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>Requiem for a Season

27 September 2009

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Blogger has this feature where I can label my posts, which is a handy way of organizing them. Then all a reader has to do if they want to, say, read everything I’ve written about Jack Connolly, they can just click on the Jack Connolly label and get hit full blast with craziness. It’s very handy.

The labels are pretty discreet, so I don’t know if any of you noticed, but somewhere between Thursday and Friday we reached a point of inflection, where the Off-Season label dropped off and the very first Sixth Season label appeared in its place.

Before looking to the future, let’s travel back to last season.

Yes, it really happened. No, I still can’t believe it. Yes, I still get chills.

The first game of the West regional was one of the greatest days of my life. The Final Five championship would have been another of those days had I not been in the midst of my final exams. But the regional was incredible, not just because of the game’s outcome, but the entire experience. I’d say the planning and execution of the signs and the togas and the cheers/chants is what ultimately inspired us to do Peanut Butter Hjelle Time!!! (It is only properly punctuated with three exclamation points.) A little organization and planning can go a long way toward increasing the atmosphere at a game, and if UMD isn’t going to promote their own product, someone has to.

The last season was really a turning point for RWD. It was the first season I was able to make it to a majority of games, so it changed the way I was able to experience the games. In years past I’d only been able to listen to the games on the radio or sometimes not at all. I made 23 games last season and I am pretty certain I caught every other game, whether it was on B2 or just the radio. I know it seems like I have no life, but I work over 40 hours a week and have school for another 8-12, so I just have no social life.

Which isn’t entirely true, because I met a lot of incredible people last year. UMD has amazing fans, and I’m not discounting the people I have met in seasons past, but the friends I’ve made over the past year have augmented the already awesome Bulldog hockey atmosphere. I don’t want to name names because I don’t want to leave anyone out, and like I said, I don’t want to detract from the folks I’ve known for years. I don’t know the guys on the ice, and they don’t know me, and it’s partially by design and partially by accident, and they’re only there for four years, tops. I’ll be able to come to Bulldog games in 10 years with a lot of the same people and we can laugh about how we KAWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!d at the Miami band or when one of Mitch’s Misfits told Biddco he sounded like an anorexic dog.

I don’t know how last season can be topped. I mean, other than the obvious NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP!!!! Some of you who voted in the first of my trio of polls the other night abstained from the second and third, I noticed. (FYI, it appears Keegan Flaherty is the most highly-anticipated non-Dylan Olsen freshman, with every guy receiving at least one vote. Antti Miettinen and Chase Ryan are tied in the Biddco Dead Ringer poll.)

I do know that a lot of guys are gone, and they took a lot of offensive firepower and defensive prowess. But they left their legacy. Those guys were fighters. As freshmen they willed a 9th place team to the Final Five and as seniors they battled to a Final Five championship and an NCAA win. Do you think the remaining guys on the team didn’t notice? Or participate? The seniors that left came from a class that had to mature early, and we’ve got another group of freshmen and sophomores who will also have to.

What the senior class has reminded me, and what I hope they have also imparted to all of you, is to never give up on this team. More than any other college hockey team, UMD has surprised and overachieved. One of the hardest things about rooting for a team that’s not a perennial powerhouse is remaining hopeful despite game after game and season after season of disappointment, but we simply must keep believing the next crazy win is a week or a day away. Negativity is a plague that can decimate a fan base, and we can’t afford to see that at UMD. Not after last season, not with the new season coming, and not as long as we have a team on the ice who play their best and give it all they’ve got and wear their jerseys with pride and respect.

There are 18 guys on this team who were a part of the team last year and had a hand in the successes (yes, all of them, whether they were scoring with 42 seconds left in the Princeton game or jostling for a spot in the lineup, everyone contributed) and I’m sure they are pretty certain they’re going to have a great year. I’m ready to see who is going to be the next MacGregor Sharp, who tripled his point outcome. I’m ready to see PBHj continue the goaltending excellence UMD has enjoyed for the better part of a decade. I’m ready to see Brady Lamb or Scott Kishel take the same strides Oberg did from freshman to sophomore year (although thankfully neither will have to break a leg in the process.)

I love to think about all the craziness from last year, but I’ve got to start looking ahead to this season, which is SEVEN DAYS AWAY!

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