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>A Tale of Two Teams

16 March 2008

>It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of defence, it was the age of turnovers, it was the epoch of shutouts, it was the epoch of getting shut out, it was the season of expectations, it was the season of disappointments, it was the first half of hope, it was the second half of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to the NCAAs, we were all going direct to the golf course–in short, some of the season’s noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative.

Back in October, I don’t think I could have predicted how deeply I am feeling the end of the season. Jim Morrison might say “This is the strangest season I’ve ever known.” I came into the season with very low expectations, although every season I hope the team will rise above its circumstances and exceed my expectations. I would say this season is even more strange than the 2004-2005 season, when we were the top-ranked team in the country and then spiralled into a team that was practically run out of North Dakota on a rail in the WCHA playoffs. I try to balance my blooming hopes for the season with some roots planted firmly in the dirt of reality. I knew we probably wouldn’t finish very well this season, and I knew it was a matter of riding out this season before we arrived at a team that would go places. No offense to any of the guys on the team this year, but there a few key pieces were missing. It’s not your fault, and you played your best, and I am still crazy about ALL OF YOU. This team was supposed to have a healthy Garrison and a powerplay quarterback in Niskanen and a speedster in Mason Raymond, along with another key penalty killer in Logan Gorsalitz. None of that is really important because what happened this season has nothing to do with any of those guys (with the exception of Jason, whose injury was totally unfortunate and abhorrent as it was inflicted upon him by the heinous Badgers).

Quite unexpectedly, we started off the season winning. And when we lost, we bounced back with a win the next night. We were winning the freaking league at one point. According to the pairwise, we were in the NCAA tournament and had control of our destiny up until the final game of the season. What makes this season more disappointing than the last two seasons are the golden opportunities that passed us by. We had a chance to surpass our point total from the previous season in December, and we didn’t until February. We had a chance at home ice and we ended up in Denver. We had a chance at the NCAAs and now we have none. We had a chance to beat Denver, a team missing their leading scorer and demoralized by CC the weekend prior, a team we’d already beaten once this year (On my birthday! Thanks guys!) and a team we’d leapfrogged over to get to the Final Five two years ago, and now here we are. With no more hockey for almost seven months.

Along with my disappointment I feel a contradictory twinge of gratitude for this season. A season with hope is infinitely better than a season with no hope, even if the hopes don’t come to fruition. There is no way I could feel this low if I hadn’t felt elated at points during the season, if until the final buzzer of last night’s game I hadn’t lived inside the hope we could keep playing for another day, another series, another few weeks. There are so many things about this season that were wonderful and fun and amazing. Alex Stalock set the school record for shutout minutes. We swept St. Cloud. We won at Mariucci. We lost 8-3 in Grand Forks and came back and WON the next night. Every single freshman on the team, and in fact every PLAYER on the team (excepting Ziggy and Reiter, who are excused) scored a point this season. I drove to Duluth and back in the same night to see tDogs come back and beat Mankato in overtime on a goal from a freshman assisted by two other freshmen. Mike Curry found his scoring touch in the last few games of the season, and laid out some bone-jarring hits in the process. Howie announced the first-ever penalty for cross-dressing.

My only regrets this season are the things I can control. I regret the games I missed and the road trips not taken. I care about winning and I care about tournaments and trophies and that all-important first banner, but I care about this team, whoever is on it, first and foremost. They could lose every game (please don’t, guys) and I’d still cheer and taunt the opponents and hope for a win and throw stuff around and curse my brains out and get mad at each loss. I’m already counting the days until next year, and licking my chops at the prospect of home ice and the NCAAs.

My Guy of the Year: MacGregor Sharp, 17 points! (Also the team scoring champion!)
Matt McKnight: 16!
Michael Gergen: 13!
Mike Curry: 7!

Freshman Scoring Champion: Justin Fontaine, 12 points!
Kyle Schmidt: 8!
Cody Danberg: 7!
Rob Bordson: 7!
Evan Oberg: 3!
Chad Huttel: 2!
Mike Montgomery: 1!

I plagiarized and paraphrased my opener from Dickens, FYI. He’s dead, so who cares?

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