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Seven Year Itch

10 April 2018

Yesterday was the 7th anniversary of the first national championship. So much has changed since then!

I went back today to look at the coverage I provided (I use the term loosely, but I serve a niche market – and my niche I mean more like a little sliver) in 2011. There was… certainly more content back then. Also I was still writing on blogspot at the time; I think I made the switch that summer. Some of those posts have some wonky formatting and a lot of the pictures and videos didn’t port over. Maybe I should hire an intern to clean up my archives.

As I said yesterday, things are different this time around. Not just in hockey, but in my own life as well. In April 2011, I didn’t know I was 7 months away from quitting my job, returning to school, moving to Duluth, graduating from tUMD, and moving back to the Cities.

Oh man, needling Bruce is a time honored tradition. From the moving to Duluth post:

Radio voice of the Bulldogs, Bruce Ciskie, merely groaned in annoyance and rolled his eyes, then returned to writing his 1000-page tirade on officiating.

Back on topic. The 2011 season was so strange. tDogs closed down tDECC (with a superb victory over Denver) and opened Amsoil Arena (with a disastrous, glass-shattering scoreless affair against the Racist Mascots). Dylan Olsen left the team during the break, almost directly after I won his final game at the DECC jersey and asked him to stay one more year. So that was awkward. My dad won Trent Palm’s jersey in the same auction, and wore it at the national championship game. After Saturday’s game, he sold the jersey to a guy in a giant foam cowboy hat from Alaska who really wanted it. So we’ll probably never win another national championship game ever, if you believe in jersey karma.

palmjersey

The sign was very popular.

tUMD started that playoff run with a home sweep of SCSU, including a triple OT game that was payback for the 2007 season-ending 3OT loss at the National Concrete Center, then laid an egg in the conference tournament by losing to Buttmidji. I guess stinking it up in the conference tournament is a strategy for winning a national championship? Get that last loss out of the way before it’s too late? Whatever, it worked, although they had way more wiggle room back then. Many ten-thousandths worth of wiggle room, rather than just the one.

tUMD was shipped out east to play the Racist Mascots of New York, and I missed the whole game because it was a day game (the #1 seed, Y6le, chose the night game I guess) and I worked. Back then Twitter was not nearly so robust (nor nearly so corrupt/bot-ful), so it was hard to get a sense of the game. I even remember a time before unlimited texting, when I worked nights and my dad had to call my work number to get score updates. Meanwhile, this year I was able to stream the regional semifinal on ESPN3 “The Tres,” and while it wasn’t great quality, it was an upgrade over sporadic texts. While tUMD shut out Union, they needed OT to dig out of a 2 goal deficit, and needed to score “twice” in OT in order to win. (Note: I understand why the first goal came back. It was still a wacky finish.)

tUMD then beat the #1 seed in the region (and, I believe, the overall #1), Y6le, in rather aggressive fashion. This year, they didn’t even get a crack at the #1 seed, St. Cloud (also the #1 overall), because their coach decided to quit on them and they were too distracted for the hockeys. They faced Air Force in a close-on-paper, domination-in-reality game. I watched the Y6le game at MeanEgirl’s house with Biddy and her (and I think Yager?); they weren’t even married at the time! This year, we drove out to Fighting Hawks Falls for the regional final and watched in person with Rachel, Biddy, and Dan of the Week.

When tUMD rolled into St. Paul in 2011, it was gorgeous and sunny, which complimented their lovely, bleach blonde hair. In solidarity, I also dyed my hair, with disastrous results that took months to correct. This year, the weather was totally crappy, and the Dogs and I had normal hair. Well, I have normal hair, I can’t really speak to the rest of the guys’ hair choices. 2 of the other teams from the Frozen Four, Notre Dame and Michigan, decided to show up in both 2011 and 2018. The third 2011 team doesn’t exist anymore, but their replacement, the Fighting Hawks, chose to stink it up in the regular season, rather than in the Frozen Four. This year, Michigan made it without any extremely controversial goal calls, unlike their regional semifinal in against UNO 7 years ago (sorry Susie, too soon?).

In 2011, the first semifinal had 0 titles between the two teams, and the second semifinal had 16. This year the first semifinal had 1 and the second semifinal had 9. tUMD played in the first semifinal both years, and it was extremely relaxing to know we were in the title game while watching the second. This year, I didn’t really care about the outcome of the second game. We could play the Potato Farmers, or we could play the One Song Wonders. In 2011, it was a choice between the One Song Wonders or 18,000 drunken hicks who pin their entire self worth to the success of their men’s hockey team screeching in my face. It was nice that the One Song Wonders took care of them in hilarious fashion, freeing up tickets for Dogs fans and removing the threat of violence both on and off the ice.

Both times, we faced Notre Dame, but in 2011, we faced them first. We were both 3 seeds then, while this year our semifinal opponent duhOSU was somehow a one seed (and had knocked off potential juggernaut Denver, thanks fellas). The Big 10’s insular schedule really helped them appear better than they were – it certainly helped Notre Dame absorb a loss to freaking Sacred Heart in Catholic Bowl 2017. We raised our banner in front of Notre Dame that fall, too, in our first home series. So fortuitous, so impolite, so awesome. I forgot that tDogs played from behind twice in that game. I also forgot that Notre Dame had an actual leprechaun on the team at that time, TJ Tynan. No such luck this year, as Notre Dame brought only Brobdingnagians this year.

Ohio State had their own Colossus of Rhodes, Dakota Joshua, he of the two first names. He actually sounds like he should be playing for Denver – it is a very Denver name. At one point we had to get Tufte to get him in line.

Speaking of Denver, the 2004 Denver semifinal was on everyone’s mind back in 2011. tDogs gave up a SHG in the 3rd period of the semi against Notre Dame, and it felt like it was going to be that DU game all over again. At the time, I said:

The Leps took the puck all the way to the other and and into the Bulldog net, and then fear took over and I was unable feel any sort of confidence or hope we were going to hold the lead.

Leps = Leprechauns, obvs.

My friend Brad said in the comments he thought the same thing.

Ditto here. I swore it was 2004 all over again. In the 2004 Frozen Four UMD had only lost once when leading going into the third and then last night ESPN gave the same stat for this years team. Notre Dame scored and I thought UMD’s goose was cooked. I was so nervous.

Here in 2018, we have a new frame of reference: winning Frozen Four semifinals. I don’t think I ever once thought about that DU semifinal. Since I was not watching on TV, I didn’t see them talking about stats or how tUMD was undefeated in the last bajillion games when leading after 2, so I did not have to worry about statistical jinxes in either of the games. Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of worry about Ohio State, especially because they were coached by a double agent, Steve Rohlik.

While tDogs didn’t face Michigan this year, it’s funny to note that, directly after Michigan lost to tUMD in 2011, Mel Pearson became head coach of the Michigan Tech Huskies. This season was his first season back at Michigan, after abandoning Tech. Side note: MeanEgirl got herself blocked by Mel during the semis this year. He’s very sensitive.

I re-read my final post before the championship game and my heart dropped. So much has changed, but so much is the same.

Win it for your old captain, Andrew Carroll. The consummate hard worker, who willed himself and his teammates to be better. Win it for him, as vindication for that Miami game.

It’s amazing that his legacy lives on so brightly in this team. Back, then, those guys had been his teammates. Now, we have Tufte, who he mentored. Our Kaptain, Karson Kuhlman, wore #20 this year and I have to say without a doubt, he did that number justice.

Win it for Dick Stewart. Win it for his windsock and his dedication to the youth hockey players of Duluth. Win it because you bought your gear from him. Win it because he lost his vision at a Bulldogs game.

Dick Stewart is gone this time around. We miss him, his windsock, and his love of polka. We’ll always love Dick.

Win it for Hoagie. Because there’s no one more dedicated, more caring, and more invested in you guys than he is. Win it for all he’s given the program for so many years.

It’s still true, and the guys still understand. (PS click those links and check out that photoset by Maddie MacFarlane.)

tUMD never trailed in the 2018 championship game. In 2011, they trailed for much of the game, playing only 8:15 with the lead, until the end. Until the snow angels. This year, we watched the minutes tick away, willing the clock to run down to zero and the puck to stay out of the zone, off the sticks of the Shiny Helmets, and out of the back of the net. We also hoped in vain for some scoring in a period other than the first, but the two first period goals would have to do, yet again. It’s funny how similar the games in 2018 were, when it felt like the 2011 games were all so different.

My previous post about this year’s game was a diary of my experiences on gameday, and I wrote a similar one in 2011. I played hockey that morning – hadn’t gotten into running yet. I forgot that I had a very strange postgame locker room experience with a UNO fan that year. Shudder. I ran on the treadmill this year to get my energy out. In 2011 the pregame festivities were at McGovern’s, but this year they were at Tom Reid’s. Either way it was a total sardine can disaster.

Our celebration in 2011 was much more, um, violent than it was in 2018, but that’s to be expected when it’s an OT win. We didn’t know at the time that Jared Thomas’s Love’s Baby Soft-sponsored goal would be the game-winner. How weird to win a national championship in regulation. I didn’t cry as much either; I did cry a bit when I saw Thomas immediately skate over to get Roth at the end, and I cried when I read this quotation from Blake Young:

In 2011 I was basically a screaming mess.

Postgame, we went to Tom Reid’s (ugh, so much free advertising) and watched the Wild game. They scored a lot of goals. My BC/BU/UW friends arrived and the Sharks fan among them was unhappy about the game, but the rest of the bar was enjoying the game. The Bulldogs game was replayed on ESPN U after some downer documentary about Pistol Pete Maravich (so funny that Mackay actually uses “Pistol Pete” as his Twitter handle, wonder where that comes from), and we stayed until the second goal was scored, then left. After the Michigan game, fans congregated at Reid’s again, but we watched the whole game and sang the Beer Song and all kinds of other things. It was much warmer that day so it felt a lot more fun to party.

The team went to Bennett’s Chop House for their own party – I didn’t go either year. In 2011 I didn’t know about it, and in 2018 I opted not to go. It turned out to be swarmed with people since the secret was out, so I’m glad I didn’t go. That’s for the players and their families and friends, not for creepy bloggers.

By this point in 2011, Justin Faulk and Mike Connolly had already signed pro contracts. So far, no one is bolting the team, which is good. Maybe everyone who can will return. Maybe our beloved Squirrel will stay on another year somehow. I’m sure the “Family Advisers” are swarming like flies, and of course I want everyone to do what’s best for themselves, but like… it’s always best to stay at tUMD. Always.

I can’t wait to write another compare/contrast post next year, when tDogs go back to back and I go over Niagara Falls in a barrel to calm myself before the championship game!

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