Garren Reisweber scored the game winning goal by wheeling around the Middlebury defense and deking the goaltender out badly.

Enough talk about that, you can still watch the title game highlight reel here.

Anyhow, this time around Oswego is in the Frozen Four in New York and I’ll be the one away in Minnesota.  Being that far from the team worked out pretty well last time, so perhaps my lack of presence within an immediate drive of the games helps. After all, Oswego lost in the National Championship game in 2003 against Norwich while I was in attendance at Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vermont.  That’s one somber ride home.

Aside from all of that, still, there were even more activities going on including a great Montreal Tweet-Up event over the weekend that’s being hosted by the folks at All-Habs.  So with all of these other things going on, I bit the bullet and bought my plane tickets for Minneapolis, Minnesota because it was high time I made the pilgrimage to what’s described as college hockey’s greatest conference tournament.

Usually when folks throw out plaudits like that, I take them with a grain of salt because they’re generally coming from folks who are fans of teams in the conference and they’re a bit biased.  WCHA folks in particular are very proud of their conference and how they perform and hell, why not? Just take a look at the Pairwise rankings right now and you’ll see that four of the top six teams are from the WCHA.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Pairwise, it’s the ranking system used to slot out the teams for the NCAA Tournament.  It’s not like the bogus rankings the BCS does in college football, there’s actual science to these and while some folks do have issues with Pairwise, the math and methodology is sound behind it and there’s no poll objectivity mixed into it to skew the numbers.

This trip to Minnesota, however, does offer me some grand opportunities aside from seeing potentially five awesome college hockey games (and one NHL game on Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there now).  I’ve come up with a list of things I’m going to try and find, capture on a video camera and share with the rest of you later this week.

1.  The Jucy Lucy

If you’re not familiar with what the Jucy Lucy is, then you need to go introduce yourself to The Travel Channel and the show Man vs. Food.  In his adventure to Minneapolis, host Adam Richman (Twitter) checked out a handful of places including the Minneapolis war of madness between Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club who have a contentious war over who the originator of the Jucy Lucy was.

What’s the Jucy Lucy?  Picture a cheeseburger with the cheese melted inside the beef.  Hungry? Mortified? Feeling ravenous for all things melted and wonderfully beefy?  Yeah, I know you are.  Ever since I’ve heard about the Jucy Lucy I’ve been fiending for one and one of the first things I’ll be doing in Minneapolis is heading to Matt’s Bar (which has been recommended to me over the 5-8 Club by most locals) and sampling the molten cheese beauty.  Believe me, by no means am I a foodie of any degree, but Man v. Food has stoked my curiosity to check out places like these and hell, how do you go wrong with a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside?  You don’t… Unless you try to eat it too soon after it arrives at your table, then you might burn  your mouth out like crazy to which you’ll need to stop by place number two…

2. Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit

Yes, that’s German and yes it’s a beer hall.  I am a big fan of the German biergarten we’ve got in Albany (Wolff’s Biergarten) and while we’re not exactly going for food at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit, it was the featured place on Man v. Food so it’s got that street cred going for it.

I’ll not be having the Meterwurst and going for the challenge but I will be partaking of their $10 liters of beer and will do so even more if I lose a layer of skin from molten cheese at Matt’s.  I’ve got a touch of German blood roaring through my veins and one of the things that blood cries out for is fantastic beer.  Consider me sold, especially with the kind of setting they’ve apparently got at Gasthof’s.

3.  Siouxbacca

Yeah, that’s exactly what it looks like.  Siouxbacca is very real, he was even mentioned by Inside College Hockey last year and I’ve seen a photo of him.  It’s truly one of the most wonderous sights I’ve ever seen on the Internet and is somehow a thousand times cooler than this.

What is Siouxbacca? He’s simply an incredible North Dakota Fighting Sioux fan who dresses up as Chewbacca and throws an old school Fighting Sioux jersey on over top of it.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it was actually Peter Mayhew all cracked out and wearing a stolen Chewie costume but I don’t think he’d even be that dedicated. Maybe.  I realize that if you’re not familiar with college hockey and how some fans might be this might seem crazy to you, but believe it.  I’m going all Steve Irwin on this one and will be praying that Siouxbacca comes out to play this year but don’t worry, I won’t be challenging him to any games of hologram space chess, I should remain safe.

4.  Honest-To-God Real Tailgating

It exists in college football and is legendary for the cookouts and alcohol consumption in mass quantities but a lot of folks don’t know it also happens in college hockey and boy does it ever at the Final Five.  Thanks to some well connected friends I’ll get a good up close look at how the folks from Gopher Puck Live do things at the Final Five.  I’m planning on being hazed a little bit for being the guy with the Eastern Bias but even without the Gophers being at the Final Five, the folks at GPL still get out there and still have fun and can throw down with the best of them.

I’ve heard rumors of games called “beer darts” being played and any number of other sorts of beer-related games but most of all it’s a chance for everyone to come out and treat it like the end of the year convention. I’m sure there’s some major shenanigans that go on out there, it wouldn’t be a college-like event without them, but things like this just don’t exist here in the east.

At the ECAC Tournament, team fans generally don’t mingle too much and the locations of the tournament don’t lend themselves very well to do any actual in the parking lot tailgating. Piling into a bar and downing overpriced slop beer is easy to do.  Downing cheap beer in a parking lot while someone cooks a hundred pounds of meat on a grill is so much more satisfying.

5. Really Great Hockey

I know, it seems like such a sappy thing to say but it’s true.  Look at what you’ve got set up in the other conference tournaments this weekend and you tell me which one you’d like to be in attendance for:

  • Atlantic Hockey: RIT vs. Canisius; Sacred Heart vs. Air Force
  • CCHA: Northern Michigan vs. Ferris State; Miami vs. Michigan
  • ECAC: Brown vs. Cornell; Union vs. St. Lawrence
  • Hockey East: Boston College vs. Vermont; Boston University vs. Maine
  • WCHA: North Dakota vs. Minnesota-Duluth; UND/UMD winner vs. Denver; St. Cloud State vs. Wisconsin

Sure, maybe some of you might want to check out the Hockey East tournament but with the WCHA sending the top five teams in the conference to their Final Five it sets up to be a huge war for bragging rights and to see who can take home the largest trophy I’ve ever seen in my life – the MacNaughton Cup.  (Editor Note: Thanks to Mike in the comments for pointing out my ignorance here: Denver already won the MacNaughton Cup by being the regular season champion.  Now they’re playing for the Broadmoor Trophy which is… Not as fun looking.  Thanks Mike.)

You can probably see that trophy from space.

Winning the WCHA is a big deal for sure. You’re essentially the best team of the tournament in the best conference in college hockey.  Sure that may not translate into National Championships for WCHA teams, but winning the MacNaughton Cup is a tremendous point of pride for teams in the WCHA.  A lot of the teams in the WCHA have National Championships and those arguments amongst fans can be both silly and petulant but getting to wrap up the tournament with this trophy means a lot.

With this year’s field of teams being one of the best in years, it turns out I really lucked out to get my first taste of what many have been telling is the best experience you’ll have all year outside of the Frozen Four.  Besides, if things do live up to the hype, the Frozen Four is in St. Paul next year and booking my trip to go a year from now might happen instantly.

Just so long as I don’t get mauled by Siouxbacca.

03/13/2010

The Most Homeriffic Post You’ll Ever Read

I’m throwing all caution out the window here. I used to be a pretty superstitious son of a bitch, but not anymore.  My alma mater, Oswego State University, is in the NCAA Tournament for Division III hockey and they play in the Quarterfinals tonight against Bowdoin College.

Now, I used to attend Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA and Bowdoin was a regular opponent for the MCLA Mohawks back when they had a hockey program. I haven’t seen Bowdoin in a game in 12 years now and I can say sufficiently that my life has been better because of it. After all, what’s worse than playing an uptight NESCAC school? An uptight NESCAC school from the middle of nowhere Maine.

You know Maine, the state that time forgot and Bowdoin College is located in Brunswick, Maine – a town propped up thanks to the Brunswick Naval Complex. Pssh, way to succeed on your own you snooty bastards.

Maine is so far north of everything else that they have their own Canadian major-junior team, the Lewiston MAINEiacs.  See what they did there?! Such wit!  Now explain to me how a place that’s supposedly in America gets a team that plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League? Quebec is the province that even Canada doesn’t want so I suppose it’s fair that they have a team located in the state the United States doesn’t want. It’s a crappy trade, but a trade nonetheless… I suppose.

Bowdoin’s chief rival in the NESCAC is Colby College which is somehow even further away in Maine and located further into the darkened arctic wilderness of this renegade member of the Union.  I guess it’s easy to say that a school that’s equally rich and snobby in your state is your rival, who else are they competing with anyways? Every other NESCAC school is located in Vermont, Boston, Connecticut or… New York? I thought these were supposed to be the smart schools and yet here’s a New York college playing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Stupid rich people think they can draw the geographical lines of distinction.

As for Bowdoin’s sports teams, their team nicknames are the Polar Bears. Now this is one instance I’ll give them credit. They live in the God-forsaken state of Maine and I’m sure they’ve tricked enough people into thinking that, yes, indeed they’ve got polar bears there.

Not found in Maine: POLAR BEARS

What makes Bowdoin’s teams being named the polar bears even more fun though is it allows for things like this.

See… It’s crass, tasteless and hilarious – just like this PSA!

You’re right ER’s Noah Wylie, a tragedy will be unfolding and that will be the merciless slaughter of skating polar bears on the ice in Oswego.  It’s going to be as if Oswego State will be a pack of poachers who were tipped off about a glorious and rare pack of polar bears whose asses were packed with diamonds and it’s time to cash in.

Oh sure, polar bears are the largest carnivores on land and some websites like to show off about that and make them the feature of an online video game, but those aren’t real at all.  In fact, man is so awesome that he’s doing everything possible to make sure those pesky polar bears don’t get too pushy about owning the arctic wilderness.

After all, what happens if you let polar bears take over the planet?  This is what happens:

That’s right, they get really indignant, learn how to fly fighter jets, start rocking out to Kenny Loggins and destroy the entire fucking universe. Does anyone want that on their conscience? I don’t think so, and it’s up to the human race to make sure this doesn’t happen.

That PSA does tell us one thing though and that is that man and water completely kick a polar bear’s ass.  How convenient and perfect is it then that Oswego State’s moniker is the “Lakers,” people who reside and work on a body of water.  As Noah Wylie so delicately told us, humans are ruining everything for polar bears and let’s just say the trend is going to continue this weekend Bowdoin. Sure, you think your polar bears are all cute and cuddly and need help but fuck that noise. It’s time to be put back in your place and there’s not going to be any weebly, wobbly platforms of ice to bail you out.

Go Lakers.

03/05/2010

College Hockey: First Round – RPI v. Brown

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Joe Yerdon @ 4:50 PM

It’s been four years since RPI hosted a playoff series and that last one didn’t exactly end all that well with ECAC newbie Quinnipiac sweeping the Engineers out of the playoffs in two games.  The last time Brown and RPI met in the playoffs, it was 2005 and the games were in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown swept that series in two games.

Of course, anyone who dares to bring distant history between these two teams into play to come up with a potential outcome is crazy and should not be trusted.  In fact, don’t even let that person have regular scissors, give them safety scissors and only allow them to cut construction paper very poorly with them.  I’d also suggest keeping them away from the Elmer’s glue too because they might ingest all of it.

Now if we’re going to do the right thing, we’re going to look things over by comparing what the teams did this year and for Brown, despite the 11th place finish, it’s a year of accomplishment and they’ll enter the playoffs with a sense of fearlessness.  Why not? They went into last year’s playoffs as one of the worst teams in the country and knocked off the fifth seeded Harvard Crimson.  This years team is decidedly better but they’ll get a bigger test than they did last year in dealing with RPI.

RPI goes into the playoffs this year sitting in the exact opposite position they were in last year hosting the 11th seed rather than being the 11th seed.  Last year’s team went into the playoffs playing a little bit better and capitalized on then freshman goalie Allen York’s stellar play in sweeping out Dartmouth.  This time around the expectations are much higher and winning in the first round is a necessity, but they’ll get a taste of what they doled out to Dartmouth last year as Brown is going to make life difficult for the Engineers.

Brown’s plan will be to pressure the RPI puck carriers deep in their own end and to bottle up the neutral zone to keep RPIs free-wheeling attack at bay and to eliminate chances. It’s not fun to see, but the key for RPI to loosen things up is to score first and get a couple of them.  The other key for RPI is to play smart.  Brown was effective at drawing penalties against RPI at their matchup in Providence this year, whether they were real or not is up for debate, but they drew them nonetheless and if there’s a fact of life in the ECAC its that the men in stripes are going to be wildly inconsistent.  You can’t really prepare for it but you have to know what to do just in case things get out of hand one way or the other.

I know, that sounds stupid but it’s a way of life in the ECAC… At least until it’s the semifinals and the finals when things get cleaned up a lot.  Go figure.

V.

Many folks are banking on this series to be short and sweet and starting to look forward to an RPI-Union playoff series next weekend. I’m not much of  a fan of looking past anyone, but if you’re a fan this is what ends up happening a lot of the time as it is.  RPI is going to have to earn just about everything this weekend if they’re going to come out of this weekend alive. All season long, Brown has played everyone very tough and they don’t allow other teams to do anything easily against them and that’s certainly going to be the case this weekend as well.

Brown doesn’t fear being the Cinderella team and playing with nothing really to lose can be a benefit to a team like this that will come out and play tight, system hockey to keep things close so that a lucky bounce here or there can turn the game for them.  Essentially everything I’ve said about Brown is a long-winded version of what Joe Glads at INCH had to say about them.

As for self-servingness, I’ll be providing color analysis of this weekend’s games for WRPI radio and with the bonus that the game will also be carried via video thanks to RPI TV on UStream. It’s their video and WRPI’s audio, so you can actually see if we’re making up what we’re talking about. Keep in mind, we don’t have access to this video as we’re doing the game so yeah, if we screw up that’s our bad.

Audio stream of WRPI is available by clicking here.

The UStream coverage from RPI-TV is available here.

These links will be available for all the games this weekend, so bookmark them for future use.

03/01/2010

ECAC Standings: So How’d I Do?

To show that I can do a little bit of follow up work, it’s time to check in and see how I did ranking out the ECAC.  As I let it known back in September, I was one of the media members asked to give my pre-season rankings on how I thought the ECAC would turn out.  For reflection’s sake, here’s how I had the twelve team league ranked out:

  1. Yale
  2. Princeton
  3. Cornell
  4. Harvard
  5. St. Lawrence
  6. Dartmouth
  7. RPI
  8. Clarkson
  9. Union
  10. Quinnipiac
  11. Colgate
  12. Brown

I stood by those rankings then with the qualifier being that the ECAC is so tight in the middle of the pack that places in the standings could flip or flop in any way possible. I even toyed with the idea of drawing those teams from a hat and letting fate decide things for me. While that may have been “reckless” of a journalist to do, I’m just some hoser on the Internet with a website.

Anyhow, the ECAC wrapped up conference play this past weekend setting stage for the start of the conference playoffs on Friday.  Here’s how the standings wrapped up:

  1. Yale
  2. Cornell
  3. Union
  4. Colgate
  5. St. Lawrence
  6. RPI
  7. Quinnipiac
  8. Princeton
  9. Harvard
  10. Dartmouth
  11. Brown
  12. Clarkson

So let’s compare things and see where I went brutally wrong.  First up, the reasonably accurate assessments.

I had Yale set to win the ECAC, and they did. So did everyone else who was polled. Big deal. Yale was the defending conference champions and while they had (note: still have) questions in goal, they’re still a very good team but not one that is unbeatable by any means. They have a world of offensive talent and I sometimes believe that they’d rather get into a Firewagon hockey showdown with their opponent rather than try to play the chess match.

I had Cornell slated for third and they finished second, and for these purposes I’ll give a one place off proximity victory. Like I said on Puck Daddy weeks ago, you know what you’re going to get from Cornell and it’s going to frustrate the living hell out of you. Consistency like that is a rarity in the ECAC and it’s a good reason why Cornell always floats to the top of the conference. Missing them by a spot isn’t a big deal, although compared to who I had slated to finish second… Perhaps I deserve a slap in the back of the head.  We’ll get there soon enough, don’t worry.

For the 5-12 spots I managed to get St. Lawrence correctly at fifth and was one spot off with both RPI and Brown. Everyone else? Forget it. I missed terribly on Union College and really missed badly with Colgate. I overshot badly on Harvard, Clarkson and Dartmouth.  Screw it, I got more than half of these badly wrong. When you look at how the coaches ranked things out, I guess I don’t feel quite so bad. The coaches whiffed badly on St. Lawrence but all knew something was amiss with Clarkson, probably something to do with an off-ice scandal involving players set to provide depth for the Golden Knights.

So what do we gather from all this? A couple of things. One, the coaches will always know a little bit better about some of these things than the media (filed under: No shit, Sherlock).  Also, the ECAC is so close to being in full parity mode that the pre-season polls are rather meaningless and function solely as a dick-measuring contest. I don’t say that spitefully because I missed so horribly, it’s just how it goes.

Thankfully college hockey is a different beast than say… College football whose pre-season polls serve to set the bar (unfairly) for everyone else the rest of the season.  At least with college hockey you can hash things out a bit clearer over the course of a regular season and the methodology that goes into picking the NCAA Tournament field is a bit more mathematically centered so the amount of complaining at the end of the conference tournaments is kept to a minimum and the smokey room selection process is virtually non-existent.

As for the ECAC Playoffs, the matchups set up like this:

Yale, Cornell, Union and Colgate all get byes in the first round.

  • #5 St. Lawrence vs. #12 Clarkson
  • #6 RPI vs. #11 Brown
  • #7 Quinnipiac v. #10 Dartmouth
  • #8 Princeton v. #9 Harvard

The First Round and subsequent Quarterfinal round are played in the Best of Three format. When action shifts to the Times Union Center for the semis and finals, it’s single elimination time. The Best of Three rounds also mean games can go to overtime and take as many overtimes as needed to get a winner, just like the NHL Playoffs, and can create fascinating scenarios because the games are all played from Friday-Sunday. If you get a game with multiple overtimes, those teams could be back out on the ice the next night/later that day to play the next game.

As for predictions for how the playoffs will go, I’ll leave it up to a known movie expert to handle that for me.

Would you expect any better from me after I was able to guess two out of twelve teams in their spot in the standings correctly? I know when I’ve been beaten.

In truth though, each of these first round meetings set up interesting perspective. SLU and Clarkson are bitter rivals and that rivalry can’t be taken lightly as the series record between the two teams this season is 1-1-1. Brown and RPI split their two meetings this year. Quinnipiac and Dartmouth are equally schizophrenic. Princeton and Harvard each have boatloads of talent but lack on killer instinct and consistency.  Your guess is as good as mine, but if you want to use last year’s playoffs as a measuring stick, expect upsets.  Last year’s 11 and 12 seeds both won their first round playoff series after both of those teams (RPI and Brown) had miserable regular seasons but defeated their opponents (Dartmouth and Harvard) in two games.  Brown even managed to shutout Harvard in both games to pile on to the stunning results.

Fortunately for the top four seeds, they’ve seen everyone in conference enough this season to have good scouting reports and if the seeds hold, it sets up well for some teams to have more than enough of a book on their potential quarterfinal opponent. For example, Union could face RPI in the next round, a team they’ve played four times already this year. That’s still a long way off though and, as the ECAC is getting to be well known for, nothing is guaranteed in the playoffs.

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