Monday, December 16, 2013

Growing Pains Old man Learns Hockey - Game 8

We're getting tired of losing.

I can see it in the demeanor on the bench. People are paying closer attention and noticing that some guys are just wandering around the ice in the defensive zone instead of doing what they're supposed to, and yelling out instructions to them. Exasperation is starting to build. I usually laugh every time I fall to the ice but last night it elicited nothing from me but frustrated growls. Like I said, we're tired of losing.

Which is awesome.

The hope is that it spurs some change. We are a rudderless ship out there. We have no defensive plan, no set defense, nothing. We're not running a neutral zone trap or a 1-2-2 forecheck - we're just kind of out there, reacting to what the other team does, which ends up with us in our zone for too much time. Last night we played the other winless team in the league. They had one player who had no right to be in a developmental division (3 goals, 2 assists on the game) and a couple of other good skaters, but they weren't amazing. At the end of the 1st it was a 2-0, and just before the the period ended one of our guys missed a wide open net that would have made it a 2-1 game and possibly scared the crap out of them. As time went on they took advantages of our mistakes and skated away with an 8-1 laughter - yeah, we scored with like 17 seconds left - but we were better than we'd been the week before.

Missed assignments are haunting us. The blond from the clinic was playing right defense, and by the 3rd period she was skating by our bench asking why the left winger who kept forgetting to cover her wasn't out there so she could have some freedom. She wanted him there because instead of covering her he'd be somewhere else and she'd have time to tee up her slap shots.

Then there's me. In order to be an effective defenseman I need to be able to skate backwards well, so I crammed in as much practice as I could in the 5 minutes of warmup and swore I'd start using it, no matter what. And so I fell over backwards numerous times, often leaving our poor goalie (side story - Alex the Good Goalie is possibly done, and old goalie Bob was kind enough to let us know Sunday around noon that he was out too. This set off a panicked search for a goalie. I was online @6 and saw Dave, the guy who introduced me to this league and is who is on a team currently fighting for a top slot that i could have been on but I'm playing with my brothers so never mind, had just posted something about getting his stick ready for his game. I asked him, mostly joking, if his goalie wanted to play two games tonight. His goalie didn't, but knew someone who wanted to play. About this time one of our guys said the league had found a guy for us, but I figured two goalies were better than none. Charlie is a young kid who's been a goalie for a about a year and he had an odd game - he saved a lot of shots he shouldn't have but gave up a few he maybe should have had. Nice guy and when we were a pair of the last few stragglers in the locker room I found out nobody had grabbed him for next week's game. Yeesh! I locked that shit down. Anyway, I found a goalie. I'm useful! And thanks, Dave!) alone and exposed. It was infuriating but I have to get it down.

I'm not sure how I ended up for the game. I was paired with one of our better skaters and through 2 periods we were a -2, and neither goal was really on us. One was a bad angle shot that hit Charlie's pad, popped up, then dribbled in. Another was the guy who was too good coming on a partial breakway. I hauled ass to get back and forced him wide, but his wrister from the faceoff dot hit off in the inside of Charlie's elbow pad and rolled in. It was a nice shot, hard and accurate. In the 3rd we broke down at least once, and the big guy I'd been warring with all game - well, big is being kind, he was a very large dude who just set up in front of the goal like it was an all-you-can-eat-buffet in every sense of that simile possible - finally punched one in, so I was at least a -3. It was a war, too, with a lot of shoving and pushing. At one point I flat-out crosschecked him and he spun around with a pissed off look and showed me how an effective crosscheck is really done. Two-hundred-fifty pounds versus one-hundred-eighty-eight produced predictable results - my ass on the ice. The puck went through his feet while we was doing that, though, so I guess I won? I played a much more physical game in general, including .  . . well, shit, there's no way to gloss it over. I laid a dude out. Late in the game I pinched as the puck was being carried up the boards, and the guy wasn't looking up so he rammed right into me. Well, my lowered, braced shoulder, anyway. He went back over hard and I skated back down the ice with my head on a swivel, figuring someone was going to try to light me up. Nobody did, and the ref just shrugged and said, 'He ran into you.' The guy was okay and I loved it. GRRR SMASH! I'm still not great - or even good - deciding what to do with the puck. I came out from behind our net and they had a full pressing forecheck on. As we have no breakout play set up I skated until challenged and then tried to send it high off the boards. If I were a better skater I could have avoided him and kept it, but I'm not and we need guys moving around.

We had some good moments. There was a goal, and our top line - it's time to stop pretending one of our lines isn't better than the others - had several good chances and did a decent job forechecking. Jeff continues to get his rising wrister on goal and I wish he'd have more confidence and use it all the time. We're heading into a stretch against good teams and it may get ugly for us. That's life in the fast-paced world of men's beer league hockey.

Writing - I got to bed at 1am last night, you think I really got up at 5am and wrote? Gorram right I did. 602 words, plus 514 on Saturday.

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