Thursday, January 21, 2010

Times Useless Indeed

Time for an editorial.

"Union the king of local hockey" blared the Times Union's headline on Sunday after the Dutchmen squeezed out a 3-1 victory in a hard-fought game to claim the same edge in the season series with RPI. Yeah, OK. Let's have a run through of this four game war that has ratcheted the Route 7 Rivalry to heights never before seen.

Game #1: RPI 4, Union 3 (OT)
The Dutchmen led this game 3-2 late when Stephane Boileau took a terrible interference penalty. Seth Appert called timeout, and before the end of the advantage, Bryan Brutlag tied it up, with Chase Polacek getting the bounce he needed in overtime to give the Engineers the win. Close? Yeah, this game was close. It could have gone either way.

Game #2: Union 5, RPI 4 (OT)
Another overtime game? Yup. In this game, RPI had a brutal 1st period, falling behind 3-0, but did they fold? Hardly. By the time all was said and done, they'd fought back from two 2-goal deficits and tied it, literally, in the last second of regulation on a good bounce. Then Union got a good bounce of their own in overtime to win it and take the RPI tournament. Great game, a classic. One for the ages, really. It could have gone either way.

Game #3: Union 5, RPI 4
The "kick in the nuts" game for RPI fans, the Engineers held the lead with a minute left to play, and then practically stood idly by as the Dutchmen pumped in two goals in that final minute to win in regulation. Just goes to show, especially in a rivalry game, you can't just play for 59 minutes and expect a win. The late bounces favored Union, for sure. It could have gone either way.

Game #4: Union 3, RPI 1
The only game in this series not to feature a one-goal difference, thanks to an empty netter in the last minute. RPI took the lead and almost made it 2-0 on a shorthanded attempt in the second period, but didn't get things to go their way. Meanwhile, on Union's two goals that mattered, set plays worked perfectly - set plays that depend entirely on what, folks? Bounces. It could have gone either way.

So the 3-1 difference makes Union the "king of local hockey?" Uh, no. Thanks for playing, Tim Wilkin. This series could have been an RPI sweep just as much as it could have been a Union sweep. Statistically, if the teams are evenly matched, you get a 3-1 result over four games 50% of the time. Anyone who actually watched these four games would tell you that these teams were evenly matched.

Really, we shouldn't be surprised by this attitude from the Times Union. After all, their coverage of both RPI and Union has been terrible for years - if you want real college hockey coverage in the Capital District, you turn to Ed Weaver of the Troy Record and Ken Schott of the Schenectady Daily Gazette, and that's it. They've got their ear to the ground, while the Times Union fakes it.

For years, the T-U had Matt Graves, a horse racing handicapper, covering RPI hockey. That's not a knock on Graves, who was (and still is) a fine journalist who did a great job with his winter task, it's a knock on the Times Union for pretty much punting when it comes to college hockey coverage. The closest the T-U ever had to decent coverage was when Harvard grad Jon Paul Morosi was at the paper covering the scene - he knew the ECAC well enough to do a satisfactory job. But he wasn't long for the Capital District (he now covers baseball with Ken Rosenthal for, and the T-U's decent coverage left with him.

But if a dopey headline was the only ax to grind here, there wouldn't be much substance. Instead, Wilkin decided to ask Seth Appert a ridiculous question that he got a completely unexpected answer to - and perhaps he's the only one who didn't expect it.

You won't find the question in Wilkin's gamer, but Ed Weaver picked up on it and reported it (emphasis mine). INCH's Joe Gladziszewski confirmed that Wilkin was the questioner. It's flat out irresponsible.
Asked by a reporter if, since they beat the Engineers in three of four meetings, the Dutchmen are “a better team.”

"No," Appert said flatly.

"How can you say that now; why would you say that," the reporter asked.

"I just choose to," Appert replied. "I refuse to believe that they're better than us. I believe in our guys, I have a lot of belief in that locker room, what we have in there. I have a lot of respect for Union. I think they're a really good hockey team. I think they're a Top 10 hockey team. But I don't believe they're better than us."

Keep in mind, Appert said often times last season that Union was "a better team," — in those exact words.
Last season, it made sense. RPI was terrible last year. But look at that emphasized portion. How can he say that now? Tim, did you WATCH those four games? Was there ANYTHING other than a cursory glance at final scores that would tell you that one of these teams is any better than the other?

I know Tim watched those games, because he casually remarked in his gamer that:
This season, every game has been close, but it has been Union that has found the ways to win.
Well, yeah. Like I said. How does that even come close to equating Union as "kings" or that they have some kind of "mastery." In previous seasons, this may have been the case. Not this year. And then, before even getting to the discussion of what actually happened in the game, he brings up Appert's response to his irresponsible question - stirring the pot.

If the results had gone the other way, we're sure Union would be demanding to be on equal footing with RPI. And they'd be absolutely right.

Then there's this head scratcher. One wonders exactly what question was asked that brought on this response:

"I think this program is a very underrated program," said Union captain Brock Matheson. "We don't really get the praise from the media that other teams get, especially that team."

Uh, what? Right, Brock. Underrated nationally, perhaps. Absolutely. "That team" being RPI, though, seems downright laughable.

Don't misunderstand. I'm not accusing the T-U of displaying bias in its coverage. I'm accusing the T-U of being lackadaisical and trying to make up for it by being sensational in their coverage, which ought to be a bigger deal. "Hockey Spoken Here?" Doesn't sound like it to me, at least when it pertains to the college game.

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