4/10/2008 - Michigan 4, Notre Dame 5 (OT) - end of season
During Billy Sauer's period of extreme incompetence at the beginning of his sophomore season, I figured out which of the parents in the Michigan section was Sauer's mother. There were hints -- she always sat next to a woman in a Sauer jersey, for one -- but the key "this is definitely her" event came when I made a sarcastic remark about Sauer and her head whipped around to identify the offender. We kept the volume of our sarcastic remarks down thereafter.
Our prior restraint was soon unnecessary. The sarcastic comments stopped once Sauer first reached competence and then exceeded it, but the presence of Sauer's mother remained something of a burden. Though I don't know what anyone else's parents look like except those of Jack Johnson -- for obvious reasons -- and Scooter Vaughn -- for equally obvious reasons -- I imagine they come off as less... severe.
Jack Johnson's dad had the time of his life at each and every game. While Mrs. Sauer may be a vibrant woman in the course of her everyday activities, at Yost she's always seemed grim and sad. This probably says more about being the mother of a goalie than her. I have made a mental note to never let hypothetical children of mine guard anything other hypothetical children are supposed to put balls or pucks past.
I find attempting to analyze hockey impossible. Football is discrete and measurable. It lends itself to charts. Basketball is in the early stages of a tempo-free statistical realignment. And baseball is a stat heaven. Statistically-minded hockey fans are out of luck. NHL fans can find shift-chart data and make some calculations about even-strength goals for and against. The next step is to take a player's opposition into account and normalize for strength of schedule, resulting in... a vague idea that a player is kinda good when averaged across hundreds of minutes. The idea of analyzing a single game is absurd. Pucks bounce.
The INCH podcast previewing the Frozen Four brought this point home. I listened to it and thought their analysis was pretty stupid, then attempted to improve it mentally, then failed at that, then was enraged by their Hockey East knob attempting to justify a Gerbe Hobey because "every great player" spears opponents to get an edge.
In contrast, I spent the week before the Ohio State game predicting that Vernon Gholston would obliterate Steve Schilling and Beanie Wells would grind out 200 yards on an excessive number of carries; this was (unfortunately) exactly right. But it's not the exactly right bit that matters: it's impossible to make a statement of that specificity about a hockey game without being ridiculous.
What are you supposed to say? "Watch out if Sauer lets in an early goal, freaks out, and lets in two goals so horrible you nickname them 'Nickelback' and 'Creed' because the furious comeback the team mounts in the next half-hour will see them tie the game but cost them their legs and cause them to lose in overtime"?
Hockey is a bitch, and makes the observer feel helpless. The observer is always helpless -- this is the definition of "observer" on a non-quantum level -- but the random number generator that produces goals emphasizes the general bloody-mindedness of the universe. If all sports fandom is a form of emotional gambling, football is poker and hockey is roulette. In the NCAA tournament said roulette comes with a gun and the appellation "Russian" -- how apropos -- and I'm terrified. Every time. I cannot function.
So I understand Billy Sauer pretty well, I think. I empathize. I wish I didn't.
We were exiting the arena in a herded mass, attempting to come to grips with what just happened. I saw a woman in a Sauer jersey ahead and was just perceiving the import of that, picking out the woman I've seen at Yost for three years, when I heard one of the people I was with sum up his opinion of the game.
She's probably overheard her share of nasty comments. She's definitely heard me say something meaner. This one was worse because it was matter-of-fact, evenly delivered, and indisputably true. It lacked hyperbole, utterly.
"Sauer dug them a hole they couldn't get out of."
She turned around. Her eyes looked bloodshot and tired as she scanned for the offender, then she gave up and moved off into the crowd with her husband.
- Remember how I spent a month advocating Notre Dame's inclusion in the tourney before the seventh and/or eighth WCHA team? Nevermind, bring on Mankato.
- I didn't have a great angle on the third ND goal, the backhand one, and kinda thought it might have picked out the top corner. Not so much:
- For both semifinal games the NCAA put the pep bands on the other side of the arena from their fans. WTF?
- North Dakota fans made a very strong showing; too bad their team did not follow suit. They had more fans than any other school, and even after getting housed a lot stuck around for the late game. Just about every BC fan left.
- I don't think I have to tell anyone this, but: as long as Jeff Jackson is around at Notre Dame they're going to be a good team. Jackson turned Dave Poulin's rag-tag bunch of losers into a tourney team and is now recruiting on a level better than anyone in the league save Michigan. He's 53.
- So we've got a decade of regular tourney appearances by ND on the docket. Miami's got a new Goggin and will not be going away any time soon. (Carter Camper say what!) The era of the Big Two and Little Ten in the CCHA is over, and not a moment too soon. I'm looking forward to more than four big conference games a year.
- You'd think something as heteronormative as all the men bellowing something and the women screeching in response could not possibly be gay, but the Notre Dame pep band would prove you wrong on that.
- Excellent turnout by Notre Dame fans -- better than BC. Could this be the turning point for Notre Dame hockey fan interest? They get the Cinderella tourney run complete with overtime victory over Michigan, then get beat by BC of all teams in the final. Carrot... carrot... STICK STICK STICK. It's a great way to get hooked.
One of the super-cool things about the Frozen Four is it acts as a community gathering for the entirety of college hockey, which is just big enough to pack an NHL rink and just small enough for everyone to fit inside.
Jerseys or other paraphenalia representing the following teams were located by myself or compatriots:
(all but UAA.)
(I'm sure there were some NMU/LSSU fans there, but we didn't make any contact.)
Providence (including one guy with a killer handlebar mustache)