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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Hockey Log: Sunday Edition

Two incredible journeymen
Another silver rush for UNH’s Conklin, Krog

A full decade has finally passed since the single greatest weekend in the eyes of Hockey East zealots –namely the 1999 Anaheim Frozen Four that saw Boston College advance to the semifinals and Maine tip over border rival New Hampshire in the title game.

Lo and behold, two of the fallen Wildcats from that famous OT affair are still thriving in their practice of kicking ice chips over that bittersweet memory. Starting this weekend, forward Jason Krog –who accepted the Hobey Baker Award one day before he missed out on the more meaningful team prize- and goaltender Ty Conklin –who authorized Marcus Gustafsson’s clincher halfway through the bonus round- are both putting in their fourth appearance in a professional championship series.

Each brandishing a briefcase overloaded with city stickers, these two have somehow struck more gold than Twin River’s best customer. Granted, in Conklin’s case, he has yet to swig any champagne out of one Calder Cup Final and two Stanley Cup appearances, but no one could have confidently banked on this kind of random precision:

A year removed from his Pittsburgh Penguins submitting to the Detroit Red Wings in six games, Conklin tagged along with prized free agent Marian Hossa to the Motor City and finds himself on the other end of a rematch. All this after he had backstopped the AHL’s Hamilton Bulldogs through an epic championship series versus Houston in 2003 and after he had briefly filled in for Edmonton’s Dwayne Roloson in Game 1 of the 2006 Stanley Cup series.

Eight years removed from his departure from Durham, Conklin has since suited up for four different AHL teams (Hamilton, Hartford, Syracuse, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), five NHL franchises (Edmonton, Columbus, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Detroit), and one German club to pass time during the lockout year.

And although a perennial backup in The Show the same way he has been a perennial also-ran on the banner front, sheer circumstances have granted him starting duties in all three NHL Winter Classics. At this rate, the Bruins –presumptive hosts of next year’s outdoor clash- just might have a midseason malfunction in the cage that results in them renting Conklin the same way they nabbed Alex Auld 18 months ago.

Meantime, Krog bolted the 2008 Calder Cup champion Chicago Wolves with incomprehensible timeliness. He is currently engaging the Manitoba Moose in a bid for the Cup while the Wolves happened to miss the playoffs altogether. Then again, there was a time when Chicago was exulting at Krog’s expense –namely 2002, when they topped his Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the deciding series.

Altogether, Krog has churned through 10 pro seasons, donning seven AHL sweaters and five NHL jerseys along the way. One may or may not recall his first playoff dip being right here in the Divine City, where he put in six appearances with the P-Bruins after they plucked him from the Lowell Lock Monsters at midseason.

Overall, Krog has seen developmental action in Lowell, Providence, Springfield, Bridgeport, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Manitoba and enjoyed off-and-on major league gigs with both New York teams, Anaheim, Atlanta, and most recently Vancouver. His most extensive NHL stay immediately followed his Bridgeport stint when he played two full seasons with Anaheim, who pushed New Jersey to a seventh game in 2003.

And it should be noted that he, too, spent a sliver of time overseas (2004-2006) and in a May 20 nhl.com report suggested he might skate across the Atlantic once more.

Regardless, last night’s Game 1 was his 82nd career Calder Cup playoff game spread over five different seasons and he might have a second ring in as many bids by the time he finishes Game #85, 86, 87, or 88.

If that should be the case, it will also appease a certain Manitoba netminder named Cory Schneider, who twice –in 2006 and 2007- came only within tasting distance of an NCAA crown as a Boston College Eagle. (The puck is dropped for discussion: has Schneider had it rougher in that regard or Conklin?) Ditto rookie defender Travis Ramsey, whose Maine Black Bears faltered in the national semis those same two years.

Either that, or the Son of 77 –brief BU Terrier Chris Bourque- and former UMass-Amherst commitment John Carlson will be indulging in their first professional title with the Hershey Bears.

Filling a smaller pond
Shockwaves rippled through the almighty western front this week from the announcement that the Minnesota women’s celestial 1-2 scoring tandem of Jocelyne Lamoureux and Monique Lamoureux will transfer to their home state program at North Dakota. As freshmen, the twins took charge in the Twin Cities, topping the Gophers’ charts with respective transcripts of 39-36-75 (Monique) and 28-37-65 (Jocelyne). It’s tough to project just how much that taps out of Minnesota’s bottomless depth chart, but the North Dakota No-Names happen to be in the midst of a trustworthy youth movement. They just escalated their overall record to 13-19-4 after four single-digit win seasons and are slated to lose but four graduating seniors.

On top of that, the overwhelmingly productive twins have had a history of spreading their wealth to their colleagues, although, by the same token, their candidacy for Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics could prolong the itch for their homecoming. Worst case scenario: once they are laboring in Grand Forks full-time, they ought to firmly tilt the No-Names to the plus side of the .500 fence. Anything above that will just spread the wealth amongst the already hegemonic WCHA.

Big bad bounces
Thanks in large part to the Spokespeople shortcomings, New England hockey fans have missed two opportunities to see an ex-Friar engage with the Boston or Providence Bruins in a momentous playoff series. Towering bouncer Hal Gill’s Penguins have abolished the Carolina Hurricanes (as they probably would have done to anybody in the East) to retain their conference crown while, in an alternate universe, the Baby Bs might be vying for a Calder Cup against a Houston team that features Nolan Schafer in their goalie guild. Bummer for the collective hockey media of Southern New England, if any of you are out there, but life can’t always be fortuitous like it seems to be for the subjects of this column’s top story.

Quick Feeds: PC alumnus John Hennessy, who called Friar Puck action as a student in the early 1980s and again in 1989-90, has been tabbed to call UMass-Amherst games for 100.9 FM WRNX. Look for him at his old training grounds in the Schneider Arena press box this coming October 30 and January 30…This November, the aptly named Rival Films production company, in collaboration with NESN, will unleash a documentary DVD: “The Battle of Commonwealth Ave. – Boston University vs. Boston College.” The trailer in and of itself is about what you would expect, stocked primarily with game highlights taken at the new Garden, though it promises to chronicle every year of the matchup from 1917 onward. The real nitpick, though, is that the montage culminates with the question “Will the score ever be settled?” Gee, what do you think?

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

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