A Picture a Day (Roughly): 121 Days Until Graduation

121 Days Until Graduation…121 Days Party at the GSU for All Seniors

IMG_1330

120 Days…The Terriers Put Up a Decent Fight at Conte Forum, 6-4

photo (5)

119 Days…Hours of Playing Table Hockey After A UMASS Lowell Loss

IMG_1357

117 Days…One Of Many Beautiful Sunsets Over Agganis Arena

IMG_1359

112 Days…Stella’s After A Hockey Loss to Vermont…She Was Sick and I Was Mourning

IMG_1375

109 Days…James and I Went Ice Skating on the Frog Pond…Almost Survived the Entire Time Without Me Taking Him Out

IMG_1394

106 Days…A Heartbreaking Game at UMASS That Ended in a Disappointing 3-3 Tie

IMG_1402

105 Days…Men’s Basketball Lost a Devastating Overtime Game to Lehigh…All Pictures Were Deleted

104 Days…Superbowl Sunday…Stella’s Not A Huge Football Fan

IMG_1409

103 Days…Beanpot Monday…All The Band Seniors…But We Lost, Of Course

1797365_10152186500935605_107501454_n

102 Days…Very Early in Day 108, But Bartlett Didn’t Last Very Long

IMG_1426

101 Days…My First Full Snow Day at BU

photo

99 Days…You Know, Just the Typical Snapchat Sent During a Hockey Game

IMG_1448

98 Days…Waking Up at the Crack of Dawn to Stand in the Freezing Cold and Play for Truck Day at Fenway

1920120_10152240345060605_418302181_n

IMG_1455

…But Then Got to Watch Men’s Basketball Destroy Lafayette…Travis Robinson For THREEEEE!

IMG_1457

…And Then Some Fun at Stella’s For the Rest of the Evening

IMG_1463

96 Days…Beanpot Consolation Game…I Was A Little More Optimistic Than Everyone Else…I Shouldn’t Have Been

IMG_1475

94 Days…Up Early Watching the Olympics Every Morning and Hating Canada More and More

IMG_1495

92 Days…Spending Valentine’s Day with the Wonderful People of Durham, NH

IMG_1493

90 Days…Being Snowed In The Night Before Meant Attempting Bacon Bowls After More Olympic Hockey…Success

IMG_1505

87 Days…A Week of Nothing But Excitement for Notre Dame and an Amazing Basketball Win Over American

86 Days…Flying to O’Hare And Arriving 14 Hours Late, But Having a Blast in the Airport Getting There

IMG_1507

85 Days…The Dog Pound Takes Over Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame…

dogpound

…With the Best Car in the Midwest…

IMG_1528

…And We Made Some Friends in the Band…Including the Viking Unicorn

IMG_1531

84 Days…Dancing with a Church’s Couple Retreat at the Hotel By Night…

IMG_1535

…Exploring Notre Dame’s Campus by Day…

IMG_1547

…And Finally Trying Culver’s

IMG_1553

83 Days…A Slightly Less Eventful Trip Home and a Beautiful View of Chicago…After Sleeping Through My First Flight

IMG_0481

82 Days…Sleeping All Day and Recovering From a Crazy Awesome Weekend

79 Days Until Graduation…Rhiannon’s 21st Birthday Party at Howl at the Moon

IMG_1591

78 Days…BU Beats Northeastern on Senior Night at Agganis

IMG_1614

77 Days…BU Basketball Clinches Patriot League Conference Title at Holy Cross

IMG_1663

76 Days…Resting From One of the Most Amazing Weekends of the Year

75 Days…Roomie Date Night at the New Burger Fi

photo (6)

74 Days…Tuesday Trivia at the Pub…It Was Rhiannon’s First Time

IMG_1674

73 Days…BU Wins In the Patriot League Quarterfinals…Naturally We Get Chicken

IMG_1677

71 Days…I Got Bored and Dyed My Hair Red…Again

IMG_1685

70 Days…Basketball Beat Army in the Semis…Then Hockey Lost to Notre Dame…Again

IMG_1724

69 Days…We Watched Syracuse and the Bruins and A Lot of College Basketball…And Played A Lot of Table Hockey

IMG_1730

68 Days…Spring Break Means We Try Sunset Trivia…Nachos Were Good…We Were Not

IMG_1735

67 Days…It Was Almost 60 Degrees…Football in the Park

IMG_1736

66 Days…BU Couldn’t Pull Off the Patriot League Championship…Depression Commenced

IMG_1747

65 Days…Worked a Fun Catering…Lots of Free Food and Drinks

IMG_1755

64 Days…Syracuse Lost in the First Round of the ACC Tournament…No Pictures Were Taken

63 Days…The Truck Finally Got Its Spring Cleaning at the Car Wash

IMG_1761

62 Days…Stella Finally Came Back From Spring Break in Europe

IMG_1771

61 Days…Corn Beef and Cabbage and Irish Car Bomb Cupcakes with Delaney and Drinks With Friends for St. Patrick’s Day

IMG_1781

60 Days…Lots of Bracket Comparing at Trivia

IMG_1780

59 Days…That Time I Got Hit By A Pick-Up Truck and the Roxy’s Truck Saved My Life…We Both Had Battle Scars

IMG_1784

58 Days…That Night I Tripped on a Curb and Broke the Fall With My Face…Possibly Concussion #2 in 36 Hours

57 Days…Recovering In Bed All Day Eating Soup and Saltine Crackers…Before and After of My Face

teeth

56 Days…Working the Extreme Beer Fest All Day With a Pretty Awesome Crew…Earned Just Enough Tips To Pay For A New Tooth

IMG_1793

55 Days…Sunday Breakfasts on the Truck…My Breakfast Burrito Kind Of Turned Into A Breakfast Taco

IMG_1797

54 Days…Apartment Hunting For The Summer…I Liked the Neon Cupboards

IMG_1804

53 Days…Tuesdays Are the Only Days I Get To Look Nice

IMG_1809

51 Days…Spending All Day Researching and Writing this Column

IMG_1822

50 Days…Paying My Respects to the Fallen Firefighters…Rest In Peace…

IMG_1826

…Some Friday Night Ice Skating In Walter Brown…

IMG_1833

…First Time At White Horse…And I Spent the Whole Time Watching Basketball Games…Typical

IMG_1838

49 Days…Playing Sockey Until the Wee Hours of the Morning on Nickerson Field

IMG_1841

48 Days…Walking Home Late at Night…Stu Vi Looks So Close If I Could Just Cut Across the River…

IMG_1852

47 Days…Finally Cooking the Turkey That Had Been In Our Freezer Since Thanksgiving…It Was Still Delicious!

IMG_1859

46 Days…The Sun Finally Came Back After Three Days Straight of Rain

IMG_1865

45 Days…And Then the Temperature Started Rising…Spring Clothing Commenced

IMG_1871

44 Days…Catering at a Jaguar Dealership in Woburn…Road Trip!

IMG_1875

43 Days…Juan’s 22nd Birthday at McGreevy’s After Wine Night with Maddie

IMG_1883

42 Days…Video of the Day…Matt & Kim Concert with Stella…Kim is Bat Shit Crazy and I Love Her!

41 Days…My Healthy Coconut Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies…I Made Them Almost Once A Week

IMG_1916

40 Days…Pep Band Played at Fenway for My First Red Sox Game of the Season…We Won!

IMG_1942

39 Days…Free Ben & Jerry’s After a Good Interview

IMG_1950

38 Days…A Long Day of Chores, Shopping and Homework

IMG_1953

37 Days…Late T Home After Howl at the Moon for Veronica’s 21st

IMG_1956

36 Days…Home for the Weekend…With Cupcakes

IMG_1960

35 Days…Up to the Canadian Border for the Night to Hear Some Friends Play

IMG_1986

34 Days…Upstate New York’s A Funny Place

IMG_1998

33 Days…A Quick Detour Out to Rochester to See Kat…Facetiming with the Birthday Girl

IMG_2006

32 Days…One Year Stronger…Courtesy of the Globe

IMG_2013

31 Days…Enjoying a Spring Day With Some Basketball…We Were Absolutely Terrible

IMG_2019

30 Days…They Were Very Focused on the Sharks Game…

IMG_2031

…We Weren’t.

IMG_2032

29 Days…Preparing for the Stanley Cup Playoffs

IMG_2038

28 Days…Celebrating Sam and Juan’s Knighting at Landsdowne

IMG_2041

27 Days…The Boys Were Playing NHL Before Some Midnight Soccer

IMG_2044

26 Days…There’s No Way I Can Choose Just One Picture from Marathon Monday

IMG_2050

IMG_2063

IMG_2066

IMG_2080

IMG_2081

25 Days…Hanging Out at the Park Because It Was a Beautiful Day

IMG_2096

24 Days…Finally!

IMG_2100

23 Days…Writing my Final Essay while Watching the Bruins and Being Distracted

IMG_2104

22 Days…We Served 520 Grilled Cheese in Under Two Hours

IMG_2110

21 Days…Burger Fi with Vic…Bacon, Egg, Cheese and Hashbrown Burger…Yup.

IMG_2111

20/19 Days…Nothing But Hockey and Homework…All Day, Everyday

IMG_2123

18 Days…Celebrating Being Done with that Awful Class Forever

IMG_2167

17 Days…The Bruins Lost in Double Overtime to the Habs…I Have No Pictures

16 Days…Senior Breakfast…

IMG_2160

…Harpoon Brewery for a Very Delayed Birthday Present

IMG_2165

…And More Celebrating Being Officially Done with Undergrad with Girls’ Night

IMG_2168

15 Days…Worked an Event on a Really Nice Rich Guy’s Roof on Boylston Street

IMG_2170

14 Days…SoWa is Back and There’s No Way I Have Time to Take a Picture

13 Days…Cinco De Mayo

IMG_2198

12 Days…Some New Friends at Trivia and Jay Intensely Debating the Year the Berlin Wall Construction Began

IMG_2199

11 Days…Finally a Day Off…A Long Day Strolling Through This Beautiful City

IMG_2207 IMG_2202 IMG_2211

10 Days…The Bruins Won in Overtime…My Lucky Third Period Ball is Back

IMG_2224

9 Days…First Day of Training in Allston…The Brick and Mortar is Finally Done!

IMG_2232

8 Days…Day 1 of a Week of Getting Dressed Up Almost Every Day…Weird

IMG_2239

7 Days…Six Flags for the First Time Since High School Band Trips

IMG_2249

6 Days…Not Making it to House of Blues and Strolling Down the Esplanade Instead

IMG_2251

5 Days…Senior Harbor Cruise and Dancing Like Fools…

IMG_2260

 

…Playing Guillotine and Desperately Trying to Order Dominos Until 3am

IMG_2269

4 Days…The Bruins Lost to the Habs in Game 7…Why Don’t I Look More Sad in this Picture?

IMG_2271

3 Days…808 Bash…Apparently Running Into Everyone…Losing my Phone and All That Good Stuff

IMG_2279

IMG_2290

IMG_2294

2 Days…COM Graduation…

100_2366

…In The Penalty Box Where We Belong…

100_2373

…And Delaney’s Big Movie Premier

100_2375

 

1 Day…River Cruise on the Charles…

100_2398

…And BU Night at the Boston Pops

100_2401

0 Days Until Graduation

100_2429 10390342_10203267607787491_3381516704391264955_n 10394858_10152449540935281_2122989481358149599_n

100_2413

100_2417

100_2418

100_2421

 

To my fellow Class of 2014…Congratulations!

100_2406

It Was One Heck of a Year!

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Big hockey in a small town: The AHL returns to Utica

The horn sounds at the end of the final game of the season. “Comets Win” flashes across the jumbotron. Everyone in the 3,815 sold-out crowd is on their feet chanting “U-TI-CA” at the top of their lungs. The Comets retake the ice for a victory lap as the standing ovation continues and the players salute the crowd that has cheered them on relentlessly for the past eight months. Their playoff hopes were dashed just two nights prior, but one would think they had just won the Calder Cup.

If you drive about four hours North of Madison Square Garden on the New York State Thruway you’ll run into a city of less than 62,000 people with a small hockey arena nicknamed the Aud. There isn’t a lot going on in Utica, New York, but an AHL hockey team has finally returned and the city has taken notice. Over one thousand season tickets were sold in the first three days of sales. Fans began lining up at 3:30 a.m. for tickets to the home opener and a line of over 300 wrapped around the Utica Memorial Auditorium by the time the ticket office opened.

When Robert Esche and Frank DuRoss, members of the board of the Utica Comets organization, decided to make another push to get the AHL back in Utica, they wanted to bring the entire professional hockey experience back with it. Aside from the talent on the ice and size of the arena, there are few differences between a Comets game at the Aud and an NHL game at MSG. The jumbotron shows live replays and hosts gimmicks such as “Know Your Comets” and the Kiss Cam. Shawn Smith, a former contestant on NBC’s The Voice, sings the National Anthem. The Aud even has its own pair of Green Men that show up to every home game behind the penalty box to torment the visiting team.

Hockey legend Gordie Howe dropped the ceremonial first puck in front of a sold-out crowd at the home opener and the support continued to grow over the season. An average of 3,416 fans per game passed through the Aud selling over 90% of tickets. There were 18 sellouts, more than the previous AHL team had in its entire six-year tenure in Utica. The fan support for the Comets didn’t stop at the Aud either.

Season ticket holder Tom Walker organized a bus trip to Syracuse for a matchup with the Crunch back in February. He never imagined that interest would be so high when nearly 900 Comets fans took the 50-mile trip across Central New York. “That was by far my fondest memory of the season,” recalls Walker. “It seemed like all you could hear were Utica fans cheering and being mouthy to the home crowd.” The Comets delivered a 2-1 overtime victory proving coach Travis Green’s sentiment, “When the crowd gets going, the Comets get going.”

The support has not gone unnoticed among the players either. “Utica embraced us and we as a team embraced this city,” said Brandon DeFazio, who scored the game-winning goal in Syracuse. “We didn’t leave anything on the table.”

The inaugural season didn’t look very impressive in the standings, but its effect on the city of Utica far exceeded anyone’s expectations. Forward David Marshall summed it up best after that final game: “I know a lot of teams in the Playoffs right now that wish they had our fans to play in front of.” Those fans stood on their feet for over ten minutes that final night at the Aud, but it was a standing ovation 20 years in the making.

***

Professional hockey made its debut in Utica, NY in 1960 when owner Edward Stanley decided to split home games for the Clinton Comets with the Aud. He wanted to increase exposure for the team while also preventing any other team from moving into the area. When the Comets first came to the Aud they only played 12 games a season in Utica, but by the 1969-70 season they were playing over 20 of their 36 games there.

The Clinton Comets were arguably the greatest team in the history of the Eastern Hockey League. They won six regular season championships, the most in EHL history, and tied the record for most playoff crowns with five. They made the playoffs 16 of their 19 years in the league and to this day are the only professional hockey team to win a playoff title on Utica ice. On April 18, 1969, 4,117 fans crammed into the Aud in standing room only sections to watch the Comets beat the Nashville Dixie Flyers 3-2 in Game 7 to win the Walker Cup.

The Clinton Comets would be the last successful team to come through Utica, NY. While the NHL saw major expansion in the late 60s and early 70s, the cost of operating a minor league team skyrocketed. After the EHL dissolved into two new leagues, Stanley reached out to local businessmen to try to save the Comets. Together, they purchased the team for $75,000, renamed it the Mohawk Valley Comets and permanently moved to the Aud.

In the Mohawk Valley Comets’ five-year tenure, they never recorded a winning season and never won a single playoff round. Because of poor performance and lack of interest, the team was put up for sale at the end of the 1976-77 season.  For the first time in 17 years, Utica was without a professional hockey team.

Over the next decade, local businessmen desperately tried to make hockey work in Utica in both the North Eastern Hockey League and the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. No team lasted more than four seasons due to poor attendance, financial problems and lease agreement issues with the Aud. The building had begun to deteriorate and the city of Utica refused to recondition it.

Some good news came to Utica in 1987 when the New Jersey Devils moved their AHL team from Portland, Maine to Utica and renamed them the Utica Devils. A federal grant allowed for renovations at the Aud and provided new locker room facilities, boards and Plexiglas that made it possible to host an AHL team.

In their six-year residency at the Aud, the Devils only had three seasons over .500 and won only three playoff games. Still, it was the highest level of hockey to ever come through Utica. Five members of the Hockey Hall of Fame played or coached for the Devils, including legendary Olympic gold medal-winning coach Herb Brooks. Other notable players included Bill Guerin, Eric Weinrich and Martin Brodeur.

Despite the talent and quality of hockey that the Devils brought to Utica, the organization lost money every year due to poor attendance. “We had the second best league in the world,” said DuRoss. “We had the top development league for the NHL. We just really didn’t grasp how special it was.” New Jersey moved its affiliation to Albany after the 1992-93 season where they thought they the larger population and arena would lead to more financial success.

Twenty years later, thanks to the persistence of DuRoss, the Vancouver Canucks moved their AHL affiliation from Peoria, Illinois to Utica. DuRoss spent 14 months speaking with the AHL office in Springfield, Massachusetts, working with elected officials for funding to improve the Aud, and courting NHL teams whose affiliation agreements were expiring.

On October 11, 2013, 26 years to the day after the Utica Devils played their first game, the AHL was back in Utica. The entire staff was blown away by the initial outpouring of support. “When this place is full, the atmosphere is unlike anywhere else in the league,” stated Adam Banko, director of ticket sales at the Aud and former director for the Albany Devils. “The businessmen down to your blue collar workers all come together to enjoy a great game. They’re really excited about something new.”

***

A lot has changed around the community since Howe dropped the ceremonial first puck. It’s difficult to walk around town without seeing Comets jerseys, hats and bumper stickers on every corner. Over 200 kids joined the Junior Comets hockey its inaugural season and get to skate with the players and participate in special practices. Some of the French-speaking players have visited different high school French classes in the region to lead a class. The players also periodically serve food at the local Rescue Mission and they raised $32,358 in 50/50 raffles and Comets jersey’s auctions for the Mission this season.

The Comets are bringing money to the area in other ways as well. Local businesses have thrived in the area since the season began in October. Gerber’s 1933 Tavern reopened after being closed for the past three decades. Owners Mark and Susan Mojave saw renewed potential in the area and wanted to be a part of it. A few blocks down, Tony’s Pizzeria changed into a full-service sporting venue for the start of the Comets season. They added over 30 flat-screen televisions to their new bar area and turned into Tony’s Pizzeria and Sports Bar.

According to Sam Tornatore, a member of the Comets board, the players, coaches and Comets’ staff are earning approximately $2 million a year. This translates into $1.6 million in disposable income that is being spent in the area without taking into consideration visiting organizations and their fans. There’s also sales tax that’s collected on in-game purchases, hotels, bars and restaurants that benefits the entire county.

“It’s really stimulated the first part of a big wave of development in Utica,” said Tornatore, who also owns Babes Bar and Grill down the street from the Aud. In October, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that six leading global technology companies will invest $1.5 billion to create a “Nano Utica,” making it the state’s second major hub of nanotechnology research and development. This will create over a thousand new jobs in the next couple of years to further expand the region.

“The money people have been spending in this area is hard to fathom,” says Tornatore, referring to a night in early February when America’s Got Talent quarterfinalist Leon Etienne performed a sold-out performance in front of 3,000 people at the Stanley Theater. Meanwhile, just half a mile away, the Comets had drawn over 3,700 to the Aud for a game against the Rockford IceHogs. “Almost 7,000 people going out and spending that kind of money in Utica on the same night. That’s unheard of.”

Next year promises to be even better. They have already sold over 1,000 season tickets for next year with fans lining up at 7 a.m. the morning after the Comets were eliminated from the playoffs. Work has already begun on more suites, box seats, a season ticket holder bar, private clubs and additional parking at the Aud. “Once we accomplish these additions it will open up the door for even more entertainment to come into the area,” added Tornatore. “We’re looking towards concerts, circuses and leisure shows at the Aud.”

DuRoss is amazed at the way the community has responded to the AHL’s return to Utica. “Utica, New York is one of 30 cities in the country that has an AHL team. We wanted to give our community something to be proud of.” Despite a disappointing season in the scorebooks, any one of the 3,815 people at the Aud on April 19th will attest to how proud they truly are. DuRoss brought professional hockey back to Utica, but he never imagined what hockey would bring back to Utica in return.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

One Year Stronger

Sports are a funny thing. They bring people together in inexplicable ways. As a New Yorker living in Boston I can attest to the immediate friendship formed, if even just for a few seconds, when I pass a fellow NY Giants or Syracuse Orange fan. Or the head nod and smile when someone notices I’m wearing the same Bruins shirt as them in the Charlotte airport. Sports turn complete strangers into your best friends.

Sports bring people together, especially in a city as passionate about their teams as Boston. But on April 15, 2013 the Tsarnaev brothers tried to use Boston’s most historic sporting event to tear the city apart.

But these young men failed to realize just how strong Boston was. They chose to attack a city that cannot be torn apart. Weakened? Yes. Wounded? Yes. Afraid, confused, angry and sad? Absolutely. But strong enough to overcome this together.

They chose the wrong event, the wrong day and the wrong city to mess with. It’s pretty hard to break the spirit of thousands of people who have just run 26.2 miles. It’s pretty hard to come into our city on our Patriot’s Day and get away with attacking our people. Our runners, fans, residents, law enforcement officials. Our hard workers from Medford. Our grad students from China. Our 8-year-old children. Our campus police officers. No. We will shut down the entire city until we hunt you down.

I can’t believe it’s been a year since that scary, confusing, devastating, sleepless week. A year of healing and growing and becoming stronger than ever. There’s still a long way to go for the many people affected by the attack and its aftermath, but every year from here on out we will remember that day and become just a little but stronger. We will watch the clock change to 2:49 P.M. on April 15th and we’ll remember that moment that changed the best sporting event in Boston forever.

Sports will continue to bring the people of this city together. Thousands of people will continue to take to the streets of Boston the third Monday of April to celebrate a resiliency that few can fathom. A resiliency that pushed you through 26.2 miles. A resiliency that leads you to run towards an explosion to save those who may be hurt. A resiliency that keeps you going after losing one or both of your legs. We will keep getting stronger. And the city of Boston will keep on running.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boston Things

In defense of Jackie Bradley Jr.

I’ll admit that I took a flying leap onto the Grady Sizemore bandwagon Monday night. What’s not to love? A 31-year-old three-time MLB All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner who hasn’t played a game of professional baseball in over two years makes his return with the Boston Red Sox and goes 2 for 4 with a solo home run his second at-bat. Sizemore was a force to be reckoned with in the mid-2000s. He hit over 20 home runs and stole over 20 bases every year from 2005 to 2008, making the All-Star team three of those years. In 2008 he became the 32nd player in MLB history to hit over 30 home runs (33) and steal over 30 bases (38) in one season. By comparison, David Ortiz hit 23 home runs and Jacoby Ellsbury stole 50 bases that same year.

So when Sizemore stepped up to the plate for the first time in 2 years, 6 months and 9 days and got a base hit to right field, Sox fans began to nod their heads in agreement with the front office for picking up the injury-riddled, ten-year veteran. And when he sent the ball out of the park to tie up the game his second at-bat? Jacoby who? And forget Jackie Bradley Jr., Grady’s still got it.

Not so fast.

Bradley Jr. may not have had the best Spring Training numbers and he certainly didn’t help his cause when he struck out looking in his only at-bat Opening Day in the top of the 9th with two runners on and the Sox only trailing by one, but the 23-year-old has quite a lot going for him. Sizemore may have had a great game, but he also struck out with men on in the eighth inning to help the Orioles cling to their one-run lead. Sizemore isn’t the player he was back in 2008. He played only 33 games during the 2010 season before micro-fracture surgery on his left knee put him out for the year. He came back to play 71 games in 2011, but only put up 10 home runs and didn’t steal a single base. He then missed the entirety of the 2012 and 2013 seasons because of back and knee injuries.

He impressed John Farrell down in Fort Meyers and landed the starting center fielder position for Opening Day, but one 2 for 4 performance shouldn’t be enough to send Bradley Jr. down to Pawtucket for good. After missing most of the 2010 season, Sizemore came back to the plate for the Indians on April 17, 2011 where he went 2 for 4, including a double and a home run. He know how to excite a fan base. But he went on to put up the worst numbers of his career in home runs and stolen bases that season. Fast forward to Wednesday night when he went 0 for 4 in the Sox 6-2 win over the Orioles. Then to Thursday night when he was rested because of an early day game on Friday that he’s slated to start. Grady Sizemore is a ticking time bomb that’s reached its expiration date.

Jackie Bradley Jr., on the other hand, is just getting started. He took his first start on Thursday night and proved to the city of Boston that he was there to play. He hit an infield single to lead off the third inning and came around to score off an Ortiz single to put the Sox up 2-0. He had a sacrifice fly to push Will Middlebrooks to third base in his second at-bat and sent Middlebrooks all the way home with an RBI single his third time at the plate. This would end up being the winning run in a 4-3 decision at Camden Yards to give the Red Sox the series.

Sizemore gets the start Friday afternoon at 2:05 P.M. against the Milwaukee Brewers in the Fenway Park home opener. He’ll need to continue to bring some of that Monday night magic to the plate to prove himself over a young, rising player like Bradley Jr. This could still be the miracle season for Sizemore that Sox fans started daydreaming about the second they saw his 345-foot blast into the left field bleachers on Monday night. The ultimate comeback kid.

But if he fails to live up to this dream or is plagued by injury once again before he even gets the chance, there’s a young, promising player waiting down in Pawtucket who is more than ready to take his place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boston Red Sox, Sports

If the Playoffs started tonight, how would the Bruins fare?

The Stanley Cup Playoffs are less than three weeks away, but what if they were to start tonight? The first round would be Boston vs. Detroit, Montreal vs. Tampa Bay, Pittsburgh vs. Columbus, and NY Rangers vs. Philadelphia. So how would the Bruins fare if they started a 7-game series with the Red Wings tonight? Would they be hoisting the Stanley Cup in two months after missing it by just 17 seconds last season? Would they even make it past the first round? Will the first round go to overtime of Game 7? Probably. That just seems to be the Bruins way.

The Bruins have been known to struggle through Round 1 of the Playoffs, especially against the Maple Leafs. The Leafs forced a Game 7 in last year’s first round first round series after the Bruins went up 3-1 in the series. The Bruins went down 4-1 with ten minutes left in the third period, but ended up winning the game and the series in overtime in a game that has been dubbed the “Miracle on Causeway Street.”

Right now, the Bruins are set to face the Red Wings to whom they have lost two of three games so far this season. The Red Wings haven’t had the best season so far though and are just barely sneaking into the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. If the Toronto Maple Leafs can break their six-game losing streak, Detroit will have a difficult time holding off the Leafs for that remaining Wild Card spot. The Bruins travel to Detroit for the last time this season on April 2nd followed by a trip to Toronto the very next day. One of these games will likely be a preview of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Bruins have won two of their three matchups with the Leafs this season, including a 5-2 win on December 8th. This victory came with Chad Johnson in net, Shawn Thornton out on a 15-game suspension for an illegal hit on Brooks Orpik, and Loui Eriksson, Chris Kelly, Adam McQuaid, Johnny Boychuk and Dougie Hamilton all out with injuries. This was just the beginning of a long couple of injury-filled months for the Bruins, but the B’s managed to pull out necessary wins even with a lineup cycling through Providence call-ups and a very young defensive core. Staying out of the penalty box has been the key to beating Toronto during the regular season. The B’s had two power-play goals in each of their two victories and the Leafs had a pair of their own in the Bruins 4-3 loss. The Bruins need to find a way to beat Toronto in the Playoffs though.

It isn’t only the Maple Leafs who have given the Bruins some first round challenges though. The first round has been decided by an overtime goal in Game 7 three years in a row. The seventh-seeded Washington Capitals knocked the second-seeded Bruins out of the Playoffs in overtime of Game 7 in 2012. In 2011 before winning the Stanley Cup, the third-seeded Bruins were almost sent home early by the Montreal Canadiens before Nathan Horton scored the game- and series-winning goal in overtime of Game 7. The first round never comes easy for the Black and Gold.

This year, the second round may prove to be just as challenging for the Bruins. Boston fans will be ferociously rooting for the Lightning or whoever finds themselves face-to-face with the Canadiens in the first round. If the Playoffs started tonight, it would be Montreal vs. Tampa Bay. The Lightning are 2-1 against the Canadiens so far this season and have won five of their last seven games. That being said, the Canadiens have had the better season and thrive in do-or-die situations. The Lightning, on the other hand, haven’t made the Playoffs since the Bruins knocked them out in seven games in the Eastern Conference Finals on their way to the 2010-2011 Stanley Cup. This was the same series that saw Tyler Seguin’s breakout performance where he tallied three goals and three assists in his first two postseason games in the NHL. Vezina Tropy winner Tim Thomas was in goal for the Bruins and carried them to a 1-0 win in Game 7. A lot has changed since then, but the Bruins won all four games against the Lightning this regular season.

Boston’s biggest threat in the second round would be a meeting with their fierce rivals from Montreal. The Bruins have notoriously struggled against the Canadiens, in the Playoffs and otherwise. The Habs took the regular season series with the Bruins 3-1. The Canadiens embarrassed the Bruins and Tuukka Rask with a 4-1 victory at TD Garden in January. The Bruins were coming off a four-game winning streak; the Canadiens had a four-game losing streak. Rask was pulled after the third goal in favor of Johnson who let up the fourth goal just two minutes into his appearance in the game. The Bruins bounced back in the third game of the series though with a 4-1 win. Rask proved himself early with two huge stops on two early breakaways by the Habs in the first period. He would go on to make 35 saves and help the Bruins to a six-game winning streak.

On Monday night, Montreal proved once again that they thrive in do-or-die situations. The Canadiens are fighting for every point to ensure a playoff berth and stifled the Bruins 12-game winning streak with a 2-1 shootout win. The Bruins played an incredible game though with 29 shots on goal against an impenetrable Peter Budaj. The story may have been different with another 20-minute overtime period.

This would be, by far, the most difficult series for the Bruins. However, if they could come away with four wins against the Canadiens, who have won six of the last seven meetings between the two, the Cup would be theirs for the taking.

The Eastern Conference Finals would likely be a faceoff against the Pittsburgh Penguins or New York Rangers. The Rangers, with Henrik Lundqvist in goal, have been dominant as of late. Lundqvist is on a five-game winning streak and was honored Monday night for breaking the Rangers all-time win record with 305 career wins. Right now, they would be facing the Flyers in the first round, who they decisively beat 3-1 last night with 31 saves by Lundqvist. Pittsburgh shouldn’t have a problem with Columbus, who they swept in the regular season.

If Pittsburgh and the Rangers do face off in the second round, it would be a very close series. They have each have one regulation win and one shootout win in their four-game regular season series. The Penguins have two players in the top ten point-scorers in the League with Sidney Crosby in first and Evgeni Malkin tied for sixth. Pittsburgh’s League-leading offense would have the best chance of getting the puck past King Lundqvist. However, Marc-Andre Fleury has lost his last five games.

The Bruins saw both teams in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs and breezed by both. The Bruins skipped over the Rangers in just five games in the second round, scoring 14 goals against Lundqvist in just five games to give him a mediocre 2.80 Goals Against Average in the series. The B’s only loss came in a Game 4 overtime decision that almost gave the Bruins the sweep.

Pittsburgh put up even less of a fight. The first-seeded Penguins were swept by the Bruins in the Eastern Conference Finals and were outscored 12-2. The Bruins have yet to face Fleury in the postseason though. He was replaced with Tomas Vokoun in the first round of the 2013 Playoffs after losing two games to the New York Islanders, giving up six goals in Game 4. Vokoun played the rest of the Playoffs, but has yet to play this season after a pelvic blood clot in September benched him. Head coach Dan Blysma has stated that even if Vokoun were to return before the end of the season, Fleury and Jeff Zatkoff will be between the pipes for the Penguins come the postseason. Zatkoff has gone 12-4-1 his first season in the NHL, but has no postseason experience.

The Bruins have won two of three in the regular season series against Pittsburgh and Fleury, including a last second thriller on November 25th. Crosby tied the game 3-3 with just .3 seconds left in regulation to force overtime, but Torey Krug responded just 34 seconds into overtime to give the Bruins the win. Pittsburgh is another team that the Bruins need to be mindful of giving up penalties to. The Pens have scored three power-play goals in their three meetings this season.

If the Penguins, who have lost five of their last seven games, do fall to the Rangers, the Bruins will be facing a team and a star goalie that they have swept in the regular season. The first win for the B’s against the Rangers this season came on Rasks second game in two nights. He made 43 saves, giving up only one goal. Zdeno Chara brought a natural hat trick to the second win, including the game-winning goal. The third win, a 6-3 decision, forced Rask to make 19 saves in a first period where the Bruins were outshot 20-9. The Bruins definitely know how to beat either of these teams. And they probably wouldn’t need seven games to do it.

Should the Bruins make a repeat appearance to the Stanley Cup Finals, they would most likely be facing the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks. While the San Jose Sharks lead the Pacific Division, they choke every postseason. This team has been Division Champions six times in ten years from 2002 to 2012, but has never won a Stanley Cup or Conference Championship. In the last two seasons, they were knocked out in the first two rounds. They made it to the conference finals in both 2010 and 2011, but lost to Chicago and Vancouver respectively.

The Bruins have never faced St. Louis or Anaheim in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They took two points from the Blues this regular season in two games with a shootout and overtime loss. The B’s split the regular season series with the Ducks, winning at TD Garden and losing in Anaheim. With the way the Bruins are playing as of late and with all of their players healthy, they are more than capable of beating either of these teams, especially with home ice advantage.

A repeat Stanley Cup Final matchup has only happened once in the past century. The Detroit Red Wings and Pittsburgh Penguins faced off in both 2008 and 2009 with the Red Wings taking the first win and the Penguins hoisting the Cup a year later. There’s a good possibility that history could repeat itself this season. If the Bruins meet the Blackhawks in the Finals this year, Patrice Bergeron and the rest of the Black and Gold will be out for blood.

Chicago ripped the Cup out of the Bruins hands in 17 seconds that still haunt the city of Boston. The B’s went up 2-1 in the series, fought through three overtimes, played their star forward with a cracked rib, punctured lung and separated shoulder, and came within 1:16 of forcing a Game 7. However, Bryan Bickell scored with just 1:16 left in Game 6 with the goalie pulled. It looked like another grueling overtime, but the Blackhawks had a different plan. The Bruins defense never recovered from the tying goal and just 17 seconds later Dave Bolland ripped the puck past Rask to suck the life and all hope of hoisting the Cup out of the Bruins.

That’s all in the past though. The Bruins won in shootouts in Chicago earlier this season and face the Blackhawks at TD Garden tonight for the first time since those devastating 17 seconds. Now the Bruins are a different team. Rask has more experience under his belt, Patrice Bergeron is healthy, and Reilly Smith, Carl Soderberg and Eriksson have added more scoring depth to the B’s offense.

If the Playoffs started tonight, the Bruins could be hoisting the Cup by the end of May. But there are three months, 16 wins and two very good Canadian teams that stand between the Bruins and the ultimate redemption.

Leave a comment

Filed under Boston Bruins, Sports

The end of an era

On Wednesday night I officially played for my last BU sporting event as a student. With a heavy heart, I played the last four notes of Go BU, packed up my clarinet and walked out of Agganis Arena. It’s crazy to think that four years ago I made the decision to join pep band and now it’s all over. I never imagined what kind of crazy adventures it would have taken me on. There were countless trips to the TD Garden, a trip to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden, playing in a Foster the People concert, and so much more.

It wasn’t the best season to go out to, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. My last men’s hockey game was a weekend sweep of Northeastern and their first road win of the entire season after traveling across the country all year to watch them play. The women’s team went out on top again as the Hockey East Champions, but unfortunately lost in the first round of the NCAA tournament against a dominant Minnesota team. Women’s basketball lost in the Patriot League Quarterfinals after beating Loyola in the first round of the tournament.

It was men’s basketball that gave us the best run for our money this year, a sport I really didn’t care about until this year. And now I write this while watching my sixth basketball game of the day and shuffling through the five different brackets I filled out. Who knew Boston University basketball could give me March madness?

The month began with a trip out to Holy Cross where the Terriers won 68-64 and the regular season Patriot League title their first year in the conference. This was the same weekend of the aforementioned sweep of Northeastern in hockey and will probably go down as one of the best weekends in BU sports that I’ve experienced in my life. Unfortunately, the hockey team went on to lose their next game in the play-in round of the Hockey East tournament to Notre Dame, but the BU basketball was just getting started.

They entered the Patriot League tournament seeded first and demolished both Lafayette and Army in the first two rounds, scoring 91 points each night. The championship game, however, was a different story. BU put up only 36 points in the entire game as they were completely shut down by American University’s defense. Arguably the best basketball team, this senior class has seen at BU had to settle for the National Invitational Tournament. Had they won, they more than likely would have been seeded 14th and I would’ve gotten to see my two favorite basketball teams, the Terriers and the Orange, go at it in the first round of the NCAA tournament. But there was no miraculous repeat of 2011 and instead I got to watch one more game in Agganis Arena.

All things considered, watching BU go up by 17 points against a Big 10 school was a good way to end my pep band career.  Even though the Terriers went on to lose to the Fighting Illini, it was a much better last game than watching them put up a pathetic 36 points against a team they had beaten a few weeks before. I still found myself tearing up as I struggled to sing Go BU one last time, but it was a fitting end. I may have witnessed my last game as a student, but BU athletics hasn’t seen the last of me. And hey…there’s always next year.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports

The key to bringing college basketball excitement to Boston

Today marks the official start of the NCAA March Madness Tournament. Sports fans across the country have finally submitted their brackets after days of tweaking and debating for a chance at a billion dollars and bragging rights at the office. There’s one region of the country, however, that is less than excited for the next two and a half weeks of college basketball. There isn’t much for the people of Boston or the greater New England area to root for in the tournament.

At the beginning of the season, the TD Garden hosted three opening day face-offs, including Boston University vs. Northeastern, UMASS vs. Boston College, and Holy Cross vs. Harvard. Six Boston-area basketball teams playing back-to-back in one of the most historic arenas in the country and the Garden barely reached half capacity.

The highlight of the year for college basketball in Boston was Boston College’s takedown of No. 1, undefeated Syracuse, a team that then went on to lose five of their last seven games. Overall, BC had a miserable season in the ACC going 4-14 in conference and losing in the first round of the tournament to Georgia Tech in overtime. Even Boston University had a better run, making it to the championship game in the Patriot League and an appearance in the National Invitational Tournament.

Boston College made the NCAA tournament eight times in the 2000s, but has done nothing of any significance in the last five years, leaving Boston fans with little to get excited about come March Madness. And what about Boston University? They’ve gotten away with not having a solid basketball program for the past ten years, making the tournament only once in the past decade after winning the America East championship game. They had their best team in a long time this year, winning the Patriot League regular season title their first year in the league and advancing to the championship game. However, they still failed to garner much support and continually found themselves playing in front of a very empty Agganis Arena home crowd.

Harvard is arguably the best college basketball team in the Boston area. They’ve made the tournament three years in a row and dominated the Ivy League conference, becoming regular season champions four years in a row. However, they have yet to make it past the third round and the Boston market doesn’t get excited over Harvard basketball. Boston doesn’t slowly change into a sea of crimson like the shade of orange that has settled over all of Upstate New York.

Bostonians should expand their horizons to all of New England. Providence College robbed the Big East championship from No. 3 seeded Creighton to gain an 11th seed spot in the big tournament. The University of Connecticut is also a good choice for Bostonians to follow. They have made it to the NCAA tournament 16 of the last 20 years, including a win in 2011.

However, if Bostonians want a college basketball team to get behind, they need to look no farther than the state of Massachusetts. The University of Massachusetts dominated in the 1990s with seven tournament appearances, including a trip to the Final Four. They also won five Atlantic 10 conference championships in this time. While UMASS basketball has been irrelevant over the past decade, this year could mark a true turning point for the Minutemen. They started the season winning 16 of their first 17 games, including big wins over Nebraska, Saint Joe’s and eventual Big East champions Providence College. They finally found their way back to the tournament this season after going 23-7 in the regular season and will take on the Tennessee Volunteers on Friday at 2:45 p.m.

There isn’t a lot of promise on the horizon for college basketball in the city of Boston going forward. Players from New England are simply leaving the area to play in the Big 10 or SEC. No one wants to stay in the area to play in the Ivy League or Big East or sit at the bottom of the ACC. Additionally, Boston viewers don’t tune in to college hoops or make the trip out to the arenas. Empty seats stick out like sore thumbs in Conte Forum, Lavietes Pavilion and Agganis Arena.

Boston just isn’t a college sport town. It holds some of the best college hockey teams in the country and Bostonians still don’t buy into the college scene. Basketball needs a serious investment or it doesn’t stand a chance. When a city has three of their four professional sports teams making it to the championship or conference championship game in the past year, there’s no need for Boston fans to rally behind a mediocre college team. Another college basketball opening day in the TD Garden, however, is a step in the right direction to bring college hoops back to New England. If you can’t bring Boston pro sports fans to college basketball games, bring college basketball games to them.

Leave a comment

Filed under Sports