Posts Tagged ‘NCAA’
Grand Forks is a reasonably small town (about 55,000 people) on the eastern side of North Dakota. It sits along the Red River, which is good for one flood every year that ranges from slightly disconcerting to massive destruction. Grand Forks has the typical eating fares one would expect from a town of its size. The people are friendly, even to outsiders.
Home to the University of North Dakota, Grand Forks has firmly attached itself to the school and its athletic programs. It’s no different from other college towns like Ann Arbor, Bloomington, Madison or Iowa City. While those towns embrace football or basketball, Grand Forks loves its ice hockey – and not just as something to do on a Friday night. It’s the thing to do on a Friday night. Fans pack the Ralph Engelstad Arena, almost all of them clad in green, white or black, and loudly support their favorite team.
It’s early on a Friday night, but the Ralph Engelstad Arena is already rocking. Just minutes before the puck drops at center ice, the lights go down in the arena and the cheering somehow manages to get louder. The players gather in the tunnel and slowly emerge from the shadows as they approach the ice.
The PA announcer bellows from the rafters. “Here come your Fightiiiiiiing Hawks!”
Sigh. It’s just not the same.
With the summer temperatures still going strong, it might not seem like hockey season yet, but here we are. Time to make room on a shelf full of high school and college football for my favorite sport. Without further ado, here’s my 2015-16 college hockey preview.
Just four years ago, the Frozen Four was in Tampa for the first time. This year, it’s back. Last time, Boston College won its fifth national title, its third in five years, and the Eagles are No. 1 to start this season. It may seem like the Eagles are destined to win title No. 6, but that’s not the case. Even though the Eastern schools have been the teams to beat the last few years, winning the last four titles, the west is starting to gain some ground again and that’s where I’ll start off.
When I was a student at the University of North Dakota, the NCAA passed its resolution banning “hostile and abusive” school nicknames. When it happened, I, like many others, was outraged — not because of the name change, but because of the hypocrisy of the organization. Some schools were allowed to keep their logos, mascots and nicknames, while others were not.
Florida State, who has a white guy dress up like a Seminole and run around on a horse with a flaming spear, could keep its name. North Dakota, which doesn’t have a costumed mascot, could not.
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The puck was in his glove and then it was in the net. Just like that, one team took control of the game, while the other was left shaking its heads and wondering what just happened.
Last week’s NCAA National Championship game was something else.
The first weekend of the NCAA Tournament is over and I’m patting myself on the back. I correctly predicted three of the four Frozen Four participants, including upstart Providence making it out of the East Regional. I’m particularly proud of that pick because I had the Friars making it to the Frozen Four back in my preseason predictions. Right now I feel like a smart fellow.
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My favorite time of the year has arrived. The college hockey postseason has been going for two weeks. Now it’s time for the main event, the NCAA Tournament. Before I get into profiling the tournament, here’s a brief look back at my first year in the Division I world.
The world of college hockey has changed a lot in the last couple of years. This season has been unusual, to say the least.
Some things are predictable. North Dakota and Boston University occupy the top two spots in the polls. Others that have gone according to plan are Minnesota State leading the WCHA, Bowling Green starting to become a solid program again and NCHC teams like Miami, Denver and Minnesota-Duluth having good seasons. If I had to make some predictions today, I’d say the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament will go to the Fighting Sioux (until a name is chosen, they will remain the Sioux to me), BU, MSU and Miami. Bowling Green, UMass-Lowell and Duluth could also snatch a number-1 spot.
Some other programs have been surprising. Harvard (Harvard!) is number three in the rankings, arguably the favorite heading into the Beanpot Tournament. The Crimson haven’t won the tournament since 1993 and this is their best chance to end that drought. Other surprises include Union falling from defending national champs to out of the national polls, Penn State(!) leading the Big Ten despite only being a program for three years and Wisconsin having potentially the worst season a major hockey program has ever had. The Badgers are 2-11-1 and were winless until the end of November. To watch a team go from making the NCAA Tournament last year to Big Ten cellar dweller is remarkable.
Perhaps the biggest surprise is the success of Michigan Tech. The Huskies are having a fantastic year, starting 10-0. They were briefly the number-one team in the country. Tech was even featured in the New York Times, so that should tell you how big of the season this has been for the school and for the city of Houghton.
The 2014 college hockey season was interesting, to say the least.
The Big Ten Conference began play, which led some teams to willingly leave an old conference or grudgingly move to a new one. The teams in the NCHC couldn’t wait to get out, while the remaining CCHA teams were forced to say goodbye.
The preseason rankings were a little off. Miami University began as the number-two team in the country and the consensus pick to win the NCHC. They finished last in the conference and missed the NCAA tournament. Michigan was also predicted to make the tourney again, then finished a distant third in the Big Ten. After a 22-year run, the Wolverines have missed the tournament the last two seasons. Things have been a little rough lately in Ann Arbor; at least the hockey team is doing better than the football team.
Finally, there were some surprises in the national tournament.