Still Frozen Four Dreaming?!?!

So this is a post I wasn’t sure I’d ever be able to write. The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs have FINALLY won their first NCAA hockey national championship, beating the Michigan Wolverines 3-2 in OT. Saturday night ended a long period of inferiority to the Minnesota Gophers, North Dakota Fighting Sioux, and all the other teams that have won a national title.

I wasn’t sure where I was going to go with this. I wasn’t able to be at the championship game at the X, so I missed out on the crazy celebrations other UMD fans have been relishing in for the last few days. But I have my own unique experience that I won’t forget, thanks to technology.

We were in the beautiful twin cities of Fargo/Moorhead Saturday, where I was able to watch the first two periods of the game on ESPN. As the 2nd period ended in a 2-2 tie, it was time to hit the road on the long drive back to the 55313. I was able to pick up a station out of Fargo that had the national broadcast of the game, with Sean Grandy on the play-by-play. Was a pretty good listen actually. But, as we rolled past Fergus Falls, that station began to fail…and I started to panic. So I hooked up the iPhone, started up the Tune In Radio app, fired up 94X out of Duluth, and prayed that we’d stay in range of AT&T’s sporadic cell towers. That prayer was answered just before Alexandria as I heard Bruce Ciskie call Kyle Schmidt’s game-winning goal. And yes, I was able to keep the car on the road and not wake up my daughter sleeping in her car seat. A handful of fist pumps, a shake of my (Sioux-fan) wife, and a big ol’ smile on my face was enough to celebrate the moment.

OF COURSE I had the DVR going, so I watched the OT at about 1:30 Sunday morning. Even though I knew what happened thanks to Ciskie, seeing it happen was magical. I watched it several times that night, and showed a couple times to my wife the next day. To finally see this kind of thing happen to one of MY teams… Travis Oleksuk’s beauty pass from behind the net…Kyle Schmidt driving the net – burying the puck – and subsequent snow angel dive across the ice…Scott Sandelin’s elation…the pile of ugly-haired Bulldogs at one end of the rink…an arena full of Bulldog fans chanting “UMD! UMD! UMD!”…the entire team gathering to take the traditional trophy picture before it was even presented and Clay Matvick still stuck in the middle of the melee…Jack Connolly tearing up with the trophy. What a great night.

From ESPN

Now…even though I couldn’t be at the game and partake in the celebration on the streets of St. Paul, I’ve seen plenty of it thanks to the Twitter. There are a host of Bulldog fans and even media members who took to Twitter, posting pictures and recounts of the good times. This group of Bulldog fans have been invaluable for me being able to celebrate UMD’s first-ever men’s hockey national championship. Big shoutout to @runwiththedogs, @Maroon_Loon, @jimmybellamy, @RoyMahlberg, @UMDPenaltyBox, @bruceciskie, @patesonskates, and @estromgren. Thank you for being there for me, even though I’ve never met any of you. And to Kristie at BBY for the real-time pictures via text. We are united through technology and this unforgettable team.

Now, to order my championship t-shirt…

Frozen Four Daydreamin’

Work is futile today. I’m trying hard to stay focused and push out some productivity, but I’m leaving in just over two hours to get home in time for UMD v. Notre Dame…Frozen Four semifinal #1. I’m rockin’ my circa 1996 UMD jersey at the office today too. Got Bulldogs on the mind. This is MY March Madness. I’m so very jealous of those I know that are going to the X today.

This will be my second time seeing the Dogs in the Frozen Four since I became a UMD fan. In 2006, I was in the same boat, leaving work early to get home in time to see the game. That game turned out to be a heartbreaker, as the Dogs surrendered a 2-goal lead and eventually losing to Denver. That team was in my opinion better than the team playing today, but I’m expecting a win none the less.

While UMD has a touch of Jeckyl and Hyde to them, they really ought to beat Notre Dame. The Irish are very young, and this game is in St. Paul so UMD should have of a home-crowd advantage. G Kenny Reiter was riding a hot streak in the regional games v. Union and Yale. And the team all has blonde hair.

That being said, Reiter needs to stay hot. UMD needs to stay out of the penalty box. They took way too many penalties in the regional and although their penalty kill was awesome, eventually that’ll bite ya. And they need the FCC line to stay at the top of their game.

UMD 4 Notre Dame 3

As for the second semifinal, North Dakota 5 Michigan 2

LETS GO BULLDOGS!

Amsoil Arena is B-E-U-T-FUL!

Got my first look at Amsoil Arena Saturday night…the new home of the UMD Bulldogs in Duluth.

First look from the Radisson

Wow, the place is pretty. Had to keep asking if I was still in Duluth or if I walked through some sort of hyper-warp that tele-ported me to some other city. Aside from a certain arena with marble Sioux logos in the floor, I gotta believe it’s the best hockey arena in the WCHA, and maybe in the NCAA. That’s heresay mind you…I haven’t seen a ton of NCAA hockey arenas, but I have been to the Ralph and Mariucci, so I’ve seen a couple of the highest profile college arenas. I like Amsoil better.

We walked over on the skyway from the Radisson…it was weird looking through the glass to the halls of the closed-up DECC, still with some UMD posters hanging in the dark. My first glimpse of the new place was from sort of a back entry door, not the main lobby.  But once my ticket was scanned and I walked in to the main concourse, I was blown away. It’s not the Xcel Energy Center…but it doesn’t have to be.

First glimpse at a concourse

What struck me was the UMD feel. Ever since I went to school at UMD some 15 years ago, I thought there was always a lack of UMD stuff, all throughout Duluth. There was like one place in the town you could go to buy UMD merchandise besides the Bulldog Shop, and even there the selection was slim – it all seemed “old.” At the DECC, there would be some maroon and gold, but the school spirit was a little lacking, IMHO. But at Amsoil…maroon and gold was all I saw. Everyone was poppin’ the UMD.

Try to ignore the inopportune pick things out of the hair moment

From the concourses with quotes on the wall from important UMD peeps to the maroon seats interspersed with gold, to everyone who seemingly was dressed in UMD colors, it is definitely UMD’s arena.

Home of the UMD Bulldogs

It’s a sharp turn in the right direction. I’ve always admired Grand Forks, where my wife is from, for the spirit they show…everything is Fighting Sioux up there, the Ralph is all green and UND logos are everywhere, and everyone wears UND. At Amsoil, I saw things that reminded me of the vibe in the Ralph, and I was proud of the transformation. I love the student section located directly behind the visiting goalie, and they were good all night.

My only complaint is, unless I missed something, there are no restrooms on the second level. You must walk the stairs to the main concourse. Not a huge deal once you realize there really isn’t a concourse up there…it was just sort of…odd. I got over it.

As for the game, meh. UMD didn’t much show up and they lost to Nebraska-Omaha 5-2. They were sloppy all night and G Kenny Reiter was a bit soft.

But, it didn’t matter much. I was busy basking in this new fancy arena that hopefully I can get back to see next year. I think it’s time we start planning annual visits to Grand Forks and to Duluth to enjoy these beautiful buildings and college hockey vibe.

Click for more pics!

Great Weekend of College Hockey

The Bulldogs allowed the Gophers into Amsoil Arena this weekend, and it was a great weekend of hockey. They played to a 2-2 tie on Friday night and Saturday the Dogs won 6-4  thanks to 5 goals from Mike Connolly. He had an absolutely dominant game to pull UMD into a tie with Denver for the WCHA lead.

Contrary to the babble of FS-North’s Lapanta and Gorg, the Dogs did play a better game than the Gophers. They had a goal disallowed because of goaltender interference and Gorg maintained that he was pushed in. Umm…no. The Bulldog defenseman went for the stick, they bumped each other, and then the Gopher went into the goalie. No way he was pushed in. But of course, that’s why the Gophers lost…because of a bad call.

How about the Gophers lost because the Dogs kept coming. Each time the Gophers got closer tonight, the Dogs (i.e., Mike Connolly) matched them. But perhaps the biggest goal came in the 3rd and it wasn’t Connolly. Travis Oleksuk scored to give the Dogs a 2-goal lead in the 3rd and that turned out to be the big goal.

So with 8 games left, UMD and Denver are tied for first and North Dakota is 1 point back in the WCHA. Should be fun down the stretch.

Watching this series on FS North (in HD even) gave me my first real good look at Amsoil, and from what I could see it is beautiful. I’m heading up in March for UMD v. Nebraska Omaha and I can’t wait. While in Friday night’s game there were lulls in the crowd, tonight they seemed into it from the start. Good chants from the student section and great reaction to the goals.

DECC Scoreboard is For Sale

Man, if I only had $5000 just sitting around. This would look great in my office (not in the crawlspace, shed, or out back in a trash heap as my wife suggested). I love that the details say it is four-sided, and that it looks like the picture was taken from somebody’s driveway.

No mention if it comes with DECC asbestos.

If you’ve got $5K, go buy this thing!

DECC Scoreboard on Craig’s List



Closing up the DECC

She’s been around for 44 years and she’s brought me out of blog retirement. Because tonight, they shut her down.

The UMD Bulldogs play their last game at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center tonight before moving over to the brand-spanking new Amsoil Arena just a Brett Hull snapshot away. I’ve been a Dogs fan since ’96 so I’ve got a handful of memories of the old girl. The year I attended UMD and had season tix in section 16 constitutes many of those memories.

My 1st game at the DECC was vs. Army in October of ’96, and the Dogs got shellacked. That turned out to be ok because it gave freshman goalie Brant Nicklin his shot in net which turned into 4 years of “Nicklin Nicklin” chants.

Then there was my first Gopher series. Man, that was an amazing experience. The most intense sporting event I had ever been to in my early life. I was in love.

Best hockey game I ever attended was of course in the DECC, the ’98 WCHA first round playoffs, game 3. Dogs down 4-0 to the Gophers with somewhere around 14 minutes left to play, and they come out of nowhere to score 4 send it to OT. Game winner on a bat out of midair goal by senior Mike Peluso in his last game at the DECC. Craziness, and SO much fun.

Best comedic moment was Joe Rybar making snow angels on the ice after losing an edge and falling over in the face-off circle.

There were a handful more trips to Duluth in the years after school. I remember bringing my future wife up for a Gopher series in our first year of courtship, making trips up by myself in the lean years to go with friends still attending UMD, dragging my dad up for a game, making a weekend trip with my non-hockey-loving cousin who came mostly to drink beer, and making a drive up just in time for a game and driving back to the cities right after, with a stop at Black Bear for a little poker.

My last game at the DECC is probably my favorite though, because we brought our then 4 month old daughter. Amsoil was still just a dream and I had no idea it would the last time I’d see a game there, but it turns out to be a fitting full-circle memory.

There’s many reasons a new place is needed in Duluth. After tonight there’ll be no more talk of the small rink, cramped restrooms, outdated scoreboard, inadequate concessions, and lack of corporate suites. I’m looking forward to getting into Amsoil Arena hopefully later this winter and I’m sure I’ll love it.

So tonight I’ll pay $8 to watch grainy B2 video of the last UMD game at the DECC and remember the barn. I’m going to miss the old girl.

Holy Hjelle!

The UMD Bulldogs got back in the win column last night with a great 3-0 win over the Minnesota Gophers. It was UMD G Brady Hjelle’s 1st collegiate shutout, which also was UMD’s 1st shutout of UMTC since 1980. By my math, that’s 30 years. Put that in perspective…these teams usually play each other 4 times a season.

The win clinches a home playoff series in the 1st round of the WCHA playoffs for the Dogs. One last playoff series at the old DECC.

The Dogs make the trip to Alaska Anchorage next weekend, then it’s playoff time. Hopefully last night’s win kicks off a little run for the Dogs.

UMD Sad Faced Again

UMD loses to Minnesota 3-2 tonight at the DECC, in the first game of weekend series with the school’s biggest rival. The Dogs now have lost 3 in a row and 7 of 9 down the stretch of the WCHA schedule. They entered the weekend at #11 in the nation and still do not have a home ice playoff series wrapped up.

Gophers had a 1-0 lead through most of the 1st and 2nd period and really there wasn’t much going on in the game. Midway through the 2nd, the Dogs killed a 5-minute penalty (which was a marginal boarding major call on Brady Lamb) and gained some momentum, then finally they broke through UMTC G Alex Kangas on the powerplay with 3 seconds left in the period.

The third turned out to be pretty entertaining at least. And as usual in a WCHA game, the referees played a big role. But this was a bit ridiculous. Midway through the period, as a UMD PP expired, Gopher Cade Fairchild sprang out of the penalty box and took a pass in alone on UMD G Brady HJelle. UMD D Chad Huttel jumped off the bench on a line change and had an opportunity to catch Fairchild, but referee Scott Bokal got in the way and bumped him off his feet. Fairchild beat Peanut Butter Hjelle Time five hole and the Gophers had the lead. This resulted in a “**** you ref” chant from the tUMD student section and hot dogs thrown on the ice.

UMD did answer on the PP shortly after that fiasco, but the Gophers scored with about 5 minutes to go and the Dogs weren’t able to counter. UMTC wins.

Big Saturday Night
With only one WCHA weekend plus tomorrow’s game left, UMD is fading fast for home ice in the first round of the WCHA playoffs.

Hey Coach Sandy – could you maybe light a fire under your squad??? Oh, and PLEASE never wear those bumblebee wanna-be sweaters again. Also, to the DECC crowd tomorrow, could you please show up and make noise? The Gophers are in your barn!

Jekyll and Hyde Swept out of the Ralph

The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs hockey team continued its late-season swoon this past weekend v. North Dakota at the Ralph Engelstadt Arena in Grand Forks, and my wife and mom-in-law were able to gloat again after a Fighting Sioux sweep. The Dogs didn’t really show up for this series one bit. I didn’t see Friday night’s game, but followed along on the Twitter for a little while. The final was 5-1 the first night.

Saturday I thought would be a better game – UMD usually will have one off night and then play well the next, so we bought the game through FightingSioux.com and watched the Fighting Sioux Sports Network (FSSSSSSSSSSN). Frustratingly, it was more of the same. Dogs didn’t bring it at all and lost 5-2. But, my wife was able to see commercials from Grand Forks and that was likely worth the $6 we spent on the game.

This Bulldog team, ranked #6 in the nation not long ago, needs to right the ship in a hurry. This has happened before, more often than not actually, under coach Scott Sandelin. He’s got the amazing run in the WCHA playoffs and NCAA tourney from last year to hang his hat on, but what else? In my opinion, underachievement.

This coming weekend is the weekend to get it done. It’s Gopher week, as UMTC comes to the DECC. The Gophers, who are having a horrible season, are coming off a sweep of Colorado College, and they’re gaining confidence. UMD needs to quell that confidence with a sweep. We’ll see if they’re ready.

Enough negativity for one post. I’ll be able to watch both games for free! Hooray for the college hockey monopoly UMTC has on FS-North!

Go Dogs!

Bulldog Weekend Update

A big weekend of hockey up at the DECC turned into your standard split for UMD and Wisconsin. I didn’t get to see any of either game, but followed tweets from @bruceciskie on Friday and added @runwiththedogs on Saturday. The Dogs were blown out 5-2 Friday, and came back with a shutout Saturday, 4-0. Saturday was a big win. It ended a 3-game losing streak for the Dogs, and kept a little bit of pace with Denver, who swept North Dakota this weekend (in Grand Forks no less). UMD is now in 2nd place in the WCHA, 1 point behind Denver. In fact, the top 5 teams in the WCHA are only separated by 3 points, so these last few weekends will be fierce.

UMD travels to Houghton next weekend to take on cellar dweller Michigan Tech, who has only 3 conference wins this season. The kids need to keep their focus. Anything less than a sweep is unacceptable.