UND HOCKEY: Pinto Pots Lone Goal in 1-0 Win

GRAND FORKS, ND– After a two-week road trip, the University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks came back to Ralph Engelstad Arena for NCHC action against the Colorado College Tigers. Though UND held possession for most of the game, the puck didn’t bounce their way to the back of the net much, as UND took game one of the weekend 1-0. Peter Thome made 25 saves in his second shutout of his college career. 

“It feels pretty good, it’s always good in a tight game like that,” Thome mentioned post-game. The guys played hard for me in front, really stifled them. Didn’t give them too many Grade-A chance.” 

The first period possessionally was dominated by North Dakota, as they kept a lot of pressure on Matt Vernon and the Colorado College defense. However, the son of Mike Vernon was able to keep the shots at bay, with some desperation saves while getting a little help from his defensemen. While UND did have some issues trying to get the puck through the neutral zone, but some adjustments helped them correct that as the period went along. 

Colorado College picked up their pace offensively in the second with 12 shots on Peter Thome, and though he fought a couple off, the junior goalie stayed strong to keep the game tied through two. UND did have some chances, but couldn’t get too many quality shots against the freshman goalie of Colorado College. 

“His old man was a pretty good goalie,” Berry said of Matt Vernon’s father. “I thought he played very well tonight. When we did get pucks to the net, he was on them, he was focused. He was seeing the puck tonight, which says a lot about a freshman goalie.” 

Both teams were cautious to start the third, but the intensity started to pick up in the middle of the frame, resulting in Colorado College taking a tripping penalty for tripping up Shane Pinto. Pinto made them pay, as he put home a rebound off the back boards into a wide-open net. The initial shot from Westin Michaud was trying to beat Vernon near corner, but the miss turned into an assist for the graduate transfer. The goal stood as the only one for either side, as UND gets their 20th win of the season. 


“You know, it runs through your mind a little bit. [Coach Berry] told me Monday that I was going tonight, so I had all week to prepare. That runs throughout your mind through the week, but as you get older you get more mature and figure out how to address those thoughts and prepare the right way.” — Peter Thome on maybe not getting the chance he’s getting now as a starter. 

“You can tell on the bench he was getting frustrated. I think one of those will go in. I tried to keep him calm, on the bench he gets a little rattled. He was good tonight, I don’t think he was too rattled. He had a lot of good shots, so I think one will go in tomorrow.”– Pinto on Michaud facing off against his old school.

“You can tell he really wanted one tonight. He gave himself a chance to score, he was in and around the net. He made a couple plays. I got to commend him for his focus. Sometimes in a game like that, you might get unraveled. I didn’t think he got unraveled. He did a good job of keeping the game in front of him and having a high professionalism about him.”– Berry on Michaud facing his old team. 

“I can’t say enough good things about Karl [Goehring]. It’s pretty special in college you get to work with an NHL level goalie coach and not just once or twice a week; he’s at the rink and spends all day here. He’s always pushing me, during that stretch in the first half where obviously I didn’t play, we had a few conversations where frustration may have been getting to me a little bit and he said, ‘Hey, no. Absolutely not. You gotta be a man and got to put on your work boots every day and prepare for your opportunity because one is going to come.’”– Thome of UND assistant coach Karl Goehring

Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 018


It’s a revenge weekend for the Black Bears after going to Jamestown last weekend and getting swept. You’d also have to think they are also wanting to break their seven-game skid. Probably more frustrating is five of those seven losses have been by one-goal. With new faces in the line-up, the Black Bears are looking to make a seismic shift to their season going for a playoff push.

TEAM MARYLAND (18-18-3) vs. NEW JERSEY 87s

Another revenge game for a team at Piney Orchard, this one is Team Maryland– who lost to New Jersey a week ago at Piney Orchard 3-2. With plenty to stew about and knowing their opponents properly, TM will need to made a few adjustment and limit the shot total from New Jersey in order to reverse their fortune this week.


After an underwhelming weekend, the Mustangs are looking to get back on the winning track with two games in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area. While they have beaten King’s this year, Wilkes gave the Mustangs their first defeat of the season, something I’m sure Dominick Dawes’ crew would want to get back in a big way. A key to that will be the consistency of the power play, which has gone 2-for-16 in their last three games.


With a sweep last week, the Mustangs got back to the .500 mark as they head into the final month of the regular season. Consistency is going to be key for the Mustangs, as they try to put together their first three-game win streak since November.


In their penultimate weekend of the season, Navy will have their last in-state turn-up before the Crabpot at the end of the month with a team who hasn’t been as stellar as they hoped in Towson. Though, Navy’s road record pales in comparison to their home record, which could be an equalizer. However, they have beaten Villanova before the semester break– which could mean a tougher task for the Middies


A big win to start the short semester, Navy’s D2 team has a big task in front of them with three-in-three against a very solid George Washington squad and two against D3’s The Citadel. With scoring sometimes at a premium for the Mids, they’ll need to rely heavy on a transition game against GWU, while The Citadel will try to strangle the Mids defensively.


The Tigers have only scored five goals in the last five games, which isn’t ideal when their goaltenders are getting pummeled with shots. Two tough tasks this weekend follow, which could make this season to forget even more forgettable– or they could play a spoiler for both these squads as we get to the end of the year.


It’s been a rough year for the Tigers, but they’ll start off their second semester with the team they defeated in their first game of the year– which has been their only win in two years. Being well-rested will help, though there could be a little rink rust in the early going.


With a tough OT loss at Villanova, the Greyhounds look to rebound and keep challenging the Terps for top spot of the DVCHC South Division. They’ll be taking on a team who has been winless this year, which could be a path back to the win column or a trap game against an underappreciated opponent.


After a tough weekend in New Jersey to start the semester, the Terps face the #1 team in D2. With the absence of Chris Bouchard, Evan Yamaguchi was the only goal-scorer of last weekend. They’ll need a full effort from everyone on the roster in order to keep up with the top team in D2.


In their second to last game, the Terps will go to West Chester to get back on the right path while prepping for the playoff possibility. The biggest thing will be if the offensive continues to be as dominant as they have been in the first semester.

Now Hear Me Out: Beer League Ducks

Disney-Plus is going to put together a series called “The Mighty Ducks” with news breaking yesterday that Emilio Estevez is playing Gordon Bombay. The plot is a 13-year-old getting booted of a Junior Mighty Ducks team and his mother helping form another team– almost akin to the first movie. That’s all well and good, but it’s be done.

So…now…hear me out: The Mighty Ducks are back, but as beer leaguers and it’s on the FX Network since Disney owns FX.

Sure, the story of Shaun “Goldberg” Weiss being busted for burglary while possibly under the influence of meth; it’s something I think would be fantastic for the fans of the Mighty Ducks who have now grown up and moved on with their lives.

Just think of it– Charlie Conway trying to still relive his glory of the Junior Goodwill Games and not being able to commit to a relationship; Adam Banks coming back to play, but thanks to where he moves– he has to go to a different team; Russ Tyler going off to Hollywood, but coming back to hang out in cameos every now and again. It’s something that could blend “It’s Always Sunny…” with original tropes of the movies. It does what “The Beer League” never got a chance to do– air on TV.

Plus, the nostalgia is real. People are hyped about this, some of the cast got together last year for a reunion, it’s something that’d be great to see how they grew up– rather than hashing out another thing like the movie. I mean, it’s not like Disney would have a bad ending for it; so why not go the opposite route and make it appeal to the generation that grew up on it?? Yes, Disney-Plus could still have their version, but why not throw a bone to the old-timers in this.

Also, let’s not kid ourselves– outside of Kenan Thompson and Josh Jackson; I’m sure those actors would love to have a prominent role like this again and have people geeked up to see it. Sadly, I doubt it’d ever happen (much like my idea of a dark comedy seeing Charlie Conway in the Coach Bombay role), but maybe one day…in another timeline.

TEPID TAKE: All-Star Takeaways

Was the gap between the All-Star Game and regular season always that short?? I mean, day off and boom– we’re back. Anyway, the annual shinny game took place in St. Louis on Saturday night, following the skills competition on Friday. Boy, there were somethings.

SEND THE VIDEO BOARDS AND TRACKING SOFTWARE BACK TO R&D: It was bound to happen sooner or later, sure– but the fact that there was so much stuttering with the technology during the three-on-three, I can only imagine what’ll happen when the serious games happen. The New Amsterdam bottle cruising along the boards looked like a PSone loading screen, while the tracking system could be come a bit of a clusterfuck when everyone comes together. I like the idea of the player tracking, but for things like average speed, top acceleration, time with puck– the stuff that is better saved for a break in action and not in real time. Hopefully, there’s going to be some fine tuning before the full roll-out on the playoffs.

THE WOMEN’S GAME WAS A NICE BONUS: The exhibition between the US and Canadian women in the 3-on-3 Challenge was pretty dang good. It’s something that should be covered more with the PWHPA tour and be a reason why NWHL games are on a network as well as Twitch. Of course, the game was not without it’s interesting takes from the Sportsnet broadcast which made the NWHL have a retort— but it is what it is. Was this a first step in the NHL getting their own league?? According to past situations– they’ve said they won’t try if there’s already a viable league running— but you never know what tomorrow would bring.

TOP GOLF HOCKEY WAS MEH: Like some others, I was intrigued by the Shooting Stars Challenge. Then it happened. Again– concept was there, execution could have used some fine tuning. Many people comparing it to Top Golf is pretty much spot-on and putting the biggest points almost closest to the platform kind of killed the strategy because everyone was aiming for it. But, it was a fresh idea. Not the goalie races or end-to-end shooting we’ve seen in the past, but something fresh.

ST. LOUIS DID THE LEGENDS RIGHT: Al MacInnis with the hardest shot, Bernie Federko with the accuracy passing, Brett Hull with the Top Puck and being Brett Hull, Wayne Gretzky’s contractually obligated appearance– the Blues did it right for their legends and blending the old and new schools. It’s been a banner year for the Blues– literally– and they continue to put forth the effort to make sure their history isn’t forgotten.

BRING BACK BREAKABLE TARGETS: Those screens for the accuracy shooting were garbage. Honestly– I get they don’t want to be wasteful, but the whole moment was ruined with the lack of shattering plates or styrofoam or whatever. It just didn’t have the same pizzazz and probably wasn’t as responsive in some cases. Technology is great, being resourceful is great, but figured out a way to have physical things explode on the target shooting.

Clutch N’ Crab Hockey Weekend Preview 017


It’s a crucial weekend for the Black Bears, as they try to snap their five-game losing skid, as well as pick up important points against the Rebels, who they’ll play four times in the next two weekends. While the losses have been close ones, the chance is now for the Black Bears to turn up the heat and learn how they are at facing adversity. With new acquisition Jack Smiley in town, it’ll be interesting to see what dynamic be brings to the Black Bears line-up moving forward.

TEAM MARYLAND (18-17-3) vs. NEW JERSEY 87s

After two big wins against North Carolina, TM is back at it for a single game this week, trying to avenge a sweep they suffered in New Jersey in mid-December. They will be without the services of Jay de Ruiter, who will be representing the Netherlands as alternate captain in the Division II World Junior Championship in Korea. Playing against the top team in the Mid-Atlantic Conference will be a real test for TM as they look ahead for a playoff berth.


After a weekend sweep last week, the Mustangs look back in the right track and just below the top-ten in the national rankings. With Ryan Kenny being dominant in net as a freshman and the special teams being solid– 32.5% PP and 83% PK– the Mustangs and hoping to improve as they get to the last weeks of the season and hope to get into the National tournament.


It’s been a roller coaster season for the women of Stevenson, with not much consistency in their play all season. With a week of team-building and a weekend on the road; the women will look to get back on their winning side against a team in King’s that they’ve handily beat earlier this year and Wilkes, whom they are facing for the first time.


While I don’t know the logo of the college they’re playing, the Mustangs club team will be honoring their first team, as the seniors are being honored this weekend. As they’ve seen the team grow, they’ve seen the growth of the team culminate in their final year. As the team starts to really roll in the end, they hope to end it for a high note for their fans and as they roll into the playoffs.


After a sweep of the weekend, the Middies look to continue to pad their lead in the ECHA standings in hopes of putting themselves in a great position for the playoffs. With the combo of Joe Kelly and Conner Hyden clicking so far after the semester break, Navy is hoping they can keep the balanced attack going as they start the home-stretch of the season.


It is not the year the D2 Middies have hoped for, but they can still save face in the last few games of the year. Kevin Harris has been great on the offensive side of the puck, though the defense has kind of left Skippy Sheldon out in the lurch for the better part of the season.


With a big sweep last week, the Midshipwomen will take on two big tasks in three games. Liberty is one of the top teams int he ACHA, while Michigan State took them to the limit in Navy’s trip up north earlier in the year. Maggie Madigan, Devin Marshall, and Rose Gasper will need to really be on their two-way game to be successful this weekend.


Going one for three last week wasn’t bad for the Tigers, who have had a less than stellar season. Jacob Snyder was a stud facing over 150 shots in the three games and got quite the workout in. With two tough tasks ahead of them, the biggest thing is survival and saving face as the season stgarts to wind down.


With Chris Bouchard gone, the weight of the scoring will fall to Liam Eden for the Terps. While there’s only a few games remaining, the task at hand will be to let get some momentum at the end of the season and see who takes over the reigns as the offensive dynamo going into next season.


In their first games back, the Greyhounds will look to build off the first half success, especially with the four-game win streak they are on. With only one game in the weekend, they should be able to push themselves hard enough to get back into game speed, but also adapt to the play of ‘Nova as the game goes on.

Things That Need To Happen: Mascot Royal Rumble

It’s NHL All-Star Weekend in St. Louis, which means that as a part of it– the NHL Mascot Showdown is going on at the FanFest. It’s an annual thing and something for the kids and mascot connoisseurs alike. But it’s also WWE Royal Rumble weekend…and the two seem to intersect all the time.

So…why not combine the two??

My partner-in-crime Jen Conway (aka NHL History Girl) is all for this kind of thing because…well, what’s better than doofy mascots duking it out in an over-the-top winner-takes-all kind of format?? Not much, I can say that. Plus, it’s something that’s a little bit far from the norm when it comes to these kinds of things…which is why the NHL won’t go for it.

Granted, there’s been times where the mascots have taken pratfalls and it came off as cute and endearing. Then, there’s times teams have try to pull this off and then got a little bit of heat from it due to the “violence” factor. Sadly, that last part in this world of knee-jerk reactions will be the reason we can’t have the mascots duel in a over-the-top rope show.

Yet, think about it– who would be the one who could come out on top?? Right off the hop, you have to think in wrestling terms– the bigger they are, the harder they are to get out. Right there– Carlton the Bear, IceBurgh, Stormy, Stinger, Victor E. Green, and Gritty would be the top picks due to their bulk. That said, leaner mascots could have an endurance factor like Howler, Stanley C. Panther, Blades, Bailey, and Tommy Hawk. Then there’s the intimidation factor of Hunter and Gnash just to be tenacious.

The downside would be the mascots will the gimmicks and things to hold onto since it’s no-holds barred. Sparky, Moose, and Slapshot have wings, antlers, and feathers respectively, so they’d have a lot more area to be latched onto and thrown over– though the Moose could use those to ram people with. Then there’s Al, who would be great due to the low center of gravity, but Al doesn’t actually exist in mascot form. And let’s not forget Harvey the Hound’s tongue, which Craig MacTavish defeated many years ago.

Objectively, Youppi! would probably be my pick. Youppi! has the size, is somewhat agile, and has been able to overcome the most dire of situations like the Loria family moving Youppi!’s actual team to DC– leaving the orange furball abandoned until the Canadiens picked him and the rest of the Expos legacy up off the ground.

There’s probably a thousand reasons I’m wrong, but we’ll never know until it actually happens. We’d be able to see who the jobber is, who’s getting a big push from the league, and we’d all question, “Who’s booking this shit??” when it all goes sideways at the end.



It’s a crunch-time weekend for the Black Bears. While they do sit comfortably in fourth in the East Division, losses in their last three isn’t something they want to have as we’re in the second half of the season. Granted, they did muster some points in those games, but losses are losses. Heading into a rivalry weekend, you’d have to think head coach Clint Mylymok has this team motivation to get a road win or two and help their playoff push a little more.


As they try to right the ship fully, Team Maryland is looking to have a strong run to the playoffs against the bottom team in the Mid-Atlantic Conference. After a decent showing at the last Showcase, TM will have home-ice the rest of the regular season– which should be a help mentally in order to not have to worry too much about traveling the rest of the way. Now it’s a matter of keeping the puck out of the net, which has been a bit of a problem, even in the wins.


While it’s still early, the Mustangs are facing some adversity. After an eight-game win streak, Stevenson has dropped their last two and go on the road hoping to change their fortune. It’s going to test the guile of freshman Ryan Kenny, who has been stellar in his breakout season otherwise. Luke Benitez has been tremendous in his sophomore season, using his size in front of the net and along the boards to create space for himself.


With a big win in their 2020 opener, the Mustangs have had a bit of a hiccup after a quick start to the season. The well-rounded nature of this team has been taking form and should help carry this team further. As Nikki Kendrick and Annie Smyth-Hammond leading the way, it’ll be a good example for the rest of the young squad for the rest of the season.


Back somewhat healthy, the Mustangs club side got off to a solid start– even in a loss– to Delaware. With only six games left, the Mustangs will need to dig deep to get a winning season and go strong into the Crabpot Tournament and the playoffs for them. With a couple weeks left, the Mustangs and go all out this weekend at home and then rest up for a time after that.


After an almost two month layoff, the Middies are back in action on the road. It’ll be interesting to see how this team plays very rested up, but possibly with some rust in game-play situations. Hopefully the rest will help their road play, as they are just above .500 and have scored 14 less goals on the road than at home.


Another Navy team with a long layoff, but the ladies are back at McMullen looking to get on the winning trail. With a few games left, all at home, the women will bare down as they go in to the College Hockey East playoff role and will inevitably face Liberty at some point if they want to win a title.


The Tigers will try to salvage an otherwise disappointing season as they’ll play at home most of the rest of the schedule. While Jacob Snyder’s .914 save percentage has been impressive for a team that gives up an average of 4.95 goals a game. The lack of offense– with the exception of Ryan Dieter, Matt Barilla, and Costa Pizanis– really has hampered the team and hopefully will be adjusted in the second half for momentum to next year.

Coming June 2021– 3ICE

From 3ice.com

It was announced that a Canadian 3-on-3 summer hockey league, 3ICE, is going to be starting in June 2021 and will have a solid TV deal. TSN and RDS picked up the rights for it on the Canadian side, while CBS Sports Network will be broadcasting the championship game.

Now, this is not unique to summer hockey, as the 3HL is a thing and we all know about Da Beauty League (and my thoughts on that thing). The difference here, is that it’ll be a traveling show and it’ll be on TV. With nine stops and a tournament every stop– that’s a nice cure for people who don’t own a calendar and don’t know when it’s October.

It’s a smart move by TSN, who don’t have much coverage of things in the summer time, as it’ll help draw people to watch 3-on-3 hockey. The interesting play is CBS Sports Network getting in on it, but only doing the championship game– whatever that might entail. Of course, CBSSN is known for broadcasting college hockey, so they have the talent to call and analyze games, but why not go through the whole summer?? I don’t know how many pressing shows that CBSSN actually has that they couldn’t go through with it, but that’s neither here nor there, I suppose– it’s getting on US TV, so huzzah for that.

What’s going to be interesting is to see who comes out for these teams in terms of name recognition. You’d have to think that 3ICE would want to go ahead and get some recognizable names to move tickets and get people excited about watching it– which would mean trying to pluck from the Da Beauty League, as the 3HL runs in the fall through spring. Can it make some noise?? Sure, it’s hockey in Canada on Canadian TV– people will watch out of curiousity. The big thing is that if it was regularly broadcasted on US TV, what impact to the fans would it have?? Again, hockey people will watch if the timing is right, but who knows what kind of staying power it’ll produce.

Luckily, the rules are simple, there’s tournaments every tour stop, and it could produce a new folk hero or let people relive their days playing pond hockey…but in the summer. It’s going to be a faster game, a quicker game, and something that’ll keep the most short-attention spanned interesting…or that’s the hope.

One of the more interesting things is the timing of it, which could help its cause. The fact we’re still 18-months away allows the league to actually build hype for it, plot it out effectively so that it will have a model that works in terms of profitability for the league, players, and such; as well as not rushing to the ice like some other places would have when it comes to a new idea and hurrying it to market before it’s fully developed. Though people may forget about it because of time, it’s now up to the marketing team at 3ICE to show their moxie and make sure that people keep it in the back of their mind. With a place like TSN behind them, it’ll be easy above the 49th Parallel; it’ll be attracting US hockey fans to it that might be a little harder without a constant TV presence.

Ottawa, North Dakota, and Going Pro

The Ottawa Senators seemingly trust the process that the University of North Dakota has with prospects. They’ve selected three in the NHL Draft that were committed to the school in the past two drafts– Jacob Bernard-Docker, Jonny Tychonick, and Shane Pinto. The question is now will they let those players see the process develop for more than half their term there.

A report out of the area had said the Senators were pushing hard to help the OHL’s Ottawa 67s gain the rights to Pinto in order to sign him to an entry-level deal; thus taking the freshman forward out of the UND pipeline. This comes after Pinto had an impressive World Junior tournament with four goals and seven points in five games for the US squad. After Saturday’s game, however, Pinto vehemently denied anything of the sort ever happening; proving the Ottawa media wants to get people to hope that he’d come to speed up the rebuild process.

While there hasn’t been a lot of noise made about Bernard-Docker, you’d have to think that Ottawa would want him to leave school after this season, considering his low-key breakout at the same World Juniors, playing more than any other Canadian during the tournament. Though, there might be a double-standard with bringing a defenseman out early and how much it takes for them to truly adjust to the professional game.

Ottawa is a rebuilding team and while they may like the way that UND is able to produce NHL, they probably also want to really get the players as their blossoming in their career. The Pinto situation seems familiar to the Tyson Jost/Avalanche situation, with Jost leaving after his freshman season at UND, with many saying Colorado was pretty adamant about Jost leaving after one college season. Though, Brock Boeser left after two seasons and did pretty good for himself by doing so, even though injuries have hampered both Jost and Boeser.

I’m all for these players going for the money if they feel it’ll be the most lucrative for them in the long-run. The goal for them is pro hockey and if they can reach it sooner and if the team wants them sooner– more power to them. The only hurdle is to make sure that they are, in fact, ready to make that jump. There’s cases for leaving too early and leaving too late, so it’s really a case-by-case basis.

North Dakota also doesn’t want to be looked at as a one-and-done kind of school and probably while it’s nice for them to have that aura of being a great developmental point for possible NHLers, it’s not the way they would want to be viewed overall if they only have talented youngsters for one or two years before they go off elsewhere and then UND gets behind because a player they thought they could build around for four years is only there half that time.

Sure, it’s the nature of college hockey and could happen with players who aren’t drafted, also; but in those cases– you’re getting three seasons from them and could actually have their replacement ready to go and a plan in place for it. In the day in age where the NHL is a younger players’ game with speed and skill, the college kids will definitely have a harder time wanting to stay if the idea of making a good amount of money without the schooling aspect is at their fingertips.

At the end of the day, each drafted college player is a case-by-case study of what they’re going to do. Some stick the whole four years, some leave after one, and some don’t make it to one year before moving to major junior; you can never know what could happen with each player.

Three Days at The Den

When the NAHL announced in April 2018 that they were expanding to Odenton, Maryland– I was excited, but also apprehensive. In fact, I was wrong about a lot of things that they were going to do in the infancy of that team– like the name and inclusion of Natty Boh. However, as time goes and proves me wrong– I’m happy that I was wrong. Spending time around the team this week and at a home game after a season-and-a-half reporting from afar, this team couldn’t be in better shape with what they’ve laid out from the beginning of the team.

The experience of the week was nothing short of tremendous both in a fan experience side of things with participating in intermission festivities to the professional side of thing with access to players and coaches, as well as helping with recaps of the intermission and getting some time in the booth with play-by-play announcer Alex Utano. The open-arms that the Black Bears welcomed Jen Conway (@NHLHistorygirl) and myself was great. It shouldn’t be such a surprise considering how well they take care of Jon Pitonzo as our official podcast photographer.

Thursday morning, Jen and I went to practice and immediately had Black Bears captain Logan Kons tap on the glass and give a head-nod acknowledgement of us being there– which is a stand-up act in and of itself, but more on that later. Following that, communications director Colin MacCarthy came over to welcome us and following practice, team president Robyn Remick came up to us to make sure that we were well taken care of and offered us a skate in the now-reality Rink Two, which we took her up on.

During the, Colin and I worked out who I wanted to talk to for the week– which turned out to be not only a podcast; but the weekly Black Bears’ Report they put out on their social media streams. Following that, Robyn, Colin, Jen, and myself sat up in the Black Bears war room and talked about things inside and out of hockey. It was very good time hearing stories of Robyn’s past at ESPN and the different things she’s experienced when in the sports lifestyle. We took our leave later to let them get to work and have us adventure on our vacation.

Friday night was a great night, not just because of the Black Bears win, but also just being able to experience the game first-hand. The in-game production, coordinated by Harrison Hascoe, was top-notch and very well executed to keep the fans involved during stoppages in play and during the intermission– even if it means putting two podcasters in a grueling obstacle course that is not meant for two former athletes with dwindling cardio. With my time up in the HockeyTV booth with Alex Utano and cameraman Will (whose last name I didn’t get or forgot– sorry Will) was also awesome, as it had been over 15 years since I last called a hockey game.

Also on Friday night, it was meeting up with billet parents who I have interacted with online before, but have never met face-to-face– with the exception of Bethany and Brian; who came to North Dakota in the summer. It’s always great to meet those people behind the scenes to help keep these players in a family lifestyle while they’re away from home.

While Saturday night was a loss, the production and energy in the arena was amazing and kept everyone invested in the game throughout. Especially after the game, where autographs for fans in attendance happened; which happens win or loss– which is a nice connection with these players to the fanbase and the community as a whole. Also, before the game, a reception was held beforehand, as it was Swedish Heritage Night. Delicacies were made and brought from Sweden that season ticket holders and staff partook in with the families of defenseman Hampus Rydqvist and Filip Jakobsson, as well as Lars-Erik Tindre from the Swedish embassy. Another way that the team connects the fans with the team and also making those from the team feel a little closer to home, if only for a night.

Not only that, but seeing people I haven’t seen in a while– like my former teammate Kevin, meeting people who know my former teammates and who I interact with online– Mark; meeting fellow DMV area hockey backers– like Derek of Chesapeake Regional Hockey Review and his son; plus meeting a podcast listener whose name I didn’t get, but was wearing a Patrick Kane US Hockey jersey– so shoutout to you PK88 listener. It was a great coming together of the hockey community in the region.

Back to Logan Kons for a second. I mentioned earlier about him saying hi when Jen and I got there– but after that practice, he formally said hi to us and we chatted and after the game Saturday he came up and thanked me for coming out and asked when I’d be back in the area. I noticed that Friday, as well, with Kons going up to fans, billet families, player’s families, and talking to them and thanking them for coming out. That’s the mark of a true leader when the off-ice commitments are as strong as the on-ice commitments. If there’s someone to look at when it comes to all-around good person in hockey– Kons will be tops on that list for me.

The entire experience was great, the staff there from Robyn to Colin to Harrison to Alex to Will to Herb the PA Announcer to Mitch the Media Intern to the Ice Crew to everyone was top rate, very welcoming and open, and willing to take time out to make things right if there were problems to make sure that they are running a top-notch program on and off the ice.

If you have the chance to make it out to a Black Bears game, I implore you to do so. This is a team that cares about the community from the president to the players and everyone in between. They all make sure the experience you have there is one you will want to come back to and one that will last in your mind. Thanks to everyone who welcomed Jen and I to the rink and it’s something we’ll be sure to return to hopefully sooner than later.