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STONY POINT… I am in desperate search for a new battery pack for my worn-out carcass, but a couple of nights of rest and I’ll be good again. Last week was a bit of a whirlwind for me, but in the end, I was smiling away and saw some epic playoff hockey action. I got to see the Double Overtime contest between the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars in the Gateway City, and it was quite a game. The Blues dominated this game in totality and if not for the efforts of Stars goalie Ben Bishop, who happened to grow up there, this game would have never gotten anywhere near an overtime frame. But Big Ben was that good. Just how much work did he get in? The Blues outshot the Stars 54-30 in this game, but the real story was within the shot breakdown. The Blues five period tally was 10-18-13-11-2 for 54. And this shows how dominant the Blues play was because here are the Stars shots by period; 13-1-3-10-3 for 30.
At times in this game I thought I was watching the Wild as the Stars seemed to get into the offensive zone many times only to make one or two passes too many or get forced to the boards or corner and go away with no shot attempts let alone goals. And when a shot was taken and got through the Blues rookie netminder Jordan Binnington was there to handle it like a beast. Even so, the Stars had a couple of high-level chances in the first OT and on one in particular, Stars forward Andrew Cogliano, missed a wide-open half a net on a backhand that went high and there went the Stars best opportunity to end the series and advance. The 4th intermission was fairly quiet as I believe a lot of fans were drained of energy after 80 minutes of intense hard-core hockey. And then, just as surely as sunrise and sunset, right before the 2nd OT began, the fan energy was back.
And at 5:50 of the 2nd OT another STL native Patrick Maroon scored off the rebound of a Robert Thomas shot and the eruption and release of the energy of 18,531 Blues fans was temporarily deafening for a good 45 seconds. The time of the event was just shy of 4 hours, and by the time this tilt ended it was getting warm for a hockey arena. There was also a STL Cardinals baseball game a few blocks away on this night so getting to the arena was a bit crazy. The Cards got smoked by the Pittsburgh Pirates that night and I heard that the team was giving regular updates and clips on the scoreboard at the ballpark. Amongst the players on both teams, many friendships have formed, and they have a mutual support society going on there and like the Twin Cities pro teams do, they also co-op on some local causes. It’s all good. Once again, all I can say is that there is nothing like NHL playoff hockey, it was a sterling contest…
THE IOWA WILD were locked in a 2 games apiece battle with the Vegas Golden Knights AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves, and since there were no Stanley Cup games to be seen last Friday night, I made my way to Des Moines to take in the G5 action. The Wild had made it into the 2nd round courtesy of a round one series win over the Milwaukee Admirals (Nashville Predators) in best of 5 action, taking it 3 games to 2. This season marked the first time the Iowa club had made the Calder Cup tournament, and obviously was also the first time advancing to the 2nd round. They play at the Wells Fargo Arena in the downtown area and share the facility with the Iowa Wolves, an affiliate of the Minnesota Timberwolves. This arena can seat 10,200 for hockey and is a nice venue. The pregame, in-game and intermission entertainment was quite like any big-league experience and the fan base has developed a team loyalty and at this game on this night, it was a good ¾ full.
Much as I had anticipated, when you take in a game at a minor league level there are those subtle differences that can bring a wry smile to one’s face when spotted. There were a few fans that felt it necessary to harass the opposition when there was a faceoff in their end of the rink, as in smashing their face against any small opening in the glass (Zamboni doors, etc.) they could find and directing some personal insults to the nearest player on the other side of it. There was that and more glass pounding fans per capita then you would likely witness at an NHL tilt, a phenom that I still don’t quite understand. As for the game, I was anxious to see the Wild trio of Jordan Greenway, Luke Kunin and Ryan Donato play at this level and I was expecting them to perform well here. I was somewhat disappointed. Greenway had a few bursts of energy in this game but was largely not a force. Kunin was not a factor here and Donato scored twice, but the second tally was a late mop up goal of no consequence.
The team itself didn’t have a lot of zip on this night and in fact, have dropped G6 (3-1) on Monday eve and have been eliminated from the playoff. For the trio, perhaps the long grind of the NHL campaign and then getting the assignment to join in for the ‘A’ playoff was a bit much. On the other hand, if they were in the NHL playoff right now, that’s an even tougher grind then this. I could only conclude that this trio still has a lot to learn about the nuances of becoming real strong and steady NHL players. It is not that easy. Former Bulldog D-man Carson Soucy had a decent game, coming out with a -1 in a game the team dropped by a 7-4 final. I was impressed by the energy of the fan base and think that good things are around the corner for this group…
ALL OF THE GREAT trophies in the game of hockey are “Cups”. In Minnesota we have the greatest High School hockey tournament anywhere, and that includes most other sports as well. What these players really compete for is the chance to call yourself and your team a “Champion”, trophy or Cup notwithstanding. My thought here is simple; lets switch from the trophies that are handed out now to the victors, and award Cups. For the ‘AA’ schools, The Brooks Cup, for the ‘A’ schools, the Mariucci Cup. The designs could be determined by a competition. The winning schools could get replicas to keep, while the one hoisted upon victory could include players/coach’s names to be on display for eternity just like another trophy we know and love. What say you? PEACE