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Tag:Frozen Four
Posted on: April 13, 2009 6:49 pm
 

Capitals GM wants Frozen Four back in D.C.

George McPhee says the Cherry Blossom Festival isn't the only thing Washington is good for in April. During the Frozen Four final between Boston and Miami the Capitals general manager and former Hobey Baker Award winner said the town, the team and the venue would love to have the tournament return.

"We'd love to have it back," said the former Bowling Green hockey star. "We have a great venue here. I think the players have really enjoyed it. Washington is probably the biggest reason people come. Walk out the door and there are 100 restaurants and all the museums and memorials and Capitol and White House -- It's a great way to spend a weekend."

The earliest the tournament could return is 2013, which would be one year into a potential new administration. The only reason I bring this is up is Miami fans thought "Yes we can," was a clever chant with about three minutes to go vs. Boston.

The RedHawks went on to lose 4-3 to the Terriers. The hometown Capitals were forced to wrap up their season on the road because of the tournament, something that didn't faze McPhee.

"It's not an issue at all. If they want to come back to Washington, we'll host it again."

Category: NHL
Posted on: April 11, 2009 11:52 pm
Edited on: July 8, 2009 10:19 am
 

Frozen Four: Boston bounces Miami for title

WASHINGTON -- A deflection.

If you ever doubted hockey as a game of inches, let Boston's 4-3 overtime win for the 2009 NCAA D-I title be entered as evidence. A deflection from the stick of Colby Cohen off the body of Kevin Roeder past the glove of Cody Reichard with 11:47 in overtime ended what could have been one of the greatest upsets in sports history.

Giants over Patriots. Red Sox over Yankees. Boise over Oklahoma.

That's what every lede in every publication was readying with 43 seconds to go in the game. And rightly so. Boston was the best team in the tournament. Heck, legendary coach Jack Parker called this "possibly my greatest team." His greatest team on the brink of demise with 43 seconds remaining? Well, fate had a different idea -- one that fell more inline with the drunken Boston fans who left at midnight Friday to come to D.C.

"Boston 6-2," said a Terriers fan in between chugs from his Bud Light bottle at the Green Turtle Bar in the lower level of the Verizon center.

"C'mon, Boston 7-1," said Guildenstern, correcting Rosencrantz.

The duo went on to explain to me that of Boston's seven losses, none came out of conference. Well, Boston had six losses, and one did come out of conference.

The point was the bounces will go Boston's way and they sure as heck won't go Miami's. Not on this night. Not on this stage.

But the bounces didn't go Boston's way for most of the night. Boston had eight penalties to Miami's three. Miami had the Hobey Baker winner in Matt Gilroy silenced most of the night. And Boston lost the love of the crowd early on.

But in the end Boston's defense, led by Gilroy, was too physical and potent guiding the offense late in the game. In the end Boston stayed composed for 60 minutes of regulation play, even celebrating its second goal despite only having less than a minute of life left.  In the end a player as good as Colby Cohen will be remembered for his game-winning shot and not for his two tough-to-swallow penalties. And in the end the story lost its magic when the underdog was underwhelming in the final session of play.

A few bounces of the puck the wrong way can do all that. It can change the story dramatically.

"Are you talking about those bounces I talk about all the time," said Miami coach Enrico Blasi to a reporter after the game.

"What do you do? Kevin (Roeder) makes a great play, sacrifices his body. It goes over Cody's (Reichard) head and into the net. That's what happens in overtime, you know?"

It's those bounces that cause Miami's Tommy Wingels, he of three Frozen Four goals and a spot on the all-tournament team, to choke up during his time at the podium. It's those bounces that cause a reported from the Miami Student to sob as she asked her question. It's those bounces that caused Enrico "The Don" Blasi to pause uncomfortably as he held back his emotions when trying to explain what it's like to be so close to infamy.

But its those bounces that can act like a crutch for a team that entered the game 1-for-15 on the power play during the tournament and finished the game 1-for-22.  It's those bounces that can excuse a team for being 6-7 in one-goal games. And it's those bounces that hide a team that finished 0-2-5 in overtime games this season.

It's David Tyree making that catch. It's David Ortiz tattooing a pitch in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS. It's Ian Johnson finishing off a Statue of Liberty play. It's being in the position to win, and hoping the sports gods smile upon you.

Saturday night the bounce that will define this tournament went Boston's way and Miami's chance to join the gods in immortality wait another day.

Boston, meanwhile, enters historical territory. The school's 20 Frozen Four victories place it third in NCAA history, Parker moves into third place with three national titles, and the school's five titles put it fourth in NCAA history.

It doesn't stop there, not according to Parker, he of now 12 Frozen Four wins.

"All I can think of is that it's the greatest comeback I've been involved in … in my mind, players do something that needed to get done and it wasn't my doing. I'm so proud of them."

Something was done, but how it was done may surprise you.

"I don’t know," Cohen said. "I saw a guy coming at me, and I thought about trying to fake and going around he guy, but the ice was already a little chewed up at that point."

"Colby, you closed your eyes," said teammate Nick Bonino, whose goal put the game in overtime.

"I closed my eyes," Cohen continued, "and shot it and here we are right now. I was just trying to shoot it toward the net, take a slap shot and get it to the net and hope for a rebound. But got lucky, I guess."

Blind luck? Only if you believe in bounces.

 


Posted on: April 10, 2009 11:31 am
Edited on: April 10, 2009 11:42 am
 

Frozen Four: Cohesive RedHawks eye first title

WASHINGTON -- During a game he stands behind his team like Michael Corleone. He's calm, collected, yet ready to pounce if instigated.

I should know, I once instigated. Well, rather, I asked a stupid question.

It was one of my first assignments for the now-defunct student newspaper the High Street Journal in Oxford, Ohio and following a loss to Michigan State I asked coach Enrico Blasi what his RedHawks team did wrong.

"Wrong? We lost to a better team, simple. Anything else?" And that was it. He walked away after chewing me up and spitting me out. That's what happens when you mess with the don of Miami hockey.  

It's that same sense of authority, rather, sense of power that has guided the RedHawks to within one win of the school's first title in any sport. It's the same sense of controlled arrogance that makes Miami what it is.

It's The Brotherhood. The element that makes this group of men more than just a team. It’s a family atmosphere and talking with  players it’s the one common thread they identify to explain why Miami is one win away from the greatest sporting achievement in school history.

"I think the most important thing is bonding off the ice," said winger Tommy Wingels, who recorded two goals in the team's win over Bemidji State Thursday night. "You might not play with guys in your previous (junior) team, but spending time with them 250 days a year at the rink and outside the rink, it means a lot to the guys.  The better you get to know someone obviously the better chemistry you're going to have. Whether it's older guys, (Raymond) Eichenlaub and (Bill) Loupee, guys who have played before, it's just a connection we have."

It's more than just a connection, it's actually a written and signed oath to abide by The Brotherhood's code. The Code is a document that lives in the locker room and dictates the daily process that the players have developed.

It's about how to approach preparing for the ice:

"When we talk about experience,” Blasi said, “we talk about the juniors and seniors and sophomores that have been there before and played in this environment.  It really helps the freshmen understand right from day one what's expected.  So every day in preparation, the process is exactly that.  There's a purpose to what we do on and off the ice.  And so when our freshman are put in these situations, they know exactly what they need to do, because we've done it all year."

It's about how to approach preparing off the ice:

"We hold each other accountable and responsible for each other. It's really what Miami hockey culture is all about."

It's not just Miami's hockey culture. It's Miami campus culture. The school is known in sports circles for the stray professional athlete it produces and its Cradle of Coaches, but it's probably better known at the collegiate level for its dominant fraternity culture. The campus boasts four alpha houses for national fraternities and one alpha sorority. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but it's a rural campus and fraternity life engulfs the 17,000-plus student body. Blasi was a captain on the 1993-94 team and 18th on the school’s all-time scoring list. He's Miami through and through which is why it’s no surprise that a notion like brotherhood could have permeated from his time as a student at one of the most fraternity-laced campuses on the planet.

Or it could just be an Italian thing.

"I've always been a believer in family. Growing up in an Italian household that's pretty much instilled in me."

Whatever it is, it's working, as he's turned Southwest Ohio into a hotbed of hockey. The team is in its fourth straight NCAA tournament, it has the best combined record since the 2005-06 season and has a handful of players on the roster likely bound to join alums like Sharks all-pro defenseman Dan Boyle at the professional level. The team recently moved into a state-of-the-art hockey facility on campus featuring a club level among its 3,200 seats. Tickets to hockey games are some of the more sought-after in the Miami sporting scene and really, the program is legitimate for those who've followed the sport this decade. It was the Gonzaga, or Boise State of hockey. Some weird gem of a program, with some awkward name for a school, in some part of the country few pass through.

And Miami has become so because of Blasi. Because he’s preaches toughness:

“We're a physical team.  And when we're on, we're finishing checks and we're doing a good job defensively, and we're getting pucks deep.  And we're a good puck possession team, which, again, if we're on, we're wearing teams down just because we're playing well.”  

Because he puts the offensive system, defined by his “scoring areas,” above the individual.

“We try to execute our game plan, and if you're in the position where you can score a goal, then obviously we want you to score a goal. I think Bill Loupee, Alden Hirschfeld, they've put themselves in situations (vs. Bemidji). They've gone to what I call the scoring areas in front of the net.  And with all the good goaltending, you have to go to the net to score goals.  And those guys are certainly doing that.”  

Because he expects greatness.

“That's what our program stands for.  That's our culture.  We want to be the best we can be every day.”

And because he’s consistent. I remember some later conversations I had with Blasi while covering the team in college and he always stressed this notion of family. He’d rather talk to you about that than Xs and Os any day. It’s not something hokey to him. It’s not a cute slogan he’s adopted to shield a team of talented players from expectations. It’s a legitimate way of operating a hockey program. It’s his way of turning a marginal hockey school into something bigger. It’s the edge a school like Miami can, rather must, exploit to compete with the big dogs.

And if his players take down the Terriers Saturday night, he may just temporarily put aside one of his other defining characteristics: his rigidness.

“Maybe,” he says when asked if he’ll smile after a win Saturday.

Category: NHL
 
 
 
 
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