Sorry for the long silence here; I'd intended to post right after the first practice of the NEW SEASON(!), but as those of you who read my avocado8 blog have probably figured out, I've been in the middle of a perfect storm of responsibilities and demands on my time. Whether those things led to the downward spiral in the self-confidence department or whether that downward spiral was just part of the storm, I have no idea; all I know is that it's been a struggle lately. The good news is that hockey—and, I suspect, writing about it—pulled me out of my last major depression (in 2000), so I have every incentive to play and to write about it here.
Despite walking/running in the mornings for over a month and feeling like I was in decent shape cardiovascularly, I found myself out of hockey shape when I took the ice for our first practice on September 24. I felt a big sluggish, and the quickness I'd started to see the first signs of at the end of last season was completely absent. I could get a bit of speed going now and then, however, which was nice.
It was great to see so many women come out to play, several for the first time. We'll be having two squads this year—a UWHL C team, which will consist mostly of players from last year's UWHL D team, and a non-league developmental team—and we're sharing the practice ice to save a little dosh. We did a few drills all together, and then we split up roughly into our squads (which weren't actually decided at that point; the split was based more on whether you wanted to work on basic skating and hockey skills or slightly more advanced team drills).
I actually missed the second practice because I had to fly to Chicago for MAX (and I'm missing the fourth practice tonight because I'm in Chicago again at the moment, on my way to San Francisco), but I was there for a UWHL C/MAWHL C scrimmage on Saturday the 6th (my 5th wedding anniversary, as it happens). I was still in a bit of a fog mentally after a rough week, but that sort of fit with the ice conditions, as you can see:
I don't think I've ever been so hot in my life while on the ice. Since we only had 7 players on one bench and 8 on the other (we mixed up to the teams), we took breaks every 10-15 minutes or so to get a little extra air. Some women laid down on the ice to cool off; I skated in slow circles just to keep the cool air circulating through my gear. It was nuts (of course, the weather outside was the reason; it was in the the high 80s, which is insane.)
Anyway, in addition to fog, the video features Shelly carrying the puck into the zone, passing, and then forechecking; and Nielle, our goalie, skating out. Here's the proof that the skater in the red socks at the end really was Nielle:
I'm hoping that (a) I'll have some photos and videos to post from our first league game shortly, and (b) that the trip to San Francisco helped clear my head enough that I'll be back to my old self both on and off the ice by Monday. Stay tuned.
Hey, hey, hey! I've been busy trying to keep my head above water on a lot of fronts, and the hockey site has been suffering. I *have* been playing, however, and I've also been uploading game videos to Vimeo. Check there if you haven't heard from me in a while; chances are that I've uploaded a video but haven't had a chance to write about it yet.
It's now been about a month since our first game of the season against the Delaware Phoenix at home. Here's what I remember about that game:
I have two videos from the game; the first shows Tiff, Laurie, Ruthann, and Laura noodling around in the offensive zone (sorry, couldn't see who the other D was).
The second video shows Cassidy, Carol, Laurie (I think we only had 3 Centers, so she was rotating), A.T., and Haley breaking out and going on O.
I had my second assist of the season in yesterday's game against the Delaware Phoenix, but despite having three or four breakaways, I didn't score. (I have NO GOALS this season—a frustration I've been meaning to write about, but haven't gotten around to.) Nielle happened to mention to me after the game what I'd already figured out for myself on that last breakaway: I'm getting too close, waiting too long before I take a shot.
I think the reason is twofold: (1) I've been working on not panic-shooting from the top of the faceoff circle for years (probably unwarrantedly at this point), and (2) I've gotten faster. This means that by the time I decide I'm close enough to shoot, I've tripped over the goalie. (This is precisely what happened on my last breakaway; I decided too late to cut in and try for a backhander.)
Nielle's suggestion was that if I'm coming down the left side, don't bother to try to cut in for a backhander—just shoot from the goalie's blocker side, which is usually weaker. (She actually suggested that I fake a shot first, then shoot, but I think that's probably a recipe for whiffing in my case.) My idea of how to solve the problem was to practice with a cone in the net—or rather, at the top of the crease, where the goalie is likely to be. (Am I alone in practicing most of my shots when the net is empty? I'm assuming not, because goalies are often hard to come by, and when they're around, they want a real warmup, not some goofball sending weak wristers their way.)
I started out writing this before practice, but now that it's after practice, I can tell you what I actually did: Upon entering the ice, I got out two cones and set one near the top of the left faceoff circle, and the other at the top of the crease. (The first cone was designed to remind me to cut a bit to the inside rather than staying out along the boards.) I then practiced skating in and shooting both forehand and backhand. The very first time I executed an amazing top-shelf backhander; the rest of the time I split among lifting it ever-so-slightly into the net, missing the net entirely, and hitting the cone. However, I ALSO got the chance to practice on a real live goalie (namely, Nielle), as several of the drills involved taking the puck in and shooting. I worked on shooting from farther back, with more success than I'd anticipated. Occasionally my shots were weak or wide, but I also had some interesting scores from shots that had never been in my reperatoire before. (My favorite was a backhander that flew through the five hole; on that one, I just let fly when I was the right distance from the crease rather than waiting until I'd cut across to the far post, and I happened to be right in front when that moment arrived.)
NOW, if I can just remember to shoot from farther back in Saturday's game, stay more mobile when crashing the net (I'm usually in too close in this case, too), and visualize myself skating on an Olympic-sized rink (because I seem to be much more aggressive when I feel like I have more room to maneuver), maybe I'll finally have a point in the G column.
Oy, I had a crappy game last night. Crappy as in didn't quite live up to the loose, in-control feeling I had during the warmup, took a few things too personally, and totally lost my cool a couple times.
I didn't play *that* badly, and at another game I might have just thought, "bummer, didn't score" and moved on. In this game, though, I felt like I was not only not living up to my own expectations, but everyone else's, too. It's probably mostly (or even completely) my imagination, but it seemed like I could feel, and sometimes hear, the disappointment oozing from the bench. Result? Confidence = gone. I wasn't completely useless with the pall of disappointment hanging over me, which is a huge improvement over past seasons. But I was edgy and defensive and mad at myself for most of the night... and a bit depressed and annoyed at myself in the morning for being edgy and defensive and mad. Reminds me of morning-after-drinking-to-excess remorse, when you feel a little under the weather, a little depressed that all your buddies are gone, and a little mad that you did that to yourself.
I was hoping to find some joy in practice tonight (though, honestly, it *is* a little frustrating to see improvement in my shot, my skating, and my team play at practice, and yet still make STUPID moves and have no goals during games), but now I'm wondering if it wouldn't be better to stay home and sleep. I've managed to contract the Beaner's cold, and I'm exhausted. Then again, it might be less taxing to go to practice than to stay home and single-parent the Beaner. Hmmm.
Whether I go or not, I plan to write about some drills we've been doing at practice that have seemed helpful. I'm still occasionally a "drill killer", as Megan says, but I've gotten the hang of more drills than I would've thought possible when I started with the Freeze, and Billy's been coming up with a few to address specific issues he's noticed during games lately. Look for video of Billy explaining the drills (and of the drills themselves) coming soon.
We interrupt this silence to report that I SCORED MY FIRST GOAL OF THE SEASON in yesterday's game. WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! What a freakin' relief to know that I *could*, in fact, score a goal in an actual game. A.T. had the assist (or the original shot, really); I was down in front and a little to the right (so I could see A.T.'s shot coming from the point—I remember being told at the Sharks clinic a few years ago to always face the puck). I can't remember if the goalie blocked it or one of the D did, but when the puck popped out in front of me, I was able to knock it in over the goalie's leg. It was the first goal of the game, and thus the winning goal, as the final score was 3-0.
The other two goals were scored in the third period. The first was by Tiffany, in an almost identical setup to mine with A.T. again shooting from the point, and then Steph had a satisfying empty-netter at the end. (It was satisfying mostly because she skated around several opponents before taking the shot.)
Our last game of the regular season is next Saturday, when we will play the Black Widows (to whom we lost 7-0 in Harrisburg back in December, when Laurie volunteered to play goalie; she actually stopped way more shots than the score indicates, while we couldn't get our act together on offense AT ALL). Meanwhile, the Senators will face Queenston—which means all 4 playoff teams will be playing each other on the 8th as well as on the 15th & 16th. Can't wait to see how it all shakes out!
So I mentioned in the last post that I couldn't remember on my goal whether the goalie made a save and I got the rebound, whether the puck hit a defenseman, or what. Well, I asked in the locker room last night at practice, and it turns out that it was a one-timer. Which makes total sense, now that I think of it, because Meghan and I have been practicing this very shot at the beginning of practice for a couple weeks now. Meghan doesn't seem to mind passing me puck after puck from the corner or the hashmarks at the boards, so I just keep stopping and flipping or one-timing until my back hurts or Billy blows the whistle for us to start skating. In my mind, that means Meghan deserves an assist on that goal, even though she wasn't on the ice at the time. :-)
We also talked about Tiff's goal; like me, she couldn't remember how it happened, exactly, but the rest of us remembered it being a one-timer. What's funny is that she clearly remembered my goal being a one-timer, but couldn't remember how her own went down, while I clearly remembered her goal being a one-timer, but couldn't remember how *my* own went down. Guess we've cleared that up now.
I got a bit more video of the drills last night for an upcoming post, but other than that (and the warm-up one-timer practice with Meghan), it wasn't that great a practice for me. I'm getting over bronchitis, and I spent the entire practice coughing, soaking through the two Kleenex tissues I'd brought to the bench almost immediately, sniffling, and coughing some more. Consequently, I didn't get as good a workout as I'm used to. Hopefully I'll still be able to play effectively in our game against Queenston on Saturday...
We played our last game of the regular season against the Black Widows of Harrisburg at home on Saturday. Sadly we lost 4-3, which puts us in 4th place and the Widows in 1st... which means we'll be playing them again next Saturday as well. Honestly, I think we can take them. We just need to (a) not leave anyone alone on the back door, and (b) not hand them breakaways. We already did a good job of not responding to the whining, I thought.
Directly after our game, the Indy team played *their* last game of the season. They were a bit short, so a few of our players helped out. I didn't because I'd arranged for Al to drop the Beaner off after my game was finished; we were planning a Freeze-wide cookout after both games were over, and since it was a large time commitment for me, I wanted to make sure I shouldered my share of the childcare.
The Beaner actually watched the game with me fairly actively. I've learned that the secrets to keeping him interested for three whole periods are (1) bring at least two drinks (vanilla and chocolate soy milk this time) and lots of different snacks (dried apricots, pretzels, fruit gummis, tangelos, baby carrots); (2) bring the camera and shoot video (he likes to sing and/or commentate); (3) cover his ears when the end-of-period buzzer goes off; and (4) tell him which players are which, and then cheer actively. He'll join in.
Speaking of video, I got a couple fun clips, including this one:
...which ended with this:
I've been planning on writing about (and uploading video of) some of the drills we'd been doing in our Freeze practices, but I hadn't gotten around to it... until Flickr announced that it would be supporting video. I found out a little early, which meant that I could upload to my heart's content, but I couldn't share. Now that the word is out, I'll be posting some of the clips I uploaded and talking a bit about the drills. I also have to write about how the season ended—and boy, is THAT interesting!—so stay tuned.
Here's a brief clip of the St. Louis drill, which we ran for several weeks in a row. It involves two lines starting on opposite sides of the ice at each blue line. When Billy blows the whistle, the first skater in each line takes off, skating around the neutral zone faceoff dot, down the far blue line, and up the opposite-side boards. As she does this, the second skater in each line makes a pass off the boards and then takes off after the first skater (who at this point has just passed her and picked up the puck), and they go into the zone together (although slightly staggered). The first skater is then supposed to come to a hard stop along the boards and pass to the second skater, who shoots.
Once we've done this a few times, Billy adds defensemen, who try to break up the inside-the-offensive-zone pass. At this point the first skater can either hard stop or not (we discovered that if we did, the D just came right at us and broke up the pass every time, because they knew what we were up to—and the whole point of stopping is to shake *off* the D), whatever she thinks will be most effective in confusing the D. If I can find a clip of the drill with D, I'll add it to this post later—though I doubt I have one. Once we add D the forwards are skating almost continuously, and there's no time for videoing!