Vegas, baby. ManchVegas.
My pictures from Sunday's Regional Final between Boston University and University of New Hampshire is severely disappointing. Since there's only one game to be played, there's not a lot of time to dick around and snap photos and since college hockey fans are generally more discriminating, there's not much, if anything, in the way of jersey fouls to be seen through the arena.
Thankfully whenever I make a trip, odd things or people seem to just appear in front of me or around me so I can fill in the blanks with something truly bizarre or amazing or just completely out of left field.
Yeah, I know, the Department of Redundancy Department would like to pay me a visit.
Since the pictures aren't as fun, here's cartoon Bill Cosby.
Pregame time, I mill about on the concourse behind the goal chatting it up with friends and fans alike, picking up some souvenir swag as well since, truly, this was already a memorable weekend given what went down in the UNH-UND game the day before. I also had a really good feeling about this game between BU and UNH.
These teams know each other inside and out, they've played each other enough this year and now this game was for all the marbles, to go to Washington, D.C. and have a shot at the National Championship and to make it even more intense, the game is set in New Hampshire 30 minutes from the UNH campus and 45 minutes from Boston.
The BU fans I spoke with were a bit nervous but mostly at ease feeling confident about their team and why not? They were the only #1 seed to survive the first round of the tournament and did so convincingly over Ohio State. Facing off with an opponent in UNH that they were familiar with helped them with figuring out where they matchup with them and that seemed to sit well with many of the BU fans.
UNH fans, however, were nervous. Really, really nervous. Their team won an epic overtime game the day before and were poised to have a true home ice advantage against BU. Fate was shining down on all the underdogs elsewhere in the tournament with Vermont and Miami-Ohio already punching their tickets to D.C. the night before.
But still, the nerves of anticipation of the game, the nerves that come with worrying about what team will show up that day and the nerves of knowing that a shot at the Frozen Four wear on some fans, and that's certainly the case with many UNH fans.
The game: Beautiful.
BU dominated the latter part of the first period and were rewarded for their efforts as Corey Trivino put away a rebound to give BU the lead 1-0 after one period.
UNH flipped the script in the second and really outplayed BU, especially after getting the crowd back in the game with Bobby Butler's tying goal early in the period. UNH rode the momentum swing through the rest of the period and on into the third.
Through all this I noticed the man sitting to the left of me, who I had apparently scared off on Saturday instantly by texting updates to Twitter, has stuck around for the entirety of the day. I figure the larger crowd made him stay locked into the seat he bought. How nice.
He was a quiet man and I could best describe as looking like a stereotypical townie. Any of you who have been to college are drawing the best picture possible in your head and it probably fits.
I really don't want to put the guy down too much but there was something about the guy that I found odd as the puck was dropped for the game. He reached into his pocket and pulled out something.
Not a camera.
Not a phone.
Now I've had friends and acquaintances in high school and through college that liked to dip. That was their thing and "it sure beat smoking."
Seeing it go down like that right there though totally threw me for a loop, a curveball of epic proportion. Those not familiar with chaw, well, you gotta spit when you do it.
So rather than spit on the floor and ruin everything around you, you spit into a bottle and call it a day and make sure to not spill it or, God forbid, end up mistaking it for a soda later in the day.
This guy did have a ritual though, something I was able to figure out easily and not because I was obsessed with him or looking to rat the guy out to security (Remember, "Live Free Or Die!") but he wasn't exactly hiding that he was dipping during the game. At the conclusion of each period, the dippin' was done and had to be disposed of.
Right under his chair.
Don't have a spittoon? Under the chair will work fine.
Once the period kicked off, in went a new wad and he was quiet and happy. Hey, rock on man - it's still fucking gross.
The third period was played in epic fashion. Scoring chances up and down the ice. BU started the third period on a power play and UNH compounded the problems by getting hit for another penalty shortly after the previous one expired. Then BU gets hit with a penalty. Fair trade.
Time winds down and the pressure to get one before time expires and potentially avoid what would be a legendary overtime amps up. Big time.
UNH trades chances with BU. BU finally establishes pressure in the UNH end and we're under a minute to play when a BU forward gets room and an open lane towards the net. UNH defenders appear to do a great job to chop the puck off his stick and the BU player hits the ice.
The referee's arm goes up. Play stops and there's a penalty against UNH with 45 seconds left in regulation.
James van Riemsdyk gets sent off for hooking. van Riemsdyk is UNH's big gun forward, a first round draft pick of the Philadelphia Flyers and just like that, he's gone for hooking. What I couldn't see from my seat was the hook and instantly thought that the officials had blown the call.
I felt crushed. This game was bordering on an instant classic and had it reached overtime... Its legendary status would've been solidified.
Instead? The inevitable.
UNH was flustered by the call and BU smelled blood. BU squeezed in on the goal closer and closer while UNH's penalty kill unit desperately tried to keep the puck from even reaching the net - so much so that BU's Jason Lawrence was able to throw the puck off of a sprawled out defender and into the goal at 19:45 of the third period and the game-winning goal.
Someone cue up Jim McKay on the Wide World of Sports.
After the game, I met up with my UNH pals and grumbled about what we thought was a ticky-tack penalty at the end of an epic game, myself having to play it off that they were ECAC officials that have been doing that sort of thing all season long. I felt deflated and just worn out by having a game end like that. Of course, after I returned home and watched a replay of the play I felt better, even relieved, to see that van Riemsdyk did indeed hook the BU attacker on the play... I just had a terrible angle to see it happen.
Crisis averted. Well, hockey crisis anyhow - another of my travelling moments, like getting the rough introduction to Chaw Man awaited me.
I parted ways with my friends and wished them well until the Frozen Four when I'd be seeing them all again and decided to heed nature's call before the long, rainy drive home. Upon entering the bathroom in the lobby I realize that its well after the game is over and its empty aside from the pair of feet sticking out from under the stall and the loud grunts coming from said stall.
Now, we've all had moments in our own privacy when sometimes nature doesn't want to cooperate and there's some trouble in letting things happen and far be it from me to get freaked out by someone trying to hurry up and get off the commode.
This was not one of those times. You see, the feet in the stall were facing the wrong direction for this to be the case when more fiber in the diet might be helpful. This... was something different. These weren't grunts of discomfort, they were grunts of another kind. The kind of grunts that make someone think twice about spending any more time in the bathroom than you've already spent in there and need to get the hell out of there as soon as possible.
And you better believe that I did. I figured that holding it in until I was safely away from the Verizon Wireless Center would be best and I really don't even want to know what may have been going on in there but the fact that I saw only one pair of feet sends a chill down my spine.
I guess some folks have different ways to celebrate a win - and that's not really the way I figured I would ever celebrate my team's big victory. Beers with friends, shots until I black out, backflips into a snowbank... Any of those things would've come to mind instantly.
But that though...
Only in Vegas, baby.
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