Playoffs? Nope, but Twins Baseball is Still Fun

Seems like every year before the Twins’ season starts I’ve got big plans to muse about my favorite baseball squad, but then I never post a thing. I think I read too much from the local media that I feel like my takes have already been covered, so why regurgitate?

At any rate, here we are in August, Twins season all but over. Been quite a disappointing year. No one expected the horrid start the boys came with out of the gate, and really, that was their ultimate demise. Although when they closed the gap to 5 games last month I did think #itshappening. Unfortunately they couldn’t keep the pace; now 10 games out and most recently swept by the Chi Sox, #itsclearlynothappening. The Twins are playing lifeless baseball with no offense and error-filled defense. All we’ve got to be excited for as Twins fans is Jim Thome’s run to 600 home runs, the potential that Justin Morneau might come back for the last few weeks of the season and start to regain his swagger, and the daily Will Joe Mauer Catch Today game.

There’s so much negativity to point to this season, but it’s been analyzed to nausea. I’ve still had a good time at Target Field in the handful of games I’ve been to this summer, including Thome’s monstrous home run last month. Here’s some multimedia – courtesy: me…

I mean…cold.
Lots of guys selling beer…
Fireworks!
Mauer’s 1st plate appearance after DL
Who doesn’t love Robbie?
Joe Nathan coming in for a save (when they meant something).
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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!

The Night the Wild’s Season Died…Again

So, the Minnesota Wild lost tonight, 4-0 to Dallas. Outshot 31-14 a night after they lose to Nashville 4-0, with their playoff lives on the line. Now I didn’t watch either game, so I can’t comment too intelligently…but that’s pathetic. The Wild are now 4 points out of 8th with 13 games to go.

Following the tweets from @Russostrib, apparently Guillaume Latendresse re-injured himself in tonight’s game. With C Mikko Koivu still out until who knows when, Wild are done…again.

Thanks for getting everyone all riled up and going gutless into the night Wizzy.

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!

The Day the Wild Saved Their Season

Tonight’s 3-1 Wild win over the NY Rangers might have been the big one. After two demoralizing losses to Chicago and the Isle that dropped them from 5th to 11th in the West, and after an uninspiring 1st period, the Wild managed to scrape together 3 goals in the final 2 periods and came through with a surprising win.

Naturally the Wild were out shot again, by a ridiculous 41-19 margin. G Jose Theodore was a beast with 40 saves. Kyle Brodziak, Casey Wellman, and Pierre-Bouchard got the goals for the Wild; #1 on the season for Wellman.

It wasn’t pretty, but in the end the win is what matters, and the Wild still have a shot at the playoffs because of it.