The Season That Was, Part 3: Assessment of Skills

Things I can do now that I couldn't do before this season:

  • Lift the puck reliably. I think the breakthrough on this front came in the warm-up before a practice (maybe the one where we had the intersquad scrimmage?), when I top-shelfed the puck *five times in a row*, at speed. I think sometimes I'm still scooping the puck instead of lifting it as part of a hard shot, but if it goes past the goalie—as it did in the first round of the playoffs—who cares?
  • Sprint. Nielle actually saw me do it in the championship game. Afterwards she gave a wonderfully (or embarrassingly, depending on how you look at it) realistic imitation of my usual skating style, and then marvelled at how surprising it was to see me actually bend my knees, shorten my stride, and flat-out sprint. I felt the difference, too, and I'll be doing it more often from now on.
  • Skate with the puck. I don't always do it (see: any game where I'm playing Right Wing), but I'm much more inclined to do it now than I ever have been before.
  • Skate through people. My default mode now: keep going. Don't stop for anyone. (I had to modify this strategy a bit during the championship game, when I didn't always have complete control of the puck when I got within range of an opponent. In that case, I learned to knock the puck away from both of us and then chase it down. I figured I could go faster forwards than any defender could go backwards—especially if she was skating towards me to begin with—and the couple times I tried it, I was right.)
  • Play with confidence 95% of the time. I think this is partly due to the general increase in my skill level, and partly due to the supportive atmosphere. Again I must give credit to Lee, who was right that playing with women would build my confidence. I originally thought he meant because women weren't as good, and thus would make softer opponents—and maybe that is what he meant—but I now understand that it's more that none of the women I play with think they should be in the NHL. Whereas men at the lower levels tend to have delusions of grandeur, the women tend to be self-deprecating and encouraging of others. This makes the game more fun for everyone, and, I think for me at least, it provides a safe environment in which to fail—and thus to improve. Specific shout-outs to Nielle for wonderfully constructive criticism, Sionain for being calm and commonsensical (if that's a word) when I got frustrated with drills, Shelly for reminding me to have fun, and Meghan for making me laugh at myself.
  • Move to the middle instead of staying on the outside. This is somewhat related to skating through people, and, now that I think about it, also related to another new ability: dekeing. Others on the team do it much better (Laurie Narciso comes to mind), but I'm thrilled that I can do it at all—and that I don't panic when it looks like someone's between me and the goal. As one of the Hull brothers recommended in a shooting video Al has, you should "look where the goalie is not", and then shoot there. I can now do this on the ice as well: look where my opponents are not, and point my body toward those gaps.
  • Score. I think I officially had 3 goals and 6 assists in league games, but I had two or three goals in non-league games as well. I obviously don't score every game, but I start every game knowing that I *can* score. That's huge.

Things I still can't do:

  • Look up before passing more than half the time. I still rely far too often on assumptions about where people are likely to be, rather than looking up to see where they actually ARE. I'm getting better at this, but I'm still not there yet.
  • Move from #3 position to #2 position when doing the Czechoslovakian Drill. I always go back to position #4. [NB: I redid the video in the linked post, making it larger and using Flash Video instead of QuickTime, so more people could see it.] I also often forget to go from position #1 to position #4. Until I get this right, I'll never be able to do this drill at speed, as it should be done.
  • Break out when I'm at Right Wing. Gah! Luckily I usually play left wing, but honestly, I should work at getting better at this. Meghan mentioned that she usually plays D at the summer open hockey sessions just to improve her skills at that position; I'm thinking I should resist the urge to jump into my comfort spot at Left Wing and try my hand at Right as much as possible this summer, for the same reason.
  • Get off a slapshot. I've been practicing these against the boards, and thanks to some advice from Linda Widdop, I can now hit the puck—as opposed to whiffing—about 80% of the time, and I can actually get some air about 10% of the time. What I have a harder time with is figuring out when to wind up while actually skating, and I don't have enough confidence in this area to try one of these in a game. I'd much rather try to score with a more reliable wrister or backhander.
  • Keep my emotions in check. I still get frustrated and angry FAR too easily, making me play worse and my teammates hate me. An old boss once told me in an annual review that I needed to develop a poker face for work, and I think that advice would apply well to other parts of my life as well. "When you're happy," she said, "everybody knows it. And when you're unhappy, EVERYBODY KNOWS IT. It shouldn't be that way." I need to find ways modulate my emotions, so that I'm cheerful (but not manic) most of the time, and just quiet/determined when I can't be cheerful.

Why I am where I am today:

  • Billy. As I've said here before, having a coach was GOLDEN. He kept order on the bench, provided excellent advice during practices, really helped all of us improve, and was amazingly good-natured throughout the season. And he does this for *free*. I was frustrated with many drills at first, but I actually have favorites now—and, more importantly, I understand how those drills relate to game situations. Billy's responsible for that.
  • Meghan and Shelly. Best linemates ever. I aspire to be as fast and confident and driven as Shelly is, and as good-natured and athletic as Meghan. No doubt that they make me look good, but they also make me a better player.
  • Nielle. She reminds me of that Bigelow tea, Constant Comment. :) Lucky for me, she's chock full of useful information, from how use each goalie's tendencies against them to where everyone is—and should be—on the ice. She's also cheerful and supportive and fun to be around, as well as generous with her Yuengling. Thanks for all the great advice and observations, Nielle.
  • Alison and Jill. They welcomed me to the team, wrote encouraging e-mails, and kept me laughing throughout the season. (A weird observation: Jill in e-mail is more like Alison in person, and vice versa. :)

I could go on and on here, about how Steph and Ruthann inspire me to be better and faster, how Donna never ceases to CRACK ME UP, and so on, but I'm mainly focusing on skills in this post and not just how much I enjoyed myself this season. That last is probably worth calling out, though: This is the most fun I've had playing hockey since the last Vancouver Tournament and my season with Gang Green. After two dispiriting seasons in the NHA, it was so refreshing to have the joy back. Thanks to EVERYONE on the Freeze for that.

Posted by Lori in Freeze ~ Fall/Winter 2006 | March 23, 2007·01:15 PM


hmmm, now i have to decide if i should be offended or not ;-)

you had an awesome season lori and i look forward to being a forward with you at open hockey soon. w00t!

Posted by: ghetto at March 23, 2007 2:40 PM

thanks, and so did you Ms. Shutout! I can't wait to see what you look like in regular gear.

and don't be offended. that was just good-natured ribbing. :)

Posted by: Lori [TypeKey Profile Page] at March 23, 2007 3:04 PM

Hey Lori! I didn't realize that you had written all this post-season wrap-up fun-stuff. I had an awesome time this season, too, and I definitely think our line is super dooper fun. Totally looking forward to seeing you on Monday!! I will have just gotten back from a tournament, so hopefully I won't be too worn out.

Posted by: shelly at April 28, 2007 12:42 AM