>On the Road
The yellow brick road. The road not taken. The long and winding road. The road to redemption. Whatever we’re on here, it’s a helluva ride.
There were times when many of us wanted to give up. There were times when we felt like the season was slipping through our fingers. There were times when it felt like our players had given up. Too many times we’d read the same tired old quotations in the papers after a loss. “We weren’t ready to play.” “We didn’t have the effort.” “We didn’t play as well as we thought we could.” It was disheartening.
Instead, this weekend tUMD showed exactly what kind of team they really are. Gritty, defensively sound, with explosive offense. tUMD chased Yale’s goaltender from the game after he gave up five goals, a season high. The power play was lethal, and they got a shorthanded goal and killed off a two-man disadvantage, which was actually more like a 2 1/2 man disadvantage as one player did not have a stick.
We’ve had our ups and downs, our roadblocks and setbacks. Forwards, defencemen, goalies, fans, everyone. We lost a player to the pros at mid-season. We had a horrible first game in our new rink. We limped into the playoffs, some might say. We lost to a lesser team in the Final Five.
And we closed down our rink in style. We won a marathon 3OT game. We had a player put up five goals on the southern branch of our school. We never got swept, never lost back to back games. We have a Hobey Baker finalist. AND WE ARE GOING TO THE FROZEN FOUR.
And by we, I mean the players of course.
Certainly there was a lot of pressure on tUMD on Saturday. Yale was ranked as the top team in the PWR, which comes with its own pressures, but most folks felt that ranking was undeserved, which means losing to them would be a bit shameful. I’m sure that was more in the minds of fans than anything else. (I think it’s funny that fans think they know the mindset of players; one fan of a nameless team [literally] stated that tUMD deliberately lost to Bemidji in order to get placed in the East regional, which is ludicrous.)
tUMD had to weather quite the storm in the first period; the first ten minutes were uneventful but then they had to fight off the two-man disadvantage, followed by another penalty, and Kenny Reiter and the penalty kill stood tall. Then MCON and Fonz had a 2 on 1 on the PK and Mikey scored, then plowed over a Yale player and taunted him. And that set the tone for the game.
Bergy scored even strength on a soft goal that Rondeau just… I don’t know, missed? He tried to catch it and looked like… well, what I would look like if I played goalie. Yale started to get chippy, and Jack Connolly scored a sick goal from a wicked angle on a power play after a Yale played ran Kenny.
Yale’s Brian O’Neill scored on a power play and gave them a little life. Then he decided to run Jake Hendrickson and head-butt him. I thought Yale students were supposed to be smart, but I cannot think of a dumber thing to do. It wasn’t O’Neill’s first dangerous hit on a tUMD player; he also took an elbowing penalty earlier in the second. The referees decided to kick him out of the game. This was certainly a fortuitous call for tUMD and a backbreaker for Yale, but perhaps Mr. O’Neill will think twice about headshots now, knowing that his desire to injure other players contributed to the end of his team’s season.
My Guy Mike Seidel scored on the power play 20 seconds in, and then when another Yale player made a dumb mistake and put them down two players, Justin Fontaine cashed in on a lovely tic-tac-toe play.
Yale scored two in the third period, which was enough to cause severe panic for Biddco and me. My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking. I couldn’t stay still and had to pace around a little bit, then sit down, then stand, then sit. I couldn’t even eat the green bean casserole with bacon that MEg had made.
Then tUMD’s brilliant defence kicked in, and while I was still scared out of my mind, they remained calm and collected and in control. It wasn’t until there were about 30 seconds left in the game that I really, truly believed we would win the game.
And then an overwhelming sense of relief flooded over me. I was completely exhausted when we got home after we finished watching the Ugly Helmets – CC game, and still somewhat unable to believe that tUMD is going to be in the Frozen Four. Two more wins and we can finally get that title. 27 years after we should have gotten the first one.
For once, it’s not just about the journey, but the destination. GO BULLDOGS!!!!!