For the first time since 1993, NCAA Hockey has a “new” Champion, and by “new” I mean the NCAA will have to raise a brand new school banner in Tampa Bay next year, adding Minnesota Duluth to the rafters. Maine was the most recent first time champion 18 years ago. I think a new champion is healthy for any sport.
In my Frozen Four experience, I’m two for two in great championship games and endings in person. I was surprised and impressed that 19,000+ filled the X on Saturday night for the game. I was a little worried Sioux Nation would pack up the wagon and ready the horses for the long trip back to North Dakota, but for the most part they returned in force or sold their tickets to Duluth and Michigan fans. Needless to say, the crowd was very much behind the Bulldogs all evening.
All in all, it was one hell of a game. Michigan came out strong, and when they went up 1-0, I was worried they might overpower Duluth, but then the penalty parade started, Duluth surged in the 2nd, and what better for the non-involved fan, but a 2-2 game heading into the 3rd period. Hockey is a great sport, where neither team scores in a period and it still holds your attention every second of the way, and the 3rd period qualified. OT was short, but dominated by Duluth; it was their time to win. I was completely behind Duluth from the start, and was quite happy when Kyle Schmidt scored and the mayhem on the ice began.
JT Brown was outstanding, he was getting the crap beat out of him all game by Michigan, but kept coming. It has been several seasons since I had a player on another WCHA team I actually liked (Tyler Bozak w/ Denver), but Brown and teammate Justin Faulk might fill that void. Shawn Hunwick deserves credit for a great Frozen Four, he was the difference for Michigan against both North Dakota and Duluth.
I wonder, w/ the Championship in hand, if the Connolly’s will bolt for pro contracts. Should they return, and Brown doesn’t get an offer he can’t refuse, Duluth should be a contender for the MacNaughton once again next season.
I think Michigan gained a lot of additional people who now despise them. Their fan base is arrogant and very poor at dressing themselves. Seriously, “wolverine” stripes on the shoulders of a yellow shirt? Their band is pathetic, six notes and one song, and they call themselves a D-I college band? The Sioux fan sitting next to me turned to me halfway through the first period and said, “I have just found a team I hate almost as much as the gophers.” Well said.
My jersey count was at least 40. I saw all but one Hockey East jersey, the entire WCHA, all but two CCHA teams represented, and probably 10 from the ECAC and AHA. It’s fun talking to fans from other schools, most are friendly and good natured, and there are a lot of people who have been visiting the Frozen Four for well over a decade, which I think is impressive. The tailgate I attended on Saturday, had UNO fans, DU fans, BC fans, a Michigan State fan, along w/ a strong showing from the Buckyville message board.
To the Duluth fan who said to me, “Hey is where your team” which I replied, “Hey where are your Championships” congrats, but you still have some work to do to catch up to the big boys. The casual Duluth or Michigan fan couldn’t understand that fans of dozens of teams attend the Frozen Four in any given year, we love our team, but we love College Hockey too.
I'm looking forward to Tampa Bay next year, will make a nice vacation, and hopefully there will be some Badgers on the ice to enhance the experience. The puck drops for the 2011/12 season in 180 days.