Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thoughts from the Final Five

This was my first voyage to St. Paul for the Final Five and it certainly won’t be my last. All in all, it was a great weekend of hockey, among other things.

First and foremost, the Xcel Energy Center is an awesome place to watch hockey. Another way to describe it, it’s eXCELlent! When I was planning my trip, I posted on Buckyville asking for some advice on tickets and where to sit. When someone tells you there isn’t a bad view in the entire arena, they aren’t joking around. I spent the 1st period of the Badger’s Friday game in the 100 level, but then moved up to the 200 level the rest of the weekend, and honestly I thought my view from up there was better. You can see everything up top, and sitting in the last row, its still a great view. My opinion of the Kohl Center is slightly diminished now, though I still love the KC too.

Tickets were relatively easy to acquire, though the goofs were sent home early which helped. A lot of Sioux fans selling championship game tickets Saturday afternoon so they could get home, if their home was still there and not washed down the Red River. The announced attendances were far from accurate. I think championship game had 16,000 people roughly, more like 10 or 12k realistically.

Overall the event was awesome and I would recommend that every Badger fan makes a trip up there in the future. In general the crowd was made up of minnesota, North Dakota, Duluth and Wisconsin fans since their teams were playing. Denver brought about a dozen non-parent fans, and there were some St. Cloud, UAA and Tech mixed in. Only a few people were brave enough to wear those ugly Mankato jerseys, and I really wonder if CC even has any traveling fans. There was some smack talked, and apparently I missed several near "fights" between contingents. The gopher fans still talked smack even though their team was bounced, I can only imagine how obnoxious these idiots are when their team is actually playing.

On to the games.

I didn’t make the play-in game, but caught the end at my friend’s house. Any time the gophers lose, everyone else wins by osmosis.

On Friday afternoon, the Badgers were an embarrassment; it was a tough game to watch. They played well very early, but really didn’t play w/ any emotion, which is odd for a team who knew the writing was on the wall: win or likely no NCAA tourney. I don’t think Denver really played that well, Wisconsin was just horrible. Not much else to say, you probably watched or listened you know what I’m talking about.

The evening tilt was compelling. Not often I get to watch a non-Badger game that isn’t NHL/AHL or USHL/high school. I still think Alex Stalock of Duluth is 60% luck and 40% skill, but he had both rolling for him all weekend. My friends were humored by his wanderings and “antics” during the game. North Dakota made some poor decisions and I thought Brad Eidsness was shaky at best in net. Duluth was riding a high early on and never let off, I was surprised (along w/ roughly 6,000 Sioux fans).

After Friday’s poor play, I actually considered for a short time not going to the game, I wasn’t sure if I could take another performance like that, but I had to see the seniors and early departures play one last time. I wasn’t disappointed. After a slow start, the team brought a nice effort, a lot of the guys had good games. Andy Bohmbach scores his 10th goal, which is impressive since that is 10x the amount than in his first two years. The Sioux didn’t have their best game. What a good way to get ready for the NCAA tourney by being the only team to lose twice at the Final Five.

I had my money on Denver in the final, oops. Their dozen non-parent fans didn’t have much to cheer about. I thought Duluth would be worn out, but if they were they certainly didn’t show it and hats off to them on a great weekend. Stalock pitched back to back shutouts and the Bulldogs became the 1st team to win from the play-in game. I actually cheered for Stalock when he received the tourney MVP, which was difficult since I despise him. Have to give credit where it’s due though. Duluth was good in all facets of the game Friday and Saturday, and never really gave Denver any glimpse of hope late in the contest.

Overall, the Final Five was great, can’t wait to be back in St. Paul next season.

Next up, the Frozen Four in Washington DC.