Hockey holiday

New Year’s is starting to become one of my favorite holiday periods. That’s because once again this year it was hockey heaven.

Let’s start with New Year’s Eve. At first, I was disappointed the Stampede did not have a home game, which has been a tradition. That did, however, allow me to watch Team USA play Canada in the last preliminary round game in the World Junior Hockey Championship. In what is already being called an “instant classic” and an “epic” game, Canada won 5-4 in a shootout. Hockey insiders love this annual tournament for players 20 and under. I love watching it not only because of its international flavor but there are invariably Team USA members I saw play in the USHL, are now playing college hockey and will be playing in the NHL.

The NHL had its third consecutive “Winter Classic” on New Year’s Day. This year it was the Boston Bruins hosting the Philadelphia Flyers at Fenway Park. The setting and atmosphere for these nationally broadcast games have been amazing to date and Friday’s was no exception. Not only was it a 2-1 overtime game, USA Hockey announced the American Olympic team immediately following the conclusion of the game.

National team flavor continued as the Stampede hosted one of National Development teams Friday night. Although the Stampede lost 4-2 to the Team USA Under-18 team, there was never a more than one goal margin until Team USA scored an empty net goal with about 30 seconds left in the game.

Saturday was back to the world juniors. Switzlerland upset Russia 3-2 in overtime, scoring goals in the last minute of the third period and the last minute of overtime. Then Team USA beat Finland 6-2 in a game that was much more tightly contested than the score indicates.

Sunday brought the World Junior semifinals as Canada played Switzerland and Team USA played Sweden. I missed the third period of the Canada game (which it won 5-2) and the first period of the USA-Sweden game because the Stampede played Fargo that night. Even though Fargo is only in its second year in the league, this is becoming a great rivalry. Despite a hardworking comback effort, the Stampede lost 6-5. Team USA made up for it though, beating the Swedes 5-2.

The hockey now will carry over into Tuesday. Team USA will try to prevent a Canadian six-peat in the gold medal game of the World Juniors. It will be broadcast live on the NHL Network at 7 pm (Central).

Oh my God, Marge. A penalty shot with only four seconds left. It’s your child versus mine! The winner will be showered with praise; the loser will be taunted and booed until my throat is sore!

Homer Simpson, “Lisa on Ice

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