I'll pop the suspense bubble right away - we didn't win. We didn't even score. In fact, we took several steps backward as a team. Not great stuff out there, the most glaring being length of shifts. One guy on the team simply refuses to come off when he should, and the resentment of the others is starting to grow. Might get ugly. Makes for good writing, but not much fun on the bench.
We had a slew of forwards, so I was more than happy to volunteer for defense. And when the guy who ran our training clinic showed up to help us out, I was quick to offer myself as his partner (no, not in that way. Not that there's anything wrong with that). My hope was that I could pick up a few pointers as players zipped by me and for once, I had the right idea. Shaking a weekend's worth of kobolds, inspectres, and clever players having fun with my characters out of my head, I put my mind on hockey and hit the ice. Eventually. After it was already 1-0. We followed our usual pattern of giving up an early goal, regrouping and keeping things under control for 8 or 9 minutes, then letting them get 3 or 4 goals in the end of the first period to make the game a joke. Seriously. I have no idea why that happens beyond people staying out too long on their shifts and not getting back on D.
The other team had a guy about Rudy-sized (not our defenseman Rudy, but Rudy from the movie with the dude from Lord of the Rings) who should have been playing at least two divisions higher. Bart (the coach, my D partner) knew him and told him before the game to take it easy on us. Evidently that involved scoring two highlight-reel goals within the first 10 minutes. Our goalie - not the really good one, who has a knee injury and oh boy are we fucked without him - used to play with the team we were playing (or 'versing' as Becky says) and hates them with enough fire to burn the ice. If he had spent a little less time yelling at them and hacking at their ankles and a little more trying to actively stop the puck the score might not have been 9-0. Just saying, Bob, just saying. By the end of the game Bob looked exhausted. As we currently have no other goalie option, things might be ugly the next two weeks.
I spent the game learning. I made mistakes but not only did I have a free clinic, I pretty much had a private coach. In the first period we worked on my positioning, which was okay because ye gods I've watched a lot of hockey in my life, but Bart gave me some subtle tips that proved useful. In the second period we worked on me timing stick lifts, which means that I attempt to poke my stick under the guy set up in the crease (PHRASING, for so many reasons) and pick it up when the pass comes his way. I had limited success with that, as those players were better with their sticks than I am (PHRASING) and often I found myself trying to cover two guys without the help of the center, who was supposed to be there. It's a bad feeling to see the other team celebrating as your goalie lies sprawled out on the ice like a mollusk while you wonder how that other guy got so open.
In the third period Bart suggested I get a little more physical, and at the expense of sounding like a haughty prick it was easily my best period. When guys set up in front of the net I pushed them out. When the puck went into the corner I gave little shoves and yanks with one hand while hacking at the puck with the other. I wasn't checking, but I was still playing with a physical presence. Success with that gave me confidence elsewhere, and when I got the puck off a faceoff instead of just flailing to get it out of the zone immediately I skated with it for a bit and threaded a pass to one of our forwards (by 'threaded' I mean 'other teams' player deflected the long pass precisely where it needed to go'). On a three on two break I forced the guy with the puck wide and took away his passing lanes by dropping to a knee and laying my stick on the ice. He hit the shaft and I was able to clear it, eliciting a curse from him that was sweeter than a round of applause. I still made a boatload of mistakes, of course. I whiffed twice on a puck at the blue line, screwing up a clear, and my ass got beat a few times by better skaters (which is pretty much everyone). But at this stage pretty much everything is up, so I keep trying. Jeff continues to develop a pretty damn good wrist shot and over criticize himself while instead I saw a guy who hustled all over the ice, and Sheq seems to be growing into his game as well. Next week is our only shot this season at the other winless team, and I'd feel a lot more confident if I had Alex backing me up in net for the slurry of mistakes I'm going to make. Either way, I'm going to lace them up and give it my best.
At 10:30pm. Ugh.
Writing: 561 words. Time for the Big Reveal. Oh! And I got an acceptance on a story I'd submitted in July and forgotten about (probably because I sent in a novella for an anthology at the same place and gotten rejected after that), so that's a happy thing. It'll be in Stupefying Stories sometime in the future I WILL BOTHER YOU WHEN IT DOES