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About Last Weekend...Why Do We Hate Fun?

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No one is here to argue this isn't an effective defensive strategy
No one is here to argue this isn't an effective defensive strategy
Matt Christians

As metaphors go--and, all due respect to a trophy that neither I nor the players competing for it knew existed, this matters purely on a metaphorical level--this one is a little too neat and on-the-nose, but it happened.

North Dakota was crowned champions of the Taylor Swift 1989 Icebreaker Invitational over Michigan State, Lake Superior, and Maine. North Dakota actually finished the event tied for first place with Michigan State with each team winning one game and tying the other, but North Dakota was given the trophy based on the second tiebreaker for allowing the fewest goals.

That decision, much like a bank making people crawl for money, is an idea that makes sense at face value, but becomes horrifying the closer you look at it.  What that basically says is that North Dakota's 1-1 tie against Maine was better than Michigan State's 3-3 tie against Maine, and that is ridiculous. A 3-3 tie is infinitely better because at least there is some entertaining back-and-forth in the game. At least something happened. Sitting through a 1-1 tie is just slightly more entertaining than being kicked in the balls, only because at least there was the possibility that something fun could have happened. It should never be rewarded in any way, shape or form.*

*****

So my 'unwatchable garbage' comment from Saturday night drew a range of reactions from "Nuh uh"(Omaha fans exclusively) to "Yeah, that reminds of insert-game-here that I saw"(everybody else). Just so we're all clear on exactly what happened: a team scored a goal twelve(12) minutes into a 60-minute game, at which point a)they decided that was probably enough offense to win the game and b)they were absolutely correct in that estimation. I don't particularly care about the first half. Teams can play however they want, and clearly that strategy works. But the fact that the second half is so often true is a major, major problem for college hockey.

Can you imagine watching an NFL game where a team scored a touchdown in the first quarter of a game, then decided they were going to take three knees and punt for the rest of the game? And then they ended up winning? The league's rules would be different by Tuesday because no one wants to watch that.

It also speaks to the hyper-partisanship of college hockey fans--which stems, no coincidence, from that fact that it's extremely difficult to sit through a game without a vested interest in one team--that so many people took that as a critique of Omaha directly and not the way almost every college hockey team plays. How many Minnesota fans do you think felt they got their $60 worth last Saturday watching their team skate through the World War I-style trench Vermont dug at their own blue line over and over again once Vermont got a 1-0 lead?

The one upside of nobody scoring any goals is that anyone can do it. Arizona State was outshot and generally outplayed in both games in Alaska last weekend, but rode the wave of random variance to a low-scoring overtime loss to Anchorage on Friday and their first ever Division I win with a late goal on Saturday night to beat Fairbanks 2-1. I still don't think either Alaska team is going to be very good this year, but it's a very promising result for the Sun Devils. There are likely going to be nights still where things don't go in their favor and the results look pretty lopsided, but if they can keep things ugly and low-scoring enough, they should pick up enough bounces to reach an acceptable, perhaps even promising, amount of wins.

*Though as was pointed out to me, there is a certain cosmic irony in seeing Michigan State as the team punished for scoring too many goals.

Other Weekend Results That Don't Particularly Fit Into The Greater Narrative

-After a summer spent snarking that Providence wouldn't have beaten Miami in the NCAA tournament if they had to play at Miami, Providence went to Oxford and got a win and a tie in a two-game series over (an admittedly very different looking) Miami. The Friars, four virtual home games at the most opportune time aside, were kind of a disappointment last year; a team projected to win Hockey East that didn't finish the regular season in the 25% of the country. This year, perhaps bolstered by the confidence of last season's ending, perhaps just because they're a pretty talented team, the Friars might be a little more formidable in the regular season

-It was not a good start to the season for the WCHA, summed up no better than the fact that the conference played weekend series against Arizona State and Wisconsin and came out of that with a .500 record. There were a couple positives, namely Bowling Green taking care of business against Ohio State and Bemidji State pulling out a nice win over Minnesota Duluth. But disappointing results from the bottom of the conference makes it look like it is going to be very difficult for the league to get three teams into the NCAA tournament this year, especially with one of the likely candidates in Minnesota State digging themselves in an early hole.

-It was an equally bad start for the Big Ten, which started the season with a 2-3-3 record with wins over Lake Superior State and Canisius. There are still a lot of non-conference games left, more than everybody else due to the Big Ten's schedule, but so far, things are pretty much as expected. As we drew closer to the season, I became more and more convinced that Michigan State might be pretty decent this season. Their win and tie at the Icebreaker didn't exactly confirm that suspicion, but it didn't immediately disprove it either, which is something, I guess.

-Of all the upsets last weekend, Air Force knocked off Denver in what looked like an honest-to-goodness actual hockey game instead of re-enacting World War I's Battle of They Were All Pretty Much the Same Battle. Given my experience, I'm strongly inclined to believe that was a fluke of circumstance more than anything though.