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CLOQUET LAKE… Where would you rather be right now, northern Minny or south Florida? Since the weather is about the same as of late, I’ll take the peace and quiet of the good old North Star state any day of the week. As of Tuesday morning, it appears that all-world QB Peyton Manning is set to become a Denver Bronco. Well, that’s great. I have been to Denver several times and I really like it there. I wouldn’t mind spending a few years there, in fact. The beautiful Rocky Mountains are close by with plenty of outdoor recreation pursuits available. They have an avid amateur hockey base there as well as college and professional hockey.
The Denver Broncos have been there since their days as an AFL entity began in 1960 and have won two Super Bowl titles. Since HOF QB John Elway retired, their football fortunes have been up and down, and certainly the occupants at the QB position since Elway’s departure have been a mixed bag. The current go-to guy, or would that be QB by default, Tim Tebow, had the team on a bit of a roll late last year. The club rode that to a playoff appearance, only to be dismantled by the eventual AFC champion Patriots 45-10. Suffice it to say that Tebow is a lightning rod for attention, good and bad, due to his faith and beliefs, and in my humble opinion doesn’t seem to be much of an NFL passer.
So with the Broncos continuing pursuit of a return to their glory days, Elway decided that it was time to upgrade at that position. We all know why Manning has become available, and if you don’t, dare I say that you have been on another planet for the last three months. And aside from the risk that Manning is taking in coming back from a pretty severe injury to a sensitive and vital part of the human body, I have one big question. Why would a guy who basically has played the entire home game portion of his career indoors in a controlled domed stadium environment suddenly take his game outdoors? Why?
THIS WEEK THE NCAA men’s ice hockey tourney will begin in earnest. Up until last weekend’s WCHA tourney, it appeared that UMD would likely end up in the West regional in St. Paul. They are going east to the Northeast regional in Worcester and have drawn Maine to open the tourney with. I like the Dogs’ chances against Maine, and then they would play either Boston College or Air Force. If it gets to that game, I like BC over Air Force, and UMD versus the Eagles could be a very tightly contested tilt. Honestly, I wouldn’t even venture a guess on that match-up. Games of that stature usually boil down to who makes that one fatal mistake and who can take advantage of it.
This leaves NoDak and the Gophers in the West regional in St. Paul. The Gophs have drawn Boston University and NoDak will take on Western Michigan. The GGs will have to put their best game on the ice to get past a tough BU team, and I will level with you—I saw WM play a pretty good Ferris State team in late February, and they came away with a tie and a win. While I am making no predictions here, let me say that I think NoDak is about to run into a buzz saw of a hockey team.
In the Midwest region at Cheese Bay, Michigan plays Cornell and should win that game, then Denver plays Ferris State. This is another tough one, and I think that Denver squeaks by with another stout goaltending performance from Sam Brittain. Yes, this is the same kid who stopped 756 UMD shots last Friday eve in St. Paul en route to a two-OT victory. What of a Michigan-Denver match-up? To me it will be DU’s goaltending against Michigan’s pro-style trap. Which one will be the winning factor? In the East regional I’ll take Miami over Umass-Lowell and Union over Michigan State, with Union emerging from the East to the Frozen Four.
No matter who makes it to the Frozen Four in Tampa—yes, Tampa—from February 1st to the end of the Stanley Cup tourney, it is nothing short of hockey heaven! I am pretty revved up! Yee hah, let’s go!
THE MINNESOTA WILD are in the process of playing out another season that will end without a playoff berth. The team is currently 13 points out of a spot with only 10 games to go. They did shut out a slumping Vancouver club last night in St. Paul 2-0, but are still fairly banged up with nothing really to play for. On the bright side, the team could end up drafting in the top five positions in the NHL entry draft. The challenge there is to determine what is the most glaring need of many for this woeful club. However, as I have intimated over the past six weeks, my post-season post mortem on yet another disappointing season will be on these pages soon. Until then… PEACE.
THE MFAN TOP 5 NHL POWER RANK, THE M5 FOR 03/20/2012:
1. PITTSBURGH PENGWAH… Crosby back—would you want them in a 7-game series?
2. ST. LOUIS BLUES… NHL points leader but can they go deep in the tourney?
3. NEW YORK RANGERS… 3 fights at start with NJ last night, won game and fights…
4. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS… hate Flyers, but will be tough playoff opponent…
5T. CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS… still have goalie questions, but playing better puck…
5T. DALLAS NORTHSTARS… lead Pacific, had recent 10-0-1 streak, hot goalie…
OVER & OUT!
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County Chronicle for the past ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710 AM in Duluth.