TCF Bank Stadium Offers Real College Football Potential

I’m a relatively casual college football fan. I get into it at the beginning of the year but there’s so much of it that I tend to get burned out by midseason. The fact that there isn’t a competent team in the vicinity to follow probably plays into it too.

I’m talking DI here specifically. Naturally I pay attention to the two-time NCAA DII champion UMD Bulldogs, but that’s tough to do from the Twin Cities.Contrary to what many of my friends think, I want the U of M to be good, in everything except hockey. My allegiance for UMD trumps where I live. But in all the other sports, I consider myself a Gopher fan.

So on Saturday I finally got to my first game at TCF Bank stadium for Gophers v. Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. I don’t own any Gopher fare, so I sported a maroon UMD t-shirt and hat. Hey, at least the color matches. I was excited to experience big-school college football, but wasn’t expecting the kind of atmosphere we saw last weekend for Notre Dame v. Michigan (obviously).

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What I found was very comfortable stadium, even without the fancy cushioned seat backs everyone else around us had. We were in the upper level, section 236. The metal bench seating was a bit tough on the back, but there is plenty of legroom between rows. The Bank is aesthetically pretty. We had a nice view of downtown Minneapolis, Williams Arena, and Mariucci (Engelstadt East as my wife calls it). Gopher pride is represented well, with M logos everywhere and acknowledgement of Minnesota’s aging football glory days.

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So what of the atmosphere? Best way I can describe it is potential. Again, I’m a guy who hasn’t been to Madison, Michigan, Ohio State, Florida, or even Iowa State. But I got a piece of the college football vibe yesterday. You had a good student section. You had the band. You had a handful of “regular people” in the rest of the crowd that got into the game. There was a guy and a gal in their early 30s who would do the band moves along with them, including the run in place bit – so clearly they were in the band at the U. There was an older couple next to us that got into some of the traditional student cheers, including the “First Down” hand coordination. Luckily, the guy was willing to share the insight from the radio broadcast he was listening to…with everyone.

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The missing link was the entire stadium getting into it. Besides the students, there would only be a handful of people getting up for third down plays or getting loud when the Gophers really needed it. So it got loud, but not deafening. I’ll give Gopher fans a bit of a pass given how bad the team has been for so long. But there’s a good vibe around the program with Coach Kill. He appears dedicated to building a program that the people of Minnesota will be proud of. If that happens, I think the Bank could rival a place like Madison. And I have a feeling that’s all it would take for me to become a real college football fan.

EPIC Gold Medal Matchup Set

So Team USA came out of nowhere today and dominated in a 6-1 thrashing of Finland. Actually, it was 6-0 with 5 minutes to go in the 1st period. Didn’t see that coming. But who would predict FIN G Miikka Kiprusoff crumbling the way he did? USA’s first goal was directly the result of a Kipper turnover. In at least 2 of the other goals he gave up he was flopping around in net. Finally he took himself out (really…the coach didn’t have the cahones to take him out) after the 4th goal and Wild G Niklas Backstrom came in to try and salvage something. But he gave up 2 goals and that was all there was to it. And Kipper thinks he should start the Bronze Medal game.

Canada coasted through 2 and a half periods v. Slovakia in the other semifinal. Up 3-0, SLV scored 1 goal, then got a 2nd goal, and it was on. With the Great White North holding its collective breath in the last few seconds, SLV F (and former Wild) Pavol Demitra found the puck on his stick with CAN G Roberto Luongo exposing a good section of the net. But Demo’s shot either went wide or off the near post. CAN survives the scare and heads to the Gold Medal game v. USA.

So, it’s on. Sunday 2PM. CAN has figured it out and is playing really well. USA has not lost a game in the Olympics and has been steady throughout. Basically, USA has to “prove” their win from last Sunday. If they lose this game, it’ll be “Canada won when it mattered.” It’s the matchup everyone wants, and there’s going to be a ton of hype building up to Sunday. I can’t wait.

NBC is getting it right and airing the game live. What a way to close out the games.

Team USA Fights through Switzerland

In a tough grind em out game, the USA Men’s hockey team was able to get by Switzerland today in the Olympic quarterfinal, 2-0. It was a defensive battle, as would be expected v. SUI who plays very Jacques Lemaire-y. The score was 0-0  into the 3rd period. Zach Parise scored both goals for Team USA, the first off a deflection 2 minutes into the 3rd,  and an empty netter to seal it in the last minute.  USA G Ryan Miller stopped all 19 shots he faced for the shutout.

Team USA will now play for a medal, which is a great showing for this squad. They get the winner of Czech Republic v. Finland in the semifinals on Friday. Win and guarantee at least silver, lose and play for bronze. I’m definitely happy with that.

CAN v. RUS has finished up in real life but I’m only in the 1st period on the DVR (a surprising 2-0 CAN lead right now BTW). FIN v. CZE is in progress, so I’ll need to watch that after this game, for “scouting” purposes. I’m hoping FIN comes through there. The USA v. Wild Finns by-line is very intriguing to me.

And don’t forget the USA women go for gold tomorrow v. Canada, 5:3o PM CST. Go USA!

Wow…make that CAN 3 RUS 0. Canada Hockey Place is bonkers.

Update: CAN v. RUS got out of hand, so through the magic of the DVR I have moved on to FIN v. CZE. I did not forsee a 7-3 CAN win. Evgeni Nabokov was not good in net for Russia. Canada has life, alot of it, and now has an excellent shot at playing for gold. All is well in the Canadian world.

Lovin’ Olympic Hockey

I should be sleeping. Or at least in bed. Work tomorrow, a visit from my wife and baby girl for lunch at the office, and I’m a tired cowboy. But tonight’s Olympic elimination round qualifiers have been great. Switzerland beat Belarus in a shootout. The Czech Republic beat Latvia in OT. Norway just tied Slovakia, heading into the 3rd period. Gotta watch. Tomorrow will be even better. Czechs v. Finland, Canada v. Russia, and of course USA v. Switzerland.’

USA def CAN
I didn’t get a chance to post on USA’s big win over Canada on Sunday. It was a great win…a win that is surprising to some extent, but not as much as it’s been played up in my opinion. Sure, it’s the first US Olympic victory of Canada since 1960. Sure Canada is/was the favorite to win the gold. But it’s hockey. These things happen. This was a preliminary round game. Don’t get me wrong – I was jacked up during the game. But let’s keep it in perspective. They haven’t won anything yet. A loss against Switzerland and everyone forgets.

There’s been a lot said in the media…particularly by media that does not follow hockey. Sunday night ESPN Radio went pretty much exclusive hockey. Really? ESPN? You dumped hockey. On Monday, Paul Allen’s show on KFAN in Minny, which is overrun with Vikings talk, was dominated with hockey talk. PA prefaces his hockey talk with a “casual hockey fan” disclaimer and regularly brings in more-schooled hockey minds so that conversation was somewhat easier to listen, but how much puck will they talk once the Olympics are over?

They’ve said that it’s the biggest USA hockey win since the Miracle on Ice in 1980. My response to those people that regularly include hockey and the NHL in punch lines – How would you know?

I suppose I should be thankful that my favorite sport is getting some run in the national media. Maybe it just doesn’t matter. Slovakia just scored to take the lead in the 3rd. I’m going to enjoy the ride the rest of the way.

Quarterfinal Round
I’m looking for a USA win over SUI in a low-scoring, physical game. FIN over CZE, SWE over SVK, and I think RUS gets it done over CAN. That one is going to be fun.

Opening Win for USA Men’s Hockey

I made the decision today to ignore the Twitter and interweb world today starting at about 2PM so I could watch the USA v. Switzerland Men’s hockey game on the DVR. Well I just finished it up, mixing in some work as I watched. USA wins 3-1 and gets 3 points in the group A standings. It wasn’t a total domination win like Canada’s win over Norway, but it is still a win. The Swiss surprised some teams in the last Olympics, and play a defensive-Jacques Lemaire-Minnesota Wild brand of hockey, so the potential for upset was there.

Overall I like this new Team USA. I say new because there was a lot of turnover since the 2006 Olympics. Gone are the aging veterans of USA hockey past and this new team is young, and dare I say, eager. At the very least, they appear to be respectful of the Olympic experience, something their recent predecessors lacked (RE: Nagano).

Here a few surface observations I had while watching the game:

  • Jeremy Roenick 3rd guy on studio broadcast team? He was alright. Didn’t really say much, which must be tough for JR. But he was better than Mike Milbury and Pierre McGuire put together.
  • Team Switzerland has 3 current NHL players, 1 of them is goalie Jonas Hiller. Team USA is all NHL, with a good handful of them with roots in NCAA hockey.
  • A few good Minny connections in this game. David Backes (MN native, MN State alum) pretty end to end goal after a good save from USA G Ryan Miller. Ryan Malone (SCSU goon) hard working PP goal. And Hnat Dominicelli (former Wild) almost scored for the Swiss. He was on the doorstep and appeared to tap in the Swiss goal, but it never touched his stick and the goal was awarded to Roman Wick.
  • What happened to the “count up” clock in the Olympics? Did NBC choose not to confuse the uneducated and show the “count down” clock? Do they not use the count up in international hockey anymore?

Next up for Team USA is Team Norway, Thurs 2PM CST. Gotta have this one too, as Canada dispatched them easily, 8-0. After a day of practice, I would expect USA to play better team hockey, and put Norway one on ice early.

Buffalo v. St. Cloud Tech

So I’m watching the Wild game on the DVR so I thought I’d make a quick post about the high-school game I went to tonight. I didn’t go to Buffalo, but we live about a minute from the Buffalo Civic Center, so we try to make a couple games each season. This was the only game we were able to make this year, and it turned out to be a heckuva game.

This game was the opening round of the section 8AA playoffs. Buffalo was the 4 seed, St. Cloud Tech the 5th seed. Not sure how that seeding worked out…St. Cloud Tech was clearly the better team. They were bigger, more physical, and played a much more coordinated game. While Tech had constant pressure and peppered the Buffalo goalie, Buffalo for the most part was content dump the puck out of the zone when they did get possession. The final shot total was St. Cloud Tech 43, Buffalo 26. Guess who won?

In an absolute barn-burner (whatever that means), Buffalo wins 7-6 in double-overtime. The largest lead of the night was 4-2 for Tech in the 2nd period, but after having a goal disallowed for a hand pass, Buffalo scored two quick goals to tie it going into the 3rd.
One of those goals was super quick. Unbelievably quick. A penalty was called on Tech at the end of the period. There was 1.1 seconds on the clock. While they called the penalty and skated back to the right circle in front of the Tech goalie, I wasn’t really paying attention. I was thinkin, 1 second left, quick drop the puck and go to intermission. I’m an idiot. Suddenly I hear the place erupt. I look up and the ref is pointing to the goal. I’m like “no way.” After talking to my wife, apparently the Buffalo player on the faceoff took a swing as the puck was dropped and it went perfectly to the goal and past the Tech goaltender. I kept expecting them to waive it off, because how do you score from a faceoff with 1.1 seconds left? The goal stood. In all the hockey I’ve watched, I’ve never seen a goal scored with such a short amount of time left. And in an ironic twist of fate, I still haven’t.
To finish it off, Tech took two 1-goal leads in the 3rd only to have Buffalo tie it up both times. In the 1st OT Tech carried the play couldn’t get one by the Buffalo goalie. In the 2nd OT one of the senior captains was able to poke the puck away from a Tech player at center ice, went in all alone from the blue-line and deked the Tech goalie for the game winner. Pretty much the way you’d expect it to end. The Buffalo Civic Center goes bonkers again, and we drive the minute home happy we decided to go.
So, Buffalo wins a trip to Thief River Falls Saturday to play undefeated Roseau (assuming they beat River Lakes tonite). Good luck boys…you’ll need it.