Our victory against the Cross Chix last night put us in 2nd place in the Koho division, so this morning we played the 1st place team from the Jofa division, with the winner moving on to the finals. When I woke up with Austen's feet in my back at 5:30am, I found that my hip, knee, back, and even my tailbone (which I'd fallen on twice—I forgot to mention that I took a shot on goal with my weight on the wrong foot in Game 2, causing me to fall hard on my butt) hurt less than I'd expected them to. What hurt worse were my hands. I'd forgotten how 3 games in 24 hours can make one's hands stiff and sore. Of course, I then made the ache worse by blogging from Al's Blackberry for a couple hours while Austen and Al slept in.
I discovered when I went to lift Austen out of the bed prior to leaving for the rink that my arms were also very sore, but I can't really complain; the soreness makes me feel like I've *done* something, like I'm stronger and tougher for the effort. I feel athletic for the first time in months (and I now can't wait for the summer hockey season to start!). But before we move on to the summer season, I need to write about Game 4...
me trying to cut off a passing lane
When I watched the Vixens during the warmup, my impression was that they were a pretty good match for us; number 14 had a slapshot, but other than that we seemed about even. This impression was strengthened a few shifts into the game, when I noticed that they were making all the same mistakes we were making (bunching up, losing the puck in their skates, not passing well, etc.). I figured we could take them, even if I personally felt slower and less coordinated than I had in the previous three games. (I also felt like I had no edges, which might have been true.)
Al's impression was that I looked about the same as I had in yesterday's game against the Flying Beavers, but I was pretty sure I hadn't lost nearly as many pucks between my legs as I did in this game. At least one time this lack of coordination worked to my advantage, however: I was playing Right Wing (which I'm less comfortable at than Left or Center), and I'd positioned myself against the boards for a breakout pass. When the puck got to me, I guess I moved to skate with it before it actually hit my stick, and it zoomed between my legs and continued up the boards. The two opponents who jumped on me were just as surprised by this development as I was, and the puck cleared the blueline untouched by any of us. "I guess my fuckup fucked us all up," I said cheerfully. "I thought you had that!" said one woman. "So did I!" I replied.
It wasn't all friendliness. I heard from Jess and Kelly that some of the Vixens were complaining about their skill level. "And we're even playing wrong-handed," said Kelly. "Yeah," said Jess, grinning. "We switched sticks." That explained why they weren't breaking out as quickly as in previous games. :) A couple shifts later, however, after a harrowing near-goal when the two of them lost the puck repeatedly in our zone, Kelly held her stick out to Jess and said, "OK, switch back."
I chase the puck into the corner, while Rachel sets up in the slot,
Kelly patrols the blueline, and Michele hangs out just outside the zone
Whether they were playing wrong-handed or not, Kelly and Jess managed to give us forwards some nice passes, and a few times we even managed to pass among ourselves. I know I felt like Donna (RW), Rachel (C), and I (LW) made a good line; we were on the verge of scoring several times, but never seemed to be able to get the puck in. This was most likely due to the yellow goalie, whom we'd laughed at prior to the game; it turned out that while she looked like a canary in a cage from the bench, from the slot she just looked like a big yellow target. Seriously, it was virtually impossible to aim at anything but the yellow, which meant that we were constantly hitting her pads.
Deanna camps out near the crease
while I try to make something happen in the slot
Actually, now that I think of it, the Big Yellow Blob probably impeded Donna more than the rest of us—if I remember correctly, Donna scored every one of the Spitfire goals in this tournament, and it was she who had the most promising shots in this game. My shots were most likely stopped because they weren't very hard, and Rachel's... I have no idea why Rachel never got the puck past this goalie. It certainly wasn't for lack of trying, because this was probably Rachel's best game of the four. She skated hard, worked her tail off in the slot, and had more shots on net than in the previous games.
Sadly, all that work was for naught, literally: We didn't manage to score a single goal. The Vixens, meanwhile, scored three. I was on the ice for one of them; both D were scrabbling with one or more Vixens on Rocky's right side, so I went down low to cover the back door. I figured I was in the zone anyway, I might as well make sure no one could doink it in easily from behind Rocky, and maybe even clear the puck if it skidded across the crease. What I didn't want to do was "help" the D by jumping into the scrum in front of Rocky, as this almost always results in further confusion. It didn't much matter where I went, though—there was enough confusion with the two D, the one or two Vixens, and Rocky that the puck went in from that side.
I think with about 6 or 8 minutes to go in the third period (and with the Vixens up 2-0), Michele said to me on the bench, "Time out at a minute and a half?" Me: "What for?" Michele: "Um, to try to send in a power line?" Me: "I don't think it'll make a difference." I don't think we've ever managed to score a goal with a last-minute "power line" in any tournament I've ever been to, so there were hard feelings (about missing a shift or not being considered a "power" player) for nothing. Plus I had a feeling there'd be complaints from at least one quarter, and personally, I didn't want to hear them. I was happy with the hockey I'd played so far, and I didn't want to end this game with both a loss *and* an argument.
In the end, Donna got the MVP award again but gave it to Rachel; I guess Donna saw what I saw in Rachel's game. Because we lost this semi-final the tournament was over for us, but I can't say I was sad. (I don't think I've ever been sad about not getting to the final on Sunday; by that time, I've usually had plenty of hockey, and I'm happy to have time to myself/my family for exploring or relaxing. The same was true on this trip.) I *was* sad to say goodbye to J-W (also known as the other Michelle), whom I'd spent quite a bit of time chatting with in the locker room, at the hotel, and in the car between the hotel and the rink. Michele, J-W, Donna, Deanna, Rachel, and I (all of us Spitfires of one sort or another ;) talked about possibly going to another tournament together in the future, with LA or Las Vegas being the most likely candidates. Sounds like a great idea to me.
Apologies for the sometimes crappy quality. Because Al had the baby with him, he couldn't stand behind the bench as usual. Instead, he had to shoot through glass and protective netting.
waiting to pass during the warmup horseshoe drill
Rachel (11) and I turn to go on O
and now, we bow
(and lose the puck)
Kelly gets the puck, and I try to get open for a pass
(Al remarked to me after the game, "you're not as open as you think you are")
I pick up the puck at the blueline with the intention of skating it in
Erin passes to Donna, who's wide open at the blueline
I lift an opponent's stick while looking back for the puck
Rachel and I turn to go back on D when possession changes
chaos in front of the Beavers' net
me taking a shot (the goalie blocked it with her stick)
Donna charges toward the zone, and I turn to follow
it looks like this player's shooting on her own goal,
but I think she's trying to help the goalie cover the puck
(counterclockwise from left: Donna, Rachel, me)
Donna, Rachel, and I work to get a goal
(I believe Donna succeeded)
J-W (foreground) and Jess (top) shift on their skates as possession changes,
but I (center) am slower to react
Donna, me (C), and Deanna at a faceoff in the offensive zone
Kelly, Rocky, and J-W at a faceoff in the defensive zone
the puck drops, and everybody springs into action
I clear the puck instead of skating with it (duh)
a blurry shot of Michele, Michelle (J-W), Kelly, Rocky, and me amid the Vixens
Jess passed to me up the boards, but as I was stationary and a defender was approaching,
I passed along the blueline to the red figure I saw skating through the neutral zone
(who turned out to be Michele)
Jess takes two Vixens while Kelly (off-camera) tracks the puck carrier
(and I do nothing useful in the neutral zone)
Rocky catches a shot in her glove while Kelly covers the other Vixen
(and I arrive on the scene, too late)
We drove down to Delaware tonight to see our friend Allison, who plays for the Baltimore Blizzard, play in a game against the Delaware Bobcats. I've been wanting to see Allison play for a long time (she and Al used to play together at Ice Oasis, but Allison moved to Baltimore shortly before Al and I met), and more recently I've had a hankering to find out more about the MAWHL levels.
Although I love traveling to tournaments with the Spitfire, in general I haven't found playing on a women's team to be as fun as playing on coed/men's teams. I've been re-thinking this bias lately, however, in light of the fact that my learning curve seems to have flattened dramatically. You see, the women's teams in the area tend to be coached, and though I often (OK, almost always) bristle under authority, I think it might be worth trying to take a little direction in order to improve my game.
Lee, my linemate over the summer on the Galaxy, told me a couple times that I should play on a women's team to get more confident with the puck, and the suggestion always puzzled me. I understood the concept of getting more confident with the puck, but I wondered what made him think that just playing with women would accomplish this. I remembered replying once, "well, it depends on the level of the women." Some of the women hockey players I know could easily kick the asses of any of the men I played with on the Galaxy or the Admirals... and playing against *those* women wouldn't do anything for my confidence. Heck, playing *with* some of those women didn't do much to improve my game. I can see now how, perhaps, playing in a more (gak!) nurturing (gak!) environment—one that focused on playing like a team and developing individual skills—might be useful.
So anyway, I wanted to see a MAWHL game to get an idea of the level, and of whether I might like it. Allison had played on the Blizzard C team (I actually think it was classified as a B team at the time, but they adjusted the levels) for a while, but she dropped back down to D after having her daughter Nora. (Or was it before? I can't remember, and it doesn't really matter for this story; what's important is that she really likes the team she's playing with now, which happens to be D level.) I would have liked to watch the game together with Al so we could analyze the level of play as it was happening, but Austen was with us, and the reality was that one of us had to watch/feed/hold him at all times. I started out on Austen duty, so I said to Al, "keep an eye on all the players; I'd be curious to know if you think any of them particularly reminds you of me."
When I got my turn to watch the game, the first thing I noticed is that no one player stood out as being most like me, mostly because they all looked kinda like me in terms of skill. A couple reminded me more of Kelly in both body type and skating style, and there were definitely a couple players on both teams who could have been up a level, but in general I think I would have fit right in. When I talked to Al about it in the car on the way home, I found that he had the same impression. Both of us thought that I'd have fun playing in a league like this, though of course we have no idea what the coaching is like.
As for Allison, my impression was that she looked so much bigger on the ice than she does in person—taller, mostly. Maybe most of her teammates were just very short? I'm not sure. She played D in the aggro style that I recognized (and loved) from my Gang Green days, charging into the zone when the puck was loose and generally playing between the faceoff dot and the blue line when her team was in the offensive zone. I didn't get to see much of her in the defensive zone (because the defensive zone was at the opposite end of the ice when it was my turn to watch the game), but Al said that she was good at skating the puck out.
We left about a minute before the second period ended, and by the time we were crossing the bridge on I-95 into Philadelphia we were glad we didn't stay even five minutes longer. The wind, which had been incredibly strong when we left the rink, was now strong enough and cold enough to turn the rain that started to fall into sleet and ice even though the air temperature was still above freezing. I could feel the car sliding around a bit as we got onto 676, and ice started to build up under the windshield wipers.
I'm not sure what I'm going to do with the information I gathered at this game, since at the moment the only MAWHL D level teams are all in Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC—and D certainly seems like the right level for me. It sure would be nice to play with Allison's team, or failing that, with the Bobcats, but the travel times to games would be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2.5 hours each way even with the closer Bobcats. Locally the Philadelphia Freeze, Concord Flames, and South Jersey Demons all have C or C/D UWHL teams; I guess we should try to go to one of those games as well to scout the level.
Posted by Lori at 09:40 PM | Link to This Entry
This past Monday was one of only two that are not already claimed by Al for his hockey games this season, so I had my bag all packed and ready to go to NE Skatezone for the women's Monday night pickup there. Of course I forgot my cell phone, but I figured Al knew when to expect me home, and if anything came up, someone else would have one.
I think about 10 of us showed up, so we skated four-on-four with one sub each until we were all so tired that everyone wanted to go out at once. We drank some water and caught our breath, and someone proposed going half-ice instead of full. I don't mind half-ice as long as the net stays in its usual position (I had a great time playing a half-ice scrimmage in which the zone had to be cleared to the red line on change of possession at practice once); this allows *me* to play my position normally and not get too confused. I know many would disagree and say that it's much *more* confusing to figure out when clearing the zone is necessary, but for me it's easier than trying to find space to skate when the nets are placed on opposing boards at one end of the ice.
In any case, the latter is how the half-ice 3-on-3 game was configured on Monday. I think it was on my second or third shift in, when I was really feeling disoriented by the small skating area—with my long skating stride, I'm like a 747 in the sense that I need a *lot* of runway in which to really get up to speed—I decided to heck with getting up to speed: I'd try for quickness instead. Al and I are always talking about the difference between speed and quickness, and how I tend to have more of the former than the latter (even if I don't appear very speedy from the sidelines). Now seemed like the moment for quickness.
One of my opponents got the puck on her stick and was just getting it together to skate with it, and I saw an opportunity to steal it right off her stick. (Never mind that had this manuever worked, I probably would not have had enough room to get a shot off anyway; I was more interested in trying the move for its own sake, to break up the monotony of missed passes and skating around in tight little circles.) So anyway, I dove forward with the intent of skating through the gap between the puck carrier and the teammate standing a couple feet from her, and taking the puck with me.
Next thing I knew, my left foot had planted (I could feel the toe of the blade stick in the ice) while my body spun off to the right. My shoulder had hit something, and I think I got sandwiched between the two opponents while my left foot stayed behind. What I'm most sure of in those brief seconds is that my ankle bent in a direction is was not supposed to go—a vision of one of those bendy figures kids play with totally popped into my head as I went down—and that I screamed. I wasn't sure at first whether I'd broken a bone or just sprained my ankle, but as I lay there on the ice trying to breathe, it occurred to me that I hadn't heard or felt any snapping. This boded well for the sprain theory, so after a few minutes I let my colleagues carry me off the ice and apply an icepack to my ankle while I sat behind the bench.
Nielle gave me three Advil, and I tied the icepack around my skate with the bandana I'd been wearing on my head. I then borrowed a cell phone (gah! the one time I forgot mine, of course I needed one) and called Al to tell him what had happened while encouraging everyone else to continue skating. It was obvious that I couldn't drive home (my car is a stick), and we only have the one car, so Al couldn't come get me. Jill—who, it turned out, was the brick wall I'd hit while trying to thread the needle—had a plan: Someone would drive my car back to Al, who would throw "little Al" in the car and drive back up to ferry me to the hospital. It probably isn't necessary to mention at this point that Jill does not have kids.
Nielle had a better idea: She would drive me in my car and Shelly would drive Nielle's car to the nearest ER. I kinda just wanted to go home, but Nielle convinced me that an x-ray was a better idea. I relayed the revised plan to Al via the borrowed cellphone and then, when everyone else was almost finished playing and I was thoroughly chilled, I hopped back to the locker room to get as undressed as I could. I took off one skate and kneepad, my shoulder pads, and my elbow pads, but I left my pants, socks, and jersey on for warmth. (At this point it didn't occur to me that the ER would be hot as holy hell, or even that it wouldn't be nearly as chilly as the rink had been.)
Somewhere along the line Shelly realized that we were going to the ER and not directly to my house; I said, "don't worry; if the wait is long, we'll just order a pizza." The wait *did* turn out to be long. The waiting room was MOBBED—which, depending on whom you asked, was either highly unusual or totally normal for a Monday night. They "fast-tracked" me at triage, but apart from a bout of hysterical tears during the x-ray, I apparently seemed far too cheerful to be seriously injured, and thus was ignored for four hours. After a little over an hour, Shelly announced, "I was promised pizza." I replied, "and I was serious about that! Let's order one." Shelly was skeptical that anyone would deliver to the ER, but the lady sitting in front of us said, "there's menus over there," so Shelly grabbed one and ordered. We snarfed down a slice each, heartily wished beer delivery was an option, too (especially since no one would give me painkillers of any sort, including Tylenol or Advil), and returned to our discussions of hockey, dating, driving, sneaker fashion, the benefits and drawbacks of marriage, more hockey, and random other things.
Around 2am I was finally shown back to the actual ER bays, where we waited another 20 minutes for god knows what. What I was waiting for turned out to be what amounted to a wham-bam-thank-you-m'am from an ER doc who announced that she didn't see anything on the x-ray "so rest, ice, compressionelevationbearweightasyoucanseeyougoodbye." After another 10 minutes a nurse came to wrap my ankle with an ACE bandage, give me a prescription for Naprosyn (which I can't take because it makes me dizzy), and give me a pair of crutches. When she said I couldn't use them on stairs I tried to refuse them (because my house is nothing *but* stairs), but Shelly, Nielle, and the orderly all talked me out of that nonsense. Thank god they did, because I would not have been able to get around at all for the past three days without them.
We finally pulled into the driveway behind our house at 3:30am, and then Shelly and Nielle went on to their respective houses in Nielle's car (I'm still trying to figure out how to send them some beer for their above-and-beyond stint in the ER) while Al pulled ours into the garage and I tried to figure out how to get up the stairs to the bedroom (I ended up crawling because I didn't have enough leg strength left to hop anymore). You can read about the next two days' worth of adventures in hopping on avocado8 (though I refrained from mentioning the very rough night I had on Tuesday, when Al was away in Chicago, the Beaner woke up screaming at 1:30am, and the stress of not being able to be picked up by Mommy caused a Pull-Up leak where normally there is no wetness at all). Meanwhile, I can now put some weight on my left foot, though turning even just a little bit is out of the question. Still, it's a start, and I have high hopes that the ankle will be sufficiently healed for me to fully participate in the Vancouver Tournament, which is now a mere 3 weeks away. Wooooo!
...for many reasons, not least of which is that women bring beer and baked goods to share. It occurred to me last year at Christmas, when I decided not to do any baking (boo!) because I wasn't eating sugar and I had no one else to share the bounty with that DUH, I could have brought the fruits of my labor with me to hockey practice. (It's a perfect arrangement, actually, since practices are on Monday nights, directly after the days when I'm most likely to have time to bake.) I resolved that THIS YEAR I would be baking, and bringing.
Of course, some women don't need a stinkin' holiday to bake. The last pickup session of the summer is reason enough to share the sugar. Evidence: Not one but TWO women brought cupcakes to last night's pickup at NE Skatezone. (And Barabara brought "beverages. Adult beverages" to share, too.) Angela's offerings even came in a specially-designed delivery system:
I left early (because I'd neglected to set expectations about when I'd be home when I left the house, and Al was having trouble getting the Beaner to bed), so I missed the Beer and Cupcakes in the Parking Lot after-party. I did, however, lift the cover of the delivery system to get a closeup of the decorations (verdict: amazing) on my way out, and they smelled yummy.
First practice for the Freeze Fall/Winter '07-08 season is on September 24. I can't wait! If you're in the Philly/South Jersey/Delaware Valley area and need a team, e-mail the team captains for more info. Beginners are welcome!
Edited to add: No slight intended to the male bakers out there—and the Macromedia Contribute team had several, to the extent that they had to draw up a schedule for when folks could bring in goodies to share. It just hasn't been my experience with coed/men's hockey teams that there've ever been baked goods brought to the locker room. It's happened several times with my women's tournament team, though.