Last night, I went to Verizon Wireless Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire for the first time in a year and a half. It’s a beautiful venue that seems brand new, but that’s beside the point. All that mattered to me was the previous games I experienced there, namely one of them. It was pretty cool to think that I had seen Matt Bartkowski (current P-Bruin and former Ohio State Buckeye) play there before in the first round of the 2009 NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament against BU, but it was the second game BU played there that went down in history for the Terriers and infamy for the UNH Wildcats.
What happened in the last minute of that game doesn’t happen often. Or maybe it does, and people just ignore it because in history, it’s the winner that writes the story, not the loser. Either way though, my sympathy for the Wildcats almost matched the joy I had for the Terriers in taking the game and heading to Washington, D.C. for the Frozen Four.
Though BU was the #1 Ranked team for much of that season, it had its fair share of lucky bounces. One was in this game, and the championship-winning goal was one of those lucky plays you like to credit to preparation too. In this game, one UNH skater was in the right place at the right time and still accidentally eliminated his team from title contention.
I won’t single him out, in part because anyone who needs to know who he is already does, and part because I’m not trying to trash his abilities or his hockey instincts. Unfortunately though, hiding his name doesn’t hide the result of the play: the game-winning goal for BU in a 2-1 final.
With the game tied at 1, the Terriers had a 2-on-1 in the offensive zone. This forward sped all the way back toward the crease, and left his feet to block the open space the goalie left by anticipating a shot. Instead, it was a pass directly in front of the blue semi-circle, headed toward the navy blue glove of the forward.
It didn’t take a physicist to figure out the puck would redirect straight into the goal if it collided with the side of his fist. Had the glove been a bit earlier, it could have sent the puck back where it came from. Had it been a bit later, it may not have had an effect on the pass at all. It was a split-second decision which was the RIGHT decision, and it still led to a negative outcome for the hardest hustler on that play.
This is an example of life’s unfairness; you can do everything right and things still might not go your way. Although some people watch sports because of the positives they bring to general life stories– how underdogs can thrive, how a team of people drastically different from each other can unite, how what may seem impossible is only a gust of effort and luck away from being done– you still can’t always escape the bad. I won’t say that this skater was as heroic as King Leonidas or as doomed as Hamlet, but I still feel bad for the guy. After all, athletes aren’t as different from others as you might expect.
Remember that I felt almost as bad for this player as I did good for BU, so it was a happy return. It was also one that taught me that lesson, however.
(By the way, there actually is a connection to Minor League Baseball here. The Manchester Monarchs broadcaster, Ken Cail, also calls the games for the Lowell Spinners. I met Ken over the summer, and it was great to see him again.)
P.S./S.P. (Shameless Plug): The P-Bruins won, and I wrote the press release about it, my first published work with them.
Have you ever felt bad for your teams’ opponent? I’d love to know what the situation was. Feel free to share with a comment, or by emailing me. I’m considering making a post about some of the similar circumstances my readers have been in. Thanks again for reading.
If you enjoyed this blog post, check out the other, “From Minor League Baseball to… Minor League Hockey” posts I’ve written so far: