NCHC Frozen Faceoff, Year 4
Friday we arrived early, because Priority Ticketholders like us were allowed to get in half an hour before the proles. They didn’t seem super prepared for the early arrivals as the souvenir stand was still unpacking, and there seemed to have been a small fire in concessions, as the concourse was smoky. Here is a terrible panorama shot I took, which includes my dad.
We took advantage of the Priority Ticketholders’ lounge throughout the weekend. It was a nice perk – shorter lines for drinks, a full service bar, a place to sit and hang out comfortably, and most importantly, NO LINE FOR THE BATHROOM. It also had a countdown clock that let us know when it was game time, so we could make our way back to our seats before intros/puck drop. Or within a reasonable amount of time.
tUMD’s game against Western started out a little rough. They ended up with an early 3×5 PK. Andy Murray called what was likely the world’s earliest timeout, and in fact I can say without a doubt the earliest timeout not directly caused by a giving up several goals. There didn’t seem to be a point to it as tUMD successfully killed both penalties, and then some stuff happened, and then Toninato scored on the PP! Dom is coming on strong at the perfect time, it’s really exciting. Western unfortunately scored to tie up the game, but tDogs answered back 24 seconds later.
For most of the period, I was sitting at the end of the arena, awaiting my chance at fame and fortune in some sort of dance competition. The opponent: some fellow from the WMU band. The song: Usher’s “Yeah!” The moves: Elaine Benes-worthy. And I lost, too! Shameful. They said to be crazy, I was crazy. Dance like no one’s watching, indeed. Life’s too short to worry about what thousands of people think of you. The reaction was mixed. It was slightly unfortunate that I was 1. wearing a very distinct jersey 2. wearing very distinct glasses and 3. sporting very distinct hair, because then people kept approaching me, but only with good-natured jocularity. Also, if you were in the arena at the time, you are to blame for this loss as much as me. YOU ARE ALL CULPABLE.
Something weird happened that appeared to be a Western goal and it was not. I don’t know why. I don’t care, because it wasn’t a goal. Then they scored for real, it was very unfortunate. Then Alex Iafallo and his silky mitts thin mints gino bingo sauce scored. I believe there is a Bible verse about this goal. Matthew 19:24: And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a hockey puck to enter into the net through the opening Alex Iafallo doth haveth. Look it up.
In the 3rd, Parker Mackay added another goal to allow us to breathe a little. Adam Johnson made WMU look silly on the play. With the goalie pulled, Jared Thomas scored his 3rd of the year from fairly far out (things are fuzzy at this point, that was 2 days ago as I write this), and tUMD secured its spot in the championship game for the second year in a row! That was great news since the runner up in every previous NCHC final had gone on to win the championship the following year. It’s almost like it was destined…
Denver and UND played a really boring and stupid 1-0 game. Zzzz. I spent most of my time correcting UND fans on the name of their mascot. Some dumb old person took my photo so she could I guess have a record of the person annoying the crap out of her at the game. She was not at all discreet about it so I saw the picture. I looked good. It was a zoom in of my face. That is weird. I took a very invasive photo of her husband, and then of herself, since she was afraid to speak to me when I asked her why she was taking my photo. These people showed up with like 6 seconds left in the first period of the tUMD-WMU game and insisted on getting into their EXACT SEATS instead of taking the open seats at the end of the aisle and sorting it out later. People are very stupid when they leave the North Dakota for the Big City, I guess.
Saturday morning I got up and ran the Hot Dash 10 Mile, repping the NCHC as part of my reign as Fan of the Year. When the nude photos of me from 1984 emerge, I will be replaced by Dan.
It was 33F and that was what I wore because I am The King in the North.
I chose to wear a different jersey, different glasses, and a different hairstyle in order to put the Dance Mania situation behind me. (It didn’t work, I’m just that memorable looking! Who knew.) We attended part of the WMU-DU dullness, then left to get food. I stopped off to visit the downtown Macy’s store, which was closing the following day. (Passing Dan Molenaar [I think, it might have been Osterberg, sometimes I can’t tell them apart] and an Alice Cooper/Tommy Lee hybrid on the way!) I worked there for a year and a half while I was in community college before transferring to tUMD, and I wanted to see it one more time before it closed. Bad idea. It was sad. I had to drown my sorrows in a ginger ale and some tater tots at the Depot, while watching people hit cars while trying to parallel park. It was so entertaining. At one point, 4 Bulldogs players walked in (healthy or unhealthy scratches) saw us, and walked out. Or saw there weren’t any free tables, and walked out. Unsure.
Attending the night game was like attending a Trump rally, but with hockey jerseys. It was not the greatest situation. Admittedly, some of this was of my own doing, since I am trying to help UND fans help themselves by correcting them when they mispronounce “Hawks” as “Sue.” (Soo? Idk.) They struggle to understand. Nevertheless, I persist.
Look, the game was a freaking disaster from an officiating perspective. I saw how it was going to be early on, and tried to just ride the waves of soft calls, face-off mind games, and overall confusion like an adorable sea otter, smashing abalones on my furry belly while floating on my back in the waters off the Kuril Islands of Russia. There was no use in getting angry, because it wasn’t going to change the fact that tUMD had to defend 10 PPs, including 3 5x3s and a major. Eugene Ionesco himself could not have written anything more absurd. He certainly would not have dreamed up a scenario in which tDogs went into the first intermission down a goal, after spending I think like 9 minutes on the PK, after multiple UND players threw punches that went unpunished, and another took a stick blade to Pionk’s groin like he was Tim McCracken because he was mad his precious widdle goalie took a little bit of a hit. Nor could he have scripted that Toninato, Tufte, and Johnson would all score within 58 seconds of each other, less than three minutes into the second period, silencing the green masses. I don’t think anyone liked that I shouted out “HERE’S YOUR UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA DULUTH SCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO-RINGGGGGGGG” at the top of my lungs, either.
Valiantly, the refs did try to stick to the script, by giving UND another 5×3, which they did manage to capitalize on (shocking!), and we went into the third up a goal. We retired to the lounge, where we had the following discussion:
DA: Who sings that song “99 Tears?”
Me: It’s “96 Tears.”
DA: And who sings it?
Me: ? and the Mysterians.
DA: And how does it go?
Me (miming playing the organ): dut dut dut dut dut dut dut dut 96 tears
DA: Ok so we can sing that when they start crying about the game again. Dut dut dut dut dut dut dut dut 99 tears.
Me: Ok, but it’s 96 tears.
It was a good plan and I may or may not have busted it out at one point during the 3rd. And then things started to go pear-shaped late in the game, as UND got yet another 5×3 on a classic holding-the-stick/hooking play that refs let go all the time because they know both guys are at fault. Naturally, UND tied it up, and the fans were frothing at the mouth as though Hitler himself had come down from the rafters, and we were so salty that we started screaming “5 on 3! Give ’em another!” for stuff like us icing the puck. And in fact, when a penalty was called on UND, we voiced our confusion — shouldn’t the call be on us?? But instead, another call went against UND (guess the refs were afraid the fix was too obvious), and then Joey Anderson deflected the puck in off a UND skate, and then there was less than a minute left in the game and we were still on the PP and UND could do nothing and the game was over and we were JUBILANT.
UMD dominated the all-tournament team and Iafallo was named MVP. They celebrated with the cup while we pounded on the glass, and then many of the players came over and pounded back in celebration. (I see you, glass pounders — it did not go unnoticed that the team leaders were among them.) It was a great effort all around, all weekend, from the goaltending to the penalty kill (Kyle Osterberg blocking shots painfully with both legs and then staying out there and remaining effective) to the fire and passion shown by Toninato when he saw his teammates (especially Iafallo) getting absolutely jobbed by the referees (while getting messed with himself during face-offs FOR NO REASON). tDogs at times didn’t play their technical best or their most defensively sound, but they are playing with determination, fiestiness, and passion. While Saturday’s game was nerve-wracking, the whole weekend was amazing, and I was so happy to bang on the glass til my hands hurt.
If I ever get to a point where I sneer at moments like this, or fail to enjoy them because they’re not a national championship, euthanize me, please. Life isn’t worth living if you can’t enjoy a regular season overtime win, or touch a conference championship trophy, because it isn’t enough.
tUMD goes to Fargo on Friday to put a couple teams through the woodchipper, starting with tOSU. tBattle of tSmall ts.