01 July 2011

I Don't Live Here Anymore

If you need me, I'm blogging at http://runninwiththedogs.com/. Update your links, fools!

06 May 2011

Silent Spring

Huh, how about that? Nearly a month has gone by since our lives were made complete.

Let's wrap up a few things.

First, College Hockey Armageddon appears to have passed us by. Scary Princeton Coach is going to go to Nouveau Riche University instead of our coach, who somehow still does not have a contract. Dear Bob, get it done or I am not sending you ANY MONIES. Michigan Tech has a new coach, too. Some Michigan person. Clearly he's trading up by going to the WCHA.

RWD awards for the season:

My Guy of the year is Jack Connolly, for the second year in a row.

Freshman of the year is JT Brown, though Justin Faulk was breathing down his neck.

Jacky is also the Connolly Champion, though with Mike gone he will not be able to defend his title.

Drew Olson wins the penalty title over Dan DeLisle, which was uninteresting as neither took a boatload of penalties.

Seniors Trent Palm, Kyle Schmidt, Mike Montgomery, Chad Huttel and Justin Fontaine leave us. Thank you for your fierce and unwavering commitment to the program, for making it better than when you arrived, and for giving us your very best no matter what was asked of you. Palm played on one leg. Schmidt had hand surgery days before scoring the game winning goal against Michigan. Montgomery and Fontaine gave up pro opportunities to return to school. Huttel stuck with the program despite limited playing time.

Thanks to your families as well; all five of you have families who were vocal and visible in their support for you and for the program. I didn't go to a single road game without seeing at least one Palm, Schmidt, Montgomery, Huttel or Fontaine in the crowd. Sometimes even wearing a gorilla suit or a blonde wig, making candy for fellow fans, or buying beers for rowdy road-trippers.

I'm contemplating a site re-design but haven't seen anything I liked yet. Don't worry, it won't become busy or overloaded with ads or scripts that crash your browsers, it will still be as spartan as ever. At the very least I will be doing a new banner for the off-season.

Posting will be sporadic throughout the summer, as always. I might have some other stuff to say about the season, and of course there's the All-Hottie team, and I'm trying to get tickets to the draft. I'll tweet if I update and try to keep you informed of any exciting and fun news going on in the world of Bulldog hockey.

Thanks again for reading, for your comments and your emails and tweets. Thank you for the sense of community you all provide, as Bulldog fans or as hockey fans in general. In the seven seasons I've been writing this site, I've never once wanted to shut the site down; it is always fun and the connections I've made as a result of writing are priceless. What you folks say makes me laugh, makes me think and humbles me. Victories are sweeter and losses are easier to bear when we celebrate and suffer together.

21 April 2011

Spring Awakening

Well then.

A week ago we were still floating on air. The weather was gorgeous and sunny and I zipped up to Duluth for the little celebration thingy they had at AMSoil Arena. (Every time I type AMSoil on this site I get a bunch of spammy emails asking about AMSoil as a product. Dude, it's got mad viscosity. Anyway, their $25 million was well spent on all the mentions they get on RWD.) Yes, I used a whole tank of precious gasoline to drive up for a nice, sweet, touching little speechytime and then THREE AND A HALF HOURS OF LINE-WAITING.

I'm very dedicated.

I did have a little kissy-kissy session with the trophy. Wheeee!! With my horrible hair.

Yikes. Scariness. Good thing it's a little blurry.

So things went well in the line, once we FINALLY got to the team. I had a nice conversation with Montgomery where we talked about graduating and how excited he was to get his degree and then he complimented me on my sartorial selections. As you can see above, I had on a Nirvana t-shirt that I bought at Target in the men's department for like $10. Monty is like one of the only guys on the team old enough to actually know who Nirvana is, possibly. They were my favourite band in junior high. I love grunge.

So, I felt really great about how things went. My horrible fear of making a giant ass of myself was assuaged. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself, yo. Then I had totally normal conversations with MCON, Fonz, Basaraba, Oleksuk (ok maybe that was a little geeky but well within my tolerance level) and possibly others, and then some of the guys just sort of said hi and signed. I asked Grun for some pizza. He told me Flaherty got pizza sauce on some posters.

Then I started talking to Ginger Goalie Gaffy about his hair and somehow that ended up as a discussion of my horrible hear and how it was breaking off. Which it is, I really ruined it, whatever, that's not the point, who the heck wants to actually hear about that? It's like talking about picking scabs or foot fungus or something.

Then I had my final chance to talk to Faulk and get him to sign the WJC jersey I got. So I tried to tell him the story of how I had to bid on the white jersey while Hoffman bid on the blue jersey and I got the story all twisted round and somehow in the middle of it he was saying that he didn't think one of the jerseys he got was game worn because he got one and then I said "Well, you can smell it."

I should not be let out in public.

I also tried to make a mockery of the actuarial joke made by the chancellor during the speeches and instead my story of another awkward actuarial joke (or rather a series of them) by someone called Uncle Pete ended up being such a bad story that I looked even more like an ass to Kyle Schmidt than I did with Justin Faulk. Maybe. I'm not sure. I would take a poll but there were few witnesses.

In short, I should really not be let out in public.

Justin Fontaine has finally signed with the Wild. Just as I implored back in July or whenever, because I'm brilliant.

And we are potentially facing college hockey Armageddon. Though I really don't think it will be as bad as the word doomsdayers think. We'll talk more later, but it is incredibly depressing to follow up the national championship with the imminent loss of a coach and the far-fetched but still pesky rumour we may lose our conference as well.

15 April 2011

Take Good Care of My Babies

So, we bid farewell to Justin Faulk and Mike Connolly.

Here's Justin's press release and apparently the Sharks are too busy to have one for Mike's signing.

Sure, we'd have love to have both of them for another year. But Justin is the most outstanding freshman defenceman I've ever seen (he blows EJ out of the water) and there's no way that he was staying. We were lucky to have a player of that caliber who also had a lifelong dream of being a Bulldog. I have no doubt he gave us his very best and while I'm sad to see him go, I wish him nothing but the best.

And Mike. It's been a treat watching him over the past three years. A few years ago, a Camrose fan posted on tPB and told us he was even better than Mason Raymond, and we thought it was impossible. Well, Alice, there's some use in believing in impossible things, because in the college game, Mike was better.

The two most memorable goals of Mike Connolly's career are his goal against Yale where he scored short-handed and then plowed over a Yale player, and his overtime game-winner against Princeton that caused absolute pandemonium among the toga-ers. I will never, ever forget those goals. Mike is leaving at the pinnacle of his career: national champion, All-American, WCHA superstar and Bulldog legend.

Thank you both for your hard work and your legacy. Make us proud in the NHL.

14 April 2011

The Game That Was

tUMD 3, Ugly Helmets 2

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!

Rudyard Kipling

Saturday started as a day like any other day. I fell asleep watching Miracle, as I had done before the Union game, the Yale game and the Notre Dame game. The sky was gray but it was warm out, and for a moment as I got out of bed it seemed no different from a normal weekend morning.

Then I remembered that tUMD was playing for a national championship in just a few hours and it was like being hit by a bus. The impact of the realization was so powerful it was almost physically jolting.

And so I did what any smart hockey fan would do: I laced up my skates and played hockey for two hours. Every year a cabal of USCHO posters organizes a hockey game at the Frozen Four. It's supposed to be just for fun, a good time and a way for people who hurl insults at each other in the anonymity of the internet to face up to their behaviours. (This is no problem for me because I am truly a horrible person.)

For me it was two blissful hours where I didn't have to quiver in fear at the implications of the upcoming game. Two hours where I was the one playing and attempting to make things happen on the ice. I mostly failed at making anything happen, but here is a picture of me looking awesome.

As you can tell, I (second from the left) am getting burned by Yager (far left) for the 700th time. But that's ok because in the rest of the pictures I'm standing around like a fatty. You can tell it's me because of the horrible bright yellow ponytail. Also something quite strange happened in the locker room afterward but you'll have to ask me about that on your own time.

It was fantastic to focus solely on the game at hand and just to step out on the ice and skate and have a good time. I left feeling a Zenlike equanimity I hadn't had since the season started.

Of course, once we were in the car heading to the Xcel, the PANIC! PANIC! PANIC! alarm was going off inside my head. It was like 7 fire alarms, 3 tornado sirens, the horrible monthly test of the emergency broadcasting system noise and an air raid siren ALL AT ONCE. Plus a panic attack, brain aneurysm, freefall from 10,000 feet and ADHD. Oh my.

We sat at McGovern's for awhile, everyone but me acting totally normal and watching golf. Why, I don't know, because who freaking cares? It's not even interesting. Eric Stromgren from the Bemidji Pioneer stopped by to say hello. Randomly he happens to be friends with this person who bought a bee jersey last year and was standing in line with me when we were buying them.

FINALLY I convinced everyone to go over to the UMD event at the River Center. We sat there for awhile until I couldn't stand it anymore and ditched the rest of my group to go to my seat (which is good because they didn't arrive until puck drop, and the also stole a UMD flag from somewhere) and I sat there alone until Dirty showed up.

When Michigan scored, it was like Thursday all over again, and I thought I was going to vomit. Rather than vomiting, Travis Oleksuk scored a goal. Michigan started taking all these penalties and then Max Tardy banged home his own rebound and made a believer out of me. Then something weird happened and My Jacky was lying on the ice and the puck was in the net behind Kenny and I thought "Oh my god we're not going to win" even though it was tied. My gal Britt came up during the intermission and helped me pass the time without having a nervous breakdown.

In the 3rd period Michigan was given a power play for... running into Brady Lamb (who had an assist on all three goals, FYI), I guess. I mean, really, whatever. Then JT Brown made an incredible play to bring the puck up the ice for a shorthanded scoring chance and Merrill had no choice but to haul him down and we were at fours. JT drew about 3 penalties and could have drawn a few more. It was so funny to watch him frustrate Michigan. Well, it's funny now that I can relax and breathe.

When the game went to overtime I wanted to... I don't even know. I felt like I was going to pass out. I walked around the arena and found Biddco and we just sort of panicked together. I talked to a Sioux fan friend of mine and I also saw the Maroon Loon blogger who claims that I said "Don't worry, we'll be celebrating soon," as he walked away from me. That's so unlike me. I'm more likely to say "Don't worry, we'll be committing mass suicide soon."

I walked back to my seat in a daze, and to be honest I probably should have stayed in my seat. I felt like I was going to faint. Then I heard the crowd start to roar just as I rounded one of the pillars in the corner and I went RUNNING for the nearest stairway just in time to see Mike Connolly with a great scoring chance.

The only reason I can tell you how the winning goal went is because I've seen it so many times in replay. All I know is the puck was in the net and my brother practically pile-drived (pile-drove?) me and I was screaming and crying and the Aaaahj was screaming "We're #1! We're #1!" and I fell over on to the seats and someone kicked my soda and it spilled everywhere and I called Schmidt's mom and screamed nonsensically into her voicemail and I don't even know.

I am amazed that for nothing more than the price of admission I could feel so amazing. But it's not the price of that ticket. It's years, and dozens of admissions, and hundreds of miles and thousands of words. All for something that, for someone who doesn't get it, seems so meaningless and insignificant. And if I think too hard about what it means to be a sports fan, it is completely ridiculous and I'm totally overly obsessive and I don't really care. If I cared what other people thought I wouldn't be writing RWD, ya know.

And really, what else in life can give a person the high highs without the low lows. I could never feel the way about a sports team that I do about, like, a death. But yet I was screaming "THIS IS THE GREATEST MOMENT OF MY LIFE!" as we celebrated, high atop the upper deck, the ultimate victory after fifty years of almosts, could have beens and not a prayers.

I feel like in a way the window of opportunity for writing this post has probably gone. I should have written it Saturday night, if I was really dedicated, but I chose to go out and party like a puck star with my friends. We watched the game again at Tom Reid's and cheered the game all over again and sang the Beer Song and sang Don't Stop Believin' even though I'm still having a hard time believing that the Bulldogs are National Champions. I could have written it a dozen times this week but I had to get it just right and now I think the moment and the feeling have slipped through my fingers.

But it really happened, and no one can take that feeling away from us. To see the first national championship by my team? I don't think there are many Gopher fans, or Michigan fans, or UND fans who can say that. But when I'm 800 million years old (next year) I can tell all the young Bulldog fans in the student section what it was like to watch Kyle Schmidt do snow angels on the ice and see the players come flying off the bench and watch the fans, young and old, absolutely lose their minds as tUMD won the national championship, in overtime, in our home state.

Thanks for the memories.

11 April 2011

Hail to the Victors

We heard that horrible song enough this weekend, but at the end of the night there was one song playing, and it was the UMD ROUSER!

Let's talk about our victors.

We fans are never going to know what it's like to be out there, playing in the game, being on the team, actually doing what was necessary to put the puck in the net or keep it out of our own net.

But they got what we were feeling. They knew what we needed, they knew how much it would mean to us, and I'd like to think they did it for us as much as they did it for each other and for themselves. (And there is nothing wrong with winning for one's self, as long as it's for the good of the team.) Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU. THANK YOU. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU. OH MY GOD, THANK YOU FOR WINNING.

So, a few words for each of you, though you all deserve epic poems. Right now, you're all My Guys.

Joe Basaraba
You're making things happen on the ice and I can see the playmaker you're going to be. You've got grit and size but I know scoring is going to come too once the trainer's gotten through with you. You're a hell of a player and no one would know you were a freshman.

Wade Bergman
You are the league's most underrated defenceman. You go out there night after night and do anything you can to keep the puck out of the net and away from the opponent, whether it's blocking shots, the hip check from hell, or good old fashioned hustle.

J.T. Brown
Most Outstanding Player in the NCAA tournament. As a FRESHMAN. Looks like I might not have been so crazy back in October. YOU DROVE MICHIGAN CRAZY. I mean, OUT OF THEIR MINDS CRAZY. They HATED you. And I know you loved it. You probably drew three penalties and could have drawn a few more. They couldn't match your speed and your skill.

Jack Connolly
There were hundreds, possibly thousands of us crying along with you when you were holding your trophy. Come back next year and win the Hobey Baker, as you are the epitome of that award. Thank you for bringing the trophy home to Duluth where it belongs, and where one should have been 27 years ago.

Mike Connolly
You controlled the ice for prolonged periods every time you touched the puck. You easily stood out as the best player on the ice and you almost won it in overtime, which I almost missed. You're a true talent and a deserving All-American, and they'd better have a mural of you in the DECC next fall. A Camrose fan told us you were better than Raymond and we didn't know that was possible, but you showed us that it was.

Aaron Crandall
We would not be here without the ten wins you gave us, which included two shutouts. You outperformed what any of us could have imagined and you stepped into a void we were terrified we couldn't fill. Again, let me say, we could not be here without your play and it was totally awesome to see how you ate up Wisconsin.

Cody Danberg
A fluke injury kept you out of the lineup but that doesn't mean you didn't influence your teammates. You're a hard-nosed gritty guy who gets the ugliest goals I've ever seen and I can see that same work ethic in the guys with similar games. We're privileged to have you play next year.

Dan DeLisle
You are a physical force on the team and the wussy Eastern players and refs would not have been able to handle it. Your game has improved leaps and bounds over the past year and it's going to be exciting to see you light up your opponents next year. You did your uncle Joe proud this weekend, I am sure, and you looked absolutely pumped out of your mind during the celebration.

Justin Faulk
You're a freshman, and you totally got what this meant to the city of Duluth and to the tUMD fans. I suppose we have your cousin Marco to thank for that, and I'm sure he's unbelievably thrilled that you were able to finish his business for him. You wowed everyone watching this game with your talent, your poise and your composure, and the fans in Carolina are salivating at the prospect of your arrival. We are lucky to have you for this year and if that's all we get, it was one hell of a year.

Keegan Flaherty
Another hometown boy who will go down in history on the first team to bring a championship to Duluth. Every time you stepped on the ice I could see your determination, even from the very tippy top of the Xcel, and I hope you don't think your efforts have gone unnoticed. Our near-perfect PK is thanks to you and your merciless defence.

Justin Fontaine
I heard a funny joke on the broadcast: that you are overshadowed by your linemates. Hardly. If the MN Wild management have brains in their heads then we'll be seeing you in the Twin Cities for a long time. We are privileged to have watched you blossom over the last four years from a kid with a bright future into an elite player in the league. Thank you for staying this year to bring us this incredible gift.

Christian Gaffy
I can't even imagine what your hair is going to look like as it grows back. tUMD was in a bad spot looking for another goalie when you came along. With McNeely coming in this might be your only year on the team and what a year it's been. What a ride you've been part of, and though we never saw you in action I know that it's our loss and it would have been darn fun to cheer you on in at least a period or two of hockey.

David Grun
You swore on national TV! That in and of itself is awesome. You've played every possible role on this team except goalie, it seems. And you've done every role you've played justice. You're a total ass-kicker on the PK and you've got a scoring touch when it's needed.

Jake Hendrickson
You were ALL OVER the ice on Saturday. You have great hands; I'm pretty sure you'll be finding the back of the net a LOT next year. You helped ensure that Michigan had to worry every single second of the game, there were no shifts they could take off as our "energy" guys have a heck of a lot of skill in them.

Chad Huttel
You're crazy, kid. Straight up crazy and I love it, because that's just passion for the game. You're ready to step up for any of your teammates and you leave it all out there on the ice. I loved seeing you skate around like crazy on Saturday night during the celebration, and I am glad you gave us four years of mad intensity.

Scott Kishel
You stepped in when we needed you to play and looked like you hadn't missed a beat. We're ready for your steadiness and your puck moving skills next year in our back to back quest starting next October. It's great to see yet another Iron Ranger get a piece of a national championship.

Brady Lamb
You had a hand in every goal Saturday night. Incredible. THREE ASSISTS IN THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME, that's unreal. With a couple great chances for a goal as well. We all know the penalties that were called on you were b.s.: apparently a guy running into you when you're going full speed and get tangled up is considered hitting after the whistle? Come back next year, Brady, we want four years from you!

Luke McManus
We still get four years out of you, and though there's no doubt you would rather have been playing, we are all looking forward to what you can bring to our blue line next year. When we raise the banner next year I hope you are suited up in your gear and in the lineup, but know you are every bit as much a part of this win as any other guy who will be receiving a ring.

Mike Montgomery
So you walked onto this team a forward and you are walking out of here as one of the league's top defencemen, and if you don't have an NHL contract then there are a few dozen general managers who all need to be fired. You are an amazing player and an example of how hard work and perseverance pays off. You've stood tall for the team through on and off ice adversity and you have shown true dedication by sticking it out for four years to honor your commitment even when the pros were calling.

Travis Oleksuk
You did what people were starting to think was impossible: score on Hunwick. You lit up the crowd and ignited the team. You are the first son of a Bulldog to come here and play and if every Bulldog had a kid like you we'd never lose another game. You were a beast on the face-offs, too.

Drew Olson
You only have one mode: beast. You're great defensively but you know when to turn on the jets and step up into the play to make things happen. You have stepped up your game for the team when they needed you the most and you're a brick freaking wall. Getting hit by you must feel like a freight train.

Trent Palm
Sometimes guys talk about dedication using hyperbole, saying "I'll play on one leg," and such things. But for a couple years you actually did play on one leg. Just to keep playing hockey for the Bulldogs. Your brothers are completely insane, I should mention. But we can all stand to learn a few lessons from your heart, grit and determination to be the player we knew you could be.

Kenny Reiter
YES YOU DID! We were chanting that at Tom Reid's after. Holy crap did you stand tall throughout this whole tournament. You are so calm and collected and on the uncommon occasion where the defense broke down you rose to the occasion and made some spectacular saves. You won the biggest of the big games for us. KENNY REITER! YES HE DID!

Kyle Schmidt
When tUMD won the Final Five in 2009, you weren't in the lineup. When tUMD opened AMSoil Arena, you weren't in the lineup. I hope those disappointments were somehow erased by scoring THE BIGGEST GOAL IN BULLDOG HISTORY. How fitting that it would be a local boy to seal the deal for us. How perfect that it would be our "Unsung Hero," a role model on and off the ice, and a senior leader ending his college career in the most amazing possible way.

Mike Seidel
You certainly impressed some people on the national stage. Barry Melrose absolutely loved you and your intensity. What a stacked team we have that a player of your caliber is on the third line. It took three Michigan players to hold you back and they took a penalty to do so.

Max Tardy
What a time to get your first goal. And what a beauty of a goal it was, too. The commentators noted you were executing exactly as your counterpart on the first PP unit were. I may have questioned why you were on the power play, but you proved me wrong, and you are just now getting to show off your talents. I should have known better as Sandy did the same thing two years ago with T.O.; we had a fresh guy with skill playing in the tourney.

10 April 2011

Lovely Day

This was the greatest day of my life.

I can't do it justice tonight. But please know that I am so happy that I did not bleach and subsequently ruin my hair for nothing. And I cried when we won. And I cried about 10 other times.

Max Tardy, I am sorry I doubted you. I am so, so, so excited that you scored your first career goal in the biggest game in program history.

This is unbelievable. And it's TRUE. It's REAL. And IT FINALLY HAPPENED.

08 April 2011

Just Do It

Dear Bulldogs, we have been waiting a long, long time for this. And by we, I mean all of the fans and Bulldog hockey alumni.

Win it for us.

Win it for your coach, Bill Watson. Give him the ring he should have had 27 years ago. And don't take 4 OTs to do it. And good lord, Kenny, stay in the net, because Bulldogs fans cannot handle another fluky DECC hop garbage BS goal and I want to PUKE when I see that Bowling Green banner hanging at the X because THAT SHOULD BE OURS.

Win it for your old captain, Andrew Carroll. The consummate hard worker, who willed himself and his teammates to be better. Win it for him, as vindication for that Miami game.

Win it for Dick Stewart. Win it for his windsock and his dedication to the youth hockey players of Duluth. Win it because you bought your gear from him. Win it because he lost his vision at a Bulldogs game.

Win it for Isaac, for Junior, for Schwabe, Timmay, Hards, Geisler, Unks, for those guys who brought us so close in Boston.

Win it for the students, the ones who make up cheers and signs and drink to the wins and the losses and get the crowd going. Win it for the former runners of the goal lap. Win it for your classmates and your neighbors.

Win it for the DECC. The arena you closed down in style just over four months ago. The arena where Bulldog legends have played. Win it and do something they didn't. Win it and make your mark on both buildings.

Win it for the city of Duluth, the people who voted to give you this beautiful new arena. Win it for AMSoil and hang a banner next October.

Win it for Hoagy. Because there's no one more dedicated, more caring, and more invested in you guys than he is. Win it for all he's given the program for so many years.

Win it for your fans. For those of us who sat through the agony of defeat, through seasons where wins were scarce, through seasons where talent was wasted, through seasons where the highest scorer would finish 8th on the team in points. Win it for those of us who have lost hope and then found it again and again. Win it for those of us who spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to see you play. Win it for those of us who have driven hundreds or thousands of miles to see you play. Win it for people following you all around the world. Win it for the folks who have made total fools of themselves in public, in print, in pictures, and on television. Win it for the fans who are starving for a championship, who have been waiting half a century to see this happen. Win it in the state you play in, the home state for many of you, the adopted home state for others. Win it in front of a crowd that will overwhelmingly support you.

Win it for us. Win it for each other. Win it for yourself. Go get 'em, Dogs.

There and Back Again: A Bulldog's Tale

Centuries ago, Confucius said that the journey of a 11,451 miles begins with a single skate stride.

And so we went from Duluth to Sault Ste. Marie to Marquette to Duluth to Bemidji to Duluth to Grand Forks to Duluth to Madison to Duluth to Schenectady to Duluth to Houghton to Duluth to Mankato to Duluth to Colorado Springs to Duluth to Saint Paul to Duluth to Bridgeport to Duluth and then finally back to Saint Paul, and though there were pit stops and roadblocks and potholes and speedtraps and breakdowns along the way, we are all here, safe and sound and we have arrived at the destination of this team's destiny.

And now it's your turn, Bulldogs fans. Tickets are cheap for such a priceless occasion. However many miles it may be, find a way to make that first step.

No Joke

tUMD 4, Racist Mascots 3

There's nothing funny about winning.

Over the years I have had some horrible losses to write about. I mean, including this year. I try to spin the losses with humour, which is the entire foundation of this site, but with losses that makes sense. One needs a good laugh to dull the pain.

With winning, one doesn't need to be entertained, as one's already going OUT OF THEIR FREAKIN' MIND WITH JOY AND EXCITEMENT!

Which, by the way, I am, and I know you are all as well.

We arrived at the GPL tailgate just after 12 to a much smaller crowd than was at the Final Five, but that's expected. Still, it was great that the die-hards were there, no one does a tailgate like the GPL crew.

I missed the red carpet arrival because I was HOPING to get some food before heading over. I met up with my buddy and former UW blogger Badger Backer and made his friend and him come with me, then felt like a total tool when we missed it. Blah.

Honestly, I kind of wanted to die when tUMD gave up a goal 49 seconds in. It was just... so horrifying and sad and I thought it was the beginning of the end. JT Brown thought otherwise and found the back of the net so decisively that the puck bounced back out again. Something called TJ Tynan scored to get the Leprechauns another pot of gold, and I was ready to puke, and Kyle Schmidt was all "I have a bionic hand!" and we were at deuces. MCON scored another PPG and then the first period was over. You know, for some teams that's an entire game worth of scoring.

Not so for the Bulldogs, who were DOMINANT in the second period. Jack Connolly and his beard got a lovely power play goal (they were 3 for 6 on the PP, which is a Union-like stat, except we did it against a good team, not Army) and weathered some QUESTIONABLE penalties and QUESTIONABLE NON-CALLS ON INTERFERENCE and headed into the 3rd period with a two-goal lead.

The Leprechauns got a short handed goal by borrowing a player from their women's team named "Calle Ridderwall." tUMD was in the offensive zone battling for the puck along the endboards and totally jacked it up. WIN BATTLES WHEN YOU HAVE MORE PLAYERS. WHOA. The Leps took the puck all the way to the other and and into the Bulldog net, and then fear took over and I was unable feel any sort of confidence or hope we were going to hold the lead.

tUMD weathered a penalty for "Leprechaun dropping his stick" as well as 1:08 of extra attacking scariness and as the clock wound down the final seconds I was on my feet, knees shaking, and I nearly blacked out from the sheer panic and excitement and disbelief.


06 April 2011

Sing Out

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone

You'll never walk alone

05 April 2011

Racist Mascots, Part Deux

Really? Are we back here again, in this day and age? tUMD has already defeated one racist (and sexist) mascotted team, and now we're facing another one, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Okay. So let's break this down. First of all, NOTRE DAME is in French. It means Our Lady. This is not a lady, this is a leprechaun. Which isn't even a real thing. And it's an ugly balding leprechaun with a pointy head. It would have been nice, if Notre Dame was planning to use a human being as a mascot, if they had considered the viewing public. A better option for the Notre Dame mascot would be the following image:


Anyway, Notre Dame has created this cariacature of what an Irish person must be like: short, mythical, with bad hair and a bad attitude. The school's mascot stereotypes Irish people as violent and belligerent. Why not just put a stein of green beer in the mascots hand to complete the offensive picture.

I have no doubt that, once the NCAA summarily dispatches the little uprising to the west, they will focus their efforts on these oppressors in South Bend, and they will be forced to change their mascot. I submit my proposal:

28 March 2011


Be afraid. Be very afraid.

On the Road

Why think about that when all the golden land's ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen events wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see? -Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The yellow brick road. The road not taken. The long and winding road. The road to redemption. Whatever we're on here, it's a helluva ride.

There were times when many of us wanted to give up. There were times when we felt like the season was slipping through our fingers. There were times when it felt like our players had given up. Too many times we'd read the same tired old quotations in the papers after a loss. "We weren't ready to play." "We didn't have the effort." "We didn't play as well as we thought we could." It was disheartening.

Instead, this weekend tUMD showed exactly what kind of team they really are. Gritty, defensively sound, with explosive offense. tUMD chased Yale's goaltender from the game after he gave up five goals, a season high. The power play was lethal, and they got a shorthanded goal and killed off a two-man disadvantage, which was actually more like a 2 1/2 man disadvantage as one player did not have a stick.

We've had our ups and downs, our roadblocks and setbacks. Forwards, defencemen, goalies, fans, everyone. We lost a player to the pros at mid-season. We had a horrible first game in our new rink. We limped into the playoffs, some might say. We lost to a lesser team in the Final Five.

And we closed down our rink in style. We won a marathon 3OT game. We had a player put up five goals on the southern branch of our school. We never got swept, never lost back to back games. We have a Hobey Baker finalist. AND WE ARE GOING TO THE FROZEN FOUR.

And by we, I mean the players of course.

Certainly there was a lot of pressure on tUMD on Saturday. Yale was ranked as the top team in the PWR, which comes with its own pressures, but most folks felt that ranking was undeserved, which means losing to them would be a bit shameful. I'm sure that was more in the minds of fans than anything else. (I think it's funny that fans think they know the mindset of players; one fan of a nameless team [literally] stated that tUMD deliberately lost to Bemidji in order to get placed in the East regional, which is ludicrous.)

tUMD had to weather quite the storm in the first period; the first ten minutes were uneventful but then they had to fight off the two-man disadvantage, followed by another penalty, and Kenny Reiter and the penalty kill stood tall. Then MCON and Fonz had a 2 on 1 on the PK and Mikey scored, then plowed over a Yale player and taunted him. And that set the tone for the game.

Bergy scored even strength on a soft goal that Rondeau just... I don't know, missed? He tried to catch it and looked like... well, what I would look like if I played goalie. Yale started to get chippy, and Jack Connolly scored a sick goal from a wicked angle on a power play after a Yale played ran Kenny.

Yale's Brian O'Neill scored on a power play and gave them a little life. Then he decided to run Jake Hendrickson and head-butt him. I thought Yale students were supposed to be smart, but I cannot think of a dumber thing to do. It wasn't O'Neill's first dangerous hit on a tUMD player; he also took an elbowing penalty earlier in the second. The referees decided to kick him out of the game. This was certainly a fortuitous call for tUMD and a backbreaker for Yale, but perhaps Mr. O'Neill will think twice about headshots now, knowing that his desire to injure other players contributed to the end of his team's season.

My Guy Mike Seidel scored on the power play 20 seconds in, and then when another Yale player made a dumb mistake and put them down two players, Justin Fontaine cashed in on a lovely tic-tac-toe play.

Yale scored two in the third period, which was enough to cause severe panic for Biddco and me. My heart was pounding and my legs were shaking. I couldn't stay still and had to pace around a little bit, then sit down, then stand, then sit. I couldn't even eat the green bean casserole with bacon that MEg had made.

Then tUMD's brilliant defence kicked in, and while I was still scared out of my mind, they remained calm and collected and in control. It wasn't until there were about 30 seconds left in the game that I really, truly believed we would win the game.

And then an overwhelming sense of relief flooded over me. I was completely exhausted when we got home after we finished watching the Ugly Helmets - CC game, and still somewhat unable to believe that tUMD is going to be in the Frozen Four. Two more wins and we can finally get that title. 27 years after we should have gotten the first one.

For once, it's not just about the journey, but the destination. GO BULLDOGS!!!!!

27 March 2011


tUMD 5, Fauxdogs 3


More tomorrow.

25 March 2011

Afternoon Delight

tUMD 2, Scabs 0

I keep thinking I need to remember to use this post title during a day game and I keep forgetting. Well, I waited for the opportune moment on this one.

I didn't watch a single second of this game. I was at work. It practically killed me to be at work, BTW, but I suffered through. I work hard for the monies.

And when I say suffered, I mean SUFFERED. Holy mother. I was completely distracted, my heart was pounding, and I thought I was going to puke. Good god was that stressful. I sent a frantic email to one of my friends sort of jabbering on about how freaked out I was about the game. Then I wrote "Gee, I guess I'm not helping, am I?" She wrote back "NO YOU'RE NOT!" Ha.

So I made it through the game by Twitter and by texts. Thanks DA for the texts. Even though you caused serious heart attacks by writing ambiguous things like "They are going on the power play," and I was like "THEY WHO?????"

Union had a 31% power play and only had nine games where they failed to score on the PP. Well, now ten. tUMD's penalty killers, from Kenny Reiter on out, kept the Racist Mascots 0/9 on the power play, while tUMD's own power play went 2/8. I would say it's unfortunate that we could only score on the power play, but let's see here, I crunched some numbers, and here's how the game broke down: 49% 6x6, 27% Union PP, 18% UMD PP, 3% 5x5, 2% 6x6 with Union's net empty and 1% tUMD 6x4. Insane. Totally weird game.

I had a brief respite from my sheer panic while watching the Yale-AF game and the extremely enjoyable CC-BC game, but now I'm back to panicking. While Yale isn't head and shoulders above every other team in college hockey, they're not pushovers either, and it's going to be tough.

Just three more wins boys. One more and you're in St. Paul. Three more and you will complete me.

24 March 2011

A Less Perfect Union

Screw the racist mascots. Screw their inflated power play statistics. This team lost to Colgate. COLGATE IS A TOOTHPASTE. Do you know what that means? UNION IS A CAVITY. Or at least some plaque. A germ to be eradicated. A waste of jersey fabric.

I hate single elimination. It's so stressful. For me. And thus for all of you, feeling my stress wavelengths vibrating out into the universe like cosmic strings.

Let's calm ourselves with some great speeches, shall we? Tonight's selection comes from a formidable Bulldogs fan, Queen Elizabeth I.
My loving Bulldogs fans, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving Bulldogs. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my Bulldogs. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my Dogs, and for my arena, and for my blog readers, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of Hockey, too; and think foul scorn that Union or Yale, or any cadet of Air Force, should dare to invade the borders of my blue line: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues on the ice. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant Sandelin shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded more noble and worthy Bulldogs; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor on the ice, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my Dogs, of my arena, and of my blog readers.

Please just win and I can die from an aneurysm of joy rather than an aneurysm of anguish.

23 March 2011

Waiting in Vain

All right then. I'm struggling a bit here.

Last time tUMD made the playoffs, it was such an unexpected treat that I wasn't freaking out about it. We were just happy to have made it there and still jubilant from the Final Five dominance.

The time before that, I wasn't writing RWD, but I also wasn't as worried because tUMD was a relatively complete team at that time, and I was confident in their abilities. Well, as confident as I can ever be about a game.

tUMD is somewhere in between those two teams. They've been expected to make the NCAAs pretty much all year unlike in 2009, but they also haven't been consistent enough to seem like the boys of 2004.

SO I AM FRRRRRRRRRRRRRRREAKING OUT. I can't take this wait. It's like an execution or something. So far I've had two dreams about the regional. In one dream we make the Frozen Four. In the other dream we lose to Union. Yargh.

I can't even watch the game. I've missed too much work to take the day off. I won't even be able to listen. I'll just... I don't know. Catch the score at the end. While having multiple aneurysms wondering what the heck is happening. Or desperately following on the interwebs or something, I don't know.

There's only 38 hours left til game time. I can't freaking handle it. Here's some fun stuff to take the edge off.

22 March 2011

Racist Mascots!

I wonder how many UND fans saw this headline and put on the metaphorical foil for yet another rabid, barely-literate internet frenzy.

But we're not here to talk about the Fighting Nazis, we're here to talk about ANOTHER racist nickname, the Union College Dutchmen.

This is a little blurry, but here's their "mascot:"

So stereotypical! A caricature of the traditional "Dutch Boy" haircut, weird Hammer pants, wooden shoes, smoking a bowl. So offensive! Disgusting.
Some Dutch people don't wear wooden shoes, but prefer to light others' shoes on fire. Some Dutch people make terrible music and have awful feathered hair. Some Dutch people wear crazy ascots and formulate equations to describe the force exerted by an object in circular motion. Some Dutch people don't smoke the ganja. I couldn't find any examples though.

And some Dutch people are women! Although it took Union until 1970 to quit treating women as second-class citizens and admit them to their college. But they still discriminate! The female athletes at Union (who I assume are ostracized for their unfeminine behavior) have a different nickname, the Dutchwomen. Separate but equal, eh Union? So their mascot is racist AND sexist!

I certainly hope the NCAA is investigating this issue and taking steps to ensure this bigoted school is sanctioned for its behavior. DUTCH ARE PEOPLE NOT MASCOTS!

Sic em, Dogs!

21 March 2011

Dark Horse

So did you know there are only two candidates for Hobey Baker? Some guy from Florida and a criminal?

tUMD's own Jack Connolly is a Hobey candidate, and there's no reason that he's unworthy and that he doesn't belong in the discussion.

Jack's blurb on the Hobey Baker site (where you can go and VOTE FOR HIM, just register and you can vote once a day) says the following:

Jack Connolly – University of Minnesota-Duluth, Junior, Forward, Duluth, Minnesota
The play-making key on college hockey’s highest scoring line, Connolly is presently tied for third in the nation in scoring with 54 points and is second in assists with 39. He has been named a WCHA First Team all-star two straight years and has more points in the past two seasons, than any other WCHA player.
• Has scored 15 goals and 39 assists in 37 games – led team in scoring past 2 years
• Finished second in WCHA conference scoring race – played 120 straight games
• Communications major and twice on Dean’s list – active community volunteer

Jack plays in all phases of the game: power play, penalty kill, four on four, and he's an integral part of the best line in the nation, hands down.

He's fifth in the nation in points per game (and the first player in the WCHA on that list), second in assists per game, led the WCHA in power play points (along with Justin Schultz, another Hobey finalist), and he does all this while getting the daylights beat out of him by teams who are simply unable to defend against him legally. For reals, it is a miracle he hasn't had a serious injury after the repeated, unpunished head shots he takes. He's an iron man who hasn't missed a game in his Bulldog career.

Some might argue he doesn't have enough goals (he has 16), but those idiots haven't seen what a Jack Connolly assist looks like. This kid makes the sickest passes you'll ever see. He stick-handles like there's a magnet attraction between the puck and his stick. And a lot of his assists would be goals if he were a more selfish player. Jack's so unselfish he's currently sporting bleach blonde hair with a dark beard, all for the sake of team unity.

You're not going to find Jack Connolly's name on a police blotter. He's not going to get arrested for a DUI; you're more likely to find him as a designated driver. He's on the All-WCHA Academic team and the Dean's List, and he's a captain and a leader in the locker room. He was voted Fan Favorite last year. He sets an example for his teammates and for the children in the community who play on the same rinks he grew up skating on.

Jack Connolly for Hobey.

17 March 2011

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

tUMD 2, WTF 3 (OT)

All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.

Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

This is really not the end of the world. Actually I think the end of the world would have been sitting through the entire UAA-CC game. The only other matchup that would match that level of boredom is UAA-DU, because DU fans don't attend the Final Five.

tUMD gets to go home and think about what they did. Maybe sit in the corner for awhile. But they do also get to rest, and then practice, and then get ready for wherever they are sent and whoever they will face.

tDogs will be fine if they can:

Play defence. We all know goaltending is our weakness. Play D like you did in OT against St. Cloud, and you'll be unbeatable.

Get the secondary scoring going. Our second line needs a shakeup. Get Seidel or Grun up there and what you lose in speed a little you will more than make up for in play-making ability and physicality.

Stay hungry for the win. I'm sure they can. tDogs are superb in do-or-die situations. Today was not a do-or-die situation. I'm not pleased that they don't have the killer instinct in all situations, but they know their next game is going to be their last.

tDogs are capable of beating anyone they come up against, whether that's UND or BC or Michigan or Miami or ANY. TEAM. IN. DIVISION ONE HOCKEY.

Guys, remember. Adam Freaking Hauser has a National Championship ring. ADAM HAUSER. That's all you need to know. Get out there and win next weekend and get back to the Xcel for some redemption, and also to see Jack Connolly win the Hobey Baker, as he was just announced as a finalist for the award. The list stands at ten now, with Justin Schultz from Wisconsin and the lawn mower throwing thug from UND as the other WCHA representatives. GO JACK GO!!!

13 March 2011

A Dish Best Served Cold

tUMD 4, SCCC 2
tUMD 3, SCCC 2 (3OT)

On 11 March, 2007, freshman defenceman Trent Palm was on the bench when Andreas Nodl ended tUMD's season at 11:33 of the 3rd overtime. Senior Josh Johnson made 62 saves in his last game as a Bulldog. There wasn't a single Bulldog player, staffer or fan who wasn't absolutely devastated by that loss.

And last night, two freshmen defencemen for St. Cloud were in the locker room getting IVs to rehydrate, one after cramping up on ice and crawling off after being trapped out there while tUMD maintained possession of the puck. Mike Lee made 60 saves before Mike Connolly finally got the puck past him and ended SCSU's season. I doubt there were any Husky players, staffers or fans who were not absolutely devastated.

We know how you feel. Really, we do.

And now we know what it's like to feel the ecstatic relief of a triple-overtime win. Since the student section numbers were down, I decided I'd stand with them and make some noise. I was missing my nice, padded, comfy chair in 216 after awhile, but those nice long bleachers are perfect for lying on for a quick rest at intermission. Oh yes, there were five intermissions. Five. They had the Duluth East - Eden Prairie game on between periods, which caused me even more stress, and then when East lost I was terrified the Bulldogs were going to suffer the same letdown.

The Bulldog defence wasn't going to let that happen. Mike Connolly put the puck in the net, but the defence won the game. St. Cloud's only goals came from a power play and a scrum around the net. Drew Olson somehow stopped a breakaway, coming out of nowhere. Everyone was getting bodies on players, sticks in passing lanes, and pucks off stickblades. Kenny made a third fewer saves than Mike Lee (who was outstanding) thanks to the defence. And the forwards were in on it, too, laying hits or stepping back if a defender jumped up into the play. Mike Seidel was a human wrecking ball. And Kenny stood his ground, like Gandalf with the Balroc.

Northland News Center video that includes the game-winner, which I did not even see because it was so far away and I didn't have the presence of mind to look at the video board because I was mobbing Biddco and friends.

Northland News Center video of the postgame comments by Mike Montgomery and Mike Connolly.

I am so happy. After the Hermantown loss, the East loss, and the UMD women's loss, it just felt like nothing could go right. I was so nervous it was hard to participate in chants. We were hungry, thirsty, people were sobering up... I mean, we're talking real tragedies here. Anyway, I am so VERY glad I'm not getting in my car at this moment to drive back to the Cities from Duluth after a game right now, and thanks to THE ENTIRE BULLDOG TEAM, I didn't have to!

And I'm sure Palm is beyond thrilled to be on the right end of overtime this time around.

10 March 2011

Blog in the Time of Cholera

Ok, no, I don't have cholera. I'm just suffering from some horrible crud that has left me out of commission since Sunday. Yes, Sunday, and I know today is Thursday. Blah. This weekend is going to be exhausting.

The one upside is I have watched most of the state tournament, with the exception of the Edina/Blaine game, because I was still sleeping. Absolutely awesome game for the Greyhounds today, plus Hermantown and Hibbing advanced. My brackets aren't completely shot to heck, but both of my consolation winners have advanced, so blah.

tUMD racked up quite a few All-WCHA honors. Jack Connolly and Mike Connolly were both named to the first team, Justin Fontaine to the second team, Justin Faulk was both a third team and a rookie team selection, and JT Brown was a rookie team choice. [Edit: the WCHA's website had JT Brown on the 3rd team and finally corrected it.] Wade Bergman, Jack Connolly, Aaron Crandall, Dan DeLisle, Keegan Flaherty, Justin Fontaine, David Grun, Chad Huttel, Kenny Reiter and Kyle Schmidt all made the academic team! Great showing guys!!

So we've got a playoff series against the toothless hicks. Great. So glad to see them so soon after they clobbered us 8-2. Remember the whole "advocating suicide" post? Yeah. But now... now tUMD players are blonde. (And dear god, I got a sneak preview photo, and it is NOT PRETTY.) Blondes have more fun. Speaking as someone who has had every hair colour under the sun, I can confirm that. So guys, have FUN this weekend. BY WINNING. LOSING IS NOT FUN. Even if you may go out and enjoy yourselves afterward just the same while your fans go home and tear their hair out. Kenny Reiter! Making saves is fun! Both the easy ones and the crazy ones! Defence (meaning both defencemen and forwards in our zone)! Throwing hits is fun! Do it! Especially when players are trying to go to the net! Stop them! Forwards! And offensive defencemen! Scoring goals is fun! Try it a lot! Often! Constantly!

Damn, coaching is easy.

07 March 2011

All-WCHA Ballot

It's that time of year again! The All-Conference ballots are being released. Might as well release mine.

First Team
F: Jack Connolly
F: Mike Connolly
F: Justin Fontaine
D: Justin Faulk
D: Mike Montgomery
G: Kenny Reiter

Second Team
F: Travis Oleksuk
F: JT Brown
F: Kyle Schmidt
D: Brady Lamb
D: Drew Olson
G: Aaron Crandall

Third Team
F: Mike Seidel
F: David Grun
F: Dan DeLisle
D: Wade Bergman
D: Trent Palm
G: Christian Gaffy

F: JT Brown
F: Max Tardy
F: Joe Basaraba
D: Justin Faulk
D: Luke McManus
G: Christian Gaffy

Coach of the Year: Scott Sandelin
Player of the Year: Mike Connolly
Rookie of the Year: Justin Faulk

06 March 2011

The Arena of Doom

tUMD 2, Card Game 5

Thanks, guys. Just what I needed.

05 March 2011

Band of Bulldogs

This day is call'd the feast of Sandelin.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Sandelin.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Sandelin.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Sandelin's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Justin Fontaine, Mike Montgomery,
Trent Palm and Kyle Schmidt, and Chad Huttel-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Saint Sandelin shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in Duluth now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Sandelin's day.

-William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 4 Scene III

Thanks, seniors. All five of you, in your ways, have gone above and beyond for the team, and that is more than appreciated.