Very tough ending. In fact it was hard to watch.
I think my one overarching feeling is that Jackson made too big a deal of how his team was so caught up in the bright lights of the big stage of the Hockey Ease semi-finals. With all due respect to a conference tournament semi-final, that was nothing compared to the stage these guys found themselves on this week. When they took the ice last month in the Boston Garden there were perhaps a couple of thousand people in the building and the whole sport was not paying attention. Last night the place was full and the lead up to the game was much more involved than the couple of days of lead-up to Boston.
I think as much as Denver is a dynamite team with more speed than they know what to do with, we played like we were in awe of the moment. Someone posted last night that while they were better than us, we're better than this and I think that is completely true. We played about as bad a first period as I have seen in forever. Then after playing them more evenly in the second period we let one bad shift (and three bad plays, although in fairness to Luke Ripley, sometimes guys fall down, Dello and Petersen absolutely pooped the bed on their third goal) completely unhinge us. While we looked like boys among NHL men in the first period, I was only disappointed in the effort after the third goal. We gave up after that, but DU didn't and quickly scored 2 more goals. It reminded me of the early 90s and games against Michigan.
Next year holds a lot of uncertainty. Unless I have completely missed the mark we will be starting a goalie who has not played a significant NCAA minute (or zero NCAA minutes) and will be missing one of the best players who has laced up skates and put on an ND jersey in the 4 plus decades I have watched hockey at Notre Dame. These guys picked a bad stage to have played so poorly, but I think they had a terrific season and this was a fun edition of the team to watch. I will remember this season for things like the OT win over UML and great games against BC or UMD, or the exciting win at BU. We get too caught up in the post season sometimes to enjoy the 35 games that happen before the first or second weekend of March.
Now if for some goofy reason Bjork and Petersen decide they want an NCAA title as much as they want NHL success, Notre Dame might be a pre-season favorite to win the title next year. I can dream can't I?
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