Thursday, February 28, 2013

Project Runway Meets the Final Eight: Game 3


We have ourselves another split jersey scheme with the heavily favored Old Abes. The darks are my favorite of the two, despite the shoulder logo (more on that later). I've always had a soft spot for Old Abe (easily the coolest team name in the Final) and the depiction of Old Abe is the perfect balance of whimsy and subtle violence. ECM is taking a gamble with the non-traditional pattern and multi-color scheme. In short, it's the most fashion-forward of all the uniforms on display this weekend.

Three captains (and on ridiculously long shoelace belt). Clean it up, Cap!
They flip the logos with the white jerseys, relegating Old Abe to the shoulders and moving the too-busy text treatment to center stage. Bad move. Even at a larger size, the text logo remains unreadable. Would be so much cooler just with the Old Abes written out. Granted, this could be a case of my color blindness getting in the way, but I have always trusted my gut on these things and I think I'm right on this one.

You only get one chance to make a first impression and let's be honest here, the WNS Storm sort of blow their debut. For those of you not "in the know," WNS is an acronym for Whitefish Bay/Nicolet/Shorewood, three tony Milwaukee suburbs that under the guidance of Coach of the Year Maco Balkovec have developed an impressive hockey program. Sadly, co-op uniforms either end up a rainbow of clashing school colors (see Janesville) or, in the Storm's case, blahsville. (I am tempted to sound off on the singular soccer name but this is neither the time nor the place.) 

I understand the challenge here: You have three schools, three mascots, three sets of school colors, so it makes sense to stick with some letters for the crest. But surely there is a more artful way of presenting them? I'm just not feeling anything here; I crave something more. 

Kudos for the font and size on the numbers on back. I like that:

Note to self: Keep an eye on those Sun Prairie uniforms. They show promise.
And what's with the Dallas Cowboy stars on the sleeve? Someone talk to me about what the hell that signifies? To this casual observer, it feels superfluous. And I will stand by that statement until someone can give me a damn good reason for why it's there. 

I'm sorry, Storm. I love that you are the only #1 seed to make it to The Big Ice, but I just wish you had picked out a better gown to wear to the ball.


Project Runway Meets the Final Eight: Game 2


When it comes to uniforms, Wisconsin Rapids comes close to delivering the whole package:

Nice balance. A confident composition that doesn't try too hard. (Remember: it's not what you add to a uniform design that makes it great; it's what you leave on the sewing room floor.) The whole get-up exudes a Soviet elegance that can sneak up on the fashion-minded hockey fan.

And the whites are even better. Love the whites. Red numbers with red trim? Inspired. Why add a third color when two will do quite nicely. And the white arm numbers against the red shoulder patches is a nice touch.

Rapids' one drawback, and it's a doozy, remains the team crest:

The hockey player silhouette is dated but in a bad way. It had one judge convinced the team jams Bon Jovi in the locker room between periods. Just as Project Runway Season Two contestant Santino once turned a so-so evening gown into a show-stopper just by removing an overwrought wrap, the Red Raiders could lose that silhouette and find themselves with a fairly decent logo.

Let's move on to Notre Dame.

I don't think I'm going too far out on a limb when I state the late great Oscar Wilde would have been a huge fan of Project Runway. Mr. Wilde once famously apologized for the great length of a missive he penned a friend, stating that he hadn't the time to write a short one.  Well, that same sentiment can be applied to the our friends at Green Bay Notre Dame who appear to have spent far too much time building a hockey powerhouse and far too little time contemplating what makes for a powerhouse uniform.

Ugh. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears their uniform features the dreaded (and exceedingly rare) crest within a crest layout? Inexcusable. It's like they couldn't make up their mind between the stylized ND and the more academic shield shape so they figured, "Why not throw in both and make an even bigger shield?" This is an admirable intention when choosing between, say, a Culver's Butter Burger and a cheese-infused bratwurst but it just doesn't work in the hockey fashion world.

I give the boys credit for breaking out the colored laces at the neckline; that's a fairly bold and expensive move on their parts, but in this case, the added splash of color just muddies up an already busy presentation.

Must. Avoid. Urge. To. Give. #10. Shit. About. His. Goal. Celebration. Dance.
That said, I must give the Tritons an A for consistency and accessorization. You've got to sell your design and to a man, these guys put the uniformity in uniforms.

Still, when the scores are tabulated and the judges have had their bitch fest, this one isn't that close at all....


Project Runway Meets the Final Eight: Game 1

So there are plenty of well-informed people out there analyzing this year's eight finalists for sport's most cherished trophy this side of Lord Stanley's Cup. But only at The Big Ice will you find the kind of detailed fashion analysis that makes one wonder if the Commissioner enjoyed the full body shave he endured as a college freshman hockey player more than he initially let on.

Closeted homosexuality aside, this office has projected a state champion, based solely on the one thing that truly matters: uniform design. So in the words of our beloved Heidi Klum, "Let's get on with the show."

Game 1:
These are very important games, so it's absolutely necessary to examine both the home and away jerseys when rendering a verdict. The two versions can vary wildly, as is the case with Wausau West.
The Warriors have made some major improvements with their darks, simplifying the front crest and flirting fearlessly with its size, teetering right on the edge of being too large (that's what she said).

Now that's what I call a crest. And note the nice details: the sticker on the helmet, the West stitched artfully over the shoulder number. Tim Gunn is right: Accessories can make or break a uniform composition. These kids got it right. I'm even willing to step back from my earlier criticism of the number color. White with gold trim is just fine; making those numbers gold with white trim would just be too much gold. And speaking of too much gold, let's take a gander at Wausau West's light jerseys:

Ahhhhh! My eyes, my eyes! Don't even get me started on the crest. That color. Dear God, that color. When I close my eyes, I still see that canary yellow burned against my gin-engorged eyelids. That color makes my rec league team's orange pylon numbers look as elegant as a Montreal Canadiens jersey.

But hold on, Verona, before you get too cocky, let's take a look at what you sent out on the runway:

I must say, your darks are a pleasant surprise. Nice balanced composition, a safe (maybe too safe?) old school crest, and the players seem to share a commitment to wearing the same colored gloves. And as for number size-to-jersey size ratio, it doesn't get better than this:

But watch what happens when make the transition to white:

It's no secret that I'm not a fan of nameplates on the back of high school jerseys. (Last time I checked the spelling, there was no "Fromberger" in "team.") But if you're going to concede to a mulletted teen's ego, at least do it right. These nameplates look like they were done as part of an extra credit project in Miss Huber's Home Economics class; even from this distance I can delineate the patch from the jersey. We expect better craftsmanship from one of the top-ranked teams in the state. An unnecessary, and potentially fatal, flaw.

So, Verona and Wausau West, one of you will be moving onto the next round, and one of you will be out. Wausau West...


I'm sorry, you're out. That means you, Verona, move onto the second round. But just barely.

Next up: Wisconsin Rapids vs. Green Bay Notre Dame.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The devil is in the details.

Ever wondered what happened if your left the "the" out of our URL? Well, wonder no more:

I bet you dollars to donuts this guy has 10x the web traffic than we do.


Note the subtle religious undertones, the cool quote, the inexplicable mountain imagery. This is the enigma that is Fond du Lac hockey. Color the Commissioner impressed.

Stand by for Fashion Breakdown 2013.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Commish Suffers Another Setback; Vows to Soldier On

Last night's rare three point outburst from the Commish in the Blackjacks' hardfought 5-2 victory over the Ice Devils did not come without a price: a jammed middle digit on his right hand.

The consequences of this injury cannot be overstated. Not only does this digit play an important role in the Commish's daily commute, but it is one of the four fingers he relies on exclusively when typing up Big Ice blog posts. The pain is exquisite. The typos endless. And the progress is slow.

Bear with me with me as we struggle through another challenge. In the immortal words of Owen Fenby: "That's hockey."

Injury or subtle message to the WIAA? You decide.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Feist Breaks Free; Koby and Mott Hot on Trail

Number crunching.

OK, I am calculating the new leaderboard, taking into account the WR win for 23 of you. While we tabulate, please enjoy this musical interlude:

Thrill of victory.

Behold this majestic photo posted by Reedsburg Sports on Twitter, showcasing the absolutely packed house at Hartmeyer tonight for the big Edgewood/Verona showdown. It's all the proof you need why Sectional Finals are so much better than the games that follow in the dimly lit festering sore that is the Alliant Center. But I digress.

ND Pounds Appleton, 11-0 (Not a Typo)

Apparently the toughest battles ND faced today was over who would be the first to hug the goal scorer.
Photo: Lukas Keapprot/Green Bay Press-Gazette
Waiting for details from Bergler and Company but it appears our friends at Appleton United forgot to pack their brains to today's sectional final showdown with Green Bay Notre Dame. With the way Appleton players kept tripping over themselves to secure a space in the sin bin, I've got to think they fell for the rumor that someone had posted racy photos of Miley Cyrus on the penalty box door. You can't play stupid hockey and hope to beat a team as loaded as ND. United found out the hard way, eleven times. Eleven. Ouch.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Ruling on Sectional 4

Before I make my ruling here, let me remind everyone that I barely survived a Pass/Fail grade for the easiest math course offered at Lawrence University: Statistics. But from my lofty perch atop a pigeon shit-splattered statue of The Bard, here is what I see...

We can't count any points for Sectional 4 until we get to rounds where teams are actually playing each other in reality. No one should get credit for correctly choosing a game that did not actually take place.  Call me a purist.

After perusing the brackets with a concentration usually reserved for episodes of Project Runway, I have concluded that the only fair way to assign any points to this travesty of a sectional is to reward those who correctly choose the sectional winner.

So in a nutshell:

If Wisconsin Rapids prevails at Poppy Waterman Arean tomorrow night, 24 of of you will pick up some much-needed points.

The real gamebreaker will be if West Salem/Bangor pulls off the upset. Then everyone gets nada except for Stu Keith and TJ Hansen, the extremely close hunting pals from the prairie lands who saw enough potential in the Panthers to grant them their first ticket to the Big Ice. The Wonder Duo could pick up lots of ground on your safe bettors if those boys in the Black and Orange continue their magical march onward.

Cool team logos on the socks? Maybe Keith and Hansen are onto something?
I have spoken. Let the whining commence!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Lots of action last night, including some downright thrillers. Here is a quick round-up of Tuesday's most memorable match-ups:

Waukesha wins defensive "thriller" in a game where neither uniform deserved to win.
Photo: Tom Lynn, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
Waukesha North 1, Marquette 0 (OT)
The last time these two played, the score was 9-7 in Waukesha's favor. So it only stands to reason that the rematch would be a 1-0 overtime goaltending extravaganza.

Homestead 6, Arrowhead 1
Heavily favored Arrowhead craps the bed in a loss to red-hot Homestead. What did losing coach Mike Watt have to say about his team's nine, count 'em, nine penalties? "We're not playing table tennis out there, it's hockey." A serious Cinderella story brewing in Mequon.

West Salem/Bangor 3, Onalaska 2
And a frosh shall lead them. Bailey Martin scores winning goal in West Salem/Bangor's win over Onalaska, an upset that will sure shake up the ranks of the WSHSHP leaderboard.

Whitefish Bay/Nicolet/Shorewood 3, Kettle Morraine/Mukwonago 2 (OT)
WNS tallies three straight goals to storm (see what I did there?) back from 2-0 deficit. Talk about your evenly matched games. WNS had 42 shots on goal. KMM had 41. What a difference a single shot can make (on the ice as well as in, say, a smoky bar in Northern Wisconsin one summer evening back in 1993).

Appleton United 3, DePere 2 (3 OT)
Not many details on this thriller, but it took three overtimes and 55 shots of Voyageurs goaltender Russ Kulick for Appleton United to prevail against upstart DePere.

Madison Edgewood 3, Middleton 2 (2 OT)
Another 2-0 early deficit, another overtime victory, this time for Madison Edgewood. The fact that it was over their arch rivals Middleton make it all the more special. (Remind me to talk to these guys about their logo.)

It's the  three spectator reactions that make this photo worth sharing.
Photo: Andy Manis/

In memoriam.

We lost some good soldiers last night, brave souls who dared to zig when others zagged. Granted some of the departed were dead (wo)men walking from the get go. Kelli Dornfeld, for example, fell for the oldest trick in the book and chased a cool team name (the Spooner Rails) over a reasonably seeded team (#10 seed, Kelli, really?).

Dear Kelli: Thanks for your support. Love, the Rails.
Rest easy, Kelli, knowing that even veterans like Jed "Vern" Resnik fall for the siren song of a cool team name. He saw potential in the Ashland Oredockers. Keep in mind that Jed also sees potential in the New York Jets. We salute you, Jed!

Jed Resnik: Lucky in love, unlucky in illegal betting on high school sports.
And let's not forget Tim Shore. This reporter will see the Minnesota Vikings win a Super Bowl before Tim will see his Rhinelander Hodags advance beyond the second round of the WIAA tourney. But hope, like my herpes, springs eternal. Thanks for playing Tim!

Tim Shore circa the last time Rhinelander had a winning record.
And stop laughing, Scott Erickson. Your choice of Baraboo as a state champion is almost as informed as Fox News viewer on election night. The Cool Name Curse strikes again!

Was is the cool name or the cool uniform? Only Scott Erickson knows.
But enough about the dummies. Let's save the real praise for the contenders who met their demise last night. We lost a former WSHSHP champion in Ivo Knezevic who, along with Todd Zwiaska and Kevin McMonagle, put all their eggs in a Middleton Cardinal nest torn asunder by Eliot Friedow's rebound goal in the second overtime of last night's astounding matchup with Madison Edgewood.

Ivo Knezevic: What, me worry?
Todd Z deals with his grief the only way he can: by rocking out to  Eddie Money cover tunes.
Back to the drawing board:
Kevin McMonagle and his prototype for the WSHSHP Predictatron 5000.
And how about Texan turned entrepreneur Leslie Ziegler? She was the only one among us brave enough to choose #2-seed Somerset to take the title. (Our own Andy Lindus was at the SRO Somerset/Hudson game last night and  reports that Somerset dominated the game against Hudson despite the final 3-0 score.)

Keep smiling, Ziegler. You're on to something.
Another lone wolf, Michelle Gagne Ballard, saw her choice, Northland Pines, get steamrolled by the SPASH Panthers, 5-1. I guess you can take the cheerleader out of Eagle River, but you can't take the dreamer out of Ms. Ballard.

You see a pashmina; I see a woman hiding a chest-wide Northland Pines tattoo.
Nice try, Ballard.
All fine, fine people. And the WSHSHP is a better pool for having known all of them. Now if you'll excuse, I have something in my eye.

Amid Rising Tide of Controversy, Commissioner Continues to Lead Quiet Life of Desperation

Yesterday morning your humble Commissioner attempted to shave off five days’ worth of silvery, thick facial hair with a cheap razor found in the trunk of his car/suitcase. It was quite simply a bloodbath, an injury made worse by getting locked out of the house a kind neighbor has lent his family for the week.  With bits of dissolving toilet paper dissolving on my face, I was forced to sprint barefoot through the rain to another neighbor’s house in order to procure the code that would gain my re-entry.

I plant this image in your fevered brains not for pity’s sake, but rather to give you the slightest glimpse into the travesty that is my life right now. It’s a life that would test the resolve of the burliest Baldwin-Woodville defenseman, and it is a life that has kept me at arm’s length from the one thing in this dying world that I truly care about: Wisconsin High School Hockey.

I sincerely apologize for the delays in my reportage. Last night was an evening of thrilling victories for several teams, and crushing defeats for several forward-thinking WSHSHP participants. I hope to provide an update as time permits, as well as shed some light on how we are going to handle that pesky Sectional 4 bracket.

 Stay tuned.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

MUS alumni respond to Homestead loss.

We tracked down as many University School peeps as our meager resources would allow, and their reaction to Thursday night's shocking lose to Homestead was pretty much the same. Please note John Stephens' reaction at 1:23. (He used to do this every time we tried to turn down the Bon Jovi on the locker room boom box back in the salad days.)

Friday, February 15, 2013

More viewer mail.

It always warms my heart to receive evidence that I am not the only one pretending to work at the office the last two weeks of February. This masterful example of Photoshop comes from pool veteran Tom Baldwin, whose choice for this year's champion is apparently inspired by a delightful set of erect nipples.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Tom. And what does it say about me that this is the first time I have ever let my eyes wander enough to realize that Sharona is sporting a wicked pair of mom jeans?

It's why they play the games, folks.

This reporter has been around a long time and he's seen his share of upsets, but the one that took place last night in Milwaukee just might take the proverbial cake. 7th-seeded Homestead skated University School right out of their popped-up collars, scoring twice in the third period to send the #2-seeded Wildcats fleeing to their respective country clubs several weeks earlier than anyone planned.

U School alumnus and WSHSHP verteran John Stephens could not be reached at his rural Texas home after the loss, but one can imagine there are puppies being kicked and LOTS of sherry being swilled. To paraphrase the poets that are Bad Company, "If you listen to the wind, you can still hear him whine..."

Of course, the mainstream media couldn't give a rat's ass about the game. There is nothing about this game written up anywhere, even at our beloved WiPH site. Below is is the only write up I could find, but we have come to expect this from the editors at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, whose tastes run much more toward sports that involved semi-nudity and our muscled boys wrestling.

Don't believe me? Here's what's featured on today's prep site:

So for everyone who needs their up-to-date diving news, you know where to turn.

The other barn burner took place at Greenheck Fieldhouse in Schofield, where D.C. Everest outlasted Antigo in three overtimes. The refs called not one, but two penalty shots in this game, with the final PS being the game decider. One hates to see the refs deciding a hard fought game like this but I wasn't there to see the alleged covering of the puck in the crease, so I'll defer to Trasher and his team to see if justice prevailed.

Cole Halligan (8) etches in his name in the D.C. Everest history book.
The Wausau Herald has a nice write-up on the game, calling it the most memorable hockey game in DC Everest's history. It was nothing less than joy to hear Matt Converse call the game on WiPH-provided link. Poor guy had no voice left my the end. But he did a great job of bringing the game to life for the listener, especially one lonely man who spent his Valentine's Day night in soiled boxers, listening to high school hockey. (In many ways you saved my life last night, Mr. Converse. Let's just leave it at that.)

As for the leaderboard, a surprisingly large number of you chose the Homestead upset, which I find somewhat shocking. But when the ice shavings settled on one of the most pitiful Valentine's Day nights this reporter has ever witnessed, only one of you held sole possession of first place.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Mr. Mark Jobson, all alone at the top with 53 points.

Well, played, Mark. Let's see if you can handle the pressure. Because there are a load of veteran WSHSHP prognosticators breathing down your neck. In second place at 52 points, we have a three-way tie featuring Jaime Moe, Stu Keith and Blake Feist.

Sure, Jaime can stand atop a table, but can he stand atop a winner's podium?
Stu Keith wants to have a rationale discussion with you regarding the 2nd Amendment.

Feist has on his game face.
More action tonight. In fact it's already started. So I'm just going to kiss my children goodnight, claim I have lots of work to do, and retreat to the bedroom where I will wile away the evening listening to the siren song of Wisconsin's most noble tradition.

God bless you all.

And God bless Wisconsin High School Hockey!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Thank God for technology.

Big upset brewing. Antigo and DC Everest in second overtime tied at 3 apiece. Matt Converse, sporting an awesome Wisconsin accent, has the play-by-play. Get there now. It's like Fargo meets Miracle.

By the way, the game is being played at the Greenheck Fieldhouse. (This is the closest you'll come to hearing swearing on this family-friendly blog.)

Greenheck: A beautiful barn.

Getting something off my chest.

Mark's courage has inspired me to make a bold confession:

That WSHSHP Advisory Board I've mentioned in the past? It consists of a Big Jim action figure, a plastic astronaut my grandmother bought me at Cape Canaveral 36 years ago, and the Alcoholics Anonymous sobriety token I found in the bedside drawer at the rental house we just vacated.

Say what you want, but "Chip" is good counsel.

Day 1: A Time for Reflection

And so, dear readers, it has come to this: Your humble reporter seated at a dining room table in a tony Tiburon home, slowly coming to terms with the fact that, for the foreseeable future, he is living with his in-laws.
The Commissioner's mobile dressing room.
A younger, more fully mulletted version of the Commissioner would have much to say about these sad circumstances. He would look with disdain upon the paunch, the blinding scalp sheen, the self-destructive diet of Pringles and Pop-Tarts. But if that young man, so full of dreams and potential, were to look beyond the surface of his own condescension, I assure you he would spy something else.

Come closer, dear reader. Draw near. Note the gleam in those drooping, bloodshot eyes, the tremor of excitement in those gnarled hands as he scribbles upon his brackets (not code). There is something very much alive in this tattered shell of a has-been and, for once, it is not his hunger for Japanese anime porn.

The spark behind this fire? It is the siren call of Wisconsin High School Hockey, a call being answered not just by this flabby sac of nothingness, but by 55 brave souls scattered all over this fine land. It is a call being answered by young and old, rich and poor, lard-addicted and born again.

Sure, the odds of any lovemaking transpiring on these hallowed in-law grounds remain as low as the chances of Tim Shore ever winning a WSHSHP title but tonight, as the winds of the Pacific shake the windows, I at least have this, my beloved high school hockey pool, to keep me from the keening abyss.

So, without further ado, let us get on with the update...

The first round of The Big Ice proved as exciting as a backstage pass to a Kansas concert, with the favored teams clobbering their opponents by a combined score of 138-28. With very few exceptions, it was a bloodbath out there. This office did receive several hysterical texts from a Mr. Koby Kobylinski as he watched Waupun jump out to an early 2-0 lead in over Homestead but cooler heads and better players prevailed, much to the chagrin of Waupun alumnus Chuck Lenz, who predicted the upset.

The only true nail biter took place in Wausau, where the "other" Wausau high school scored late in the third to advance against Lakeland.

Tommy Berger (right) plays the puck behind his own net during
Tuesday's playoff road loss to Wausau West.
Photo: Bryan Rose/Lakeland Times
The gap between the haves and have-nots remains as wide as ever in the Dairyland, and with many of the latter now relegated to the Big Ice dust heap, look for some closer games tonight.

As for the leaderboard, we had two intrepid veterans correctly predict 15 of the 18 eligible games on the docket: Madison's Mike Moore and Colorado's Jaime Moe. Perhaps best know for naming his firstborn child after an over-the-hill rock star, Moe is making a rare early-tourney charge here but look for him to show his usual third round fade. Moore is a sneaky one, with a borderline obsession with a charming hockey film released a decade ago. He keeps his hockey picks close to his vest (sadly, we can't say the same for his politics) and is well-versed in the ways of Wisconsin High School Hockey. Pundits are taking his strong early showing seriously. Very seriously.

And look who's heading up the second-place contingent, none other than snowmobiler legend Bob Beylor, the only man to successfully leap the length of Earl and Darlene's atop a Ski-Doo XM Summit X 154 without spelling a drop of his Korbel & Coke.

Beylor always blames the snowmobile.
Beylor heads up a contingent of vetreans including Ivo Knezevic, John Orta, Bill Bisesto, former champ Mark Jobson and, yes, yours truly. Bisesto remains a enigma to all, having only half completed his brackets once again. The kid has so much potential, yet runs from success faster than Stu Keith runs from a vegetable.

A log jam headed up by Jaime's older, more obnoxious sibling and defending champ Joe Lacy is in the third slot at 13 points a bushel.

Look for the herd to thin a bit tonight as the competition heats up on the The Big Ice. Stay tuned.