The Old Dog’s diary from the past weekend while following the Huskies against Bemidji State…
11:30 AM—Lunch time at work. As I eat, I call up other college hockey websites and catch up on what they are saying about the WCHA and Tech. USCHO’s WCHA bloggers predict a Tech-Bemidji State split, just like THG’s Nathaniel Brose did on Thursday. College Hockey News, as usual, has almost nothing about the WCHA. They do have an IceBreaker story on their main page, but it’s from the 2016 tournament and features Lake State. SBNation, the semi-official organ of Minnesota hockey, has nothing but Minnesota State articles. Back to work at 12:15.
2:30 PM—Coffee break. As I take a moment from analyzing mind-boggling, complex product warranty data, I peek at the THG staff’s private chat site. I notice there’s a mention of the WCHA site (somehow I missed that one) and an article about Mitch’s Misfits titled “Let’s Go Huskies.” I read it, even though I’m away from my analysis longer than the 10 minutes I’d planned. It’s well written with plenty of detail. Tim Braun, one of THG’s key figures, is prominent in the piece. The post also confirms something I knew—Tech’s home fans are as good as any in the nation. I wonder what my daughter, a dyed-in-the-wool University of Michigan grad and big hockey fan, would say about Matt Cavender’s claim that the JMac and the Misfits have a better game-day experience than at Yost. Turns out I don’t care enough to forward the link to her—she can enjoy her misplaced beliefs…
5:00 PM—I leave for home, and arrive about 5:20. Just enough time to hook up my laptop to our big screen TV, load up Dirk Hembroff on WKMJ, and start the WCHA video feed for Friday’s game. Mrs. Dog starts the evening with her normal game day glass of wine. I hold off on any adult beverages, and we both heat up some Super Bowl leftovers (Little Caesars pizza for me) for our pre-game meal. Then I sign in to Discord to follow the game with my fellow fanatics.
5:45 PM—With the pregame show on MIX93 a bit boring, I manage to read Will Sterrett’s “Chasing McNaughton” article about Anchorage. It’s a great read, as I expected, and I’m struck by the quality of the writing we consistently enjoy from the entire THG staff.
6:07 PM—Being in the Central time zone, it’s time to drop the puck. The Old Dog and Mrs. Dog have settled into our recliners (is that mandatory for potential AARP members?) and watch, while I juggle the Discord feed on my phone. Spirits are high for the Discord Dogs, and we are all into it when Jake Lucchini scores in the first minute of play. Tech follows with several good chances, but BSU’s star goalie, Michael Bitzer, doesn’t blink and the Huskies get nothing more.
6:25 PM—After Tech commits a turnover in their own end, the Beavers pounce on it, Robbie Beydoun over-reacts as the play unfolds, and it’s tied 1-1.
6:33 PM—Mark Auk gets a major and a game for contact to the head. The only replay I saw of the play was a bit fuzzy, but I know this is a big deal. The Huskies are already reeling from injuries, missing Brent Baltus, Alex Smith, Mitch Reinke, Keegan Ford and Alex Gillies. That’s a good part of the core team, and I’m worried because the Huskies’ penalty kill has been weak. But they weather the storm, and the period ends tied.
7:06 PM—During intermission, I post a link to the Mitch’s Misfits article. Braun and I then kid around on Discord about the article, and I get a text message from Tom Leonard in Muskegon, who’s watching the Lumberjacks take on the Madison Capitals in a USHL game. Alex Broetzman, one of the Huskies top recruits for next season, has scored for Madison. Turns out that Discord Dog The Troll is also getting texts from Tom. I’m amazed at how plugged in the alumni are about Tech hockey.
7:14 PM—Tech starts the second period with about 90 seconds of power play time. They do nothing with it, though.
7:20 PM—BSU puts one through Beydoun to go up 2-1. It looks like one he should have had it, but the defense appeared confused, too, giving the Beavers an easy path to the goal.
7:23 PM—The Beavers get one from the blue line, through traffic, but, after a pretty decent first 30 minutes, I’m starting to think this may not be Beydoun’s night. The Discord Dogs are all confounded by yet another lousy, stinking second period meltdown. Time for a beer for the Old Dog. As usual, Two Hearted IPA from Bell’s—but this time, I drop a shot of rye into my glass, too.
7:30 PM—After Lucchini fails to get it past Bitzer on a breakaway, Dylan Steman fires one over Bitzer’s shoulder to make it 3-2. And hope springs for all of us on Discord. I’m again impressed with how hard Steman works every single game.
7:56 PM—Yet another sloppy turnover leads to BSU’s fourth goal. I want to grouse about Beydoun again at this point, but I rerun in my head the half dozen stops he made on quality chances earlier in the game, and note on the replay that he was probably screened on this one.
8:22 PM—As the clock winds down, the Beavers are doing what they do best, putting a late lead into the deep freeze. Mrs. Dog notes that “tomorrow the misery starts early.” The game ends 4-2 for Bemidji, and the yakking on Discord goes on for another 20 minutes or so before everyone drifts off line. Once again, I find myself somewhere between resigned disappointment and anger about the Huskies perplexing play. They had a lot of chances to win, and even to control the game, but, as Yogi Berra once said, “we made too many wrong mistakes.”
8:45 PM—I switch over to cable TV and start looking at the other games on TV on Friday night. Minnesota is handling Wisconsin, and St. Cloud is doing the same to Miami. I lose interest as I continue to feel the sting of a Tech loss.
9:15 PM—Mrs. Dog heads for the exit and goes to bed. I channel surf for a while, and then nod off, still in my recliner.
10:15 PM—I wake up from my short nap and head to bed myself. I know I won’t sleep well, I never do after watching Them Dogs lose one they coulda shoulda won. Given the significance of this series, it’s in my head and not easy to shake.
3:45 AM—I find myself wide awake after sleeping just five hours. I get up, and force myself to watch Joe Shawhan’s post-game interview on the Michigan Tech Huskies website. I feel like growling and/or whimpering. Shawhan’s up-front with his comments about “a willingness to be mediocre or less.” You rarely see a coach lay into his own team as bluntly as he did, but it makes me wonder what’s really going on at practices and in the locker room. Shawhan keeps repeating that it’s on him to overcome this, but in the end it’s more a question of character and determination from the players.
4:30 AM—I have a large decaf coffee, and wash down my blood pressure meds—Old Dog stuff. I put Friday’s game out of my mind and go ahead with Saturday. The weather is lousy in Dallas—much better than in Michigan but still lousy: wet, windy, and chilly—but I’ve got enough to do today to get my brain free of hockey-itis.
11 Hours Later…
3:30 PM—I start the media rolling again, pre-game with Dirk on MIX93 and the WCHA ‘cast both on the laptop, and Discord on the laptop as well as my phone.
3:50 PM—The Discord Dogs are discussing the lineup, and we notice that Brent Baltus is back in after yet another injury hiatus for the gritty senior. Some of us are stunned that Devin Kero is starting in goal. Mrs. Dog is really bummed, and her exact comments can’t be repeated.
4:06 PM—It’s nearly game time, and everyone is again noticing freezes in the WCHA internet broadcast. This started happening a few weeks ago, and it’s getting to be a serious pain. I find I’m actually getting skilled at the routine to restart it: minimize the video, hit the refresh button, then wait for a new connection, then scroll up a bit (the video is now slightly out of frame) and then maximize the video. My profanity about doing this over and over is also getting better.
4:18 PM—Mason Blacklock tips in a shot from Raymond Brice after Brice makes a nice steal. For the second night in a row, we’ve jumped on the first goal.
4:25 PM—The Huskies take the only penalty of the first period.
4:29 PM—After doing a good job on most of the kill, Bemidji tips a long shot past Kero with only 6 seconds left in the penalty. Here we go again. Not much chatter on Discord, and the relative silence continues through the first intermission and into the second period.
5:06 PM—Baltus bangs in a rebound on the powerplay to put the Huskies up 2-1. Woof woof!
5:13 PM—Auk puts another in for a 3-1 lead, and I’m starting to actually believe that Tech is playing much better than on Friday night.
5:16 PM—Gavin Gould makes it 4-1 and Joel L’Esperance gets his second assist of the night. Bitzer is chased from the crease, and that’s not something you see very often.
5:29 PM—Kero makes an incredible point-blank save with just a second left in the 2nd period. The Discord Dogs are again silent between periods.
5:53 PM—Lucchini, who’s been a tower of strength for Tech in the series, takes a pointless neutral ice cross-checking penalty. AHHHHH! This kind of stuff is driving me to drink. (Well, not yet, at least tonight.)
5:57 PM—Cooper Watson makes a freshman error and coughs up the puck near the crease. Kero bails him out with another excellent save.
6:13 PM—Grayson Reitmeier, who’s just served two minutes for interference, takes two strides out of the box and Dane Birks hits him with a perfect stretch pass. Reitmeier seals the deal as he slips the puck under BSU’s backup goaltender. THG’s Bob Gilreath, watching from the JMac, celebrates 50% off pizza as the Huskies get their fifth of the night.
6:22 PM—It’s over, and Tech has won the MacInnes Cup for the sixth straight year with a 7-5 total goal edge. Once again, the Discord Dogs linger for about 20 minutes, but this time there’s mostly joy, particularly for Devin Kero, as the local boy wins the series MVP award.
7:15 PM—Mrs. Dog and I head out for dinner at one of our favorite places in Addison, our suburban DFW hometown.
Jaxx Steakhouse is a great place, and it looks like it was lifted out of Manhattan in the 1930’s. The food is superb and we really enjoy it after Tech’s victory. Our Husky weekend ends on a high note.