Saturday, March 8, 2014

Hockey, Basketball Split Playoff Matchups; The Network Continues to Expand

There was a pretty good amount of press and hype that went into last night's Hawks' athletic matchups, for a number of reasons. 

First and most obviously, the Hawks and Rams were going to do their rivalry thing once again. While we can clearly claim more than our fair share of triumphs in those head-to-heads across all sports....well, last night didn't go so well. More on that in a moment. 

Just across town at Thayer Arena, the hockey team, fresh off its having claimed the Cimini Division title with a 1-0 win over the Mount last weekend, began their playoff run as the top seed with a 5-3 win over Smithfield in game 1 of their semi-final matchup. Game 2 will be tonight at Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink. the puck drops at 8 pm, and The Network will be there with live coverage.

And, finally, we here at The Network expanded our broadcast horizons a bit more, as we unveiled the Hawks Sports Network 2 on UStream, and consequently, we were able to bring the viewers simultaneous coverage of both games. Since we're accustomed to breaking things down here on The Network site, perhaps a brief explanation of what went into this groundbreaking decision is in order. 

As a result of hockey's win over the Mount last weekend, followed by basketball's first-round victory over Smithfield on Wednesday night, we were asked on quite a few occasions which game we'd be carrying live. There was obviously a stronger demand for the Hawks-Rams semi-final matchup because of the combatants, but there were still plenty of people asking about hockey. Since we're (for now, but not much longer) limited to a single camera, one would think that trying to stream both games live would be pretty close to impossible...but, yet, when we discussed it, there were options available that we were willing to try. 

The initial step here was to create a second Network site on UStream and to embed into our central site another viewer, which would be below the one on top. 

Presto! It worked. 

Once one of our new laptops came in, we'd then have the ability to live audio stream the hockey game - much like listening to a game on the radio - while broadcasting the basketball game. So, last night, Network anchors Cam Brennan, Stone Freeman, and Remy Morris got themselves set up at Thayer...only to discover that there were wi-fi issues. 

I hate wi-fi.

I mean, I hate being dependent on wi-fi. Whatever. 

Thinking on his feet, Cam Brennan then conceived of the idea of video streaming the hockey game via his cell phone. Without going into all the smaller, gory, and relatively uninteresting details, it worked. The quality is not what the viewer would normally be accustomed to, but Cam, Stone, and Remy made it work. We said we'd broadcast the game, and they made it happen. That's taking responsibility right there. 

It should be noted, though, that once our new cameras arrive, quality will never again be an issue. 

Finally, I'd be terribly remiss if I didn't point out the willingness of the entire Network staff to work hard, which I get to see every day; however, last night, everyone had the opportunity to see it, even if they weren't aware of it. Anchors Cam Brennan, Stone Freeman, and Instagram/highlight man extraordinaire Max Zweiner not only covered the hockey game - they then packed up and hustled across town to join the crew of Johnathan Feeny and Dylan Brennan at CCRI for the basketball game. Work ethic such as that is only borne out of one thing: the desire to see something succeed. So, then - a tip of The Network hat to all involved last night. 

Now, onto the coverage. 

This past Wednesday afternoon, the Hawks and the Smithfield Sentinels squared off on the basketball court in their first-round playoff game. Last night, they did the same thing in hockey. 

Perhaps a tip of the hat to Smithfield is in order first. The Sentinels have had an outstanding winter athletic season, and, for whatever reason, have intermittently proven to be the proverbial 'team that won't go away' for Hendricken. The most important example of this is that the Sentinels have become the first team in a quarter century to take the state swimming championship from our guys. Not that one can expect such a streak to continue forever - even the Mount hockey dynasty eventually came to an end - but what the Sentinels accomplished there is an outstanding feat. They also were the only basketball team to prevent LaSalle from sweeping through their regular-season schedule, and they finished the year with a record identical to our guys', 13-5. Our win over Smithfield back on Deecember 30th at Pepin Gym was the only reason we were able to secure the #4 seed rather than the #5, which the Sentinels took for themselves. And, in hockey, they dealt the Hawks their only league loss of the season, a 3-2 overtime thriller at Smithfield Municipal Ice Rink back several weeks ago. There is, therefore, no reason to take these guys lightly. 

The Hawks didn't. 

As pointed out above, Cam Brennan, Stone Freeman, and Remy Morris broadcast the game live, right here on Network 2. Mind you, the quality of the video and audio is lesser that what we normally provide here on The Network, but as I said, this issue will be completely addressed very shortly. Roughly the final 10 minutes of the game can be seen in the viewer at the top of the page,and the rest of the game can be seen right here:

Video streaming by Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

Over the course of the first period and some into the second, the Hawks struck early and often, jumping out in front 4-0, going into the locker room at intermission with a 4-1 lead, and then hanging on against that 'team that won't go away', walking out of Thayer with a 5-3 win in game 1. Jamie Armstrong scored two goals, and Pat Creamer, Andrew Fera, and Reilly Miller had one each. Four of the goals can be seen here....

...Pat Creamer....

...Jamie Armstrong's first....

...Andrew Fera....

...and Reilly Miller.

Matt Kenneally stopped 14 shots and stood tall when he had to.

Game 2 is tonight at 8pm, and we'll carry it here, live, on The Network.

Having read a lot of the articles in the local press about the coverage, the hype, and the number of people who were likely to pack Cullen Gymnasium at CCRI for the re-match of the Hawks and the Rams, The Network staff decided to arrive to set up early. 

REAL early.

The voice of the basketball Hawks, Johnathan Feeny, had ample time to prepare. 

It's a good thing we set up early, too...even having secured a prime spot, we still had people crawling all over us by the time the first game began. The entire game was broadcast live right here on The Network, with Johnathan Feeny doing his usual bang-up job on play-by-play. Cam Brennan joined him for some analysis at halftime and in the second half following the hockey game.  The entire game can be seen here:

Video streaming by Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

Video streaming by Ustream

Coming off their convincing win over Smithfield in the Division I quarterfinals, our guys had every reason to believe that they could avenge the defeat to the Rams from several weeks back, pull the upset, and advance to the D1 finals. 

The Rams put that notion to bed pretty quickly. 

LaSalle continually used their fast break, the extra pass, and dagger-like three-pointers from Adrian LaFleur to jump out to a ten-point lead and never looked back. By halftime, it was already a pretty discouraging sight.

During the course of the second half, the Hawks never managed to get the lead much below 20 points. Our guys do, however, deserve some credit, for despite the chances of their coming all the way back, they continued to fight:

For the Hawks, Justin Mazzulla (20 points) and Matt Duffie (13) led the way, but they were tough points. The ball just seemed as if it didn't want to go into the hoop for our guys throughout the game, but, in the end, there are no excuses. The Hawks were soundly beaten last night.

From here, the Hawks await to find out where they will be placed in the state tournament. They'll have some time to regroup, but if they're going to make a run at the state championship, there's no doubt that the road to that possibility is, for right now, anyway, painted maroon.