Last night Al and I went to the Blade Runners practice at Vallco with Inga and Kerry. It basically consisted of about 5 minutes of warmup, 10 minutes of full-ice horseshoe drills, and 90 minutes of pickup. Al wore light and I wore dark, so we were on opposing teams for the pickup portion. His side had 10 skaters and mine had 9; we changed every two minutes, with the buzzer. The fact that my side was short meant that one person had to stay on for a double each time.
Both of us started off skating at our normal 1-minute shift speed, but we quickly found that it wasn't sustainable over 2-minute shifts—especially for me, since my turn to do a double came on my second shift. The good news is that while I was in fast-skating mode, I managed to sustain some of the energy and drive I'd built up in Vancouver. On one play, when it was a bit ambiguous whether I should take the puck or one of my teammates should, I felt I had the better angle on it, so I grabbed the puck and skated it out of the zone. A thrilling moment, I can tell you: not for it's speed or skill so much as for its very being. I can be quite a girl on the ice ("no, no, you have it, I'll just follow you in to the zone"), so it's nice to know that I can occasionally be greedy and agressive, too.
After the double I spent most of the remainder of my shifts coasting with occasional bursts of speed. I did have one semi-breakaway where I was able to skate all the way into the zone; I thought about passing, but since I was being covered from the inside, I didn't have an obvious pass to make. I thought I might have gone in too close for a shot when I was just shy of the goal line, but when I looked up to see where the goalie was in the net, I found that he wasnt: he was standing off to the side, having a drink of water. So I just popped the puck into the net. Just about everyone on the ice found this amusing; I looked at it as my best chance to score, though it didn't stop me from trying when the goalie was in the net as well. :)
I also had another couple nice plays behind the net: one where I was able to pass through an opponent's legs and put the puck right on the tape of my teammate at the right-side boards, and another where I managed to wrestle the puck away from the goalie behind the net and pop it out in front for Inga (Eric tried for the stuff and failed, but the puck slid back out just enough that Inga was able to push it in).
Overall, it was a good workout, and worthwhile for the opportunities it gave me to try new moves and just get more comfortable on my skates, but I'd actually rather practice with 45 second shifts than 2 minutes. Of course, I'd also rather practice at my usual position and with my linemates, but you can't have everything. Having to figure out which position was open/which guy was uncovered was a good drill in itself, actually, and there were many opportunities to practice breaking out and setting up in front. Inga says she tries to go to the practices about twice a month; I suspect Al and I will do the same.
Meanwhile, we've also joined a gym in an effort to get a bit stronger. I should say "strong" rather than "stronger" if I'm going to be honest; I had no idea how weak I really was in my upper body until I tried to do a shoulder press on a Cybex machine. I should have guessed from my inability to hold onto the puck when challenged or to shoot with authority, but until faced with the absolute numbers on the weight machines, I didn't really understand how deep the problem ran. Hopefully doing a little lifting 3 times a week will help my upper body strength, and that in turn will help me become a better hockey player.
Our Saturday afternoon game had us facing a team we had to beat to secure the 2nd place spot in our bracket (which would move us into the playoffs). If for some reason we tied them, we'd also be tied for 2nd place, and the tie-breakers were (1) wins, (2) penalty minutes (fewer), (3) goals for (more), and (4) goals against (fewer). There was quite a bit of talk about tie-breakers in the locker room before the game, which kind of bugged me; I'd rather have concentrated on trying to win the game outright. (But then, while I would be excited to make the playoffs and get at least one more game in, I also would be OK with having Sunday off.) As we took to the ice, somebody noted that the other team had two penalty minutes going into this game, and we had six. Another reason we should just concentrate on winning, I thought.
During the final period of Game 2, we'd scrambled the lines a bit to see if we could generate any offense, but it hadn't worked. The lines from Game 1 seemed to be the best we could arrange. We did keep one change going into Game 3, though: Sarah moved from D to Center, and Deb moved back to take Sarah's spot. Felicia and Marlene and I stayed together as the other forward line. I'd mentioned to Felicia before the game that Al had noticed that sometimes both of us went for the puck at the same time, and my plan in this game would be to let her have it, and to just get open for the pass. I was able to do that most of the time, though some of the photos still show us too close together (usually my fault).
The Ravens scored first, in the first period. I believe we answered with a goal of our own early in the second period (I can't remember who actually put the puck in the net; maybe Amber?), making the score tied at 1-1. Not long after that, I ended up following the lead skater behind the net as she tried to either go for a wraparound or kill time until her teammates could get set up in the slot. I managed to muck her up a little—enough that a wraparound shot was now impossible—but as I came around the far side of the net, I noticed that there were now two other Ravens in front on that side. The girl I was on passed out toward them, and Ling came out of the net to face them. Rather than charge into the scrum and potentially make things worse for Ling, who had to sort out among the three Ravens and our 2 D (plus any Wingers who might be coming down to help out) where a puck might be coming from, I skated behind her into the crease and covered the gap between her left arm and her body.
This turned out to be a good thing, as that's exactly where the shot went a second or so later. Someone then crashed into Ling, who fell back onto my leg; I don't think she'd realized I was there, and at first I was worried that I might have hurt her, not to mention kept her from covering the puck properly. There was an immediate whistle anyway, though; apparently not only was Ling fine and the puck OK where it was, but we were also going on the power play. The girl who got called for holding Jocelyn's stick was none too happy about it ("Are you fucking kidding me?" she yelled at the ref, to Michele's delight; I heard M, who happened to be on the ice with me and Felicia that shift, mutter, "two extra minutes for unsportsmanlike would be fine with us!") She just got the two minutes for the hold, though.
I believe this was the first of three penalties taken by the Ravens in the second period (it might have been the second penalty; I'm not sure). In any case, it put their PIM total for the tournament at 8. They now had more penalty minutes than we did. Sadly, that distinction did not last long. It was near the end of the second period, I believe, that I got called for tripping. :( I had picked up the person in the slot and was trying to stick to her when our strides got out of sync, and I accidentally poked her skate with my stick. She went down hard, I leaned down and said, "oops, sorry about that," and the ref blew the whistle. "5 Teal, tripping!" I couldn't dispute the call, so I headed to the box. I know I should look mad or at least guilty there in the box, but when I noticed Al with the camera pointed at me, I couldn't help smiling ruefully. I knew we could beat this team, and the penalty wasn't completely stupid (I didn't get in a fight or whack someone in the head with my stick or retaliate for all the pushing and shoving and grabbing), so I didn't think the fact that we were now tied in penalty minutes would even come into play.
Somewhere in the middle of the game, Marlene suggested that on the faceoff, I should try to whack the other Center's stick as soon as the puck was dropped. That way, she'd have no chance at the puck, and I could win it back cleanly. Now, I'm no good at winning the puck backwards in the first place (the best I can do is win it to the side), but I said I would certainly give it a try. Meanwhile, Ling had been telling us Centers since game 1 that we needed to tie up our man. I'd done that in the second game on a faceoff in our end, leaving the puck free for one of the D or Wingers to come in and pick it up, but instead everyone just stood around and watched us tangle. Meanwhile, as Spitfire attention was directed toward the scuffle on the dot, one of their Wingers slid backwards til she was open in front of the net. Eventually the puck was kicked free, one of the Hornets passed it to the open Winger, and she scored. Not very encouraging.
Anyway, I tried Marlene's suggestion, and I quickly found that I was strong enough to whack the other Center's stick, but not strong enough to also win the faceoff back. At the next rest between shifts, I told Marlene this, and outlined my strategy: I would whack the stick and then step in. Marlene said no problem, either she or Felicia would pick up the puck. With everyone on the line now on the same page, the play worked much better against the Ravens than it did against the Hornets. While we weren't able to score again, we *were* able to frustrate and confuse their Centers (and often entire lines). You can see this in the photo at right, where I've got the Center tied up, and Felicia is moving in from the Right Wing to pick up the puck. Shortly after, I disengaged from the Center and got open in the slot for the pass. I love it when a play comes together. :)
Unfortunately, by not being able to capitalize on some good plays (and by not setting up properly on a few others—see left), the game ended in a 1-1 tie. That meant that all the tie-breakers we'd fretted about before the game and between periods would now come into play. We were obviously tied in both points (3) and wins (1); because of their three penalties and my one during this game, we were tied in penalty minutes (8); at first it looked like they were ahead in goals for (5 to our 4), but we learned that there was a mistake on the official scoring sheet, and we were also tied in that category. That meant that it came down to goals against, and that's where our 6-0 loss in the second game came back to bite us. I think the Ravens only had 4 or 5 goals against them to our 8. They moved on to the playoffs, and we did not.
After the game we went up to the lounge for beer and nachos; I spotted the little girl in the photo at right and snapped a couple photos of her playing with her dolls. She's wearing a hockey jersey. :) After scarfing down most of the nachos and listening for our ticket numbers to be called in the door-prize raffle (we didn't win anything), Al and I headed back to the hotel. Apparently we missed out on some serious streaking by cutting out early: we heard from Marlene the next day that shortly after we left one of the coaches from the another team was seen skating around the rink naked. He was pursued by one of his team's players in full gear; she was trying to knock him down. (Personally, I wouldn't want to fall on the ice without pads on, much less without clothes. And god forbid any part of his body was wet, and it adhered to the ice.... <shudder>) After this display, a few die-hards from our team moved on to Tim Horton's, where two insane Candians decided to try to impress the donut-eating crowd with their god-given wares. They started by pressing their bums to the storefront glass, and then they came inside for a loop around the establishment. I understand that the goods on display were none too impressive, but the two nuts (or rather, the two loons *with* the nuts) won points for shock value.
Meanwhile, back at the hotel, I was feeling fairly sore; though I'd have loved to play another game or two on Sunday, I wasn't exactly sorry to have a day off, either. I was amazed that I came away from the tournament with no serious injuries—just one small, rectangular bruise (probably from a stick) just above my left elbow—and some sore muscles. Really sore, actually, but in a good way. Made me feel like I'd actually *skated*. Al did say that despite the penalty and the fact that we didn't win, that last game was the best one he'd ever seen me play. That's something to be proud of, if I do say so myself.
Al's photos from game 2. Felicia and I figure prominently.
This afternoon's first game was a bit of a shock after last night's; we basically played the same game we did yesterday, but instead of winning 3-1, we lost 6-0. We'd gotten to know each other's playing styles a bit better, but that didn't really help... it seems that none of us trusted that anyone else would get the puck, so we tended to swarm. :-/ Al also noticed that Felicia and I tended to both go for the puck at the same time; I'll have to tell her for the next game that from now on I'll let her have it, and just try to get open for the pass.
Aside from fighting over the puck, Felicia and I actually play pretty well together. She's very good at getting control of the puck at the blueline and skating it in, while I can use my speed to go in with her and crash the net. We manage to pass to each other pretty well, too. Marlene made a great linemate for both of us, and while we didn't score any goals together, we certainly had some chances (hmmm, sound familiar?). I hope I get a chance to play with both of them at a future tournament.
On the downside, I remarked to Al that I felt like I was having to do it all in this game, and I'm really not a good enough player for that. He replied that from the bench, it looked like *everyone* was trying to do it all themselves—that was the problem. We were all playing well, but we weren't really playing like a team. Hopefully we can fix that for our next game, which is only a couple hours away.
Here are the photos that Al took before and during the first game; click for enlargements.
Our first game was at 9:45pm tonight (well, technically yesterday now, since it's the wee hours of Saturday) against the Eugene Xtreme. After skating a couple shifts in the first period, I figured we should be able to take this team. They were about our level (except for two players who stood out as strong skaters and puckhandlers), so I thought we'd have a good shot against them.
We brought only 6 players with us from California (including our goalie), so we had to recruit some Canadian subs in order to have two full lines of forwards and D. Jocelyn came out from Regina again this year, and she brought her friend Marlene (who couldn't make it last year because she broke her arm days before the tournament). We also picked up three local players: Amber and Deb, who played on a line with Michele, and Sarah, who played D. Jocelyn also played D this time, along with Shauna and Sabrina. I Centered a line with Felicia at Left and Marlene at Right.
I wasn't particularly strong at the faceoffs, but I tried to bring whatever other talents I have to bear in playing Center. My main strengths: 1. speed (although Al rightly notes that I don't really have quickness), and 2. dogged forechecking. I think it's important to have both, because forechecking as a Center is no good if you can't also get back when the play turns around. (I almost didn't on a play toward the end of the 3rd period; luckily, Al yelled from the bench, "Lori, you're D!" to spur me on. I hadn't noticed that Sarah was still up at the blueline.)
As for the dogged forechecking, I just tried to slow down their strongest skaters (who were playing D), and to break up passes whenever possible (because usually, Felicia could capitalize on it). I knew that whatever I was doing was working pretty well against one of the fancy D skaters when she grabbed my stick at one point and tried to fling it out of the way. It felt good to get under her skin a little. :)
I felt strongest and most in control of my game when I was forechecking, and also when I had to get back on D once and start a breakout from behind the net. My skating was smooth, my pass fairly authoritative, and I had good speed; in short, I really felt like a hockey player. Playing with my new Synergy stick, which Al bought for me today at Cyclone Taylor, also made me feel powerful and capable. As I said to Al after the game, I never had to wonder if I could bring my stick around to get whack at the puck. It's so much lighter than my wooden stick that there's never any doubt that I have the arm strength to actually puckhandle.
Amber scored all three of our goals (all on breakaways); she's very fast when she sees a free puck and an open lane. I figure all we need to do to score is wear the other team down in the neutral zone, and wait for the puck to pop out to Amber. She got the MVP award, of course, but I actually think Felicia was probably the biggest go-getter on the ice for us. Her passing was great, she was really good at getting to the puck and turning up ice with it, she worked hard in the corners, and she rotated the triangle really well, too. It was great to really see her in her element.
Anyway, it was a fun game (that we won 3-1, btw), and one that used up about all the energy I had for the night. When the Sechelt Spiders came looking for a sub for their game right after ours, I had to pass. I still had a stitch in my side from my second-to-last shift, and I didn't want to completely wipe myself out for tomorrow (we have games at 3:45pm and 8:00pm). Al is now snoring beside me, and I'm about to doze off myself. More tomorrow, after the next game!
Just happened to drop something in my lap, and the small jolt of pain reminded me of a minor injury I sustained in the last minute or so of our game last night. This injury was weird and inadvertent; I *was* skating harder at various players toward the end, but I was also trying to avoid serious injury if at all possible, since I want to go to Vancouver healthy.
Anyway, it happened on a faceoff just outside our defensive zone, at the spot where Lisa had just been helped off the ice after getting her bell rung by an idiot who couldn't skate under control. I think we were skating 4-on-4, because Kerry took the faceoff. He got control of the puck and then attempted to flip it between my legs to the middle of the ice. It hit my inner thigh, hard, in the spot where there's no padding at all—just a thin layer of stretchy material.
I yelped, and the guy I was facing off against started laughing. When I realized that he'd actually stood straight up to do it, I figured I didn't mind being the brunt of the joke if it gave Kerry an open lane... which it did. Who's laughing now, sucker?
Some quick thoughts on our 6-4 loss against the Snowballs last night...
These guys weren't great skaters, but I don't think we gave them as much credit as we should have. They might have been a bit shaky on their skates when they got jammed up in the neutral zone or when stopping and starting, but once they had some forward speed, they were pretty stable (and even able to skate around opponents). They also had a habit of smacking at the puck like they were swinging at a baseball, so there were few weak passes to pick off. They generated scoring chances by sending a cherry picker in motion behind our D, and then passing up to him. Once he got going, our D couldn't catch him. They scored at least two goals this way.
After starting off 0-2, the second period went pretty well for us; we bounced back from the two cherry picker goals (and I got Even) with goals from Hoche and Baldwin. Both were pretty nutty (or amazingly skillful, depending on how you look at it); I prefer to think that it takes a certain amount of talent to hit the inside of the post while flailing wildly near the boards at the blueline (Hoche), or to redirect the puck into the net with your chest (Baldwin). As for me, I didn't have much to do with either goal, except to be around as backup in case either of them missed. See? For every minus that wasn't your fault, there's a plus you had nothing to do with, either.
That same period, the tone of the game turned nasty when Hoche was boarded rather viciously behind the net, and he came out screaming. The other player got a penalty, but Hoche was rightly (and mightily) miffed that he'd been hit so hard as to royally torque his back. Unfortunately, a red sock-wearing teammate (what is it with red socks?) of the boarder seemed to morph in the face of Hoche's anger from a harmless jerk into a venom-dripping thug. I swear, when he started drowning out Hoche's protestations with his own string of profanity, it was like he transformed before my eyes into a fresh-from-the-grave-and-oozing-virulent-green-goo zombie. I didn't want to get near him. (Al said later that he felt the same way.)
Our now super-chippy opponents scored two more goals on attempted-clears that should have gone around the boards but instead went around the net, right onto the sticks of two Snowballs. Unfortunately, I was on the ice for these two flukes, so my time being Even, gained so recently in the second period, ended in the third.
Rather than recount *all* the bad blood, cheap shots, and lame refereeing (hello? can you at least make some kind of announcement when you send someone to the box? what the penalty was for and how many minutes it would last would be a good start...), I think I'd rather record a few things that went well, so I can remember them for my next game.
One nice thing for me was that I finally started clicking with Wilson. Maybe it was talking (and writing) about our expectations after the last game that did it—I'm not sure—but I managed to pass back to him a couple times off the faceoff, and to get out of his way when he charged into the offensive zone. (Well, except for one time, when I got caught in the wrong spot and had to leap over his stick.) I did some more leaping, this time over an opponent who went down in a hip-to-hip fight with me for the puck, later in the game. While I was able to stay upright, I was not able to take the puck with me. He managed to keep it between his body and the boards, and knock it back out of the zone (good play on his part, especially from his sprawled-on-the-ice position).
My goal at the beginning of the game was to stay on an even keel, both emotionally and physically. Be calm, don't fight, don't burn any extra energy that isn't going into skating, passing, or shooting. I was pretty much able to attain that goal, except for one overexcited moment in the third period, when three Snowballs converged on a breaking Jim and brought him down in the slot... and Felicia got called for roughing (apparently when she put her hands up to protect herself from a charging opponent, away from the action in the slot). I couldn't stop myself from shouting at the ref, "ARE YOU FUCKING *KIDDING* ME? **FELICIA** GETS THE PENALTY???"
Al played D in this game, and he was pretty darn good at it, too. He kept moving (with speed!), and his passes were crisp and on target. When he passed nice and hard and hit the tape on my stick in the early minutes of the first period, I thought, "wow, all that practice passing we used to do before games at Ice Oasis really paid off!" Playing D meant that his point streak ended with this game, though he did have one really great chance when the puck popped out to the high slot, and he was there to shoot it.
I'm sad to say that the Minnesota Wild have been eliminated from the playoffs by the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. :( I never thought Minnesota would even make it to the third round, but now that they're out, I'm bummed that there will be no more Wild games to watch until September or October at the earliest (and those will probably have to be against the Sharks, or they won't be televised out here). I'll be rooting for the Ducks in the Stanley Cup series, which should be going on while we're in Vancouver this weekend. Of course, so will the Colonial. I think Al is going to TiVo at least the first two rounds, though, so at least I can see those when I get home. If Annika makes the cut, we might not see much of Vancouver—we'll be glued to the TV watching golf and hockey between my games.
Speaking of Vancouver, I am SO EXCITED to go. I really love this tournament, and I love staying in North Van. I can't wait to re-visit my favorite haunts and share them with Al. (Heck, I can't wait to stock up on peanut butter, cheese, apples, and almond cookies from Canadian Safeways, and go shopping for other snacks at the Canadian Superstore across the street from the hotel. I love supermarkets, and oddly enough, so does Al.) We'll also probably spend some time downtown and around Stanley Park, since Al's never been there before. *And*, if I can find one, I hope to come home (not to mention play in the tournament) with a new Synergy stick. The trick will be to find one with a Modano curve; that's the most popular one, and last year both Cyclone Taylor and Larry's Sports had sold out of them for the year by May.
Before we can go to Vancouver, though, we have to play in our Gang Green game tonight at the Ice Center. We haven't played a game since last Saturday, so both of us are dying to get on the ice. I'm starting to wonder if once a week is really enough for me; I might have to go back to playing two nights a week to get my fix. Or I could start going to those Thursday-night practices... I'd love to go to the one this week, but with our flight leaving at 8am the next day, I need time to pack. (Plus, I'd rather not pack wet gear.) Next week for sure.
OK, here's what I can remember writing last night...
I was going to call this entry "Our First Tie," but somehow Saturday's 2-2 game against Rebels 3 felt more like a loss than a tie, so I went with non-win. I jotted down some notes in the locker room after the game, but of course I left the piece of paper in my hockey bag, so I'll have to write from memory again.
The main thing that sticks out in my memory of this game is how FREAKING TIRED I was. I'm not sure whether it was the heat (it was awfully warm in there, for an ice rink), the fact that the ice didn't freeze all the way, or that I'd eaten more sugar on Saturday than I had in the entire previous week—perhaps all three—but I felt like I was towing an anchor behind me all night. Most shifts I came off exhausted and shaking, and the muscles that attach my hip bones to my thighs (i.e., where front jeans pockets are) have been sore for the past four days.
The other two stories that stick in my head both involve Wilson. The first occurred during the 2nd period, when the puck popped out of the offensive zone, and we were forced to clear. As I skated over the blue line, I saw Wilson had control of the puck, so I shouted to him to go in, and that I would cover back. I did this for two reasons: (1) Wilson looked eager to go in, and (2) I was too tired to be very effective on O. Wilson was definitely more effective than I could have been, getting several shots off in the few seconds he was in deep, but as the puck richocheted off players' shinpads, skates, and sticks, I started to worry that the play would turn around, and the small bit of rest I was getting at the blue line would all be for naught.
Just then, the play *did* turn around, and I stayed at the line a second too long (i.e., long enough to say, "oh shit") before turning to give chase. I was determined not to let Wilson regret having gone in for a scoring chance, so I used every ounce of energy I had to try to catch my opponent. He had half a body length on me, but I managed to keep my legs moving while I swept my stick in front of him, trying to poke the puck away. As we crossed the far blueline, I started to worry that he had me beat... when suddenly he lost the puck. It took an enormous effort just to stop where the puck had (he kept going); there was nothing left for clearing it. I feebly attempted to knock it out of our zone, and when one of my teammates got control, I staggered to the bench. It took until my next shift just to get my breath back.
The other Wilson thing happened in the 3rd period, when I was chasing an attempt-to-clear up the boards near the hash marks. I could see a Rebel coming toward me from the left, and when I looked up in front of me, I saw Wilson coming in, too. My first thought was, "Wilson, why are you coming *at* me???", and my second thought was "ack!" Picturing some kind of horrendous collison, I panicked and knocked the puck weakly out to the middle, where it was promptly picked up by a Rebel. (He didn't even stop to say thanks for the breakaway, btw.)
I asked Wilson about it later, because I wanted to understand what I should have done in that situation (giving the puck to the other team was obviously wrong). He said that what he was looking for was a pass up the boards. It's hard to imagine having passed right then, since I didn't have control of the puck even at the "ack!", but I will certainly keep that play in mind for next time. Or perhaps I will just step away from the boards, taking out the person charging in from the left, and let Wilson come down and grab the puck. That could work.
I had one moment of almost-glory when I picked the puck off an opponent's stick and nearly had a 1-on-0 breakaway. I say "nearly" because the pickoff happened right in front of the blueline, and as I crossed I worried that my feet had gone over the line before the puck did. In the mad scramble to get back onsides, I completely lost my momentum (and the puck). Next time I'm going to just wait for the whistle and skip the mad scramble.
Meanwhile, Al had a moment of actual glory when he scored a goal in the first period, extending his point streak to three games, I think.
My line did not score any goals, but we're playing quite well together, so it's hard to find specific reasons for the point drought. I got a one-timer off on a pass from Baldwin, and for once, it was on net. The goalie had to make a rather nifty save to stop it, so I can't complain too much that it didn't go in.
Tired as I still am, I can't wait to play hockey again. I'm kinda bummed that we'll be going to Baltimore tomorrow and will miss a practice opportunity, but at least there will be a game when we get back. And then, of course, next weekend is the Vancouver Tournament (hooray!), which guarantees me at least 3 (and possibly up to 5) hockey games in one weekend. I'll have to miss one of my Gang Green games for it (boo!), but I'm really looking forward to showing Al around Vancouver (he's never been) and shopping for a new hockey stick, as well as playing in the games.
I started this really long entry last night while waiting for a build... and apparently just minimized the browser window when the build finished. It was crashing in a weird spot, so I spent some time investigating that, and then had to leave. I put my machine to sleep as usual, and totally forgot about the unsaved blog entry.
Well, this morning my machine crashed on startup, and I just now realized what was lost in the process. Fart, fart, FART! I'll try to reconstruct my thoughts later...
To play or to watch, that is the question.
Some of my Gang Green teammates participate in a Thursday night practice/scrimmage at a rink in the South Bay, and I'd like to go. Apparently the level is higher than our Gang Green's LIAHL bracket (E), and I've found it helpful in the past to skate with people who are a lot better/faster/stronger than I am. And god knows I could use the practice: I'm the only one in negative territory (-2) on the whole team. By comparison, Al is +8, and even my linemates are, well, Even.
So what's keeping me? Game 7 of the Wild-Canucks confrontation in round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs (oops, almost typed "Keg" there!), that's what. GO WILD!!! I've been a mild Wild fan since they joined the league—an event which happened to coincide with me joining a group that was based in my company's Minnesota office. I worked from Calfornia, but I traveled to Minnesota a couple times and even got to see a game at Xcel Energy Center (where I got the Wild jersey that I happen to be wearing right now). Sadly, the group only lasted about 9 months, and the office a bit longer than that, so I have no business excuses to travel to Minnesota any longer. There's always the King and I to tempt me, though...
Anyway, as I was saying, I'm a Wild fan. I obviously can't go to as many Wild games as I can Sharks games, but I've seen them play in San Jose and LA as well as Minnesota. And now that they're in ROUND 2 of the playoffs—*and* thanks to Jacques LeMaire's twin philosophies of playing every line and making players earn their spots each game—I've gotten to know most of the players' names and specialities (not just those of Marian Gaborik and Darby Hendrickson). Andrew Brunette is my favorite du jour, especially after that sweet no-look, top-shelf backhanded goal and the tongue-out grin that followed it.
I think it's gotta be Watch Hockey, hands down. I'll go to practice on the 22nd!
I am so intensely tired that I can't write a full account of last night's game right now, so I'll just give a couple of the highlights and return later with more details (hopefully). I think from now on I'm also going to bring a piece of paper and a pen to the bench with me, so I can jot down keywords to remember for later like I did when I was in Korea. Helps me post more quickly.
We won 8-2 — And yet I was -1 for the night. :( Had some chances and some shots on goal, but went wide of the net on one possible tip-in (again), and had an attempted one-timer ricochet off my stick in the wrong direction (picture the puck going high into the glass over my left shoulder as my stick moved to the right, toward the net).
Al had a hat trick — And two of the goals were scored on a single shift. The man who once moaned that he could never finish on a breakaway is now on a roll (and putting me to absolute shame). Even better, Jim, who plays on Al's line, had 5 points for the evening.
I went to the fights, and a hockey game broke out — All night I'd been matched up against a guy with little skill but lots of shove-and-slash, but I didn't really think it would go anywhere (except in the net, as he once caused a shot to bounce off my shinpad and nearly get by the goalie when he shoved me into the crease as Hoche let one fly). Anyway, I was saying that I hadn't expected anything too nasty from him. However, I hadn't counted on Inga letting him know how pathetic he was by (a) outright telling him so, and (b) by scoring a goal within seconds of *him* telling *her* that he was going to get her. Of course, she couldn't resist smiling and saying, "Thanks for coming to get me!" after she did.
I'm assuming the bitch-slap by Inga and the 6-goal differential on the scoreboard made him incredibly frustrated, and seeing as how I was the only suitable target on the ice, he came after me. I hadn't had time to compare notes with Inga at the time, so I was unaware of this pent-up hostility toward females; I just knew that he was being a jerk. I got squished rather violently on the boards (where do they learn this stuff? TV? hello dudes, this isn't the NHL), managed to extract myself, and crashed the net as (I think Phil) shot on goal. The goalie dove but missed the puck, and I reached out to try to knock it under his pads and into the net. I did this ever-so-gently, mind you—no stabbing or whacking involved—but the goon took offense and brought his stick down on mine like he was freaking chopping firewood. And then he elbowed me in the chest, knocking me backwards over the side of the net.
I was screaming expletives at him before I even hit the ice (hard, on my left elbow, because my legs were still pinned to the goalpost by the crush of bodies), and Baldwin stepped in to give him the business. Phil, ever my valiant protector, came at him, too, and the refs had to separate everybody. I swear, I would have taken a swing at the guy myself, but as I said, I was pinned down by the offender, Baldwin, and now the ref. The interesting thing is that the refs apparently didn't see the slash or the elbow; they only saw Baldwin try to take the guy's head off. It was only in trying to figure out why Baldwin was so mad that they determined what had happened, and assigned penalties to both teams. So thank you, Baldwin and Phil, for pointing out the foul play.
Quote of the Day — Here is where I wish I had brought a piece of paper with me to the bench. Someone (Baldwin? Phil? Fuz?) said something I thought was funny at the beginning of the game, and I made a mental note that I would blog about it. Of course, I've totally forgotten what the quote was, not to mention who said it.
More later, as things come back to me...
A particularly stupid cross-checking penalty by Jason Arnott in last night's Stars-Ducks game reminded me of something that happened in our Sunday game with the Y Guys. A Y Guy, I believe in an attempt to clear the slot of my linemate Big Bad Baldwin, gave him a mighty two-hands-on-the-stick shove from behind and was immediately called for cross-checking. He was livid. "I just pushed him in the back!" he yelled at the ref.