In 2003-04 the 11-20-3 UAA Seawolves toddled off to Madison, Wisconsin to face the heralded Badgers in a best of 3 playoff series. The Badgers only had a few (err um ... 7) future NHL'ers on the team that season.
Rene Bourque hadn't yet played in nearly 300 NHL games with 72 goals. Tom Gilbert hadn't played 240 NHL games yet on Edmonton's blueline. Brian Elliot hadn't played over 4000 NHL minutes yet. Adam Burish hadn't racked up 309 penalty minutes in 156 games up in the bigs either. Andy Wozniewski didn't know he'd be sent up and down between the AHL and the NHL over the next 6 years accumulating 79 games.
What about Ryan Suter? He's only got 375 games with the Preds; and didn't he just get some sort of medal for the USA at the Olympics? And they had this other pretty good college player called Robbie Earl who as a freshman that season scored 14 goals and has 32 NHL games under his belt. Even Jake Dowell has skated in 23 NHL games, heck I guess if Aaron Voros could get to the show then Dowell could too.
Down the stretch the Seawolves lost 9 of their last 10 regular season games. CC swept them 3-2 and 4-3 in Colorado Springs. UAA hosted Michigan Tech the next weekend and was swept 3-2 and 9-4. Following that embarrassment they headed off to Mariucci and went down 3-2 and 5-2 in another sweep. The last WCHA home series for the Seawolves was the Badgers that season. They came to town and also swept UAA 3-0 and 3-1. Then UAF came to town and the Seawolves managed to pick up a win on Friday night 5-4 before losing their last home game of the season 6-4 to the 'nooks.
What happened next? The Seawolves won the best of 3 series with the Badgers (3-2, 0-4 and 4-1). They went to the Final Five and won the play-in game versus CC. They became the little darlings of the Final Five crowd with that victory. But then the magic wore off, they lost their next two games to UND and UMD by scores of 4-2 each.
But that year is looked back upon fondly by UAA fans. It was the only time we've witnessed our guys win a playoff series. Winning even just the play-in game was pretty satisfying. Sure we had to sit back through two more tough Final Five losses. But there was some satisfaction because our team played with pride and acquitted themselves well in the last two games.
They showed heart and character; and they burned their names into our memories. Glencross, Fournier, Steward, Kronschnabel, Smith, Parez, Bourne, J.J., Green, Lowe, Novak, Anderson, Segal, Dahl, Stuchlik, McMann, Underwood, Reiter, King. Only Curtis reached the NHL from that group and has played in 207 games.
Six years on from that last (and only) taste of post-season success for the Seawolves, this years 11-21-2 squad toddles off to the same locale to once again face a much heralded Badger team. How many games will Derek Stepan play in the NHL? Brendan Smith? Ryan McDonagh? John Ramage? Justin Schultz? Blake Geoffrion? Craig Smith? Jake Gardiner? Jordy Murray? One or two of those 9 guys might not make it to the show. But I wouldn't bet against it. There are a couple of others that have a legitimate chance as well as those listed.
Can the Seawolves repeat that historic 03-04 program achievement? That's the big question this week. The 03-04 team's regular season accomplishments were not higher than the Seawolves this season. They finished in 8th place with 17 points. The Badgers that season had 35. This season the Seawolves tied for 8th with 20 points. The Badgers finished with 37 points.
History certainly has absolutely no bearing on the outcome this weekend. Because it happened once before does not mean it will happen again. In the 04-05 season, the Seawolves again pushed the Badgers to 3 games in the playoff series but came up just short losing game three 2-1. But since that three game series, the Seawolves have beaten Wisconsin just once in 14 games.
The examination of the history is relevant in one sense only here. It demonstrates without equivocation that such an upset is entirely within the realm of reasonable possibility. It even begins to sound plausible considering the many similarities between then and now.
So regardless of what you read on the Internet this week. The conclusion is most certainly not a foregone one. The games are yet to be played. In finishing, I ask you to ponder some quotes I've selected (from wiser minds than mine).
You must always know the past, for there is no real "was", there is only "is".-----William Faulkner
Hope is the other side of history.-----Marcia Cavell
That which is past and gone is irrevocable. Wise men have enough to do with the present and things to come.-----Francis Bacon
In analysing history do not be too profound, for often the causes are quite superficial.-----Ralph Waldo Emerson
History is full of delightful reversals, where the opposite of what one predicts comes true.-----Edmund Carpenter
Life must be lived forward, but it can only be understood backward.-----Kierkegaard
History isn't really about the past - settling old scores. It's about defining the present and who we are.-----Ken Burns
The obscurest epoch is today.-----Robert Louis Stevenson