It won't be quite the show they're having Sunday in Pasadena, Calif., but to local ice hockey fans, the Crab Pot Championship is just as super.
The Buffalo Bills and Dallas Cowboys will be kicking off Super Bowl XXVII right around the time (6:18 p.m.) Navy's ice hockey club team hopes to be celebrating the championship of the 16th annual Crab Pot Tournament at Dahlgren Hall.
Last February, fifth-year coach Jim Barry and his Mids attempted to repeat as Crab Pot champs for the first time since 1980-81 and take their sixth Pot overall since the inception of the tournament in 1978. The Mids had won the 25-gallon black Crab Pot trophy with a 5-3 victory over West Chester College (Pa.) in 1991.
But an inspired University of Maryland squad spoiled last February's anticipated Navy Crab Pot party with a controversial 6-5 overtime victory in the finale.
"They came in and beat us after we had clocked 'em earlier [7-2], and they always get fired up for us," said Barry, whose Mids (8-3-2) will playhost to the Terps (11-7) in tomorrow's second first-round game at 4 p.m.
The Crab Pot, patterned after the prestigious Beanpot, annually vied for in Boston by Northeastern, Boston University, Boston College and Harvard, will open at 1 p.m. with Worcester (Mass.) Polytech (8-4) playing potent Eastern Michigan (12-4).
Saturday's winners meet at 4 p.m. Sunday for the championship, and the losers will play a consolation at 1 p.m.
The Mids first have to get by Maryland and avenge last year's title loss, which came on a questionable goal just 15 seconds into the overtime. Opinions differed as to whether or not the game-winner actually went in, but the refs ruled it a goal to give Maryland the win.
Barry expects another dogfight, but hopes to reverse the verdict and get a shot at Eastern Michigan, the projected winner of the first game.
"Eastern Michigan is a powerhouse," said Barry, who is 54-28-6 as the Navy coach.
Eastern Michigan already has clinched a berth in the ACHA National Club Hockey Championships in Fargo, N.D., in late February. The first eight teams in the ACHA rankings qualify for the nationals, and Navy, ranked No. 11, will not be making a return trip.
Expansion in a constantly improving association and a relatively young team cost the Mids a return to the nationals. Navy finished seventh (0-2-1) in last year's nationals in Tempe, Ariz., but lost out to two new teams this year.
Among the eight seniors this season are three guys who along with junior Rob Doherty have been the backbone of the team for the last few years. Jeff Fogarty, Steve Roberto and Eric Fontaine are hanging up their skates, which makes this year's Crab Pot all the more special.
"It's the last roundup for those guys," said Barry, an economics professor at the academy. "It would be great for them to go out with the Crab Pot, but we have to get by Maryland first, and they always play well against us."
Winning the Crab Pot would soothe the disappointment of not qualifying for the nationals. The Mids' losses to Delaware (6-5), Penn State (8-3) and College Militaire Royal of St. Jean, Quebec (6-1) knocked them out of postseason play.
There might be a Super Bowl taking place on the West Coast Sunday, but a Super Pot of sorts will draw sports fans to the Cap City where the ticket prices are much more affordable. The Crab Pot is free, and there are two days of competition.