Postcard: It's a Great Night For Hockey II
is the second part of the Postcard, it’s probably a good idea
to recap where we left off in part
one. Pretend a smooth-voiced announcer guy is saying, “Previously
on ‘The O.C.’” Just change “The O.C.”
to “Great Night for Hockey II.”
Maine was outgunning Boston University on the strength a “three-goal
hat trick” by Colin Shields,
• Michigan and Western Michigan were scoreless halfway through
the contest (warning: game not nearly as exciting as score would
• Michigan State and Ohio State were dueling in a game that
is being shot from a catwalk, and
• What appeared to be a minor ice problem was holding up the
North Dakota-Minnesota tilt.
up-to-date, so let’s move on to part two. Because this is
how we do it in the O.C.
p.m. ET – I’m still tuned in to the North Dakota-Minnesota
game, and they’re still working on the ice. I think about
changing the channel, but this is much more entertaining than Michigan-Western
– My conscience gets the better of me, so I do a quick score
check. In Columbus, Michigan State’s Jim Slater has scored
halfway through the second period to give the Spartans a 2-1 lead
over Ohio State. Maine leads BU by a 6-4 count, and Michigan has
a 1-0 lead over Western at the end of two. Given the current choices,
I stick with NESN to watch a commercial for Foxwoods Casino. Once
it’s over, I watch my two dogs wrestle for a while.
– On MSC, the three game officials, Goldy Gopher and a guy
with a fire extinguisher are hovering over the problematic patch
of ice at Mariucci Arena. In the broadcast booth, Frank Mazzacco
and Doug Woog have tracked down former Gopher and Hobey Baker Award
winner Brian Bonin for an impromptu interview. In my mind, this
is the greatest moment in television history, surpassing the time
15 years ago on “Late Night” when Crispin Glover tried
to kick David Letterman in the head.
– The MSU-OSU game is on, but I’m more interested in
the dogs wrestling. Rookey, a two-year-old black lab-boxer mix,
is a speed merchant in the mold of Keith Ballard. Lexi, an eight-month-old
yellow lab-pit bull mix, is more of a physical presence. Think Andy
Schneider. It’s an epic battle.
no emoticon for what I'm feeling!"
– Back on MSC – the game is still delayed – I
catch a promo for Wild-Mighty Ducks game that follows the Sioux-Gophers
match. It’s billed as a rematch of last year’s Western
Conference final. I’m waiting for Comic Book Guy from “The
Simpsons” to pop up from the corner of the screen and shout,
“Worst playoff series EVER!”
– Back to CSTV, where David Booth scores to give the Spartans
a 3-1 lead. There’s three minutes left in the second period.
– My wife, star of Great
Night for Hockey I, has just returned home from a high school
basketball game. I’ve settled in to the Maine-BU game. After
sitting for a few moments, she opines, “I’m not a big
fan of Maine, but I like their outfits.” Outfits? What is
this, Cirque du Soleil?
– Could there be anything more obtrusive than NESN’s
graphics? I swear I can barely see the ice behind the text that
tells me that Maine drilled BU last year. Why don’t they just
write the note on a sheet of typing paper and slap it in front of
– NESN delivers an image of a shirtless, hairy fan waving
a BU flag, much to the delight of those in attendance at Walter
Brown Arena. I mean, this guy is so hairy he looks like he’s
wearing a sweater vest.
– I’m back to the WMU-Michigan game, where a Bronco
defender drills the Wolverines’ Eric Nystrom, who topples
into Western goaltender Scott Foster. With Foster down on the ice,
U-M’s Jason Dest fires the puck into an empty net for his
first career goal. It’s pretty goals like that that make college
– They’re still fixing the ice in Minneapolis. By now,
the camera has shown every individual in attendance at Mariucci
Arena. Mazzacco, Woog and Bonin – who’s sporting a five
o’ clock shadow that makes him look a little like Brett Favre
– are singing “99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.”
Saviano: We told you so.
– Back on NESN, Tom Caron reports that New Hampshire crushes
Merrimack, 9-1, behind Steve Saviano’s four goals and one
assist. Memo to all you Saviano haters who pummeled us with e-mails
when we named him to our preseason All-American team: This is how
we do it in the O.C.
– BU’s James van der Beek – sorry, that’s
David van der Gulik – flies in from out of nowhere to punch
Maine’s Jeff Mushulak in the face X-Men style. A transfer
from Lake Superior State, Mushulak’s experiences with the
Lakers caused him to lose all ability to feel pain.
– Lexi, wrapping up an extended round of play time with Rookey,
pees on the basement floor. Yup. This is my life.
– On MSC, there are rumors that the extended delay may be
coming to an end. Mazzacco thanks Bonin for pinch-hitting in the
clutch, to which Bonin replies, “30 seconds, 30 minutes…what’s
the difference?” At first, I thought Bonin was referring to
the length of his shifts as a Gopher.
– Down to rink level at Mariucci, where the offending patch
of ice has been covered with one of those huge, industrial doormats.
An ice maintenance work removes the mat. It’s kind of like
an unveiling you’d see on “Extreme Makeover.”
Somewhere, I believe, Ralph Engelstad is laughing hysterically.
– After a 70-minute delay, the North Dakota-Minnesota game
resumes. Woog notes the Gophers have had four straight power play
opportunities, and says the officials won’t give the Gophers
five extra-man opportunities in a row. If you’re a Sioux player
and you know this, wouldn’t you try to chop somebody’s
arm off during the next shift?
– I bet the fans at Mariucci Arena are thrilled that Minnesota’s
bars now close at 2 a.m.
– I turn back to Fox Sports Net Detroit to watch the final
seconds tick away in Michigan’s 4-1 win over Western Michigan.
Why do I get the feeling I’m the only person outside of Lawson
Ice Arena watching the final minute of this one? When the Nielsen
ratings come out, there’s going to be my name next to this
program instead of a number indicating market share.
– Flicking over to NoDak-Minny, the Gophers’ Thomas
Vanek takes a nice feed from Jake Fleming and rifles a shot that
Brandt can’t handle with his glove and the puck dribbles into
the net for a 2-1 Minnesota lead. Shortly thereafter, Dean Blais
quietly sneaks into the tunnel to call every team in the USHL in
an effort to find a goalie before the third period starts.
– At Value City Arena, Michigan State maintains its 3-1 lead
over Ohio State with five minutes left in regulation. I guess I
just forgot about this game. Actually, no, I didn’t.
– The Mariucci Arena manager updates North Dakota-Minnesota
viewers on the ice conditions. You’d think they could just
put one of those “Caution: Wet Floor” signs near the
spot. Or maybe they could sprinkle some of that sawdust elementary
school janitors break out when a kid pukes.
– During breaks in the action, a couple guys come out from
the Mariucci Zamboni entrance with squirt bottles in an attempt
to keep the ice playable. Woog dubs the group the Squirter Crew.
I’m not making this up.
Jessica Simpson knows that a patella and a kneecap are the same
thing. (photo courtesy of jessicasimpson.com)
– Another break in play in Minneapolis, during which Mazzacco
notes that Boston College’s Ben Eaves is out for up to six
weeks with an injury.
his patella?” my wife asks. “No,” I say, “he
broke his kneecap.” Honestly, I didn’t know they were
the same thing. Hey, it’s not like I thought Chicken of the
Sea was actually chicken.
– Woog praises Grant Potulny’s effort, saying the Gophers’
senior captain has been “visible” the entire night.
It’s a notable achievement, because many of the other players
have been enshrouded in pea-soup fog.
– Second intermission at Minnesota. Gophers lead 2-1. The
Gophers remind me of Daniel LaRusso in “Karate Kid 3”
when he gets a free pass to the final of the All-Valley Karate Championship
because he won it the previous year. I expect Minnesota to walk
into the Fleet Center on April 10 for this very reason. They seem
to be immune to The Way of the Fist.
– Michigan State outlasts Ohio State, 4-2. No, I didn’t
think you cared.
– Still between periods at Mariucci, and Don Lucia appears
on a commercial pitching some sort of hockey training facility in
the Twin Cities. You know that scene in “Major League”
when the Indians film the American Express commercial and Roger
Dorn – played by Corbin Bernsen – is so stiff he looks
as if he’s been fitted in a full-body plaster cast and reads
like his following a ball as it bounces over the words? That’s
– A MSC promo congratulates Wild defenseman Filip Kuba on
making the Western Conference All-Star team. When did the NHL All-Star
Game change from an exhibition that showcased the league’s
top talent to one where a guy calls players and asks, “Phil,
yeah…hey, we’ve got a couple hours of ice time on Feb.
8. You want in?”
– YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME! Because of the delay at Mariucci,
DirecTV thinks the Wild-Ducks game should be starting in a few minutes.
The screen goes black and I’m told that I’m “not
authorized to view this program.” This is exactly like that
“Heidi” game, but the black screen is more palatable
than a stupid film about some girl in the mountains.
– I’m on the phone in an attempt to reach someone at
DirecTV. Unfortunately, all the entertainment counselors are busy.
What exactly is an entertainment counselor? If your viewing habits
are questionable, do they come over to your house for an intervention?
“Sir, you’ve been watching too much ‘According
to Jim’ lately. Why don’t we try some ‘Inside
the Actors Studio?’”
– The MSC broadcast returns just as the third period is about
to start. Meanwhile, I’m thinking about how great an “Inside
the Actors Studio” episode featuring Will Ferrell would be.
– Here’s why the Gophers will get back to the Frozen
Four for a third consecutive season:
Their depth is their strength. Sure, there’s a drop-off from
the top two lines to the third and fourth lines, but everyone is
a contributor. And there’s a nice balance of grace and grit.
One of their best players – Keith Ballard – is playing
at the top of his game. And another – Thomas Vanek –
may just be inclined to turn the motor on for more than three shifts
sometime in the near future.
Kellen Briggs has emerged as a capable goaltender. Remember, this
is a team that won a national title with Adam Hauser.
Lucia won’t let ‘em.
– Brandon Bochenski scores on the power play for North Dakota
as he beats Briggs short side to tie the score at two. Did I really
say the Gophs are heading to Boston?
– North Dakota’s Colby Genoway is whistled for a slash,
putting Minnesota on the power play. Somehow, the officials missed
the Gophers’ Jake Taylor – “We’ve got uniforms
and everything” – trying to lodge the blade of his stick
into Bochenski’s breadbasket.
– Woog notes that North Dakota goalie Jake Brandt has a little
Sinuhe Wallinheimo in him, referring to the demonstrative Denver
goaltender of the mid-90s who was a fan favorite at Mariucci Arena.
“I know you think these guys are crazy,” Mazzacco says
to Woog, “but I like them.” Gopher fans, however, aren’t
taking a shining to Brandt.
ratings would soar if Jerry York dressed like this. (photo courtesy
– Shortly after MSC cuts to a bench shot of Lucia, my wife
states, “He still has bad hair.” That gets me thinking
about which college hockey coaches would be great to watch on “Queer
Eye for the Straight Guy,” which then leads to this question:
How much money would you pay to see Red Berenson work with Carson
Kressley on overhauling his wardrobe? Or Jack Parker? Or Frank Anzalone?
I’m thinking seven figures, easy. Put that on right after
the Will Ferrell thing and you might as well watch a test pattern
every night from there on out, because you’ll find nothing
– I return from TV Fantasy Land in time to see North Dakota’s
Chris Porter fire a shot from just inside the blue line through
a screen and past Briggs to give the Sioux a 3-2 lead. It’s
a power play goal that occurred, unfortunately, with college hockey’s
Everyman, Minnesota’s Jon Waibel, in the penalty box.
– There’s a chance this game could end before the 11
p.m. offering of “The Simpsons.”
– Every time one of the two goalies freezes the puck, the
ensuing pile-up of bodies around the net resembles the climactic
police car chase scene in “The Blues Brothers.”
– One of the assistant referees calls a penalty on North Dakota’s
Matt Greene. This should provide plenty of fuel for Sioux fans,
who are to conspiracy theories what Southeast Asia is to highly
contagious, animal-borne diseases.
– As the game winds down, I’ve got to give North Dakota
credit. They’ve done a terrific job of keeping Minnesota under
wraps – especially in the third period – by clogging
both the passing and shooting lanes, and generally frustrating the
– It’s late in the third period, and Minnesota calls
a timeout. MSC cameras catch Lucia as he draws up a face-off play,
which looks a lot like the picket fence play from “Hoosiers.”
If only the Gophers had Shooter to tell them not to get caught watching
the paint dry.
– North Dakota’s Mike Prpich salts the game away with
an empty-net goal with one minute left in regulation. Down on the
other end of the ice, Brandt is celebrating as if he’d just
won $200 playing pull tabs. Woog says Brandt is acting like “the
king of the teepee.” Ironically, that’s the same honor
given to the first star as selected by the assembled media in games
played at Ralph Engelstad Arena.
– It’s over. Four games in four hours and change. My
eyes momentarily roll into the back of my head. I snap out of my
trance and regain my bearings. After all, there are two more games
to watch tomorrow night.