...isn't looking to be as auspicious as last year's, but then, we've only played two games. The first was last Saturday at home against the Wicked; I think we lost 3-1. The second was Sunday night in Hamilton, NJ against Queenston; we lost that one 6-0. In our defense, we have a shorter bench—we lost Ruthann and Cassidy to moves, and Jill, A.T., and Steph Geiger to the former MAWHL C (now UWHL C Blue) team, and I think we only got two new players to replace them—and our overall experience level has dropped a bit with the changes. Oh, and there was one other major change to the roster: Nielle is now skating out (though she didn't this weekend because of a bicycle accident), and Grace, a new player this season, is our goalie (so I guess that's three new players).
I had no goals in the first game (I think Laurie knocked our goal in after a scrum in front of the net), and I obviously had no goals in the second, though I did have at least two breakaways and at least three shots on goal. My shots seemed a bit weak, though, and the puck never left the ice for any of them—a stark contrast to how I've been shooting in practice. Of course, in practice I often have no one on me when I'm shooting, so I can skate into the zone at top speed and let one fly at the optimal distance from the goal. This isn't usually an option in a game. One of my shots in the Queenston game had to be timed to pass through the defenseman's legs (I'm proud of myself for that bit of finesse, but it took any power the shot might have had right off), and another was shot around the same defenseman while another player caught and bumped me on the right.
Midway through the game I was already thinking about asking Billy what I could do to get more oomph on my shot when Billy suddenly had a similar thought. It wasn't so much the weak shots that made him suggest I should start lifting weights, however; it was that I jumped on the ice, grabbed the puck, and skated the wrong way. I had been shooting video when Shelly came off, and since we'd just switched periods, and we were sitting in a weird order on the bench to avoid an offsides when jumping on, I didn't realize at first that Shelly was calling for me to go on. The puck sailed over the blue line just as I cleared the boards, and I looked up and saw Laurie twenty feet behind it but not skating toward me. So I took the puck and made a mad dash for what I thought was the offensive zone.
Luckily I looked up and saw Meghan, who was playing D; I thought, what the heck's Meghan doing in front of me? and then suddenly checked the net to see who was in it. When I saw Grace's green jersey, I quickly turned and went back the right way. (And I used to tease Al about being Wrong-Way Magoo! Sheesh!) Anyway, when I came off from this shift, Billy remarked, "we gotta get you lifting weights or something if your first instict is to give the puck back to your D." He was thinking that since I'd made a couple weak shots, I'd lost my confidence; apparently he didn't realize that it was my sense of direction that I'd lost.
Since Billy had mentioned weight lifting—something I did quite a bit of at the gym this summer before aggravating my Computer Shoulder with some lat pull-downs—I asked him in the lobby after the game what I could do to make my shot more powerful. Lifting weights was a good start, he said (basically working all the muscles of the upper body), but the best thing I could do was start my shot from farther back (that is, start with the puck and my stick behind me, and transfer my weight forward as I brought the puck forward for the shot).
I mentioned that I was able to do it in practice, but that I had a harder time during the games, when the D and the backcheckers were covering me. "You're not going to get good at shooting practicing an hour a week," Billy replied.
He suggested that I shoot pucks against the wall in the park to get stronger, to work on the motion, to figure out my timing. (Allison also gave me a tip about strengthening my wrists, which I'll mention in another post.) So to that end, this is what I did last night and tonight in the alley behind our house:
Excuse the loud sniffle before this one; it was kind of chilly out, and I think I instinctively sniffled before each round of shooting so that snot wouldn't fly along with the puck.
I think I'm still not starting the shot back far enough, but the longer piece of cardboard Al found me (I'd been shooting with one about half as long before I got out the video camera) helped my timing a bit. I didn't expect to get it in two sessions anyway, though. I'll keep at it until I can shoot like Shelly—or better.