Tagged: Hockey

Bad Weekend in Sports

You would think that because the Red Sox season is over, I would be done attempting to defenestrate myself for the next six months. After this weekend, this is not the case. We’ll discuss the horrors team by team here, since, you know, it’s no fun only rooting for one team or one sport.

BU Hockey
Oh the hangovers from national championships! BU hockey has been, well, fallible this year. Most games they’ve been playing just short of wins. They’re really into doing this thing where they shoot the puck a billion times into the goalie’s chest, which obviously does not really lead to too many goals. BU also is a big fan of not playing defense, and not playing in the second period. Because of this, the team is now 3-6. They are in 9th place (out of 10) in Hockey East and completely tumbled out of all national rankings.
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Despite this, I made the decision to travel up to Merrimack on Friday to watch the Terriers take on the Warriors. 2007-2008 was Merrimack’s only double-digit win season since 2003-2004. Needless to say, they’re a powerhouse.

BU struggled mightily with the Warriors. Or, well, BU actually didn’t struggle, as they did not show up for the game after the first period. In the words of BU coach Jack Parker, “We stopped competing.” Great, right? The score is deceiving. Merrimack won 6-3, but the final score may have well been 9-0. Additionally, my least favorite player on the team, Colby Cohen, fought two guys. Fighting is illegal in college hockey. He was ejected. This was great, because Colby is a defenseman and at one point, BU had 4 defensemen in the penalty box at once.

BU had six minutes of a 5-on-3 advantage. They didn’t score. Nobody fails to score with six minutes of a two man advantage. Defending national champions do not play the way BU did on Friday night. There was no effort, no spark, no leadership. It was disgusting. I was actually nauseated. After the “game,” the three other people I traveled up there with and myself went to Friendly’s for some comfort food. It was that bad.

Saturday night, BU took a 4-0 advantage in the first period. After that, BU felt that the game was over and it was time for them to partake in Saturday evening festivities. They ended up winning 6-4, but it was more of a “they didn’t lose” than a “they won the game” situation. The good news from Saturday is that two of our injured players returned, including the star and assistant captain, Nick Bonino. Also, BU scored six goals, so perhaps they finally figured out that you need to score goals in order to win games. We’ll see how they rebound this weekend against UNH.

The Bruins
Last week, I went to the Bruins game against the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins at the Garden in Boston. The Bs played terrific, shutting out Sidney Crosby and friends 3-0. On Saturday night, the Bruins traveled to Pittsburgh for a rematch. This one didn’t go so well.

The game was hard fought, and the Bruins never gave up. They came back from multiple deficits, most remarkably in the third period when they were trailing Pittsburgh 4-3. With 5:47 left in regulation and the Bruins holding a two man advantage (listen to this one, BU), David Krejci swept in on a Zdeno Chara shot and roofed the rebound towards the goal, where Marco Sturm tipped the puck in to tie the game, 4-4. Three minutes later, with 2:29 left in regulation, Zdeno Chara showed off his hardest shot skills, firing a slapshot from just above the left circle past Pittsburgh back-up netminder Brent Johnson. The Bruins were on their way to another victory.
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Not so fast. With 4/10 of a second remaining, ex-Bruin Bill Guerin slipped a wristshot from the top of the right faceoff circle past Tim Thomas to send the game to overtime. The Bruins were exhausted, and a little over a minute into overtime, Pascal Dupuis netted the game-winner for the Pens.

After a good, hard effort like Saturday’s, you would think the Bruins would come out confident and strong against the Islanders last night.

Nope.

Six minutes into the game, Matt Moulson capitalized on a turnover in the Bruins offensive zone and some poor defense at the hands of Dennis Widemann and Patrice Bergeron to give the Islanders an early 1-0 lead. The Bruins had a chance towards the end of the first to tie the game with a 5-on-3, but like BU, the Bs did not feel the need to take advantage of their opportunity and squandered the chance. Moulson ended up just shy of a hat trick, scoring two goals and briefly getting credit for a John Tavares goal to start the third. The Bruins lost 4-1, and Patrice Bergeron, who has been one of the best players on the ice this season for the Bs, finished the game with a -4 rating.

Claude Julien admitted after the game that the Islanders “wanted it more than we did.” Is there anything more frustrating in sports than when your team does not put forth their best effort? Come on.

The Patriots
Speaking of best efforts . . . I’m not sure if I should title this section The Patriots or Bill Belichick. By now, most people know the story. The Pats were leading the undefeated Colts by a solid 13 point margin coming into the fourth quarter. With a little more than two minutes left, the lead was whittled down to 6. A touchdown could win the game.

On 4th and 2 with 2:08 left in the game, Bill Belichick inexplicably decided to send his offense back out and go for it. Belichick had no challenges left in case he would need them (which he did). Brady threw a short pass to Kevin Faulk who was standing right on the 30-yard line, which is where the Pats needed to get to for the first down. The Patriots got a poor spot, as the referees decided the Patriots were about a yard short of a first down. This gave Peyton Manning two minutes to go 29 yards for the game-winning touchdown. That’s a series he will execute every time.

People are saying that the move says Belichick did not have the confidence in his defense to keep the Colts from covering 70-yards in 2 minutes. However, I believe Belichick has to have enough confidence in his defense to be able to hold the Colts from 29-yards out if the Pats do not convert on fourth down. Belichick is a defensive-minded coach. He most likely has faith every game in his defense, because ultimately, it is the defense Belichick himself creates. Any failure on the defense’s part is a reflection of Belichick himself.
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Additionally, why were the Patriots throwing the ball so short? Why are they throwing for exactly two yards? Why not give themselves the insurance of a few more yards and throw a five-yard pass? Converting there is crucial, and they never should have given the referees the opportunity to decide whether or not the play was long enough for a first down. It’s the offense’s job to earn the first down, not the referees job to give it to them.

And why
did Belichick waste a timeout at the beginning of a drive? He ended up needing that timeout if he had wanted to challenge the spot of the ball, because when the Patriots did not convert on third down, confusion about whether to punt or not forced the Patriots to use their final timeout to prevent a delay of game penalty.  

The bottom line here, though, is that Bill Belichick made the completely wrong decision. With Peyton Manning leading an offense, you must punt the ball on 4th and 2 with 2:08 when holding onto a six point lead. Had it even been a seven point lead, this may have been slightly more understandable because the Colts would have to decide between a two point conversion to win or kicking the extra point to head into overtime. Going for it in this situation, however, gift-wrapped the game for the Colts, a game the Patriots players worked hard to win. A game that was negated because of poor coaching from one of the best coaches in NFL history.

Rodney Harrison and Tedy Bruschi, both former players, criticized their coach. For them to say things like “this was the worst coaching decision I have ever seen Belichick make” (Harrison) and “the decision to go for it would be enough to make my blood boil” (Bruschi) means that they had to 150% believe both in what they were saying and in Belichick’s complete and total error.

In my mind, Bill Belichick is still one of the best coaches in football history, but this gaffe definitely mars his reputation. Before Sunday night’s game, Belichick was infallible. He was inhuman. He may have lost important games, big games, playoff games, but never because of such a momentous decision on his part. You cannot let one decision decide a career, yet at the same time, you cannot overlook this one decision in judgement of Belichick, because this one decision takes him down that notch from infallibility to simply extraordinary.

It will be hard to get over this game because it most likely cost the Pats home field advantage in the playoffs, but at the same time, the season goes on. This is not Grady Little. This is not going to cost Belichick his job. This is the regular season. Yet at the same time, it is November, the Colts did, by virtue of their win, tie the Patriots for second in consecutive wins (18), the Colts are a rival. This is a game that I will never forget.

Quotes and Patriots picture from boston.com. The other two pictures are mine.

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The Role of the Fan

It should be well known here that once the off season comes around, all the energy I devote to my beloved Red Sox transfers to the Boston University Men’s Ice Hockey team. We won the NCAA Division I Championship last year, along with 6 other championships we played for over the course of a 35-6-4 run. Along the way, we picked up quite a few bandwagon fans. Some of these people actually learned about the game of hockey and now enjoy the sport. Some, well, they’ll just remain bandwagon-ers.

The Terriers have been mediocre this season. They are now 2-4, which is actually a decent record considering some of the teams they have played against (Notre Dame, Michigan, UMass Lowell). Already, many students are jumping ship, giving up on the season, making plans to travel abroad in the spring because they feel they will not be missing anything.

Meanwhile, there is a solid core of fans who are sticking by this team through their struggles and growing pains. Last night, Boston University traveled to Northeastern for their sixth game of the season. BU was without stars like Nick Bonino and David Warsofsky. The lines were strange and the power-play had lost two if its key leaders. Despite this, about 100-150 students gathered in the lower bowl of Matthew’s Arena, clad in jerseys and standing for 60 minutes to support the players who were able to take the ice.

Northeastern fans were vicious. Before the game even started, they were throwing water bottles at BU fans’ heads. A policeman had to stand guard by the BU section, and he had to take down names of BU victims for police reports against Northeastern fans. During the national anthem, the Northeastern fans started screaming and talking about halfway through. They made sure to frequently chant “F* BU.” They encouraged people in the bathroom to use BU fans as urinals.

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Through it all, though, the BU fans ignored the Northeastern behavior. They focused instead on the players on the ice, screaming Let’s Go Terriers, Go BU, Rough ’em up, rough em up, go BU!

Towards the end of the game, when BU was down 1-0 with 40 shots on goal, a Northeastern viciously slammed a BU player, Alex Chiasson, head-first into the boards. That type of hit can easily break a player’s neck. It’s not only illegal, it’s unsportsmanlike. The player was ejected from the game, and Northeastern fans were livid. They felt it was a bulls*t call. The resulting 5-minute penalty put BU on a 6 on 4 for the remainder of the game.

The BU section was well-located right where BU shot twice, so for the third period, BU fans were right next to the BU players. All 100-150 fans there were shouting as loudly as they could: “You can do this, boys. You got this. Play your game. You are doing so well. You got this!” Except for the last three minutes of the national championship game when BU was down 3-1, I had never seen such encouragement from BU fans, such positivity. Until the game was over, nobody mentioned the shot inefficiencies. These fans were truly there to root the Terriers on. They could care less about what Northeastern fans were saying, what the score was, how BU was playing. They just wanted the best out of the players. It was phenomenal.

I would love to say that’s how BU fans are for every game. Certainly, the Dog Pound brings an unmatched, continuous intensity to every college hockey game they watch. Throughout this, though, there are a lot of “Why does this player suck?” or “What does he think he’s doing out there?” or “Why did this player ever think it would be a good idea for him to play hockey?” When BU loses or plays poorly at Agganis, fans scream at the players as if they are failures or do not know anything about what they are doing.

It’s terrible. I personally have never, ever booed a player on the team I cheer for. I hated David Wells, but when he played for the Red Sox, I always made sure to encourage him, coax him into a strikeout, say anything supportive. Similarly, I hate one of BU’s players, Colby Cohen. I say a lot of bad things about him when BU is not playing. During game-time, however, I would never say anything against him. It doesn’t help, especially in college hockey venues where players can actually hear what the crowd is saying and know when their fans are criticizing them. It is never a fan’s place to boo their own player. There is a reason fans are in the stands and players are on the ice or fields. Though fans are not always 100% supportive at Agganis, the negativity did not travel to Matthew’s last night, and that was great to see.

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Rivalries are great for sports. They bring a higher competitive edge to games, and a lot of Northeastern fans last night were fun to combat in cheers in comments. One fan asked the BU fans which hat they were wearing last night, the National Championship hat or the Beanpot hat. It was a play on how highly BU fans esteem the Beanpot tournament, and if BU had lost the Beanpot last year, it would be interesting what people would say when they won the NCAA championship (most likely, it would have been “Well, a national championship is nice, but it’s no Beanpot). Northeastern was a big fan of the “Sucks to BU” chant, which, while not very original, is still nothing unsportsmanlike. It’s not like we don’t say “BC sucks” at every hockey game, regardless of whether we are actually playing BC or not.

However, there were a large group of students there who did not even seem to realize Northeastern was playing. They were so occupied with telling BU fans how they were ******* and ******* and ***** that I’m not sure they saw much of the game. Quite a few were kicked out before the game started, and more were kicked out during the game. I cannot consider them actual fans of Northeastern. Sure, real fans will make fun of us, but they will also watch the game and remember to cheer for their team. There were a good amount of those fans there last night, but they were unfortunately overshadowed by the poor sportsmanship of some of their comrades.

Last night’s game was very well played by BU. They turned out their best powerplay performance of the season despite the significant injuries that kept a good group of guys from playing. They owned puck possession, improved their face-offs, played their best defense of the season, shut down Northeastern for the most part offensively, and did not get overly physical when Northeastern started playing dirty. Northeastern also played decently. Their offense was not anything special, but their goaltending was fantastic and their defensive dedication paid off. In terms of opportunities, Northeastern certainly stole the win, but at the same time they were not undeserving of a W.

While it’s unfortunate that a select group of Northeastern students clouded the experience for BU fans, I am so impressed by the BU fans’ reactions and diligence. The BU fans were there for the team. They did not engage the Northeastern students the way the could have and represented the university very well last night. I really hope this behavior will carry over and continue at Agganis and the remaining road games, and I am very proud of BU for displaying what a true fan should be.

Go Terriers!
     

What I do during the “offseason”

Since the Red Sox are still planning on not bringing a catcher to Spring Training, and not a whole lot of interesting things are going on with the team, I’d figure that I’d share here what I do while not obsessively updating myself on all things Red Sox.

Contrary to what the top of my blog says, I’m not 17 anymore, and I am now in college. I’m enrolled at a school with a great journalism program as well as a top notch sports team. 
We don’t have a football team here, and our basketball team is basically failing at every expectation people had for it. So what sport am I talking about?

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Hockey.
College hockey is great, and most people don’t even know about it. My school’s team, the Boston University Terriers, are ranked #2 in the country, yet they are very rarely broadcasted on television.
Nevertheless, hockey is huge here. People flock from all ends of campus to fill Jack Parker Rink at Agganis Arena, and game time is full of all sorts of rituals and traditions that our fan base, The Dog Pound, carries out even when the team is facing the weakest of foes. 
This past weekend, the Terriers faced the Boston College Eagles, the defending NCAA champions and our biggest rival. This rivalry between BU and BC is intense, a history that stretches far back to the beginning of college hockey and is renewed each year, even when the faces of the teams change. 

I’m sure many people have heard of Boston College. They supposedly have a fantastic football and basketball program, yet from what I’ve seen of those sports this year, BC is in a little bit of trouble. Anyways, we at BU hold a few grievances against BC, injustices that fire up our fan base every time our Terriers take the ice. 
  1. Contrary to popular belief, BC is neither in Boston nor a college. The campus is located in the Chestnut Hill area of Newton, Massachusetts, and BC is considered a university. Thus, we here at BU find it quite appropo to call them Newton University.
  2. BC stinks. Sure, they may have won an NCAA championship last year, but really, what do championships say about a team. I mean, the Arizona Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl this year. Do I consider them a legitimate football team? No. There are such things as flukes, or aberrations. Whichever you prefer.
  3. The so-called Superfans are actually Super Frauds. These children can’t even buy themselves hockey jerseys to wear to games, and when The Dog Pound mercilessly teased them on Saturday night when BU killed BC, 5-2, these “fans” neglected to even respond. I call that lame.
Anyways, now that we’ve established the basics of BU hockey, I guess there’s the question as to why, as a baseball aficionado, love hockey. 
Hockey, both NCAA and NHL, doesn’t have the largest audience or the largest fan base. As such, I have found that the game isn’t quite as corrupted as other sports. Hockey is a clean, quiet game that often speaks through what happens on the ice. Some people may have heard about Sidney Crosby, but can any non-hockey fan identify an extremely controversial player in the NHL? With the NFL, everyone knows Pacman Jones, Plaxico Burress, Tom Brady etc. MLB has A-Rod, Jeter, Manny, Sabathia. The NBA has Kobe, Shaq, Paul Pierce and others. 
The point is, most other sports are in the news no matter what, year round. Hockey isn’t that way. Hockey, to me, seems to be untouched, separated from the widespread egomaniacal personalities that fill sports pages across the country. Hockey is a clean game, a clear territory, an hour in which teams give everything they have on a field of ice and leave that to speak for itself. It’s competitive, it’s intense, it’s refreshing.

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So, during those long, cold months when the Red Sox are busy screwing the team over for the next season (Sign Tek!), you can often find me either at Agganis Arena or the TD Banknorth Garden, watching my team duke it out against opponents you’ve probably never heard of with players whose faces you don’t know. 
It’s truly a great game.