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!