We had two games this weekend. The first, on Saturday, was against the Concord Flames, and we won handily. I had no goals, but I did have an assist (at least, I should have; I didn't actually check to see if it was scored), and I had a close-in shot that went under the goalie and came out a couple inches to the outside of the post. I'm assuming it deflected off a leg pad or something, because the shot was straight on. We had 15 people on our bench to their 9, which made the third period somewhat of a cakewalk. It became easy for me to chase down even their best skater and knock her off the puck. I only got one video clip of the game, but it gives a pretty good idea of how slow the pace was.
Alison (#11), Donna (#7), Tracey (solid teal), and Angie (#50)
getting back on D and then turning around to go on O
The most notable thing about the game for me was that I didn't get to play with Meghan, as I had the previous three games; Meghan started at Left Wing on the first line, and then moved back to D when Billy realized we had enough players for three complete lines. Instead I played with Tiffany, who's used to playing Left Wing but who agreed to play Right. There were a few moments of confusion with that where we both ended up on the left side, but when that happened I usually just went over to the right.
On Sunday the tables were completely turned. We played a non-league game against the Lady Senators C team at the Flyers NE Skatezone, and this time we were the ones with only 10 skaters (9 to start, since Shelly had a skate problem) to their 15 or 16. We only had one person who regularly plays D (Laura), so we sent three forwards—Laurie N., Meghan, and Alison—back. Luckily I think all three of them had played D on Saturday, so it wasn't a complete shock to the system, but as the Senators were FAST and had good puck-control skills, it was still an enormous challenge.
The plan was for me and Little Angie (so-called because she's small and 15 years old and I don't know her last name; if she happens to read this and objects to the moniker, we'll settle on a new one) to play on a line with Shelly, and for Angie W. and Tiffany to play on a line with Donna. Since Shelly was still getting her skate fixed, Donna's line went out first. When Shelly still wasn't out two minutes into the game, Donna stayed on the ice while the wings changed... and Little Angie and I became her wings. It's only occurring to me now, but if we'd wanted to keep the lines as originally arranged, it probably would have been better to have me and Little Angie start so that when Shelly was ready, we could go on again as a line. Of course, we would have had to know when Shelly was coming for that to work, and we didn't. So anyway, Donna was the Center on my line until the third period, when we were all so tired that we started coming off out of order, and I ended up on the ice with Shelly.
The line arrangements are only tangentially related to the point of this post, which is really to explain what it was like for me to be playing Right Wing instead of my usual Left (Little Angie preferred Left, so I took Right). I've done it tons of times before, but this time I happened to notice something significant about it—namely, the reason I'm more comfortable at Left. As a lefty Left Wing coming into the offensive zone I'm at a slight disadvantage for shooting on net if I stay to the outside (which is why I've started making a point of skating to the middle), but on breakouts being a lefty on the lefthand side is perfect because I can take a pass up the boards on my forehand. (During a breakout drill at practice last week I usually took the pass with my skate if it was Angie W. making it, since she whacks the puck *hard*, but I could then easily kick the puck to my stick.) Not only is the puck on my forehand when I'm on the left side, but I can also see *who's with me to receive a pass*. This is absolutely key to breaking out; you have to be able to see that one of your teammates is coming up the middle with a full head of steam so you can pass to her.
It didn't occur to me until Donna mentioned for the second time that she was right there with me, waiting for a pass, when I popped the puck against the boards to clear the zone on a breakout. At first I thought that I was just using the boards because it'd been drilled into me to use them: "Keep the puck to the outside! Use the boards!" were mantras that had been repeated often by both Jeff and Lisa on the Admirals, and Billy says it regularly, too. I thought, "I'm finally doing it! I'm finally using the boards!" As I thought about it some more, however, I realized that I wasn't just using the boards because I was following good advice. I was using them because I COULDN'T SEE DONNA (or any of my other teammates, for that matter). The problem was that I was still taking the pass up the boards on my forehand, but now I was on the right side, not the left, so my back was to the rest of the ice. With a strong, speedy Defenseman right on me, my only choices were to try to pop the puck past her against the boards, or to make a blind backhand pass to the middle (or worse, a forehand pass to the slot). Which would you choose? (Btw, I love that my choice was unconscious rather than conscious; that, to me, is a GOOD sign.)
The weird thing was that both times Donna said she was with me, I also didn't see her when I chased the puck after popping it around the D. Did I not look up? Was I so focused on getting to the puck that I couldn't see my teammates around me? I'm not sure, but I know that it was a bit different during the third period, when Shelly was on the ice with me. She skated close enough to me and the Defenseman along the boards during the breakout that I could see her out of the corner of my eye (or right in front of me—once I remember seeing her standing next to the D when I lifted my head). The first time I saw her come that close, I tried to backhand the puck to her and ended up tipping it forward instead, which had the lucky effect of popping it past the D, where Shelly picked it up anyway. The second time, I passed to her successfully, and we were able to charge down the ice together. I think anyone watching us (and you can see a similar thing happening with Shelly and Tiffany in the video clip below) might think that Shelly and Tiffany/I were too close together, but for me it really worked well because it meant I could see her—and by the third period it became essential for us to work together to break out because the Senators caught on to our trick of popping it off the boards past the D. They just sent the other D or the Center straight to the boards to pick up the puck (something you can also see at the end of the video clip, where Angie W. successfully leads a charge out of the zone and then has the puck taken away by the backup Senator).
Tiffany (#4), Shelly (#5), Laurie N. (#28), Laura (#25), and Angie W. (#50)
working to get the puck out of our end
The other thing you can probably see in this video clip is that the speed of the game is faster than the one on Saturday. I skated my ass off for the first two periods of this game and just did my best to keep up in the third, when my legs were so sore I could barely force them to move. I only had one serious scoring chance, and it would have been for an assist, not a goal because I didn't have a good shooting angle. I'd skated down to the goal line to pick up a rebound (shot by Little Angie), and then I passed across the front of the crease to Donna. I'm not exactly sure what happened next; I saw Donna take a shot and somehow end up under the goalie, and the puck squirted out to Angie's side. I might have had one or two other times when I threw the puck in the general direction of the net, but that's about it. Shelly had one very good scoring opportunity, but alas, the puck did not go in. We ended up losing 4-0.
This would have been a good game for which to have a coach with us; sadly, neither Linda nor Billy could make it, which made for much more inter-period (and inter-shift) commenting amongst ourselves. Al was so right with his obvservation that having one person who's watching from OFF THE ICE tell us what s/he saw and what we need to work on between periods is absolute gold. It's one of the things (perhaps the primary thing) that makes this team better/more fun than most others I've played on. The other thing that I think really would have helped us is a deeper bench. I think with 15 skaters, we could have at least challenged the Senators; we might not have beat them, but the score would have been closer. It also would have been a good educational opportunity, because with two shifts of rest, you have more time to watch the game and observe how the other team operates. With only one shift off at the speed we were playing, we were (or at least I was) too busy sucking down air and water (and taking shaky videos) to pay much attention.
I'll end with one more video clip; it's harder to see what's going on at 320x240 that it was at 640x480, but for those of you who were on the ice, you'll probably remember. :)
Shelly, Angie W., and Tiffany breaking out (and then backchecking when the play turns around);
Meghan on D
Last night's practice was a good one for me. I tried harder, and I didn't let it get to me if a drill went bad. It was also better because Linda (the other coach, whom I hadn't met yet) was there, and that meant that we could split up into two groups and do half-ice drills. Why is this better? Because (a) there's less standing around when there's a smaller group of people, and (b) the coach can give feedback about what we're doing without stopping the drill because s/he's standing right next to you.
I was hoping that Al would be able to take a little video and/or still shots of the practice while watching The Beaner at the same time (ha!), but he wasn't able to find a legal parking spot outside the rink, so he had to stay with the car. Instead he handed the camera to me over the glass while we were in the middle of the Czechoslovakian Drill. We did it quite slowly, but it was still a fast drill in general, and once we added a backchecker, I could barely get my breath between runs, much less shoot any decent video. Still, I did get this:
It was a fun drill to do; in fact, I can't think of a drill we did last night that wasn't fun. And I left the ice incredibly hot and sweaty, which is always a good sign. :)
Although I'm thrilled to be on a team that has coached practices, I'm finding those practices a little frustrating. It's not Billy's fault or the team's fault; it's mine, in that I can't seem to relax and go with the flow. If a drill doesn't work out the way it's supposed to, I tend to get angry with myself and just stop... and I end up with the feeling that I totally suck. Thank god for games, which so far have proven that I *don't* suck (not totally, anyway).
I think it's mostly the strict patterns of the drills and the overthinking they inspire in me that causes the problem; that, and drilling on skills that I'm not particularly strong at over and over again. I do know how much it helps—it's why I wanted to be on a team that practices in the first place, to improve my skills—but that same personality trait that makes me hate homework also seems to make me listless and half-hearted at drills. The drills that feel like a real game I can get into—smooth breakouts, forechecking, etc.—but if I lose track of my passing target or can't tell who's D and who's O because we're all wearing different jersey colors, I attempt to pass with one hand on my stick, check half-heartedly, or just pull up altogether.
I'm going to have to get it together soon if I want to improve (and more importantly, if I want to have a good time), especially since we don't have a game to cheer me this weekend. The good news is that Sionan, who's new to hockey this season, reminded me at our last practice, after I'd screamed "I HATE THIS!" to the rafters, why we were there: "Don't worry about doing it right every time," she said. "It's about practicing a pattern. That way, in a game, you might recognize the pattern and do the right thing without thinking." Sionan, how you get so smart?
Posted by Lori at 12:04 PM