Fab Four: Now With 100% More Bulldog
tUMD made the conference tournament this year! It was a freaking miracle. Actually what was a miracle was making the NCAA tournament, the conference tournament was just a surprise. Although tDogs have made the NCAAs more times than they’ve made the conference tournament the past 3 years.
There were no KAWstumes this year; everyone in our section can thank tDogs for eliminating Miami. Somehow that made the tournament slightly less fun. For me, at least. For everyone else, probably not.
The stress of tUMD playing in the tournament also made it less fun. That sounds stupid, but it’s true. When tDogs let the Fhawks score 49 seconds into the game, I said “Well, at least we got here,” with a roll of my eyes. It is really not very much fun to be surrounded by UND fans when their team scores on your team.
Biddco and I prepared for the game with some signs. Biddy made a “Penalty Shot” sign, which he held up any time tUMD did anything slightly wrong. Ice the puck? PENALTY SHOT!!!!! Penalty? PENALTY SHOT!!!! UND player fell over of his own accord? PENALTY SHOT!!!!
I made a better sign.
Tim Brewster would be jealous if he’d seen it. I used a protractor to make each zone on the chili-o-meter the same size, and of course made a chili pepper indicator. This is one of my better signs, for sure. It was kind of a pain to haul around all weekend, but it came in handy, not only for expressing my thoughts on the hockey games, but also when ordering chili at the Depot. We asked the server at the Depot to rate the spiciness of the green chili, and when she put it around Simmering, asked if she could get the cook to spice it up to Hot! Hot! Hot! Dirty also ordered some chili, which he rated as “Mild Enough For Minnesotans,” unfortunately.
My nephew enjoyed the sign.
He didn’t really enjoy much about the game until it got quieter. Thanks, Dogs, for shutting up UND’s fans so he could enjoy the game. Or at least enjoy various lights turning on and off.
I was really pleased on Friday night to get a win over UND. I thought UND commanded the first period, although I’m the only person who thought that, so maybe I was just paranoid. Goalinato opened the scoring in the second period just 28 seconds in, IAFALTO scored 3 minutes after that, and less than a minute after Al’s goal, tDogs were on a PP that turned into a 5×3. tDogs failed to capitalize on the PP (a theme for the weekend and the season as a whole), which gave UND some jump, and there were some terrifying moments, including a near-too many men penalty that gave UND a huge scoring chance. Farley shut all that down by zipping the puck into the net so hard that it ricocheted out, causing an initial no-goal call. The review confirmed it was a goal, and we cheered twice. tDogs let some scrub named Stecher get a goal, and then the second period mercifully came to a close.
My sister in law informed me later that I was annoying UND fans in our section. I’m not sure what really put one lady over the edge, perhaps it was “Come on, Dogs, send these racists home unhappy!” or maybe “Learn how to read so you can read a rule book!” Or maybe she prefers ice cold gazpacho to hot chili. Anyway, this UND fan was overheard to say “She probably didn’t even graduate high school.” I truly love to annoy.
Goalinato scored again with 6 minutes to go, which eased my stress a bit. A one-goal lead late against UND would have been more stress than I’d have liked. A two goal lead kept UND’s fans mostly quiet and kept tDogs in control. Despite three minutes of empty net play, tUMD couldn’t put one in. They did keep UND busy defending their open net, which was good.
Biddy was destroyed in some kind of “King of the Mountain” intermission game. He was wearing a big hamster ball blow-up thingy, and I watched the video of him getting knocked on his butt about 20 times. I hope to make it into a GIF. The NCHC really listened to my complaints about eating contests during breaks, and instead changed to dance or trivia competitions. The league also listened to some of the fan complaints about involving Gopher fans in on-ice challenges. Many people pointed out the Gophers are not in our league, we’ve moved on, we don’t need to trot out a token Goof fan to boo. There were no Gopher fans involved in any of the entertainment this year.
The St. Cloud-DU game was boring. I was sitting next to a DU fan, believe it or not. He fell asleep at one point during the game. Then he went out and did the hamster ball thing with another guy. They were both destroyed by a UND guy. It was an entertaining intermission challenge, although the rules were confusing.
Saturday afternoon we ended up leaving at the second intermission to ensure we got a table at the Depot; we needed our bacon wrapped hot dogs and corn dogs. The game was a real snoozer and ended in a 1-1 tie. UND really sucks at the Target Center, so I think that’s a sign we should renew the agreement rather than try to get the X.
I was disappointed tDogs lost on Saturday night. They were dominating when up 1-0, and then just tanked. I don’t know what the problem was but I hope it was an anomaly. Thankfully the Goofs choked and tDogs squeaked into the NCAAs. The goal late in the second period was really a dagger, and tUMD was never really back in the game. tDogs couldn’t do anything with 2 PPs in the 3rd, and the best play of the 3rd was a big save on the empty net, which was somewhat meaningless.
I enjoyed the tournament once again. I wish more Bulldog fans had gone. In some ways I wonder if I am severely underestimating the size of the Bulldog hockey fanbase, and there really aren’t that many people who care enough to travel to see tDogs play. The band wasn’t even there, which was surprising and disappointing. St. Cloud probably had more fans than tDogs, but they weren’t out in droves either.
Beyond financial and scheduling constraints, I don’t understand why people who love hockey wouldn’t want to attend the tournament. It is really fun. There are a lot of really cool people who go. Within minutes of entering the Target Center, I had already seen several people I know solely from attending hockey games over the years. Gappy McTooth was also one of the first people I saw upon entry, decked out in UNO gear but I hope secretly cheering for his nephew, Bill Corrin.
I am fortunate because the Fab Four is a great time to spend with my family and my best friends. My dad is generous enough to take me every year, and he’s even willing to sit by me AND tolerate my stupid (awesome) friends. My brother was able to come for the first time this year, and my nephew and SIL even came to a game, so it was a huge deal for the family.
I spent every intermission talking to people I’ve met through hockey. Our area was a nice rallying point because 1. it was easy to spot Biddy in his garish attire 2. it was easy to spot me because I had the sign and 3. we were centrally located. It is really cool to stand at intermission and chat amiably with opposing fans, or even fans like Secret Agent Mav, who came to the Fab Four even though UNO did not. Thanks to everyone who stopped by! I was so glad to meet so many fun, interesting people. I saw a fan from every team except Western Michigan. They were too busy rowing boats I guess.
As always, I have to give credit to the NCHC. The league is engaged and clearly makes an effort to accommodate and delight its fans. Nothing ever runs perfectly (I heard of a ticket SNAFU involving a tUMD friend), but I appreciate the effort that is put in (esp. by the social media team! They are the absolute best!) Every year the Fab Four has gotten better, as the league has listened to its constituents and fans and made steps to improve, whether it’s with food, fan experiences, or the staffing. (Note: I didn’t have any issues with Target Center staff this year, but I also was not wearing a costume, so I can’t say if that was an improvement.)
Make an effort to come to the Fab Four next year, whether you’ve been before or not, whether your team is there or not. There are friendly people everywhere, there’s lots of stuff to do, it’s not really that cold, and there’s HOCKEY.