Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Don't Get It - Hockey and stuff

I don't get it.

Allow me to elaborate. Let's say I was a boxer, and a really good one. Not a champion or anything, but quite skilled. Which would be better for me to fight guys at or near my skill level, or to go beat on schlubs who are just starting out and don't have a chance against me? I can only answer for myself, but it seems option one is the better way to go. What am I gaining by picking on overmatched and outclassed opponents? They could possibly learn from me if I was cool about it and made it more of a sparring session with pointers instead of just embarrassing them, but let's say I don't go that way. I just knock them around, humiliate them, and gloat while I do it.

That would make me an asshole, right?

So we had a game last night, against the team made up of our former teammates (less the goalie, who is having knee issues and took the summer season off). I think it's safe to say we've moved beyond bruised feelings over the details of the original split - we've made a new team we like, one that doesn't seem to have a 'That Guy' on it (unless I'm That Guy and nobody will tell me. Our House team had a couple of That Guy guys on it, neither of whom seem to be in the league anymore). Sure, we're not going to threaten the league's consecutive win record, but we always have fun.

Well . . . not so much last night. The team we played had two players that dominated like my boxing example above. They skated end to end, they skated in circles around us, they basically did whatever they wanted on the ice because we couldn't stop them. And I don't get it. If I were that much better than my opponents I think I'd rather rise until I met my level of competition so that I felt challenged, as opposed to just kicking around inferior players. Then again, the jerkweed wearing #13 pumped his fist and yelled 'YEAH!!!' after scoring his fourth goal of the game, one that made the score 7-1. Yes, he crowed in our faces for extending a five goal lead to a six goal lead with 3 minutes left. His partner in douchebaggery was #23, a defenseman of preternaturally smooth skating who hung by our blue line repeatedly during the last two minutes so his teammates could hit him with a breakaway pass and he could score. Our fill-in goalie stuffed his first breakaway, but not his second. He also whooped it up.

Maybe I can't understand being that much of an asshole because I've never been dominant in a sport like these guys were, but I want to believe I would not be such a tool. I'm also curious about what being their teammates is like. We have guys who are great skaters, but when they hit the offensive zone they look to pass because they understand what kind of league it is. These guys pretty much just passed to each other and would circle around in our zone multiple times until they were open enough to shoot, with the thought of their teammates secondary. They have another guy, #34, who is probably one of the better players in the league, but he's not a dillhole about it. Last season he and I had an epic (well, to me anyway) battle in front of our net as we kept trying to muscle one another out of position. It stayed clean, and after the game he came over me and praised me for a battle well-fought. That's a guy who understands playing against those who aren't at his skill level. The others, not so much.

Obviously I didn't have one of my better games, which is why I sound like an old man complaining that there aren't enough clams in my clam chowder and why are they so stingy with the damn oyster crackers! I'm trying to defend against a guy I can't catch up to, turn anywhere near as quickly as, and aren't allowed to hit. The results were predictable, as I was either a -3 or a -4. Some good passes, but mostly getting juked by jerks. I swear, if they were on our schedule again I'd bring up my nephew, who split his freshman year of high school between JV and varsity, and suit him up. At this point all I can do I shrug and look toward assembling a lineup (damn vacations!) to take on a beatable Hoboken squad next Thursday.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Moment's Over

(bonus points if you name the movie the title is from)

I guess the best cliche to haul out would be that hockey is a game of inches. It's not a box of chocolates, that's for sure. With about 10 minutes left and our plucky and courageous heroes down 4-2 to the reigning 8W champions Gary picked up a loose puck and headed up on a partial breakaway. The defenseman was on his left, so when Gary crossed the blue line he drew a little to his right, which got the goalie moving to cover the near post. Gary promptly rifled a rising wrist shot back across to the opposite side of the net, beating the goalie cleanly and ringing off the post with a loud and heartbreaking clang. A one goal deficit would have been nice and we carried the play against a tiring home team, but in the end the pucks either didn't bounce our way or were gobbled up by their goalie. And thus our winning streak came to an end at one.

They were the better team, but we weren't dominated. I have to give them credit for playing as a team - everyone took care of their assignments, and in was is odd for an 8W game there were maybe 4 breakaways total. Unfortunately they scored on two of them, including one where I made an ill-advised pinch. Their other goals included one off our defenseman's skate (let it go, Jeff) and one at the end of a way too long shift. Final was 5-2, and it wasn't like they got up 5-0 and then took it easy on us. While they didn't have any superstars, they also didn't have any bad skaters (such as your esteemed author). Still, we had our chances and it was a fun, clean game. Our sub goalie did a pretty good job, and in a 'what' note the first goal was scored by a player he coaches - she's very good and skates like she's turbocharged.

As for me, I had my usual game: some mistakes, some good plays, some pretty awkward moments. I continued my role as puck magnet, including one sequence where I blocked/was inadvertently in the way if four shots on the same shift. Jeff, Ken and I, the rookie defensemen, continue to try to push ourselves by not just freaking out and shooting the puck away as soon as we get near it. Of course that sometimes leads to me trying to stickhandle between two players (poor decision) or clear up the middle by lifting the puck (became a poor decision when the second guy plucked it out of the air with his stick like it was a beach ball instead of a puck), but there were also a few decent passes and puck lugging. I can;t be too upset with a -1 rating for the game, which leaves me at even for the season. Even more encouraging is the improvements I can see in my teammates - for instance, one of our forwards is finding his scoring touch and I think by season's end he's going to be deadly.

It's not entirely unreasonable to think that we could finish in the top half and make the playoffs. It's not a given, either. We'll have to earn it on the ice, inch by inch.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Sweet (and Unusual) Smell of Success

With just under two minutes left in last night's game, the unthinkable happened. The best skater on the other team, armed with steely-eyed determination, managed to circumvent our defense and poke home a rebound goal against us. From our bench rose a collective sigh, even as the foghorn blared (not a real foghorn - we had one of the scorekeepers who was Into It and cranked the horn for goals. He also played music between action. I fully admit to air-guitaring on my hockey stick to Bowling for Soup during a shift change). We had failed, utterly. Alas, our goalie Chaz would not be recording a shutout.

But we won the shit out of the game.

The first minute was misleading - they swarmed all over us and it looked like countless other games from seasons past. Except this time we bent but didn't break, and when they had stayed out too long on their shift one of our guys skated the length of the ice and juked their goalie out of her compression shorts. We tacked on two more before the end of the period and, aside from a few sloppy minutes in the second period, never looked back in a - dare I say? - easy 5 - 1 win.

Now, all the dominoes lined up for us on this one, to be sure. We were playing the new house team and for at least one of the guys it was his first game. We had a talented line-up out there and Chaz was absolutely on his game. And since we were playing with a comfortable lead, it allowed myself and my other two still-sorta-rookie defensemen to take a few more chances - to skate with the puck instead of firing it away immediately, to look for a better pass, to pinch on offense (note: this is not actual squeezing of flesh. Pinching means to attack the puck deeper in the zone than is normally recommended). We had the added bonus of two other good defensemen  out here with us: Ken W, who did a fantastic job coaching us during our practice and is as steady as a rock; and new teammate Lauren, who is such a fluid and graceful skater it's amazing to watch. And so we spent a game trying new things, laughing on the bench, and protecting a lead. Crazy, right?

I ended up +1 for the game with no goals against while I was on the ice, which makes me happy. I still made mistakes - late in the game I misjudged a guy's speed and he beat me around the outside for a bad-angle stuff attempt on Chaz the Brick Wall, and also I positioned myself nicely for a pass before whiffing and falling over at the same time. Also, I FORGOT TO BRING THE BEER. That right there is a hanging offense. But overall I was happy with how I played - at least until Chaz posts the video and I see myself doing my 'Statue on Ice' routine again.

Next week we get the team that won Spring session a couple of weeks ago. They're older, smart, and play well together. Still, right now I can look at the standings and see us on top, with something other than a zero int he win column. People, we went 0-17 as the house team and 0-10 on the inaugural Scurvy Dogs season. That's 0-27. 0-27, and yet every week i can't wait to get to the rink and play. What am I going to be like with a winning record?