Sunday, February 28, 2010

Random Shots from the Road: Clearing Room on the Memory Card

Including the fact that when you scarf take-out from an empty Chinese restaurant in Northern Wisconsin, you'll know explosive diarrhea. -- Eau Claire, WI

The proud hockey mom I met while nursing a Sunday morning Leiney's at Rooney's Coach Club. -- Altoona, WI

This is the house I will call home after Shauna demands I choose between our children and me doing this road trip again next year. -- Hayward, WI

In 1986 I spent the summer delivering Rocky Rococco pizzas to stoned and lonely people all Madison. I am pleased to report that 22 years later, Rocky's still uses the exact same packaging. -- Madison, WI

I sure wish my brother-in-law had pointed out PER1NE's seat warming functionality before I left for Superior. -- Madison, WI

There was a nice RUDY film moment during University School's romp over Cedarburg Saturday. With the game well in hand, the student section started chanting "Sully, Sully, Sully" then roared when little-used senior forward Michael Sullivan took a shift on the ice. -- Beaver Dam, WI

I don't know about you, but if I were the principal of a school called the Golden Beavers, I'd make damn sure my mascot kept its legs closed. -- Beaver Dam, WI

This sign will mean little to readers who didn't attend Lawrence University, but to a small group of Lawrentians who found themselves bored one night, it holds great significance. -- Ladoga, WI

When I tell people I played hockey in college, I like to pretend it was for a respected Division III program like the one they now have at Lawrence, not a club team that once lost 18-3 to UW-Whitewater.

If the dorm room walls of Room 114 at Plantz Hall could talk, they'd say, "YAWN."

A stop at Jim's Place is the common dominator of every fun night I ever spent at Lawrence, not to mention a few not-so-fun ones. -- Appleton, WI

On a lark, I tried to find the office in Neenah where I toiled for a summer as the managing editor of a weekly newspaper called The Streets. I had given up and was heading back to the highway when I drove right past it, now disguised as a hair salon. -- Neenah, WI

Today's Classic Rock Minute, Brought to You by WRJQ-FM

Other Sectional Recaps: Big Ice Dance Card Officially Full


Jed Carlson/Superior Telegram
Super sophomore Caleb Dushkin scores a hat trick (and adds an assist for good measure) to lead the young but red hot Spartans to an easy victory over New Richmond.

Vikings blow lead but hang on to defeat the upstart Waukesha Wings to secure their second consecutive trip the The Big Ice.


Andi Stempniak/Eau Claire Leader-Telegram
No one is talking about them and that's just the way the Old Abes like it; they roll over Hayward in a yawner to secure yet another trip downstate.

The Red Raiders' Tim Holck slams home a rebound with less then two minutes to go to wrap up Wisconsin Rapids' unlikely return to Madison. The fourth-seeded Rapids is the only team to advance to Madison this year without being a top seed in their sectional.

Don't let the Spartan logo fool ya; Wausau West goes by the name "Warriors," and they look like the favorites after whacking Stevens Point for a fourth time this year. That's what you call a sweep, folks.

Sectional Final Recap: The Notre Dame Academy War Machine Rolls On

After a near-miss with the Witch of Rosendale, I made it to a jam-packed Appleton Family Center in time to catch the much-anticipated Notre Dame Academy/Appleton United showdown.

A reporter from the Green Bay Press Gazette was there, as was one from the Appleton Post-Crescent. An interesting clash of perspectives, no?

The only space I could find was down near the Notre Dame bench; it offered me a fairly decent view of the action but also a reminder of just how much hockey players smell like the holding tank of crab fishing boat. (Dear Lord, boys, three words: WIN Sport Detergent.)

First things first, let's talk uniform design. Appleton needs help. The unimaginative logo needs a total makeover, the large-pored mesh fabric is dated and the numbers on back are tragically small. The color balance from helmet to ankle is okay, but that's too little, too late.

Notre Dame Academy's unis have some nice touches. The all-black get-up is certainly intimidating and I love the breezer logo and the super-secret Hogwarts school logo on the shoulder. But sadly, they too suffer from number size deficiency on the back (see bench photo above). I'm going to make a suggestion here, Tritons, and it's a damn good one: Swap the NDA on the front with the logo on the shoulder, beef up the font size on the back, and you got yourself a uniform design as winning as your record.

I have spoken.

Back to the action: The game was almost a carbon copy of the earlier match-up between Cedarburg and University School. Appleton United has some talented players who played hard. Unfortunately, they also played dumb. The mascot-less squad showed a remarkable lack of poise for a game of such significance. It was clear from the get-go that the thin-skinned refs were going to call EVERYTHING, yet the Appleton players kept flying into contact with elbows up and sticks swinging, which is a recipe for disaster against a team as talent-laden as Notre Dame.

By the time I joined the throng of people leaving midway through the third period, the refs were trying to play catch-up with the penalties and misconducts were being dished out like beard combs at a Kenny Loggins concert.

Before I left, though, I took note that Notre Dame Academy certainly looks like the real thing. Both goalie Tony Kujava and Max McCormick look more than worthy of their Mr. Hockey nominations. The rest of the squad seems to follow the stoic example and simple game plan set forth by Coach Corey McCracken. The Tritons roll short, intense shifts, constantly changing on the fly, with little theatrics; they remind me of the CCCP teams of yore. The way they have systematically mowed down their competition 24-2 on the way to The Big Ice is reminiscent of the Russians, too.

Judging by the nervous glances I saw from the Edgewood players there to scout their next opponent, I'm pretty sure I'm not the only person who sees Notre Dame as this year's prep hockey version of Dolf Lundgren.

This reporter can't wait for next Thursday 4-game marathon at The Alliant Center. We've got a feel-good story with underdog Rapids, and 7 other great teams battling it out for the championship.

Say it with me: God Bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

Sectional Final Recap: Brains Best Brawn as Beemers Blatantly Blast Bulldogs, 7-1

University School's Charlie James look to slide another scoring pass between Cedarburg's Nick Boehnlein (22) and the gigantic Lee Wickert (30).
I've matured enough in recent years to look beyond surface appearances (and, gratefully, so has my wife) but there is still something about the sight of a hair-gelled investment banker in a popped up collar or a chubby frat-rat with a Phish haircut and backwards lacrosse cap that makes me want to punch them in the neck.

So imagine my confusion this afternoon at sitting amid the surprisingly large University School contingent Saturday afternoon and finding myself cheering as the Wildcats destroyed Cedarburg, 7-1. That's right, John Stephens, I am officially a fan.

Fear the mullet? No, Cedarburg, fear Alex Tesensky. And Simon Leahy. And Ian Crimmins. And Ian Palin. And...
Why? Because, friends, this isn't your Daddy's U School. The Wildcats are huge and physical. 6'0", 200-pound Ian Palin was a holy terror out there yesterday, knocking the bark out of several Bulldogs--and unless U School's roster is as fake as the breasts on the cougar three rows down from me, they're bringing one of the bigger teams to state.

The Wildcats also boast a 1-2 offensive punch as good as any I've seen on my travels this month. Simon Leahy and Alex Tesensky combined for 9 of the team's 18 points. This Leahy kid is only a junior and after seeing him do everything out there, including kill penalties, I have to think he is an early candidate for 2011 Player of the Year honors.

Tesensky and Leahy throw another power play party; Lee Wickert is left off the guest list.
Most impressive, though, was the team's poise. The hard-charging Bulldogs jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a flukey goal less than a minute into the first period, but the Wildcats never panicked. They just played solid, aggressive hockey and waited for the head-hunting Bulldogs to take their penalties. And Lord, did they take penalties. By the end of the second period, Cedarburg had played the equivalent of an entire period shorthanded, and the Wildcats took advantage to the tune of four power play goals.

Cedarburg coach Dale West has filed an official protest with the WIAA, claiming Nathan's Burke second head and stick give him an unfair advantage on the ice (and with the ladies).
Adding intrigue and controversy to the day was the fact that (1) Tesensky was slated to play hockey for Cedarburg before MUS got their mitts on him and (2) the Cedarburg uniforms were attempting the always difficult white number of white jersey design. Did they pull it off? Decide for yourself:

To summarize: Personal grudges and petty prejudices aside, the Wildcats are a fun, talented team to watch. But will three games in three days be too much for this one-line wonder, especially when those games are played on the sludge they call ice at the Alliant Center?

Time and this reporter will tell.

Time to Play "Spot the Olympian"

As a tribute to the men on both sides of the border for today's reminder of why hockey is our planet's greatest sport, I submit to you this brief clip from No Sleep 'til Madison.

Look for the cameo from one of 2010's great Olympians, back then just a scrappy kid with a bushelful of dreams. (This phrase describes me, as well, as long as you substitute "scrappy" with "drunk" and "dreams" with "butter burgers.")

WSHSHP's Controversial Tandem Team of Analisa Rudy and Eric Mott Celebrate First-Ever #1 Ranking; Bernsten and Stephens Look to Spoil Their Party

Shauna Rudy slips back in the latest leaderboard but like a loyal flagbearer on a corpse-strewn battlefield of yore, another Rudy rushes in to take her place. That's right, after four rounds of tourney play, the tandem prognostication team of Analisa Rudy & Eric Mott have claimed their first ever #1 ranking.

Their whopping 190 points are two better than Barney Bernsten, the remarkable rookie from Rockford who has apparently recovered completely from the post-concussion syndrome that has haunted him for decades after playing an entire Lawrence football season wearing a punter's helmet. Rumors persist that Anne Bernsten is the Sharon Osbourne to Barney's shaky Ozzy (at least when it comes to hockey brackets) but this office will not stoop to idle gossip.

The secret recipe to Barney's bracket success? Anne Bernsten (L) serves Barn Bernsten his daily serving of birthday cake.
And move over Joannie Rochette. In what is rapidly turning into the feel-good story of the season, a hobbled John Stephens (187 points) shook free from the still scrappy Shauna Rudy, the arch conservative bettor (and voter) Ed "Gloves Off" Middendorf, and the scale-flecked Blake Feist (184 points a piece) to capture solo possession of third place.

Crutches hidden from reporters, John Stephens shows he still hasn't lost that ageless University School prep look while announcing his recent sponsorship deal with American Crew Firm Hair Styling Gel for Men.
Other names of note:
Look out, kids: Entrepreneur Jamie Moe (183 points) is making a late charge, as is Mark Pellegrino (182), the mysterious Darley21 (180) and the original Survivor Man, Stu Keith (178).

Stu Keith reacts to a reporter's question regarding the shoddy construction of his Keith-Built (TM) ice shanty.
Rounding out the Top 10 are Lucas Rudy, Greg "Buns" Mills, and John "My Sunglasses are Worth More than Your Car" Orta, each at 176 points, and the reclusive Joe McCormack, who has admitted to the press that he would not even be playing had he known there was no chance of winning money that could help finance his son's USC education.

The always literal John Orta responds to allegations that he doesn't know a hockey puck from a basketball.
With each game now worth a whole bunch of points, expect the leaderboard to change more than the positioning in a short track speedskating relay as we move to Madison's Big Ice. Stand by, and God Bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Accidental Ghost Story (or Why I Regret Ever Picking Up a Stephen King Novel)

Sunset today found me a few miles west of tiny Rosendale, searching for a forlorn stretch of asphalt known as Witch Road. Legend has it that an old woman lived there in the 40's and that she had practiced the dark arts. Since her death, there have been many reports of odd happenings along the road where her abandoned home can still be found. Dramatic fluctuations in temperature, odd sounds and lights, a tree that resembles a witch and, gulp, a little girl who peeks at you from around trees.

So I suppose it made perfect sense for me to try to find this place at sunset, just when the lifeless winter landscape of the Dairyland takes on an even creepier Blair Witchian quality. But I found the road easily enough...

And, yes, there was a house at the curve at the bottom of the hill and, yes, it definitely was abandoned.

I parked PER1NE around the curve at the end of the road to keep her out of my shots and walked back to house, snapping photos. There was a creepy twisting sound in the treetops, a slow, mournful creaking that made the ample hair on the back of my neck rise. But there was nothing paranormal about that, right? Across the road from the witch's house I found another collapsed structure with an odd, handwritten sign.

Creepiness and creaking aside, I noted no fluctuations in temperature, no strange lights, no ghost girls peering at me from behind dead trees. So I decided to return to PER1NE to retrieve the WSHSHP trophy for a photo session before it got too dark.

I was on my way back to the house, trophy in hand, when I paused for reasons that still escape me and looked back in the direction of PER1NE. There, laying in the road behind me, was one of my recently deceased father's leather gloves. And it appeared to be giving me the finger. So I walked back to take a photo.

Upon closer inspection, it wasn't the middle finger of my father's glove that was extended; it was the forefinger. Yes, the glove was pointing, and it was pointing directly at PER1NE, still purring around the corner, and away from the house where I had been walking to take my photo.

I swear on my father's martini shaker full of ashes that I did not stage this photo. This is exactly how I found the glove. I also swear that the instant I figured out that the glove was pointing away from the witch's house that ominous creaking in the trees started again.

I made an executive decision that the photo session was over, which is a polite way of saying I let out a little yelp like the kind my sister's wiener dog makes when I sit on the blanket he's sleeping under. I picked up the glove and made a thigh-swishing beeline for PER1NE, eyes straight ahead, not once peeking at the trees on either side of the road.


Section 6 Final Recap: No-Name Cruskaters Advance Against Rival Cardinals, 4-3

The Madison press did a nice job of covering last night's Edgewood-Middleton game, so I'll let them provide the details. I'll stick with other random observations:

Wow, I take back my claim that Superior is the only place that cares about prep hockey. When Mo and I pulled up in front of Madison Ice Arena last night, the lot was full and cars stretched on both sides of the frontage road for several blocks. Once inside, we found at least 500 people in the rink, many of them students, and the cockles of my heart quickly warmed the rest of my dry, frigid body.

I was also delighted to see that Edgewood, after years of wandering lost through the desert of hockey uniform design, may have finally gotten it right. While I did field some complaints about the E in front, I like the Olympic horizontal feel of the design. Heck, add a few dragons or mini-shield plates to the front and you could be Latvia or Germany out there. I'm curious to know what some of you think.

I didn't get a great shot of Middleton unis, too, but they're basically this design with Middleton replacing Boston and smaller numbers in front.

As for the game, let me honest. It was a surprisingly boring affair until late in the third period. The crowd was disturbingly laid back, despite a great student showing from both schools, and with both teams sporting a balanced attack over a clear superstar of the Dylan Dock or Russell Blaser caliber, there weren't any spectacular rushes or pretty goals to get excited about. (Alex Koritzinsky's third period goals was nice, but most of the tallies were the result of rebounds or deflections; in other words, ugly.)

Surprisingly, the usually defensive-minded Middleton was definitely the aggressor out there, badly outshooting the Crusaders throughout the contest. But the Crusaders never panicked or stopped working for their chances, and they took advantage of enough of them to come away with the win. I was impressed with their almost robotic poise that lasted until the final horn, when all celebratory hell broke loose behind Brad Jerzewski's net.

There was lots of grit, though, like when Crusader freshman Cameron Brown played almost an entire shift without a glove, forechecking his way to an assist on Kevin Curliss' third period goal. Crusader Zach Addamo's intensity was fun to watch out there, too, and the Koritzinsky Brothers from Middleton showed some real chemistry. Still, even with the score tied late in the game, I found my mind wandering to the banana cream pie my bother-in-law kept mentioning was waiting for us back at Rudy Manor.

Gage Mauer's game-winner did not come without controversey. With 44 seconds left in the game, Middleton's head coach Steve Libert pulled the Koritzinsky Brothers and fellow #1 linemate Brett Skibba off the ice, a move that did not sit well with the ranting Middleton fathers standing next to me. When Mauer scored ten seconds later, I overheard the most colorful use of profanity since the time my boss saw me damage the front loader on the town of Avon's lone Bobcat.

It was a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" moment for Coach Libert, but I have to side with the Monday morning quarterbacks on this one. When a game is on the line, I like to win or lose with my best players.

I know it's no consolation for the Cardinals but with only five seniors on the roster, they have to be considered a real contender next season. Until then, the Crusaders and they're face-painted minions have their sights set on The Big Ice. Look out for these guys, folks. They might not win pretty, but pretty seldom takes home a state title.

Excuse me, Master Brown, but I was led to believe from the fund raiser who called me that if I were to continue with my $25 annual donation to Edgewood, this number was to be retired?

Sectional 7 Final Recap: Stoughton 6, Waukesha 3

Dylan Anderson and his Viking cohorts are headed to the Big Ice.
Don't let the score fool you. Stoughton needs two-empty-net goals in the final 35 seconds and 27 saves from goalie Dylan Anderson to hold off upstart Waukesha.

Next up for the Vikings? The winner of this afternoon's tilt between University School and Cedarburg. Stand by.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Saturday's Games

Wisconsin Rapids vs. Onalaska

New Richmond vs. Superior

Cedarburg vs. Milwaukee University School

Stevens Point at Wausau West

Hayward vs. Eau Claire Memorial

Appleton United vs. Notre Dame Academy

A Stevens Point or Appleton upset would turn the leaderboard on its head, so stay tuned this weekend, kids. Your Commissioner will be covering a lot of ground in PER1NE tomorrow, covering the U School/Cedarburg game in Beaver Dam in the afternoon and the Appleton/Notre Dame Academy game that night in Appleton.

I haven't been this excited since I discovered a Deadliest Catch marathon the last time Shauna and the kids went out of town for the weekend.

Lead Pack Thins, Shauna Rudy Still on Top (That's What She Said)

The Friday night scores are in:
Edgewood 4, Middleton 3
Stoughton 6, Waukesha 3
This means Shauna Rudy, in addition to savoring the rarified air of a husband-less bedroom, is also gulping in the equally rarifed air of first place on the WSHSHP Leaderboard. With 152 points, Rudy holds the slimmest of leads over the tandem team of dog whisperers Analisa Rudy & Eric Mott (150 points).

Oliver Albrecht poses with his kittie, Dusty Hackbart.
And look at this! Oliver Albrecht has bullied his way into third place with 146 points, fighting off the equally surging Chip "Toes" Krauss (145 points) and a 4-pack of contenders comprised of Lucas Rudy, John Orta, masters division representative Ed Middendorf and Blake Feist, who many complain still reeks of fish fingers.

Toes Krauss, wearing his lucky argyle socks, does a premature victory jig in the basement of his rural Denver home.
Aspiring novelist Joe "Hoops" McCormack is making his move, as is George Clooney wannabe Mark Pellegrino, while Trasher Trzinski and Peter Rudy's title hopes appear to be fading as fast as their looks.

Veterans Dylan DiBona, Erik Moe, and Brian Kobylinski continue to disappoint, but none have fared as badly as the baffling Bob Hall and Tony Landgraf who are battling the once heavy favorite Julie Fraize for Worst Pool Participant of the Year honors.

Perhaps if Dylan DiBona and Keelin Linehan spent a little more time evaluating their brackets, and a little less time ignoring the WSHSHP rule about inter-pool dating, they'd be doing a little better than 18th and 19th place, respectively.
Six more games on the docket for manana. Stand by for more leaderboard moves as we discover the six other teams that will be joining Stoughton and Edgewood on Madison's sacred Big Ice.

The Twine Man's Manifesto

Several readers have inquired about The Twine Man's handwritten bio. Here is what he gave me. Please note: This is not a copy; JFK writes out each bio by hand: