SIN BIN BLOG: 2013-14 SEASON AWARDS

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Break out the red carpet.  It's time to pass out some awards.

 

(Note: any mention of an "sponsor" is a joke. Please don't sue me.)

 

The "You Wouldn't Like Me When I'm Angry" Award (sponsored by Dr. Bruce Banner): Colt King

This one is pretty self-explanatory. Colt is one scary individual. In fact, I think I referred to him as the actual Boogeyman in a blog post last season. Time and time again, Colt made an example out of those who crossed him (see Clarke, Garrett). It got to the point that no one would drop the gloves with him, and I can't blame them. The man throws thunderous punches that would put Rocky Balboa on his tuckus. Not only did Colt fulfill his reputation as the best fighter in the league, he also proved that he can be a force with the puck on his stick. He has really become a terrific all around player.

 

The "I Block More Shots Than Captain America's Shield" Award: John-Scott Dickson

There are probably several guys on this team that could make a case for this award, but when it comes to sacrificing one's body to keep a little chunk of vulcanized rubber from passing by, JSD reigns supreme. I don't know how many blocked shots he had this season, but I would imagine it would make Dikembe Mutumbo's jaw drop.

 

The Banana Peel Award (sponsored by The Three Stooges and old Warner Brothers Cartoons): Andrew Courtney

Courts is capable of doing so many great things on the ice, but have you ever noticed how many times he just........falls? It happens more than you think. It typically gets a good chuckle from the players and media up the press box. It's because he's so great that it is so funny. So much talent, yet such a klutz. I can't help but crack a smile by just typing the words.

 

The "I Don't Look Like Much, but I'll Destroy You" Award (sponsored by Jason Bourne): Evan Vossen

Voss isn't a man of great stature, but you wouldn't know it just by watching him play. He throws his weight around with the best of them, and this season, he proved he can throw some wicked punches as well. Off the ice, it would seem like it would take a lot to get him fired up, but when he laces up those skates, he's coming after you, so keep your head up. Oh, and there's no award for this, but he may be the best penalty killer in the league. Every team needs a player like Evan Vossen on their team, at least every team that wants to be successful.

 

The Filthy Sniper Award: Eric Castonguay

A little shake of the shoulder, step into the slot, and hit the roof harder than the crew at CCR Roofing. How many times did we see that sequence this season? If any netminder gave Castonguay even a glimpse of twine behind him, he'd find a way to blister a wrister into it.

 

The Superhero Action Figure Award: Obi Aduba

The sheer physical appearance of Obi is beyond intimidating. He is built like an action figure, and brings that presence to the ice. So many opponents thought that they had Obi in their crosshairs, lined up for a beautifully placed open-ice hit. Every single one of them ended up on their backs, staring up at a guy who could star in the next installment of the G.I. Joe movies.

 

The Mr. Clutch Award: Andrew Courtney
Think of the top ten biggest goals scored in the history of the Mavs. Now, how many of those were scored by Courts. 4? 5? 6? I know I poked fun at him earlier, but this guy has a knack for bringing his very best when his team needs it the most. If there's less than a minute on the clock in a tie game, I want the puck on Andrew Courtney's stick.

 

The Mr. Nice Guy Award (Sponsored by Stuart Smalley): Mike Ramsay

This is kind of a silly category, but there's a reason that Mike Ramsay won the Most Gentlemanly Player Award this season. He might be the nicest person that I've ever met in my life, and I've met a few people. When you talk to Ramsay, he seems genuinely interested in what you have to say. Every time I would interview him after a game, he would stick around and chit-chat long after the microphone was turned off. He reminds me a lot of another Mavs great, one David Simoes. Talking with Ramsay after the games made the losses not so bad, and the wins that much better. Those are the types of guys that are easy too root for on and off the ice.

 

Game of the Year: The Allen Brawl

I know that I didn't have very nice things to say after this game, and I stand by those statements, but a lot of good came from that game as well. That was the point that you realized that this team was different than any other squad in the organization's history. We heard from the players all season about how close this team is, but it sounded like a line that you hear all the time. It sounded like your typical professional sports cliché. All that it took was Allen crossing the line, and we all quickly realized that it was no cliché, and what we were witnessing was something special.

 

Moment of the Year: Henrik Odegaard in Sochi

We've all seen the Winter Olympics numerous times, but the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will forever be etched into our brains and hearts. Odegaard had every member of the Orange Army gleaming with pride as he took the ice against the world's best players, representing his home country of Norway. Seeing him share the ice with so many NHL players was so surreal, and I hope you all took a moment to realize how breathtakingly tremendous it was to see one of our boys on the world's biggest stage. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it. Not only is that the moment of the year, but it's a moment that will forever live in the history books of this organization.

 

Rookie of the Year: Anders Franzon
- We've seen a lot of rookie players don the Mavs sweater, and at first it looked like Franzon wouldn't be anything special. Guess what? I was wrong yet again. Sure, Franzon got off to a slow start, but you could see him progress with each game under his belt. He really made his mark in Odegaard's absence, stepping up and playing some big minutes and big shifts for this team. Oh, and he happened to lead all rookie defensemen in scoring.

 

Offensive Player of the Year: Andrew Courtney

I could have changed the winner of this award just about every week down the final stretch of the regular season. Courts flip-flopped lines a few times this season, and still managed to finish the year with the regular season goals record.

 

Defensive Player of the Year: Matt Stephenson

He was a finalist for Most Outstanding Defenseman, and if it weren't for Tyler Ludwig of Allen having a career year, Stephenson would have won this award in a landslide. Sure, he didn't put up the sexy offensive numbers that Ludwig did, but you be hard-pressed to find a better shutdown defenseman in the league. He can hit, he can fight, he wins battles in the corners, gives up his body to block shot after shot, clears traffic in front, and he shut down some of the premier players in the league this season. To call Stephenson a rock would be the understatement of the decade.

 

Most Valuable Player: Shane Owen

I've been having a hard time shaking the image of Shane with his hands on his knees and head slumped after the season-ending defeat. I'm really glad that I decided to write this post tonight, because it made me sit down and think about the dozens of SportsCenter-worthy saves that he somehow managed to make this season. The Mavericks set a team record for wins en route to the Governor's Cup. I'd be willing to bet that at least ten to twelve of those wins were stolen by Owen doing the impossible, making saves that no goalie has any business making. When I first met Shane, we talked about the great line of goalies that have come through this organization. He acknowledged the likes of Nolan, Festa, and the great Charlie Effinger with the utmost respect, but also told me "I'm here to make a name for myself." Mission accomplished Shane. Mission accomplished.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: DEAFENING SILENCE

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There are no words to describe that feeling. You know the feeling. That feeling that the hockey season is over, and the ending didn't come with a party like Independence has never seen. For me, that excruciating feeling came at two different points in the night. The first occurrence came as I watched Kevin Baker fire the puck towards an open net. The time that passed between his flick of the wrist and the puck hitting twine was probably less than a second. What I was watching seemed like it took an eternity.

The puck seemed to float in slow motion towards the four feet by six feet frame that was protected ever so tightly by Shane Owen this season. I hoped that he would come up with one of his miraculous saves that we had seen so many times over the past six months. There was nothing he could do about this one. We all know what happened next.

I sat in the press box with my hands folded on top of my head for the longest time. I couldn't believe that this was it, the end. The next few minutes were a blur. To this day, I still don't remember packing up my bag, getting my voice recorder out, and walking down the stairs towards the locker room. A few fans stopped to offer their condolences, which seemed to snap me out of my temporary haze. I then get to the locker room for our customary post-game interview with Coach Hillman.

I was not even close to prepared for what would take place over the next 30 minutes or so. Hillman emerged from the locker room, and sat in the same seat as he had for every other home game this season. It wasn't his red face or slumped shoulders that shook the room, it was his eyes. As he greeted each member of the media with a firm handshake as he always does, I patiently awaited my turn to say hello. He finally got to me, and as I looked into his eyes, I saw complete and utter devastation. This was no ordinary loss, no ordinary end to a season. After heartbreaking Game 7 losses in back to back seasons, we thought that it couldn't get much worse than that. We were wrong.

The other media members and I typically have questions prepared so that we can get our quotes and information, and let Hillman go on about his business. On this night, our brains were numbed, not only by what we had just witnessed on the ice, but more so because the one man who never shows emotion, good or bad, sat before us, completely destroyed. He spoke barely above a whisper, respectfully answering every question that we were able to choke out of our mouths. After a few minutes of questions, we all said our thank you's to Hillman for his candidness and hospitality throughout the season, and our night was finished.

I couldn't leave. On other nights, I might scurry out of there to catch a few friends for a nightcap, or rush home in hopes that my daughters were waiting up for me to get home. After that game, that series, that season, I couldn't walk out. I hung around outside the locker room for a while, and that's when I had that feeling in the pit of my stomach for the second time. As my mind raced, frantically replaying the key moments of Game 6 in my head, I came to a harsh realization: it was completely silent. I'd often hear cheers of triumph, or frustrated yells or something being thrown in the locker room after a defeat. Neither occurred on this night, and it shook me to my very core. The silence was deafening.

One by one, each member of the Mavs eventually came out of the locker room. The game, at that point, had long been over, but most of them looked like they had just stripped off their gear. They weren't ready to leave either. Each of them walked past me and greeted me without words, a handshake here, a fist bump there, but no words were spoken. They didn't need to hear anything from me, just as I knew everything that I needed to know by the expressions on each of their faces.

I'm glad that I stuck around as long as I did. The brief interaction that I had with each player actually brought me a slight sense of relief. It's not that I found solace in their disdain, not at all. However, it made me realize how much these guys care, about winning, about the fans, and about each other. We often hear about how professional sports are a "business." While that is true to some extent on a grand scale, that side of the game didn't exist after Game 6. No, what I found out was that these guys, as big and tough as can be, and whom we regard as superheroes for six months every year, are human. Not only are they human, they were also just as devastated as each of us to see the end of this season that has been the best in the history of the Missouri Mavericks to date. On that night, we all mourned as one. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: DO OR DIE

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Their backs are against the wall. There is no tomorrow. It's do or die. It's a must-win situation. Win or go home. Alright, now that we have all of the clichés out of the way, let's get down to business.

Game 5. What an absolute gut-punch that was. The Mavericks and Sundogs went toe to toe, punch for punch, hit for hit, and goal for goal in what was the most entertaining playoff game that the league has seen so far. The Mavs trailed entering the third period, only to get a boost from the most unlikely player on the roster. Pete Massar was signed prior to the game, and threw the social media world into a frenzy as everyone was asking about the new player in the number sixteen sweater with no name plate.

Massar has become an overnight sensation amongst the Orange Army, and nearly cemented his name in the team's history books. The forward out of the University of Vermont scored to tie the game at two, and later gave the Mavs a 3-2 lead with his second of the night. As far as a professional debut goes, you can't get much better than that. As the Mavs were clinging to their newly found lead late in the third period, the ideas for this blog post were already running through my head, in particular, something based around Bill Murray's iconic "Cinderella Story" scene in "Caddyshack" (my mind really wanders late at night). Game 5 of the 2014 playoffs was going to be one of the most dramatic, and unlikely wins that this team and its fans had ever seen.

We all know what happened. Arizona pulled Engelage for an extra attacker, and Justin Pender blasted one past Shane Owen to tie the game with 29 seconds on the clock. The Mavs were 29 seconds away from heading back to The IEC with a 3-2 series lead, a recipe that looked like ultimate doom for the Sundogs. However, after 90 minutes and 28 seconds of hockey, Johan Ryd (who has since been elected Mayor of Prescott Valley) forced a turnover in the neutral zone and roofed a wrister to propel the Sundogs to a 4-3 win in a thrilling (yet nauseating) game.

I'm not going to lie, I'm still trying to get over that loss. I thought that the Mavs, for the most part, played a pretty good game, much unlike the stinkers that we saw in Games 2 & 3. I was 70% into celebration mode when Pender pulled off his Grinch impersonation, stealing a victory from the jaws of defeat. Even after that, when Shane Owen was on his back, lying in the crease with Sundogs forward Sebastian Geoffrion about to put home the game winner and the Mavs goalie managed to get his glove up just enough to make one of the most spectacular saves that I've ever seen, I knew that the Mavs would somehow come away with a win. I was wrong, and it hurt.

Now it's time to put up or shut up (another cliché), or the best team in the history of the Mavericks will pack up and head home, saddled with the most disappointing end to a season to date for this organization. We all knew that this series wouldn't be your typical number one seed versus number eight seed matchup. Let's face it, for the last few months of the season, Arizona was one of the best teams in the league. I say one of the best, because every team was still looking up at the Mavericks, as they sat atop the standings, notching win after win, and raising our expectations every time that they took the ice. It's not our fault that we all expected this team to eventually get over the hump and make it to the Finals. Coach Hillman, Sebastien Thinel (when he's not being handed an absolutely ridiculous suspension), Eric Castonguay, Dave Pszenyczny, Shane Owen, Andrew Courtney, Mike Ramsay, Colt King, and the rest of the Mavericks are responsible for us expecting the very best every game. After all, that's what they put on display for the majority of the regular season. We didn't set the bar high. They did that themselves. So now it's time to stop talking about goals and expectations. It's time to start achieving them. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: A MUCH NEEDED.....LOSS?

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We've talked before about how a season is like a roller coaster, in that there are many ups and downs, but that is what makes it so enjoyable. Well, we haven't had to deal with many downs this season. For the better part of the season, the Missouri Mavericks were one of the elite teams in the Central Hockey League. It was an incredibly consistent season, in regards to the standings at least. The Mavs won a lot of games decisively, but also won their fair share of games that they shouldn't have.

I think that's what makes this past weekend so tough. On Friday night, we witnessed the Mavs do what we all hoped they would, continue their dominance on the Arizona Sundogs. Even with a third period surge, the Mavs still managed to take Game One of the best of seven series by a two-goal margin, but we all know that it wasn't as close as the final score may have led you to believe. What was even more impressive with the win on Friday is that it seemed like Arizona threw everything they had plus the kitchen sink at the Mavs, and the boys in orange just smiled and kept piling on the goals. After the display on Friday, I really thought that my previous prediction of a six game series might have been off-base.

With Game Two on home ice, we had every reason to believe that the Mavs would take care of business, and take a stranglehold on this series before hitting the road to Arizona. Boy were we wrong. The Sundogs smothered the Mavs from the opening faceoff to the final horn, with the lone burst from the Mavs coming after a second period goal from Andrew Courtney. As confident as I was leaving the arena on Friday, I was equally as skeptical on Sunday. Arizona took it to the Mavs in the corners, in the neutral zone, in front of Shane Owen (which led to multiple goals), and most importantly, on the scoreboard. Even with all of that, when the Mavs tied the game at two, the thought immediately crossed my mind that this would be one of those games that they have no business winning, but will find a way to come out on top. It turns out I was wrong once again.

Okay now, stay with me here. I'm going to say something that will sound insane at first, but hear me out. Maybe, just maybe, the Mavs needed to lose that game. Let's be honest, for the past two months, we've been incredibly spoiled. We've watched the Mavs win game after game, knocking off team after team en route to the best record in the league. From February 1st through the Governor's Cup clinching game against St. Charles on March 25th, the Mavs went 19-5-0. That's just an insane run over a two-month span. We expected them to win every time they took the ice, and they nearly accomplished that. I'm sure at some point, the players thought that they were nearly invincible on the ice, and even if they made a few mistakes, guys like Shane Owen, Eric Castonguay, or Colt King would step up and save they day, and that was the case for a while.

So, maybe the Mavs needed a kick in the hindquarters to remind them that nothing comes easy. Maybe they needed a reminder on the notion that they are not invincible. Maybe they needed a reminder that the regular season doesn't mean anything, that they're previous record against Arizona is worth didley squat, that if they really want to make everything that they've accomplished up to this point worth-while, they need to get to work. Oh, and maybe, just maybe, Arizona just woke the sleeping bear. Orange Pride.

 

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SIN BIN BLOG: FIRST ROUND PREDICTIONS

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It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, it's not Christmas time, although it might as well be. I'm talking about playoff hockey. It's the time of the year when checks are harder, passes are crisper, and goals are sweeter. Two teams, giving everything that they have including blood, sweat, teeth, bones, ligaments, tendons, whatever it takes to be the one to raise the cup in May.

Like most of you, I've been following the Central Hockey League for a while now. I can't remember a playoff bracket that is as evenly matched as this year's competitors. I would not be shocked by any of the lower seeds knocking off one of the "big boys." The parity has been terrific this year, and I think that not only is it great for the overall health of the league, it has created a scenario in which we could see a memorable postseason.

Enough jibber-jabber. Trying to pick which team will raise the cup right now is as easy as knocking Obi Aduba off his feet, so I just decided to focus on the opening round. Here goes nothing:

 

Rapid City Rush vs. Quad City Mallards

One thing that every series has in common is terrific goaltending. This one is no different. Tim Boron of the Rush and Ty Rimmer of Quad City were both finalists for the Most Outstanding Goaltender award this season, and both have put their respective teams on their backs during rough patches. Quad City gets a nice boost with the return of Jim McKenzie, who has spent the majority of the season in the AHL. Both teams have dealt with injuries lately, even the aforementioned Boron. Both teams skate well and have guys who can finish with the best of them. I think Rapid City has the edge defensively, but Quad City comes into the postseason having won four in a row, and seem to finally be getting relatively healthy. Rapid City, however, has been without Konrad Reeder, Eric Giosa, Justin Faryna, and Ryan Palmer. Reeder is expected to return to the lineup this weekend, and could be the wild card for the Rush. I'm going to go with my gut though. I'm taking the upset in this one.

Prediction: Quad City in six games

 

Allen Americans vs. Brampton Beast

I feel like I'm cheating on this prediction, especially after watching the defending champs thump the Beast to the tune of 7-2 in Game One of this series. Don't think for second that Allen will breeze into the second round though. I have a feeling that we will see a much different Brampton team for Game Two. In fact, I think that this is the only series that goes the full seven games. In the end, Allen's quest for back to back championships stays alive, in large part to Bryan Pitton becoming a household name around the league.

Prediction: Americans in seven games

 

Denver Cutthroats vs. Tulsa Oilers

Do you want to talk about firepower? Go look at some of the numbers that were put up by guys playing in this series, most notably CHL Most Valuable Player Garrett Bembridge, and MVP Finalist Ben Gordon. I want every game in this series to finish 10-9 in overtime, which I'm sure won't happen because of Kent Patterson and Shane Madolora. I just think that Tulsa is completely overmatched in this series. Denver is better offensively, defensively, on special teams, and between the pipes. This one is all Fish.

Prediction: Denver in five games

 

Missouri Mavericks vs. Arizona Sundogs

This is not your typical #1 versus #8 seed matchup. Arizona is a very good team, with a very good goaltender, and probably made themselves an even stronger team with the recent release of Garrett Clarke. This is not the Sundogs team that the Mavs swept during the regular season. The additions of David Rutherford and (familiar face) Brandon Coccimiglio, along with the emergence of Andrew Engelage (the CHL's Most Outstanding Goaltender), this is a Sundogs team that is capable of beating any team in this league, especially those who take them lightly. Their biggest problem may be getting in their own way, as they lead the CHL in penalty minutes this season. If they find themselves taking a lot of penalties, they will also find themselves on the golf course sooner than they'd like to be, considering the Mavs have the league's best powerplay (and penalty kill, but who's counting). I think that the Mavs work their way to Round Two, but not without a tremendous fight.

Prediction: Missouri in six games

 

So there you have it. Quad City, Allen, Denver, and Missouri will all advance to the Semifinals. I'm allowed to think ahead as a feeble blogger, but I can't imagine any of the players in the Mavs' locker room are doing the same. Regardless of anyone's predictions, playoff hockey is here, and I for one, am ready to get the party started. Orange Pride.

 

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