November 24, 2008
The Opposite of Waggly

Man, I hate that I had a crappy practice before I had a chance to write about Saturday's pretty decent game against the Wicked in Bethlehem. This practice, for me at least, SUCKED.

I tried to maintain the positive attitude I'd had last week and on Saturday, but I felt it slipping after the first set of stopping drills. I was slow and tentative (due to still-oversharp skates, which I'll hopefully get around to explaining at some point) and couldn't keep up with my line. It got worse with the three-man weave, which was sloppy for everyone.

I don't even feel like elaborating on all that went wrong, lest in my demoralized state I start pointing fingers at others and regret it tomorrow. All I know is that by the time we got to the scrimmage, I was having flashbacks to playing with the men—lots of passes behind me or to my feet, lots of looping around trying to get open, lots busting down the ice for nothing. It's tiring mentally and physically.

For all that, I think I'd get back on the ice right now if we were going to run some drills where if the drill failed, that group would just clear the ice immediately and the next group would go. Complicated rotating drills are good for variety, but if one part of the drill fails, we can't just let it die and move on. I think we need that (or at least, our team needs that; perhaps the Blue squad, with whom we were practicing tonight, does not). I know I need to do something over and over until I get it right, until it feels natural. And I need to stop when things are so far wrong that my head is too busy trying to untangle the mess for my body to perform.

I'm bummed to be going into two off-weeks (no games this weekend or next, and no practice in between) with such a negative hockey experience, too. Although... maybe a break is what I need.

Posted by Lori at 9:56 PM

November 19, 2008
In Which I Get All Waggly

On Sunday we played our fourth game of the season at The Pond in Newark, Delaware. Like us, the Delaware Bobcats went into the game 0-3, and also like us, they've lost players to the upper division, and they're rebuilding this year.

At the beginning of the game it seemed like we'd be able to beat them easily, but I think instead of picking up the pace and skating right past them, we slowed down to their speed. We had more trouble breaking out of our defensive zone than we should have, too. And as for me personally... well, things were going well until the middle of the second period, went suddenly everything went to hell.

We were up 2-1, and the play that set the awfulness in motion was a breakout. Laura got the puck near the bottom of the faceoff circle on the far side, and I skated to the top of the slot, stopped, and called for the pass. As I was waiting to make sure it got to me—I didn't want to leave the zone and have the puck left there in the middle of the ice—I heard Billy scream my name from the bench and looked up, right between the words "LORI!" and "SKATE!—and just as the puck got to me. Since my attention was now on the bench and not on the ice, the puck went under my stick. I heard Billy yell "AWW!", and that's when my annoyance started to rise.

I wasn't mad at Billy, but I *was* wondering what the heck was supposed to happen there. Yes, I understand that skating and not just standing still for the pass is a good thing, but breakouts in general weren't working well for us, and long passes in particular are not our strong suit. Anyway, this is going through my head as I chase after the lost pass (which obviously did make it to me and then some) and pick it up just outside the blueline near the boards. At this point the D is coming on hard, so I go in hard too, dig the puck out, and pop it out to where my Center should be, and go down under the weight of the D. From the ice I see an opponent pick up the puck because my Center, it turns out, hadn't been coming up into the neutral zone beside me; instead, she was behind me on the boards. *That's* when I got mad.

I pulled myself up off the ice and tried to jump into the play, but my head was roiling with the whole series of events that had just happened, and I couldn't think straight about what was happening RIGHT THEN. The puck came out to the point on the right side, and no one was on her, so I skated over in that direction. She shot it back in, and I drifted back to the middle. I saw someone down low pass back up to the left side point... and it was at that moment that I realized where I should be—namely, right in front of that point, who was now taking the pass smoothly on her stick. I thought to myself as I rushed to get over there, "if they score now, it's on me." A few seconds later, they did. (Not directly from the point, but the goal was a result of the point being able to throw the puck back in cleanly.)

I came off saying "I know, I know!", and Billy and I ended up yelling at each other a bit over the whole mess. (Again, I wasn't angry at Billy so much as at myself and at the situation, and I think Billy felt the same way. Billy never stays mad for long, anyway.) It turned out that he'd been telling the D to wing passes out to the red line rather than trying to break out properly, so that's why he was yelling at me to skate. We never really got into why my pass out from the boards wasn't successful, but that bugged me for a while longer. What bugged me even more was that I'd let my anger get to me on the ice, and it made me play stupidly. The game ended in a 2-2 tie, and I had neither of the goals. (Angie had the first one, and Meghan scored the second with authori-TAY.)

The next night we had practice for the first time in two weeks (we had last Monday off). I looked forward to it all day, and on the drive to the rink I resolved to skate as hard as I possibly could, to work as hard as I possibly could, to not whine or complain or make excuses for bad execution. I suspect Billy was on a similar wavelength, because he had us work on making breakout passes; making long, hard passes from the goal line to the point; and skating with the puck with pressure. (I had asked him after our third loss if we could practice passing with pressure, and he said, "Allow me to be blunt. You guys can't pass WITHOUT pressure." Point taken. I suggested instead that we just work on *skating* with pressure, and I think he remembered.)

In the first passing drill, a D and a Forward started at the boards and skated on parallel tracks, the D behind the net, and the F in front of it. At the far post the F was supposed to turn up ice and skate, and the D was supposed to bank a pass off the boards. The first few times we ran it, either the F didn't turn up ice and skate as she should have, or the D didn't pass up the boards hard enough, or both. Billy encouraged the D to pass harder up the boards... and of course the puck often blew by the Forwards, especially if they weren't skating hard. For my part, I had to come back to get a couple passes that went behind me, and there were a couple that I had to skate hard to catch.

Several people complained when the passes got away from them, but Billy blew the whistle for the next pair to go. No second chances. I must say, I LOVED THIS. This is exactly what I was hoping for. I love Billy because he's helpful and patient and supportive, but on this night I was hoping for a little tough love, and I got it. Do we get second chances in games? No. When we miss pucks do we pay for it? YES. I was thrilled to not only be practicing a skill, but having the consequences of getting it wrong be real.

By the time Billy put a second Forward into the drill (to backstop the puck if it missed the first girl for the purposes of the drill, but also to back the D up in a game situation), I was waggling with excitement like a Labrador retriever waiting for its owner to throw the ball. I skated hard. I caught pucks. I occasionally made mistakes and resolved to fix them on the next run-through. I SCORED GOALS. It was thrilling, I tell you. I'm getting all waggly again just thinking about it.

Hopefully I can bring that excitement and AW YEAH enthusiasm to our game against the Wicked in Bethlehem on Saturday. I'm ready to WIN ONE!!

Posted by Lori at 11:04 PM

November 05, 2008
Memories of Mens Leagues (Or: Ow)

I didn't get the name of the truck that hit me last night, but judging from the "oh, sorry, Lori!" I heard right after my elbow, and right before my helmet, crashed to the ice, I'm guessing that truck's name was Josh. (Josh, you goon! :-)

I actually hit the ice so hard that it didn't occur to me at first that it *had* to be Josh, since he was the only person on the other team who knew my name. I know my helmet was on crooked when I got up, and that I had a headache before I even made it to the bench. My teammates say I sounded like I was drunk when they asked if I was OK. I got it together after a few minutes of neck stretches and deep breathing, though, and correctly identified the order in which Jerry, Eric, and I were supposed to rotate. (Jerry moved up from D to join us at Left Wing so that I didn't have to skate as much after the fall.)

Today my neck and head, and especially my elbow, are sore, but I seem to have suffered no lasting effects. I'm reminded, however, of how often I used to get injuries like this when playing in mens/coed leagues. Although the womens league I play in now can be very physical—no checking doesn't mean no contact—I'm much less likely to suffer near-concussions, slapshot bruises, and tailbone injuries. This probably partly because the women I play against are much smaller than the men (even Meghan, who's 6'1", only weighs about 145 or 150, and the top weight in the league is probably around 170), partly because we're a bit slower (even a collision at top speed is more funny than painful), and partly because we're a bit less aggressive on the whole.

If it makes me less tough to admit this, I don't much care. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I never thought I'd enjoy playing womens hockey, but my experience with the Freeze has been stellar. I'm happy to have the extra ice time with the men, and I like the challenge of keeping up with faster and more aggressive players, but I wouldn't trade the coached practices and camaraderie of my womens team for the cheaper league fees of the Mt. Laurel mens league or any other. I've come to appreciate not just ice time, but time spent learning how to play the game.

I don't always execute properly—there's often a big gap between knowing what you're supposed to do and actually doing it—but I do like knowing that I and my teammates are on the same page. I like knowing what's going to happen when I pass back to the D on the faceoff, or get to the front of the net, or stay on my point. I like playing with the same line each week and knowing what my linemates' capabilities and tendencies are. I like knowing I can count on them to be where they're supposed to be, and that they can count on me.

These pluses aren't unique to womens leagues; Gang Green (the team I played with for one season in San Jose), for example, had occasional practices, regular lines, and regular discussions about what to do in different situations so that everyone had the same expectations. My Freeze team's just taken what was great about Gang Green and brought it to a new level.

What I hope to do is to be able to translate my Freeze experience to the ad-hoc style of the mens leagues. That is, rather than relying on knowledge of certain plays or expectations based on experience playing together, I hope to improve my individual skills such that I can react to whatever situation unfolds on the ice. It may be a while before I get there (and hopefully I won't be old and creaky when I do), but that's the goal. In the short run, I intend to enjoy my time with the Freeze, and attempt to survive my time with the men.

Posted by Lori at 4:49 PM