Championship Game

Friday night was the championship game in the Liberty Bell Division (which included the Galaxy, the Stampede, and the Admirals). The Galaxy beat the Admirals in the semi-final on the 9th (which I missed), so we played the Stampede for all the marbles.

I played on the second line with Lee and Matt again; the first line was Derek, Murph, and Adam as usual, and the third line was Doug, Fred, and Matt Z. (Fred and Gerry seemed to have made their O/D switch permanent, and Eric was out.) On my first or second shift out we had several scoring chances, including one where the puck popped out to where I was camped out, on the back door of the crease. I spazzed a little and missed it; I think I was worried that if I took the time to get the puck on my stick securely before trying to push it into the net, the door would close, so instead I tried to one-time it and just plain missed. I chased the puck down at the boards and flung it back into the fray in front of the net, where Matt picked it up and took another shot. I'm still not sure how we didn't manage to score on that shift.

I remember thinking in the first period that our opponents seemed very slow, almost like they were standing still. They certainly weren't moving up and down the ice at top speed, in any case. It was surprising, then, that they went up 2-0 relatively quickly. Maybe we were trying too hard to score? Matt, Lee, and I weren't the only ones keeping the puck in the offensive zone and firing on the net whenever possible; it seemed like on every shift, all five Galaxy players were actively involved in the play, if not taking shots. I know a couple shots from Adam hit the post, a couple slapshots from our D went wide, and even though we knew their goalie went down at the drop of a hat, we seemed to keep hitting him. I'm pretty sure it was Adam who scored our first goal, and based on which end of the ice it happened at, it must have been the end of the first period (or the beginning of the third).

During the second period I had another scoring opportunity when I set up in the high slot and was completely open for the pass Matt gave me from the corner, but even before the pass came I was worrying about how the heck I was going to one-time it backhanded...and I didn't have time to formulate a plan before the pass did come. It was beautiful: right at my stick, perfect speed, no one near me to poke it or my stick away. I realize now what I should have done was turn my body around a bit so I could take the pass on my forehand and then shoot, but of course that's not what I did. Instead I tried what I knew to be the low-probability backhand one-timer, and missed. <sigh> Matt said to me on the bench afterward, "I totally set you up!" Me: "I know! It was to my backhand, though, and I didn't have enough sense to turn my body." Matt said he understood—he also realized that my backhanded one-timer had very little chance of success. (We later saw one of my teammates do the same thing with a pass to his backhand, and with the same results. I guess it takes some practice to be able to run through the various options and probabilities—and then to execute the one most likely to succeed—at game speed.)

In that same period I also had a chance to skate with the puck (not my only chance, but one I remember because I got farther with it than usual). I collected it off the boards very much like the time in our game against the Roadrunners, but this time I didn't lose it two strides later. Instead I skated it into the offensive zone while looking around to see if I had company. I did, in the form of four Stampede players, who all seemed to be standing still in front or just to the left of me. Ordinarily I would have lost confidence—and the puck—right there, but I heard someone (Matt, I think) yell, "keep going!", so I did. I got through three Stampede players before the fourth one stepped in and knocked me off the puck. OK, perhaps he did it a bit too easily, but still! As Matt said later, "it was a 4 on 1!"—or rather, a 1 on 4—so I think I'm probably justified in feeling proud of myself. ;) Next goal: To skate through that forest of players with AUTHORITY!, like Lee does. He manages to fit through spaces that look too tight for a toothpick, mainly because he blows through them at speed. Speed: Gotta remember that.

Anyway, if I recall correctly, neither team scored in the second period, but Gavin dropped down low and scored from just outside the crease not long into the third period. Derek, who'd been working down low all night after passing to Adam and then following him in, finally put us up 3-2 with only a few minutes left in the game. It was now up to everyone to play defensively, which is something I actually feel very confident doing (as a forward; as a D, I'm less secure). Penalties don't scare me, and I take great pride in killing them off—Lee and I had already killed one earlier in the game—and protecting a lead late in the game is just like killing a penalty. You forecheck as hard as you can while not getting beat, look for opportunities to get possession of the puck, and get in the way of the puck and the passers as much as possible at all other times. No problem.

I'd gone out with my line as usual with about two minutes left in the game and was forechecking and fouling up the passing lanes with gusto when I heard someone SCREAMING my name from the bench, like I'd done something wrong. We were in the defensive zone at the time—I might have even been on the puck carrier—and I remember my first thought was, "how could I be on the ice at the wrong time? I know I came out with Lee and Matt." My next thought, as I looked up and saw our captain continuing to scream my name and waving me violently off the ice, was "have we been out here that long? Is my line changing already?" I did the only thing that made sense in the face of all that screaming and waving: I skated to the bench as quickly as possible... and as I got there, I heard someone say, "not while we're on D!" while our captain yelled, "they put an extra man on the ice!" by way of explanation. At that point I lost it, and started screaming myself. "Are you fucking KIDDING ME???" I was so angry I'm amazed I didn't burst into tears or impale the captain with my stick. Meanwhile, everyone else was muttering, "why did you come off? Why didn't you just ignore him?", which only made me madder.

I managed to grit my teeth and keep from both crying in frustration and shoving my stick where it might get messy and said to Adam, "geez, an empty net's when I'm at my best! It's only when the goalie's in there that I spaz and miss the puck." :) Instead I watched from the bench as Murph put the puck in the empty net for our fourth goal of the evening.

Matt (or maybe Lee?) said to me after the final buzzer that he'd been excited when they pulled the goalie, because he figured they'd finally get me a goal... and that I should have ignored the screaming from the bench. I guess with more time on this team I might learn to ignore any efforts to get me off the ice whenever the game was on the line, but my default setting is to be a team player and, for better or worse, to assume that someone screaming from the bench has a better view of the situation than I do. At least, I don't doubt that it's easier to see the whole ice—to see potential threats and opportunities, open passing targets and unguarded opponents—from the bench. I know I have an easier time seeing plays develop (or fall apart) from over there. I'd like to also assume that anyone yelling something negative from the bench would never do so lightly, that they'd weigh any potential benefit to the team against the certain confusion and possible damage to an individual player's confidence and enjoyment of the game. I'm not sure in this case that those assumptions were correct.

In any case, our team won the game, and thus the championship. [Click the image below to go to the larger version on the HNA Philly website, if you want a better view of the faces.] I stood in the back row for the team photo because I think of myself as being tall—and downright huge with all my hockey gear on. As you can see, however, I'm smaller than most of the guys in the back row by quite a bit (although the contrast might seem even bigger because I'm standing next to Matt, who was easily the tallest guy on our squad this summer. If I were standing between Mattias and Doug, I probably wouldn't look so puny. :)

galaxy summer 2005 champs
back row, L-R: Matt Z, Adam, Murph, Mike, me, Matt, Fred, Mattias, Doug
front row, l-r: Alan, Gerry, Derek, Brent, Lee, Gavin, Bill

Posted by Lori in Galaxy ~ Summer 2005 | September 20, 2005·09:29 PM