Hello again everybody...
We've done it once again. It's the end of the week and two straight blissful days minus any work-related hassles await.
Does it sound like I need a weekend? Just a bit. Actually, what I really need is a vacation. And since you mentioned it, I might as well tell you that tomorrow marks exactly two weeks until I'll be winging my way Southwestward. What's that? I mentioned it, not you? Woops. My bad!
But before we get to the weekend, we've got to Update a thing or two. After all, that's why you came here, right?
”Who is rich? He that is content. Who is that? Nobody.”
- Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), author and printer, satirist, political theorist, politician, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, soldier, and diplomat.
Wait, so nobody's rich? Suddenly I feel pretty content!
With that it's time... once again... for everybody's favorite segment...
Dan's Favorite Teams Update
Maple Grove Crimson: The Lady Crimson Basketball Team is 23-2 (17-0 in the Northwest Suburban). They're the 2009-10 Conference Champions, and are ranked 4th in the State in Class 4A.
But Dan, you never lead with the Crimson?
That's true, but considering what they accomplished this week, they get the top spot. That's right, your 2009-10 Lady Crimson are the champions of the Northwest Suburban Conference. Their 71-70 victory over second-place Centennial sealed the title.
Before we review that victory, let's go back a week. Last Friday, the Crimson earned their 16th conference victory of the season with a 64-29 victory over the Park Center Pirates. And considering the Crimson tallied 37 in the first 18 minutes, the game was essentially over at halftime.
Senior Julie Kruse and junior Stephanie Davison led the way for Maple Grove with 19 points apiece. Davison along with fellow junior Ellen Edison led the Crimson in rebounding with 5 each. Throw in a 2-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio along with 11 steals and 8 blocked shots, and that's how you tally up a 35-point victory.
That brings us back to Tuesday night as Maple Grove looked to seal the conference crown for the first time in program history against perennial power Centennial. The Crimson had handled Centennial 66-45 back on the 19th of January, but the Cougars are far too well-coached a squad not to have learned from that loss. And that showed through early on.
Centennial took advantage of a sluggish start by Maple Grove to take a 43-35 lead into the locker-room at halftime. I asked Coach Cook after the game if he came up with some sort of brilliant adjustment at halftime. He said, “Nope, the kids just dug in [defensively].” After allowing more points to Centennial in the first half than they have to most clubs over a full 36 minutes, Maple Grove held the Cougars to a svelte 27 points in the second while tallying 36 of their own.
It wasn't a perfect finish. Maple Grove had several chances over the final minute to put the game away with free throws, but came up short on the front end of three straight one-and-one's. Sometimes the best lessons are learned when you squeak out a win. Hopefully that's the case for the Crimson.
As mentioned, by virtue of that win, the Crimson have earned the first Conference Title in program history. There have been plenty of ups and downs over the 5 years that Coach Cook has been at the helm of the program, but I'm fairly sure I can say that guiding this group to a title makes it all worthwhile.
But the work's not done.
Before the post-season starts, Maple Grove has one more stern test on the schedule: the Osseo Orioles. The Crimson are 1-1 against Osseo (the loss was in a holiday tournament, ergo it doesn't count against the conference record), and tonight's the rubber-match. And just to add an extra degree of difficulty, the game's at Osseo.
Is a let-down a possibility? After the joy of winning the conference, it's a risk. But these kids have worked hard towards a goal of a State Title run, so there's no letting up just because the conference crown is clinched.
Besides, 18-0 has a nice ring to it, don't you think?
7pm tonight, at Osseo, check it out if you can!
Then Wednesday night, it's time for the Section 5AAAA playoffs. Let the post-season fun begin!
Wisconsin Badgers: The Badgers are 21-7 (11-5 in the Big Ten). They're in fourth place in the conference, and are ranked 17th nationally.
I'd like to say that the loss to Minnesota has been washed from my memory, but wins over Northwestern and Indiana can only do so much. Sure a win's a win, but those are games the Badgers ought to win (and for that matter, so was the Minnesota game).
On the upside, it looks like Jon Leuer is getting more comfortable back in the line-up. He certainly looked rusty against Minnesota. Against Northwestern, he tallied 11 points and four rebounds. Against Indiana 13 points and seven rebounds. The Badgers are going to need Jon to be back at 100% if they want to make a run in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.
And suddenly (if unfortunately), the path to the Big Ten Tournament title just got a little more open. Folks who watched Minnesota/Purdue Wednesday night saw one of the more grisly injuries you can see as Purdue senior Robbie Hummel tore his ACL driving to the basket. I won't try to describe it, and I'm not linking to the video (though I'm sure it's out there). It was ugly, and I like you people far too much to subject you to it.
Suffice to say that Purdue, the presumptive favorite in the Tournament, just became a whole lot more vulnerable. And since Bucky owns wins over all three teams currently seeded ahead of them, they should feel fairly confident headed to the post-season.
There are two more games to get to before they can really focus on the Big Ten Title. Wisconsin hosts Iowa for “Senior Night” Wednesday at 7:30pm central. Then it's off to Illinois to try and avenge a home loss to the Illini. That game heads your way Sunday at 11am central.
Minnesota Wild: The Wild remain 30-27-4, good for 64 points. They're in 4th place in the Northwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference, 5 points out of a playoff spot.
So why am I updating a team that hasn't played in almost two weeks? Because when there's news, we Update dammit!
Yesterday, the Wild announced the signing of a contract extension with winger Cal Clutterbuck. The three-year, $4.2 million deal avoids Clutterbuck's restricted free-agency that would've come this summer.
Instead “Buttercup”, as he was anointed courtesy of “Hockey Night in Canada's” Don Cherry, will stick around for at least three more seasons.
The deal makes sense for both sides. Clutterbuck's a fan favorite and a valuable “energy guy” for the Wild. On his end, it's a situation he's clearly comfortable with, and he ensures he'll be a part of what Chuck Fletcher is trying to build.
It also should encourage fans of Guillaume Latendresse (*cough* man-crush *cough*), that the Wild are involved in talks with all of their restricted free agents, including #48. As nice as it is to have Clutz locked up for 3 years, how sweet would it be to see Bill* inked to a long-term deal as well?
(*- Fellow blogger Betsy told me a great story about asking Gui in French if she could call him “Bill” since Guillaume is the French version of William. He happily agreed. How cool is that?)
The Wild - minus the fellows still competing in Vancouver - got back to practice this week, and will get back to trying to make the playoffs this Wednesday, as they travel to Calgary for the start of a 2-game swing in Western Canada.
Team USA Hockey: The American Women captured the Silver Medal last night in Vancouver, and the Men are competing in the semi-finals this afternoon.
First, the ladies. As expected, it was Team USA versus Team Canada in the Gold Medal game last night. Unfortunately the Americans came up on the wrong end of a 2-0 score.
Canadian net-minder Shannon Szabados was amazing stopping all 28 shots Team USA guided her way. The Americans had proven their ability to score over the course of the Olympics, and had several golden (forgive the unfortunate pun) opportunities to light the lamp against Canada. But Szabados was always right there, in position, under control, and made each and every save.
Silver is an improvement on the Bronze Medal the Americans collected in Turin in 2006. But I'm sure to a player, they'd tell you that they failed to attain their ultimate goal.
Second, the men. After a 2-0 victory over Switzerland, Team USA battles the Fins at 2pm central time this afternoon in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, that means I've got to be rooting against Wild players like Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen and Nik Backstrom (who at least is unlikely to play in the game). But these are the things that happen in international competition. I can live with it.
The Americans will be favored against the Fins, even after a lack-luster effort against the Swiss. The Switzerland game was odd, because the Swiss basically decided to forgo any and all offense in favor of clogging the neutral zone and trying to deny entry to Team USA. It very nearly worked. The Americans didn't get on the board until the third period, and it was only an empty-net goal with less than a minute to go that sealed the win.
Given Switzerland's strategy it's hard to get too worked up over the lack of offense from Team USA. But certainly their power-play will have to improve against Finland if they want to take advantage of the position they earned in preliminary play.
Canada, Sweden and Russia all ended up on the other side of the bracket. And both the Russians and the Swedes failed to make it to the semi's. The Russians fell 7-3 to the renewed onslaught of Team Canada who were apparently inspired by their loss to the Americans. In the biggest surprise of the Medal Round so far, the Swedes were upset by a game Slovakia team led by former Wild players Marian Gaborik and Pavol Demitra.
So the Final Four are: USA, Canada, Finland and Slovakia. We seem poised for USA/Canada II on Sunday. If that happens, do yourself a favor and watch. If you absolutely can't watch, come back here Monday, I'll probably have Running Game Commentary X ready to tell you all about it!
First up it's the semi's this afternoon: USA/Finland at 2pm central, Canada/Slovakia at 8:30pm central. Both should be pretty good games. Check them out!
That's going to wrap things up for this week. Hope you feel properly Updated, I know I do!
I'll be back on Monday, either with RGC X, or... well, let's just hope it's RGC X shall we?
Until then, thanks for reading!