Monday, January 30, 2017

Wells Fargo Wildness

TigerBlog first felt like he was getting a sore throat last Monday. Then it went away. Or so he thought.

It came back Wednesday night into Thursday. Then it became a full-fledged sinus nightmare. Eventually it dripped into his chest, making its way, hopefully, to his feet, or wherever it goes.

The worst was Friday, into Saturday. It started to improve yesterday, thanks for asking.

TigerBlog hates being sick. He likes to think that it'll pass in a few minutes, that it's just a few sneezes or coughs or something. Hey, all that hand sanitizer has to be doing something, right?

Yeah, yeah. TB knows. It can only do so much. When that one germ has your name on it, well, there's nothing you can do.

And so there was TB, sicker than he's been in awhile, waiting it out, watching his new show, "Sons of Anarchy." It - being sick, not the show - prevented him from getting to the Wells Fargo Center Saturday night.

It was quite a four-day stretch for the arena in South Philadelphia, that's for sure, with or without TigerBlog.

It started Thursday night, when the Flyers beat the Maple Leafs 2-1. Then, the next night, the resurgent 76ers lost a close game to one of the NBA elites, the Houston Rockets, in a game that included a triple-double complete with 51 points by James Harden.

And those were the two least exciting events of the four days.

The building yesterday played host a college basketball game between defending NCAA champion Villanova, who was ranked No. 1, and another power, Virginia, who was ranked 12th. Virginia was ahead most of the game somewhat comfortably, before Villanova made its move.

TB followed the game on his phone while watching Clay, Jax and the boys (that's from "Sons of Anarchy," in case you've never watched it). He finally switched over to the game for the final minute, in time for three timeouts, three ties and then the game-winner from Villanova's Donte DiVincenzo as the Wildcats won 61-59.

That game drew nearly 21,000 fans to the building. It was played about 16 hours after 15,127 fans were there Saturday night to see college hockey, between Princeton and Penn State.

The Tigers were playing for the first time in two weeks, due to first semester exams. The opponent was no ordinary team, for a few factors:
1) its coach, Guy Gadowsky, coached at Princeton from 2004-11, leading Princeton to back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2007 and 2008. He is ridiculously competitive, as TB said the other day, a lesson he learned from playing squash with him during those years. Hint - if you ever play Guy Gadowsky in squash, he doesn't really distinguish from "side walls" and "boards" in terms of aggressiveness
2) Gadowsky left Princeton to start the program at Penn State. Now, in 2017, he had the Nittany Lions ranked No. 1 in the country two weeks ago before heading into the game against Princeton at No. 4

Princeton trailed 4-2 after two but then tied it with two goals 1:20 apart early in the third. The game stayed that way until just 1:26 to play, even through a Penn State 5-on-3, when Ben Foster's goal gave Princeton a 5-4 win, much to the shock of the huge crowd and the opponent.

Princeton is now 8-11-2 on the year, and an astonishing five of those wins have come against teams ranked in the top 10 at the time. Princeton is 8-5-1 after an 0-6-1 start, but more importantly, the Tigers are clearly pointed in the right direction in Year 3 of the Ron Fogarty era.

In fact, the most astonishing thing about the wins over the top five teams is that none of their were flukes. The game Saturday night was well-played and fast-paced from start-to-finish, with shots in favor of Penn State at 47-41.

The next question is how much it helps Princeton. It certainly doesn't matter in the ECAC standings, where Princeton currently sits in 10th.

The goal, with four weekends to go, is to get to eighth, which would mean hosting a first-round ECAC playoff series. With all of the teams finally at the same number of league games played, Princeton is currently four points back of eighth place Dartmouth and two behind ninth-place Colgate.

The race from here will be quick one, but Princeton has to be excited about where it is and where it's going. Home or away, Princeton is going to be a tough out in the playoffs, with a young team that will be back in complete sync by then and a senior goalie (Colton Phinney) who is capable of making a playoff run basically by himself.

As for the game Saturday night, there haven't been too many nights like for Princeton hockey, or Princeton athletics in general, for that matter.

A win over the No. 4 team in the country, against the former coach, in a professional venue, with a huge crowd like that? Yeah, it was special.

TigerBlog is sorry he missed it. He's feeling better though.

He appreciates how much you worry.

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