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This Week in Disconsolation: If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s gonna break

February 1, 2012

As we turn the page on the first month of the New Year, we’d like to kindly advise our readers to remain vigilant. Oh, not about disrespect. That’s so overtly obvious we actually feel a little disrespected that you would suggest such a thing. No, we’re talking about the end of the world. Armageddon. 2012. Revelation. These prophecies, dismissed by many, foretell the end of life as we know it. Now, admittedly we’re not the type to buy into such tripe, but we can’t ignore the signs.

The flood has begun. Not from the skies above or the churning seas, mind you. No, these unrelenting waters that had the fine folks at TIIL searching for a stray door to float on originated in the eyes of the Amherst faithful.

A steady deluge of saline, the likes of which the earth has not seen in millennia. It seems that the end of days will be heralded not by earthquakes, volcanoes or earth-bound meteors; but instead by sloppy defense zone play, dirty hits from behind and one, ahem, journalist.

This past Friday your beloved River Hawks went into the Mullins Center trying to do what no other team had been able to accomplish: defeat Amherst at home. For the first few minutes or so of the game, it seemed Lowell may be doomed to suffer a similar fate that had overcome every other team that inhabited the visitor’s locker room. And when Branden Gracel scored on the power play just four minutes into the game, the parolees in maroon were feeling pretty good about themselves.

Then something funny happened on their way to another home W. Amherst started to take penalties. Tons of penalties. The kind of penalty streak that can only be explained using complex mathematical formulas containing more letters and weird Greek-looking symbols than numbers. And when Lowell finally cashed in for the final time at 18:56 of the third period, the Mullins mystique was nothing more than a vague memory. Lowell wrested control of the game in the second period, scoring twice while Amherst continued to rack up the penalties, demonstrating their lack of control on what turned out to be a laughable level. We understand how Lowell can take games over and just run a team’s show. We’d almost feel some level of empathy, if the opponent were anyone but the couch torching Skoal monkeys at Amherst.

While Lowell travelled home victorious, drinking Gatorade out of the Alumni Cup and singing songs of their glory, we pretty much figured Amherst would scrape together what was left of their dignity, spend a restless night relieving the visions of Jake Suter baring down on them in the corner and wake up with smiles on their faces after realizing it was the last time this season they’d have to play Lowell. What we did not account for, however, was the magnitude and depth that the Amherst fans and media would sink to when recapping Lowell’s dominating win. Nor did we fully realize the magnitude of the approaching storm.

The Amherst blogs (whom you can find with some internet searches, we’re not going to plug JV squads) had cranked the “Blame the Refs!” dial to 11. Truth is, we expect this kind of sulking from the less popular, poorly written blogs to the west. How else could they possibly spin this game? The chest-beating from the Amherst camp this past week about being undefeated at home and being a “team on the rise” in Hockey East had been nauseating.  It’s logical to conclude that after getting dominated on your home ice, though, that you’d have to go to the excuse bin to save face. Even still, the level of crybaby behavior had us putting on our three-quarter pants, just to be safe. No reason to get our cuffs wet.

What we didn’t anticipate, and what actually shocked us, was the ridiculous piece on MassLive.com by Dick Baker. The Friday night headline:

Officiating and frustration ends UMass hockey unbeaten string at 10; No. 11 Lowell wins 4-2

Now, when blaming the officiating makes it on the headline, you know the author has just lost his mind. Trading in our short pants for some bog waders, we anticipated a couple of things prior to reading the article:

  1. The author would make a claim that he usually doesn’t blame the refs in the first few paragraphs.
  2. The author would spend the rest of the article blaming the refs for everything from penalties, non-calls, the press box spread and the Hindenburg disaster.
  3. The author would give Lowell zero credit for the win.

Being right all the time can be a curse.

“It’s unfortunate that such an important game couldn’t be decided only by the play on the ice. And while one takes great care before pointing to officiating being the difference, the short-handed marathon the Minutemen were put under in the opening period set the tone for the remainder of the night”

Check off No. 1.

Notice, the “short-handed marathon” was something that Amherst was “put under”. Not something they earned or deserved, but something that was, in the author’s eyes, forced upon them. It was at this point that we began checking fresh water supplies and adorning life jackets.

Following the standard Lament of the Loser, the author spends the rest of the article blaming the officials. Lowell received more calls. Amherst didn’t get any make-up calls. Yes, Baker even goes so far as to blast the officials for not evening out the calls because, “Hey no fair!” No. 2? Check. The sheer ridiculousness of the article aside, the fact that someone who is (for some reason) paid to write professionally and, one would assume, impartially, would exercise so much energy focusing on the officials rather than shoddy play by Amherst is woefully pathetic. Check No. 3, and mate.

As we trudged to higher ground, we hoped this would be the last of the tears. There wasn’t time to construct an ark, and, let’s be serious, how many “blame the ref” articles can one man write about one game?

The answer, it seems, is two. We’re gonna need a bigger boat.

Saturday’s headline:

Aftermath of UMass Hockey-Lowell nightmare: Horrendous officiating turns game upside down

To put this in perspective, not only did Baker write a second piece, the headline itself is 10 times more inflammatory than the original. We wondered aloud what else he could possibly complain about as we watched, perched from the treetops, as cars were washed away in the raging river that bisected the city. This is already way past ludicrous.

Baker’s lead:

“Let me start out saying, I rarely complain in print about officiating, can’t even remember the last time I did. It’s too easy to do, and I hate doing it anyway at the risk of sounding like a homer.”

We remember the last time you did it. Less than 24 hours ago. What else could be said at this point. Hyperbole? The devil you say!

“But that debacle Friday was one of the most awful officiated games I’ve ever seen in college hockey.”

The most awful. Ever. So this is what Waterworld looks like.

Maybe, you’re thinking, he has a point. Was the officiating really that bad? The folks who put together the video for Amherst sure think so. Check out the game highlights at Hockeyeastonline.com. We understand that it’s awful and appears to have been edited by a small child with no computer experience, but bear with us: Twice during the video, in place of showing the goals scored by Lowell, the highlights include two “penalties” that apparently should have been called.

Focusing on the first one, we see Amherst center Kevin Czepiel called for goaltender interference, at the same time Derek Arnold is called for holding. In Amherst’s eyes, this was a case of Arnold riding Czepiel into the goalie and should not have resulted in an Amherst penalty. In the eyes of those with adult functioning levels, it’s obvious that Czepiel launches himself into Doug Carr at the end of the play with absolutely no help from Arnold. Should Arnold have been called for holding? Yup. Were both calls fair? Absolutely. Do we expect Crybaby Nation to admit to it? Of course not.

Baker then spends another 10 paragraphs on top of the two we’ve already made the mistake of copying and pasting complaining about the officials. Oh how horrible they were! It was a disgrace to the game! All that stuff. And then, when we finally arrive at the 13th paragraph, Baker seems to reach the sort of clarity of thought that can only come through a careening descent into madness.

Said the Blanche Dubois of the Berkshires:

But I can tell you why [Amherst lost]. They had fallen behind in a game they shouldn’t have been behind. They knew it was tough to score on Doug Carr, and they went into an offensive up and down the ice game. And Cahoon said correctly, that they were trying to be something they weren’t good enough to be. The problem was that Lowell skates as well if not better than UMass, hits a lot harder, and is more disciplined, so the UMass frustration reaction wasn’t going to, and didn’t work.

Dick, we are so very proud of you. We mean it. After feverishly pounding out more than 1,000 words about how the refs had betrayed Amherst in the most fiendish ways imaginable, you put your finger on the real culprit in Amherst’s home loss and indeed, ultimate sweep at the hands of the River Hawks: Lowell is a considerably better team that plays a style Amherst can’t handle, and always — always — will lead them to take too many penalties to make a game manageable.

Look, Lowell pumped Amherst for 13 goals in three games and allowed just four. Blame whoever you want, but if you put all three of these games together, the Minutemen’s combined goal total merely matches Lowell’s minimum output. It really is that simple. Looking under the bed for boogeymen in striped shirts should be the least of anyone’s concerns out that way.

Thankfully the waters have started to recede. We’re grateful that Lowell doesn’t have to play Amherst anymore. While we love an easy W, and believe us there are none easier, we’ve run out of life rafts and can’t risk another monsoon of Amherst tears.

Hopefully this latest series will be a teachable moment for Amherst supporters and media, and we can avoid another horrifically embarrassing series of events next season.

Or maybe we’ll just stock up on galoshes.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Rich permalink
    February 1, 2012 12:49 pm

    thats amusing because on his “unpublished” article, he actually has the headline right… “UMass hockey at Lowell game: This time it wasn’t the refs, Minutemen did themselves in”. I love a consistent Amherst writer

    • RHHB permalink
      February 1, 2012 1:20 pm

      That was for Saturday’s game, for which the observation is accurate. Though we suppose the observation is also accurate for Friday. Oh well.

  2. Monty permalink
    February 3, 2012 6:00 am

    Kinda sad that Baker’s still bitching about this.

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