Okay, I already feel bad about the title. Sure, the visiting teams in the inaugural Great Northwest Showcase are American. And yes, there are national politics and cultural question marks that make them the Darths and Emperors of the world next to our farmboy-cum-Jedi status up here. But goldang it if each and every one of the team members and staff that I met this weekend weren’t incredibly nice, wonderfully passionate people who revolve their lives around the great game of hockey. (I’m lookin’ at you, Oklahoma University men’s hockey Assistant GM Chris Kelly… Not naming any names…)
But hey, the title is what the title is. In the immortal words of Billy Crystal, “It’s already out there.” And after day one of this exhibition tournament, which saw the Canadian teams trounce their American visitors by a combined score of 12-2, the empire really did strike back. They had to, just to make the plane ride back to the south bearable.
More after the jump.
The Oklahoma Sooners were shut out by the SFU Clan yesterday, so they came out hungry for a goal. They got one on the UBC Thunderbirds, all right — 25 seconds into the game. The teams traded goals a couple of times to force overtime, UBC with an aggressive forecheck, and OU with a counterattacking, positionally-sound style of play. While all four teams this weekend were using this tournament to get some jump in the ol’ legs after the long collegiate Christmas break, the Sooners seemed to be most affected. They especially had difficulty adjusting to the Canadian forecheck, getting hemmed in their own zone for long stretches of time.
They had more success getting into dangerous areas against UBC than they had the previous night against SFU. Despite having 50 shots on Clan goaltender Evan Kurylo on Friday, they rarely threatened with solid scoring chances.
In the exhibition tournament finale, the host SFU Clan fell 5-3 to the top-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils. The Sun Devils had something to prove, having been soundly thumped 8-2 by the UBC Thunderbirds on Friday night. The Clan, for their part, seemed to be skating through mud for the first 30 or 35 minutes of the game. They allowed ASU to move quickly through the neutral zone, something they wouldn’t give OU the previous night. Consequently, the Sun Devils had speed entering the SFU zone, and were able to create a number of quality scoring chances each period of the game.
All in all, a fun weekend of college hockey at Bill Copeland Arena in Burnaby. It would have been nice to see a few more people out, but this is a refrain I’ve been singing for ages — this town is far too much of a Canucks town, and not enough of a hockey town. Honestly, people, what do you need to get you out to games? Go already.
Pictures from the ASU Sun Devils versus SFU Clan game will appear in a later post.