I knew if I didn't write about last week's game before this week's, I'd forget what happened. That's pretty much the case, though there are a couple highlights that stuck with me. First is that my line had a lovely breakout on one shift. This is significant, Baldwin told me on the bench during the game (and Hoche later in an e-mail), because Hoche usually complains that we don't have any. Apparently, "...and we didn't even have ONE DECENT BREAKOUT" is a familiar refrain in the post-game locker room. I can understand why Hoche was so excited when we executed on one—it *is* pretty thrilling when you just click, when you come out of your own end in an organized manner and turn defense into offense.
The other thing that sticks out in my mind is how physical the Red Army guys were. I'm not sure whether it was just testosterone or lack of skill, but they tended to go for the body first and the puck second. After getting hit a couple of times in the first period, I noticed that I started bracing for the hit instead of looking for the puck. Annoying, but safe. By the third period I think I had the right balance of safety and go-gettiveness, and I managed to keep track of the puck and avoid getting knocked on my butt too much. Well, except for the final seconds of the game, when I went behind the net to grab a rebound, turned with it to shoot, and was promptly smacked in the face cage by another face cage. Bam! Cagebut! Luckily, I was already back-against-the-boards, because the it saved me from rebounding off the glass with my head. As it was, I just crumpled straight down as the buzzer rang. Special dibs to Phil, who came within about 6 feet of us and said loudly, "LORI, ARE YOU OK?" He so had my back if I'd wanted to drop the gloves on this guy. :)
OK, and now, About Last Night. The main thing I remember (I can't believe I'm already forgetting!) is that it was funfunfun. My line didn't score any goals, but we had so many chances and so many things that we did right that we are bound to become the Scoring Line eventually. There were many triangle situations that I didn't execute very well, even though I recognized them as triangle situations (as Hoche says, "there's a difference between knowing what a triangle is and actually doing it correctly in a game"), but overall I was pretty proud of myself for a number of Things Done Right. My proudest moment was probably when I picked the puck off an opponent's stick and dashed into the zone. Just the picking and the dashing would have been enough to make my chest (and my head) swell, but I also managed to get a shot off *on net* and pick up my own rebound. Woo hoo!
I think the play that nearly gave everyone else a heart attack (in a good way) was the almost-tip-in during the second period. I am a net-crasher by trade, so when I wasn't actively chasing the puck in the corners, I was camped out on the goalie's back door. In this case I was SO READY for a rebound that I felt like I could see the shot coming before the puck even got to the shooter. Unfortunately, I didn't *actually* see the shot after it left (Baldwin's? Wilson's? I can't remember) stick, because I was being screened by an opponent. However, the puck did hit my stick as it came through the crease. The only problem was that my stick was pointed just the teeniest bit too far to the left, and the puck slid just outside the post instead of just inside it. Gotta work on that stick angle for the tip-in -- maybe Al & I can do that next practice.
We had Dangerous Dan in nets for us, but since we out-shot the Y Guys 44 to 7, he didn't have much to do. I think he was starting to wonder why we'd made him drive all the way down from Redwood City. (Meanwhile, at the other end of the ice, the Y Guys' goalie was on FIRE, as attested to by the score, which was only 3-0.) Jim scored goals one and three, and Lisa and Inga hooked up for the second one. I must admit, even though Hoche shook his head and laughed, "man, that was some ugly garbage" after the second goal, it was my favorite. I believe Inga had gone in for a shot on goal on the left side and then skated around the back of the net to the right while Lisa picked up the rebound. Lisa then threw the puck at the net, and Inga had the entire right side open. She didn't have to go high—the slightest tip would have done it—but it added an extra bit of flair.
I've been feeling rather solitary and introspective for a few days (which isn't exactly the optimum state of mind for blogging), but since Inga missed our Gang Green game on Sunday for a tournament with the Polars, I figure I owe her a post. :) The title of this particular entry refers to the new green jersey I wore in this game—my first with HYLAN-CHO on the back—but that's the last you'll hear of it...
We played the Crease Monkeys in our second pre-season game. My overall impression was that they were a weaker team than the Y Guys, even though the Y Guys have a couple players who are brand-spanking new. I found myself missing opportunities left and right because I kept thinking that when they grabbed the puck they'd actually take off with it. I spent my energy trying to follow the play when I should have been trying to hijack it—their puck-handling skills being shaky at best.
The one time I tried to make the Justin move, the player I skated through either grabbed my stick, or else it got tangled up some other way, and I yanked it free as I tried to determine what happened to the puck. I heard the ref yell, "HEY!", and somehow knew he wasn't yelling at the other guy for holding me up. Sure enough, as the puck came sailing back into our end and one of our D stopped it, I was called for high-sticking. Now, my stick wasn't high—rather, the other guy's face was low—but since the blade did scrape his face cage, I dutifully skated to the box.
I thought about pleading my case to the scorekeeper, but she seemed an unsympathetic sort (she's the one who yelled at us all to get on the ice whether it was dry or not, since we were already TWO MINUTES LATE in starting the game), and in any case, she never even looked my way. Instead, I troubled Hoche for some water and settled in to serve my three minutes of running time.
Shortly after finishing the water, and about halfway through the penalty, I saw the tide turn dramatically in our favor as Jim scored a short-handed goal. Woo hoo! Do I get a plus for that? (I'm kidding, Karen!) Al has asserted that he and I are not likely to be big goal-scorers for this team, since we tend to be fairly defensive-minded for forwards. Backchecking and forechecking are my specialties, not scoring. However, penalties aren't exactly familiar territory for me, either (this is only my second in two and a half years of hockey), so I suppose it's possible that I could score a few goals, too. At the very least, I hope the shorthander scored during my penalty is not the closest I will ever get to contributing to a goal on this team...
In other game news, I played on a line with Baldwin (one of the four people named Chris on our team; all are referred to by their last names except for Christin, who has the longest and hardest-to-pronounce last name) this week. I gather that he usually plays Left Wing, but he was kind enough to move to Right to make way for me. I think I have a bit more speed than he does, but his puck-handling skills blow mine away. He's also really good at stealing the puck away from opponents in a completely unJustin way (which just proves that there's more than one way to do it, and that there's hope for me yet). It also means that there's more for me to do, since while he's fighting for the puck, I can get in position for a pass or get ready to chase if he dumps it in.
We didn't have enough players for three full lines, which means that we weren't guaranteed the same Center every time we were out together. We got to try out both Andan (who was playing Center for the first time, as a sub) and Hoche (who usually plays with Baldwin and would likely have Centered our line had we had the full complement of players). I had one nice moment with Hoche when I was able to produce a centering pass from a broken-up play; I was under pressure and didn't have time to look for him or his stick, so I just tossed the puck backhand to where I thought he'd be, and he was. He one-timed it, also with a backhander; the goalie stopped it, but it was still nice to be part of a scoring chance.
And OH MY GOD I just saw the Mighty Ducks set up the perfect Triangle and score the game-winning. series-winning goal against the Red Wings. Yaaaaaay Ducks!!!
Anyway, back in E bracket... I still feel like I can contribute more to the team (which is a good thing, having your better games in front of you rather than behind), but there are a couple things to be proud of in this one: First, I wasn't nervous at all. I was totally relaxed, in fact. Second, I skated hard enough to be totally soaked with sweat after the game (and I believe I can go even harder). There were a few goofy moments, too—trying to step over one of Andan's shots and blocking it with my ankle anyway, standing up straight and very nearly calling time out so I could laugh my ass off when an opponent attacked my legs and skates like a freaking egg beater in an attempt to dig the puck out from between my feet, pulling a muscle from my hip down to my knee and up to my shoulder when an opponent smooshed me into the boards—but nothing too egregious. Bring on the Red Army!
Al and I spent the morning talking about the game last night, and aside from my personal performance, there were a lot of things we liked... and a lot of things we didn't understand. We're coming from a league that seems to stress individual achievement over team play (in fact, most efforts to plan for different situations, such as breakouts, 2 on 1s, penalty kills, faceoffs in our own zone, etc. were brushed off at best) to a team that has a plan for almost everything. We were amazed by their organization.
Standing around in the living room, and later in the car on the way to work, we asked each other lots of questions, such as: What exactly is a T formation? What was that discussion about "4 on the line and one back" that happened with two minutes left, when we were up 3-2? I know I shouldn't have passed to the middle off the faceoff in our own zone, but if my lane is clogged and the puck comes to me, what else can I do? How does a 'triangle' work? and so on. We answered each other with shrugs and speculation, but we agreed that it was exciting to know that there *was* a plan. We just needed to be in on it.
Luckily, Hoche noted the somewhat depressed tone of my last post and came to a similar conclusion: we needed to know the plan. He sent me the most supportive, detailed e-mail that answered all the questions above and more. I now know where he and the team stand on the issue of whether a winger should stick to the D if they pinch in or stay up on the boards for the breakout pass (the latter, which is also my personal preference), that it's ok to employ my crazy forechecking methods during a penalty kill as long as we've got them down in their end/the neutral zone, and that the general policy is that last man back covers D if the D takes the puck in.
I'll elaborate more on the answers to our specific questions as I get to put the plan into action on the ice. For the time being, it's sufficient to know that I now understand what a T formation is, what we were doing in the last two minutes of the game last night, and what I should have done instead of passing to the middle off the faceoff. I still need more practice with the triangle (as does Al, who I think has never tried it before), but hopefully I'm now at a point where I can feel RELAXED and excited about the next game, not nervous or scared.
Thanks, Hoche! And thanks to all the other Gang Greeners who made us feel so welcome. We'll see you on Sunday.
I had mixed emotions at the end of tonight's game. On the one hand, I was really thrilled to be playing with a team *that played like a team*, to be playing with such nice, friendly people, to be playing at all. On the other hand, I was disappointed with my personal performance, and I'm nervous that others were, too. I'd wanted to make a good impression in my first game, and I don't think I did.
Personal game summary: [Period 1] Nervous to the point of shaky (like the first game of a tournament). Lots of stupid plays. Disoriented at Right Wing. [Period 2] Cautious. Still disoriented (looking for the bench on the wrong side of the ice, forgetting which way were going on offense; jumping on at Left instead of Right. [Period 3] Better. Played Left Wing, and managed to hit Inga and Karen with a couple passes. Still not strong, but improved over P1 and P2. [Overall] No shots on goal. -1.
I think I was so worried about being a nerd on the ice that it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. And now I'm worried that everyone's going, "oh geez." The good news is, I know I can play better than that. (Al concurs; he's *seen* me play better.) And over time, I'll get to know my teammates better: where they are, how they play, what to look for. I already know I can hit Karen (she's my Justin in this league); now I need to learn how to hit Inga. In future games, I'll look for passes from the D on breakouts rather than being relieved that they went to the other side. And I'll continue to develop the instinct that was just starting to develop at the end of last season: I'm going to take the puck and run.
I am so NERVOUS and EXCITED about the prospect of playing in my first hockey game in a month tonight.
Al and I practiced with our new team for the first time on Friday night (which was cool, since our old team at Ice Oasis didn't practice at all). We met up at Hockey Workout, a scary place in a scary neighborhood, at 10pm to do drills on the tiny sheet of ice that they have. I fell down on one of the horshoe drills (rather dramatically, I thought), but other than that I don't think I embarrassed myself *too* much. The good news is that I had two significant epiphanies during the hour we had the ice.
Now, if I can just use my new shooting skills in a game... Guess we'll see tonight. Wish me luck, and cross your fingers that I don't completely embarrass myself or my new team!