The Perfect Game
my shuttle bus made its way to the Colorado Springs airport Sunday
afternoon, sequences from the previous night’s NCAA West
Regional final between Denver and North Dakota replayed themselves
in my cerebral cortex’s TiVo unit. After about 15 minutes
of reminiscing, a question sprung into my mind like the exposed
coils of a frat house sofa: Did the 6,000-plus people at World
Arena Saturday witness The Perfect Game?
through the recollections of games I’d seen in the past,
I was reminded of some dominating performances from an individual
or a team and nail-biting back-and-forth affairs. But I could
recall just one event as flawless as the Pioneers-Sioux match.
It was a baseball game, the deciding game of the 1991 World Series
between Atlanta and Minnesota, another 1-0 affair.
As in that
Series clincher a dozen years ago, every play in last night’s
final was as tense as the courtroom scenes from “To Kill
a Mockingbird.” The centers of attention in both instances
– pitchers Jack Morris and John Smoltz in ’91, and
goalies Adam Berkhoel and Jordan Parise Saturday – were
magnificent. And in both games, one could count the number of
physical and mental mistakes on one hand and still have two or
three fingers unused.
a reason the Denver-North Dakota game remained scoreless until
late in the third period: Every action had an equal and opposite
reaction. When either team generated scoring opportunities, the
goalies were impeccably positioned to make saves. On the rare
occasions when Berkhoel and Jordan Parise failed to control rebounds,
a teammate was there to move the puck to safety.
the Pioneers and the Fighting Sioux both did what most would consider
“little things” with machine-like precision. Smart
play – coaches love that term – was the order of the
night. Defensive zone coverage by both blueliners and forwards
was exemplary. Checks were finished with due diligence. Players
willingly sacrificed their bodies to block shots. Ill-advised
decisions with the puck were virtually non-existent.
was it, then, when Denver got the only goal it would need late
in the third period on a shot from senior forward Max Bull –
whose brother, Jesse, won a national title with North Dakota in
1997 – that glanced ever so slightly off the stick of linemate
and Colorado Springs native Luke Fulghum? In The Perfect Game,
the outcome is often decided by minutia. Remember Chuck Knoblauch’s
fake in the late stages of that ’91 World Series contest
that kept Atlanta’s Lonnie Smith from advancing to third
base? That deception kept Smith from crossing home plate.
Prior to the
weekend, the West Regional looked to be the least interesting
of the four sites…kind of like the 1991 World Series that
matched two teams that had finished last in their respective divisions
the previous year. Those of us who were at World Arena Saturday
are thankful we had a chance to witness The Perfect Game.