>I Hope You Had The Time Of Your Life
I’m so tired I can barely think.
I woke up this morning terrified tUMD would lose tonight’s game. I’ve never been so nervous in my life for a non-playoff game. The ‘Dogs opened the DECC with an 8-1 win over UMTC, and there was nothing I wanted more than to see them close it down with a win.
Oh, and a jersey. Right.
I went out to brunch with Biddco and the Aaaahj at Pizza Luce, and then my dad, Biddco and I went to the football game, where we met up with DHG and tPB Dude. Wrapped in layers of blankets and clothing, we watched the Bulldog football team beat Augustana 24-13. It was an exciting football game and it took my mind off the hockey game for a little while.
After the game, the waiting started to get to me. I was so nervous, in fact, that I couldn’t even stay at Green Mill past 5:50. Biddco and I headed over since he wanted to get a good seat in the student section. I noted there were no other bids on the jersey I wanted and then hung out with Ma Ciskie and Li’l Ciskie and watched the DECC fill up.
The team was about to come out when the Zamboni came out onto the ice. Slowly, it opened, and out came the Loon! People were on their feet and cheering. It simply would not have been right if the Loon had not been there to close down the DECC.
The game started strangely, as I think there was supposed to be a ceremonial puck drop with Huffer, and there was not. I can’t imagine what could have occurred to prevent it from happening but finally the refs just dropped the puck and the game began.
The Bulldogs were absolutely dominant for at least 40 minutes of the game. If not for Sam Brittain and the pipes, the game would have been a blowout. tUMD didn’t get anything into the back of the net until Justin Faulk got a power play goal and I did my first and only goal lap around the DECC. Some of it alone, because I was too slow for Kleiner, DHG and Boody, and the students caught up with me, but I kept going once we got to the student section. Oh well. I didn’t want to trip and go flying, or pass out from lack of oxygen.
In the second period, Montgomery was called for interference with 2:38 to go and I had to go down to protect my bid. I missed seeing MCON’s goal but I certainly celebrated. I saw a replay of it later. Incredible goal. Just sick. I don’t know if Mike Connolly has ever had a garbage goal in his life; his goals are all so lovely.
The jersey auctions are always insane. This year’s was no exception. There was lots of posturing and covert observing and flat out panic (ok, that was just me.) I aggressively bid myself into owning Dylan Olsen’s jersey. My dad won Trent Palm’s, and the Aaaahj was boxed out at the last minute for Max Tardy’s by some guy who sandbagged writing down his bid. Argh. I finally felt some of the stress melt away as I realized the jersey was mine.
In the third period, Nick Shore did his best to try to murder Kyle Schmidt, and was asked to leave the game. Let it be known that tUMD had more power play opportunities and fewer overall penalties than DU. We can put to bed any rumors from other teams’ fans that the WCHA league officials are biased in favor of DU. (NCAA DII football officials may be biased in favor of Augustana, though.) tUMD did not score on the 5-minute power play although they had some excellent chances, including one that went for review. JT Brown took a slashing penalty and DU scored at the 8:25 mark, making the game too close for comfort once more.
DU put really their only sustained pressure on somewhere around maybe 8 minutes to go? I’m not sure. They had multiple chances and Kenny Reiter played the way we’ve known he can play all along. He was up to the task, and so were the rest of the Dogs. DU managed to pull their goalie with 1:48 to go, and the Dogs played probably the best final two minutes of a hockey game they have all year. MCON missed a chance for an empty net goal, but instead of trying for a bad shot with a DU player in his way, and a possible turnover, he tied up the puck for precious ticks off the clock. The ‘Dogs kept Denver from getting anything decent going with the extra attacker on, and they gained possession with just a few seconds left and that was the game. Incredible. A gutsy way to go ungently into that good night.
After the game, the ‘Dogs had a stick salute for the fans before the handshake, and then once DU left the ice, they invited all the alumni present to come down for a final stick salute. After some words from Huffer and the lowering of the “Final Year” banner, Hoagy led over 100 Bulldogs, past and present, in another final stick salute. Audio clips were played of a few milestone tUMD games, and I only wish there had been more. Finally, the players left the ice, and one final audio clip had Marsh Nelson wishing us goodnight.
What a way to go. I cried, I’m not ashamed to admit it. The DECC means a lot to a lot of people. I heard people who had sat next to each other for years saying goodbye to each other. I saw couples who met in college taking pictures with their children in the seats they used to sit in. People lingered, taking pictures, talking, in disbelief that they’ll be sitting in a new arena next time the Dogs play in Duluth. The arena was a dump, but it was ours, and it held a lot of memories. And it was built at a time when most arenas were dumps, anyway.
Finally we tore ourselves away from the arena and went to claim our jerseys. I was standing around talking with other successful jersey winners and then the players snuck in. Dylan was one of the first ones in and he came over and was very friendly. I managed to rein in my extreme awkwardness and had a real conversation with him. I asked if he was excited for next weekend and the WJC tryouts and he said yeah. I told him I’d cheer for him, but not for Canada, and asked him if he would light up Justin Faulk if they played against each other. He was noncommittal. I think that means yes. I asked if his dad was there and he said no, but he wished he was. As you all know, Dylan’s dad Darryl played for NMU and certainly had some games at the DECC. I also told him I’d converted some Blackhawks fans to UMD fans because of him, and told him I looked forward to watching him play in the NHL and the rest of this year… and maybe next year. He sort of smiled and I said I knew it might not happen and I just wanted him to make the right choice for himself. We got a photo together which is sort of crappy as the Aaaahj was trying to turn on the flash and failed, and then I forgot to ask him to sign my jersey. I’ll have to be a creepy stalker after a game sometime and get him to sign it then.
I’ve spent an hour writing this post and I could probably wax rhapsodic about the DECC for another hour, but for now, I’ll just wish you all goodnight.