I’m writing this from self-isolation in my house. It is 2 am and I can’t sleep. I’ve spent the last few days locked in my home and as a result, the concept of time no longer exists. The COVID-19 outbreak has wreaked havoc on the world and the safety of everyone is obviously the main priority. The lack of hockey has been a challenge though. My season highlights 2019-20 edition is my ode to the hockey-filled days of the past.
I have to admit that I haven’t exactly taken the lack of hockey in my stride. I’ve replaced watching live games by watching replays of old games. I’m pining for more live hockey. I’m acting like a jilted lover who can’t quite believe he’s been dumped. Something had to be done to get me out of this funk.
Luckily, the 2019-20 season provided many personal highlights and I want to talk briefly about a few of those. I encourage everyone to do this as you may remember some gems that had otherwise slipped your mind. So here is my light-hearted look at some of my favorite moments from the 2019-20 season.
Women’s Friendship Series in Belfast
This cool event started in 2019 and returned for its second year this year. The women’s NCAA teams from Quinnipiac and Merrimack universities put on a great show over two days in the SSE Arena in Belfast. It was fast-paced, high-quality action for two games straight. Quinnipiac ran out as winners in both games but they were incredibly tight affairs. I really hope the Friendship Series returns next year, as it is now a must-see event.
It was also great to see two of the Merrimack players turn pro after their season finished. Mikyla Grant-Mentis and Lea-Kristine Demers both joined the Buffalo Beauts of the NWHL and had instant impacts. Grant-Mentis scored five points in her three games played, whilst Demers made 93 saves over three games, recording one win.
Friendship Four 2019
This is another great NCAA tournament played in Belfast. Four men’s teams compete in a knockout tournament over two days, with the winner being awarded the Belpot trophy. This year’s event consisted of teams from Northeastern, Princeton, Colgate and New Hampshire. Northeastern won the tournament, beating Colgate in the final.
The best part about this for me was seeing all the NHL prospects on display. Northeastern was stacked with high-level prospects. These include Tyler Madden, Jordan Harris, and Jayden Struble. There were also some other potential NHLers playing like Max Gildon (UNH) and Bobby McMann (Colgate).
Boston Pride Go 23-1
It’s quite frankly insane that any team would only lose ONE regular-season game at any level. It is even more insane that a team managed to do it at the highest level in women’s hockey. The Boston Pride has done something truly exceptional this season. It is heartbreaking that they weren’t able to play in the Isobel Cup final to cap off their dominant year. The NWHL still hopes to play that game at some point so they may still do that.
Some of the individual numbers are breathtaking on this team. Jillian Dempsey had 40 points in 24 games. McKenna Brand had 36 points in 24 games with 19 goals. Lovisa Selander had a 1.71 GAA with a .941 SV%! Her name must be Swedish for brick wall. The Pride were truly fantastic this season and I cannot wait to watch them again next season.
Jack freaking Eichel
Two of my passions in life are food and the Buffalo Sabres. Jack Eichel started this season as a high-end restaurant but now he is a Michelin-starred masterpiece! We always knew he was a good player but this season he showed that he is truly an elite center. He dominated games regularly throughout the year. He was in the conversation for the Hart trophy but the Sabres’ poor run of form ended that.
Eichel put up 78 points in 68 games, with 36 goals. He single-handedly carried the Sabres whilst again getting little help in the scoring department. It will be a real shame for Sabres’ fans if they let this all go to waste.
Best Friends at the NWHL All-Star Game
This was one of my favorite stories of the whole season. Brooke Stacey of the Buffalo Beauts was originally selected for the NWHL All-Star Game. Then she and her partner got the amazing news that she was pregnant. Understandably, her season would have to end as she prepared to become a mother.
The NWHL absolutely nailed their response – they named Cailey Hutchison of the Metropolitan Riveters as her replacement. Now Hutchison was having a great season herself and earned her spot. But it was made extra special by the fact that she and Stacey are best friends. Just a feel-good story from start to finish! I spoke to Hutchison about this and more here.
Kevin Bieksa Speech
I’ll admit, I wasn’t a fan of Kevin Bieksa as a player. He was one of those players who always got under my skin as a fan. But he is an absolute natural in front of a camera or behind a mic. His speech at the Sedins jersey retirement ceremony was a thing of beauty. No notes, just straight from the heart. He effortlessly roasts everyone whilst still paying homage to two greats of the game. If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth a watch.
It’s no secret that I’m a diehard Sabres fan. I love them. If I ever had twins, there’s every chance I would name them Buffalo and Sabre. Sabre Coulter has a nice ring to it. Buffalo Coulter sounds like a weird Bob Marley tribute. But I digress…
Back in January, a caller known only as “Duane” provided one of the best rants in sports radio history. The rant was filled with a passionate rage that all Sabres fans have been feeling for too long now. Words cannot do it justice so have a listen for yourself:
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Feature Image Credit: Nicky Johnston