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IMHO: Lebanon’s Morrill Takes a Hike; Schuler’s Canadians Struggle

  • Canadian head coach Laura Schuler talks with the team in preparation for the IIHF Women's World Championship hockey tournament, Thursday, March 30, 2017, in Plymouth, Mich. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Alexander Morrill in Maine's 100 mile Wilderness in July 2015. In the background is Mount Katahdin. The Lebanon High graduate will be doing a solo hike of the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Alexander Morrill at Mount Willey during a hike in the White Mountains in March 2017. The Lebanon High graduate will be doing a solo hike of the Appalachian Trail, starting in Georgia. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Keegan Bradley reacts to just missing a par putt on the 16th hole during the final round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational golf tournament Sunday, August 3rd, 2014 at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. (Phil Masturzo/Akron Beacon Journal/MCT)

  • Keegan Bradley hits from the rough on the 5th hole of the south course at Torrey Pines Golf Course during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. (K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS)

Valley News Sports Editor
Published: 4/7/2017 12:08:58 AM
Modified: 4/7/2017 12:09:55 AM

It’s Masters week. I see the azaleas lining Augusta National on my television. And it all leads me to one incontrovertible conclusion: It’s still six weeks until spring shows up around here.

Just because there’s snow in the yard doesn’t mean a little mental spring cleaning isn’t in order. So …

Bigfoot Lives: Lebanon’s Zander Morrill, less than a week into his Appalachian Trail thru-hike, has his trail name.

As you may recall, Morrill — the former Lebanon High and UNH offensive lineman — left for Georgia last week for what he anticipates will be a five-month hike the length of the 2,100-mile AT. He headed for the trail’s southern terminus without a traditional trail name, most often bestowed by fellow thru-hikers, hopeful that his moniker would come about naturally.

Early in the morning of the trek’s third day, Morrill came upon a sleeping woman who had parked her tent smack in the middle of the trail. According to a post on Morrill’s Facebook page, he tried to walk around the encampment, but the woman woke with a terrified hello.

“So naturally I said good morning,” Morrill wrote. “And with a sigh of relief, she said, ‘Oh, thank god, I thought you were Bigfoot!”

And, thus, a trail name is born.

Schuler’s Struggles: Lost in the drama of the U.S. women’s hockey team’s contract story last week was this interesting nugget from the women’s world championships in Michigan: Canada, led by Dartmouth women’s hockey coach Laura Schuler, lost. Twice.

The Americans dropped their rivals to open the tournament, but it’s the 4-3 defeat to Finland from Saturday that raises eyebrows. The Canadians rarely lose once in a world tournament, and never in back-to-back games.

However, for those worrying this might cost Schuler the chance to coach in next winter’s Olympics, take a breath. As with World Cup soccer programs, Olympic coaches are hired with the four-year cycle in mind. It would take something close to a nuclear meltdown of the program for Hockey Canada to abandon Schuler just 10 months shy of Pyeongchang.

The U.S. and Canada remain the standard-bearers in international women’s hockey by a significant distance. The Americans were fortunate to get away with a 5-3 win over Finland on Monday night, so the Finns are clearly making up some of the distance. Regardless, the International Ice Hockey Federation format — eight teams, six advance from groups — favors the powers. Canada received a bye into the semifinals despite the two losses. They had a rematch with the Finns on Thursday night.

Schuler will be fine. Canada will be fine. And, hopefully, down the road, Dartmouth will reap the recruiting benefits from having someone who can coach on an international stage.

Speaking of South Korea: The NHL’s decision to abandon Pyeongchang is no surprise. Commissioner Gary Bettman has been heading in that direction since Sochi, and the timing of Monday’s announcement reveals all anyone needs to know.

For one, the league wanted to make its decision official before the playoffs started. (Money.) Secondly, the NHL pushed the IIHF for concessions on expenses, got them, then decided they weren’t enough. (Money.) Finally, the NHL and its players association produced the World Cup of Hockey in September, allowing both sides to stage an international event, even if two of the teams (North America and Europe) were cobbled-together excuses employed to get more NHL players in front of paying fans. (Money.)

The 13-hour time difference argument is, um, bullhockey. This was nothing more than a cash grab by a league with a history of making dumb decisions when it comes to its players — never forget the World Hockey Association (money) — and, as always, fans will be the worse off for it.

(BTW, just wait for the NHL to eagerly dive into Beijing in 2022, in spite of a similar time difference. It’s the market, silly.)

List Served: Not sure what to think of Sports Illustrated and Money (there’s that word again) magazines combining to produce what they call the list of the 25 best colleges for sports lovers and placing Dartmouth at No. 11.

The online version of the list (www.si.com/campus-rush/2017/best-schools-for-sports-lovers) is largely built on the schools’ academic reputations. Money’s best colleges ranking served as the starting point, with 15 sports-centered data points added to produce the sports-loving list.

Intriguingly, Princeton (No. 19) and Yale (No. 9) join Dartmouth, but Harvard doesn’t. So, too, do Bowdoin (No. 10) and Middlebury (No. 8), the only Division III colleges to make the cut. The compilation is chockablock with ACC connections (Duke, Virginia, North Carolina, Clemson) or those that should still be (Maryland). And only five of the 25 can be found west of the Mississippi, chart-topping Stanford among them.

Really, it’s a list to start a conversation, or at least add to global warming. Perhaps you can get a chat going as you shiver through your next visit to Scully-Fahey Field.

Sadly, No Bradley: Out of curiosity, I scanned the list of golfers who qualified for the Masters this week and found no sign of Woodstock native Keegan Bradley.

This reveals multiple things. One, it’s been too long since Bradley’s signature triumph at the 2011 PGA Championship for exemptions into major tournaments to apply anymore. It’s also a sign of how far Bradley’s game has slipped to have lost such benefits gained from three PGA Tour wins early in his career.

Bradley is showing signs of progress, even if it hasn’t been enough to retain Masters playing status. The 30-year-old was 23rd on the FedEx Cup points list entering the week; if he can maintain that level of play the rest of the season, he’ll be in the field for the PGA Tour championship in September, which would net an Augusta invitation next spring. Unless, of course, he wins again, which also would get him inside Augusta National’s gates.

I hope it happens. The azaleas look gorgeous in Georgia this time of year.

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.




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