No one expected Cornell to accomplish much this year, though. They barely finished with a winning season, 16-15-3, after a very weak fall turned into an unexpectedly effective January and February. Getting to the ECAC tournament for its first year in Atlantic City was not a given; they had to win a third quarterfinal game, in overtime no less, to get there. Friday night's decisive semifinal win over Dartmouth was fun to watch, but Saturday the guys were just so outmatched that it was painful. I have nothing against close, exciting, well-fought losses, but this just was none of the above.
So how was Atlantic City? You know what? I loved it. The Trump Plaza was disappointing in several ways, including their frontline staff's utter disinterest in addressing the disappointments. The location, literally right next to Boardwalk Hall, the site of the hockey tournament, was perfect, though, and a manager I ended up talking to on Saturday afternoon when I asked for the GM's e-mail address was apologetic and helpful. I don't know for sure I'd try to stay there again, but I'm at least no longer dead set against it, and I'm sure that was the on-duty manager's goal. Staying in town, instead of at cheaper/friendlier lodging outside town, was definitely worth it.
As I feared, though, Atlantic City was a clear disaster for the tournament, with the lowest attendance for the games that we've seen in decades. If Cornell hadn't made it, it would probably literally have been half what it was. The ECAC organizers have to already be looking at what comes after the three years they committed to. Part of my concern was that I didn't really love my last visit, almost six years ago. (I found, but didn't revisit, the Johnny Rockets we enjoyed then.)
The summery weather (seriously, it topped 80 as we drove through Pennsylvania, and was easily in the 60s most of Friday and Saturday) helped my weekend enjoyment enormously. Warm air and sunshine are good for what ails ya, and I got a hefty dose this weekend. I also got to spend some time with friends, most of them for the last time until hockey resumes in October. A few, I see in other circumstances or venues, and of course I'll get to see the locals here and there. It was nice to get to know a couple of folks a good bit better.
Perhaps the best thing about AC this visit was some of the great food. There were a few false starts, including unconscionable frustrations with Ri Ra, but we were delighted and then some by the White House Sub Shop, where I stopped again on my way out of town to grab more food for home. It was also my first visit to a P.F. Chang's, but won't be my last. That was an especially nice surprise given that we ended up there after the epic fail that was Ri Ra, so we could've just been grumpy all night. Fast and expert service, a neat menu and clever approach, and tasty food all conspired to make us happy once again. We even had some good late-night snacks and friendly service at Trinity Brewpub on Friday night, making the Ri Ra nastiness even more bearable. I even got a shrimp po'boy at the Phillips Seafood Express stand for "breakfast" around noon yesterday before heading out.
I only briefly set foot on the beach, but one of the nice things about the Boardwalk is that you can walk along the ocean and enjoy the view without getting wet or sandy. If it weren't mid March, I'd have wanted to dip my toes in the ocean, but even with the air in the 60s and 70s, that wasn't going to be comfortable this early in the year.