Saturday, March 31, 2012

Minnesota Wild are spoilers lately

It was a bit of a slow news week in Austin, Minn. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing for me because it gave me a chance to ease my way back into the daily routine because I was on vacation the week before.

Anyway, I had a chance to watch the last couple of Minnesota Wild games, Thursday and Saturday. Since they've been officially eliminated from playoff contention, the boys have now turned into spoilers for their opponents who are still clinging to life in the postseason race.

Comeback kids
The Florida Panthers came to the Xcel Energy Center Thursday. If you happened to miss pretty much all of the game until just before the end of regulation, you were in good shape because most of the game wasn't all that exciting. The Wild were down by a goal but tied it up with just 30 ticks left in the third. The empty-net strategy worked for once.

You were probably one sorry customer if you're one of those people that leaves before the end of a game to beat traffic. And I hope you didn't blink as they started overtime either, because you would have missed captain Mikko Koivu's great move to beat the goalie for the game-winning goal just 15 seconds into the extra session.

Two (meaningless) points were then given to the Wild. It was a nice comeback, last-minute thriller.

Excitement with the Kings
Former Wild player Willie Mitchell and his Los Angeles Kings were in Minnesota this weekend. This game was exciting from the start. The Wild got on the board just 40 seconds into the game during the four-goal first period when the teams headed to the locker room with two goals apiece.

The energy was high, hits were flying and the crowd seemed to be into it as well. The Kings were up 3-2 when the Wild got a four-minute power-play thanks to a high-sticking double minor. It was a perfect opportunity for the Wild to tie it up, but they were too busy skating around in their own zone, passing behind the net and not generating chances to get the equalizer.

That would've been a key period in the game had the Wild not come back to tie it. Newbie Jason Zucker is quite impressive so far.

With just over a minute left in overtime, Devin Setoguchi turned on the jets and was dragged down in the middle of a breakaway. I had a hunch it would result in a penalty shot. He made a nice move, shot the puck and then everyone could hear that dreaded clanging sound of the puck bouncing off the iron post.

Shootout machine Erik Christensen for the Wild scored first, Koivu put in one as well and goalie Niklas Backstrom actually stopped both shots he faced in the shootout for the Wild's 4-3 win. The Wild have now won four of their last five home games. Even though they don't have anything to play for (like a postseason trip), it's still fun to watch some decent hockey.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Post-Bulletin loses a great journalist, mentor

My one-year anniversary with the Austin Post-Bulletin came and went last week. In many ways, it's hard to believe I've been here a whole year already. I've learned so much and developed a lot of good relationships with people through my work during that time.

One of those relatively newer relationships was with Post-Bulletin columnist and editorial page editor Greg Sellnow, a veteran journalist who spent 26 years with the company. Sadly, Greg died unexpectedly over the weekend when he apparently had a medical emergency while driving home from the state high school hockey tournament.

I received a call from my editor Sunday morning with the sad news. It's still pretty hard to believe and accept. Actually, the high school hockey tournament was one of the last things Greg and I talked about the last time he was down at our Austin office, March 1.

He told me how he and his son had made a tradition of going to a couple of the semifinal games. Getting tickets was sometimes a challenge, but they always knew they'd get to see some good hockey, he said.

Greg had been mentoring me as a writing coach, something that we had just started in February. It seemed to be a great fit so far - a journalist with years of experience under his belt giving pointers to a young reporter. We had met a few times to discuss my stories, how to report on meetings in particular, and I enjoyed the conversations we had.

One of the last meeting stories I emailed to him for his critique was a tough story about the Austin city council. A heated exchange during the meeting had me struggling to find the right way to tell the story. I spent a lot of time - maybe even too much - on the story and finally submitted it to Greg just after 11 p.m. that evening.

His response was helpful, respectful and encouraging. I look back at his emails now and already miss him, even though we'd only been in a touch for a short time. I'll also miss reading his columns, which I already made sure to read when I'd go through my stack of papers.

On a selfish note, I will miss Greg as my mentor because I will always wonder about what could have been. I'll write some more meeting stories and then probably wonder what he would have to say about them. How's my lead? Did I arrange the information appropriately? Did I make good use of the quotes?

I'll also miss being able to talk about hockey, the Minnesota Twins or church with him. He was a kind man and a good guy.

My thoughts and prayers are with Greg's family and his friends at the Post-Bulletin. Greg, you'll be missed.