It was one of those moments that serves as a pivotal point in a rookie's career, one he'll remember forever. About 2/3s of the way through the first period against the #1 team in the league, we found ourselves locked at 0-0 and actually doing more than just playing prevent defense. I'd managed to grab some extra ice time before the game and worked almost exclusively on my backwards skating. To the amazement of both myself and Jeff, who was in the area, I managed to pull off a backwards crossover step without wiping out, and I felt good about the way things were going. It's sad, then, that I somehow lose that confidence once the game plays and freak out when the puckcarrier comes at me with speed. I'll get there, but damn it's frustrating right now.
Anyway, we were pressuring (!) and my defensive partner got caught in a pinch. Their defenseman made a nice cross ice pass to spring one of their wingers. I saw it starting to break and tore out of the zone in my lotta-motion-little-speed style and managed to get back just ahead of the puckcarrier. He'd been joined by a teammate to make it a clear 2 on 1. As I skated back and hit the blue line I started turning from front to back, a couple of strides ahead of the puckhandler. He was on my right side and between me and the boards, and as I spun I noted he was a lefty. That meant he was basically in shooting position and that i had to try to keep him wide. My main job was to cut off the passing lane and force him into shooting from as bad an angle as possible - the rest was up to Alex. I knew what I had to do and I was in good position to actually pull it off.
Unfortunately, I fell on my ass right after I finished turning around.
I could be a douche and say it was because my blades needed sharpening or some other excuse, but I have no idea why I fell. Did I catch an edge? Lean too far back? Hit a furrow? Who knows? Who cares? All that matters is that I went down in a heap and the guy scored. 1-0, them. My fault. I wanted to dig a hole in the ice and crawl in, but since that wasn't possible I just figured I'd get a chance to make good later. That would happen, right?
Well . . .
In the second a shot from near the point deflected off my skate, off another skate, and binged in off the post. I probably shouldn't blame myself for that but I was between the goalie and the shooter and if I'm going to be screening Alex I damn well better block the puck. The last goal I was on ice for - all three scored by the same guy, by the way - was shorthanded as he absolutely blew by me along the boards before scoring off a scramble a little while later(Bart the clinic coach was there and said I never had a chance, and neither would most people in that situation, but I'm assuming he was just being nice). It's so frustrating to not be able to do what would have stopped him cold and slam him into the boards with a hip check, but at this level speed kills. The final was 6-1 but we played these guys tough before they chipped in two late goals. Aside from the three mistakes I listed, the rest of my game was meh as well. I wasn't particularly physical, I made some good passes but also failed to clear more than once, and I just felt a stride off the entire game. As a team, though, we were vastly improved. The other team mentioned that their best player wasn't there (the guy with 13 goals and 15 points isn't the best player?) but in any case they knew we were out there. It wasn't an evenly matched war but we had numerous scoring attempts and looked more like a team as opposed to a bunch of puppies who wandered out on the ice. Jeff flat-out saved a goal when he lifted the stick of a guy who was going to have a gimmie goal off a gorgeous pass. Alex was pretty much incredible - after one save the ref hummed the theme from 'Sportscenter.' We started winning a few faceoffs as well - not the majority, but it's a start. Shifts were kept shorter for the most part (it's always a little tougher in the second period, when it's a longer distance to the bench for a change from the defensive zone), although one too-long time resulted in a goal against. We need to score more goals, but that will come with playing time. If we had played against a lower echelon team it might have had a very different outcome.
Assuming I could keep from falling on my ass again, of course. I do not salute the patience of my teammates enough. This week we have another top 2 team to contend with and it'll be interesting to see how things shake out. I'll have a new set of edges on my crappy skates and a morning clinic session under my belt. Hope either one helps.
Also, no word from Goalie Bob. That's an odd way to go out.
Writing: Nope. Editing mode all week on someone else's book. thinking about starting my edit next week, perhaps.