Monday, March 23, 2015

Three more thoughts on the Final Five

There's so much focus on the Pairwise Rankings and the NCAA tournament, that we quickly move past the conference tournaments almost before they end. It was a great weekend of hockey in St. Paul over the weekend, so before I continue on to all the national-tournament coverage, I want to take another look back at the Final Five.

1. 'Hi, I'm Brad (don't call me Troy) McClure': Once Brad McClure started scoring goals on Friday night, the Simpsons references were being thrown out fast and furious in the Xcel Energy Center press box. (It's funny how much sportswriters think alike. Can't put many Simpsons or Seinfeld quotes past us nerds!) From now on, though, McClure will be able to say, "You may remember me from such performances as the 2015 Final Five." Five goals, one assist and some of the most joyful cellies ever. So much has been made of the Mavericks' depth, but it is impressive that they were able to do what they did last weekend, hanging eight goals on two of the best goalies in college hockey, without getting points from Matt Leitner or Bryce Gervais (empty-netter on Friday). And as I pointed out on Twitter last night, McClure now has 29 points, the same number Leitner finished with as a freshman. The last rookie to get 30+ points was David Backes, who had 37 in 2003-04.

2. Attendance and atmosphere: Everybody knew the days of the old Final Five and its sellout crowds are long gone. And there was a lot of fear as to what was to come after seeing those awful pictures from the first games of the Big Ten tournament at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit. But things weren't bad at the X at all. In fact, Saturday night's championship-game crowd of 8,204 was an energetic and enthusiastic group. It sure seemed like there were a lot of Mankato folks there. Having the bands of all four teams over the weekend added to the atmosphere. The Maverick Machine (MSU's pep band) certainly held its own and probably learned a thing or two from Michigan Tech's band and students, who have been doing it the right way for years. The Final Five moves back to Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich., next year and comes back to the X in 2017.

3. Tough breaks for Ferris State, Bowling Green: It's always a little sad to see a player who doesn't want to take off his uniform for the last time. That was C.J. Motte, the great Ferris State goaltender on Friday night after the Mavericks shut out the Bulldogs and ended their season. Motte went to the press conference with a lot of his gear still on. "At the end (of the season) we were trying to make a push to get home ice, so I haven't had too much time to look back," he said. "But I'm going to miss it." As for Bowling Green, the Falcons were the first team out of the NCAA tournament, falling to 16th in the Pairwise at the end of the weekend despite having one of their finest seasons in years. Coach Chris Bergeron saw the writing on the wall after Friday's loss to Michigan Tech, saying, "It doesn't look as positive as we wanted. But we did that to ourselves."

Deep thought: Minnesota State defenseman Brett Stern, who had two assists and was +2 for the tournament, was named to the Final Five all-tournament team for the second year in a row.

1 comment:

jeff_williams said...

Same thing was happening in the stands. "I'm Brad McClure and you may remember me from such things as Yesterday's Two Goal Game."