Saturday, January 17, 2004
Self-indulgent blog entry on my hockey season. Of interest only to hockey fans, and only a very small subset of those.
I don’t usually post reports of individual hockey games, but this morning’s was actually narratable. My B-league team, the Capitals, faced off against the Wolves, a team we’ve beaten all four times we’ve played them this year, outscoring them by a total of 28-6. But in the pregame warmup I noticed that they’d added a new player, a relatively young fellow who appeared to be a strong skater with a quick shot. I suggested to my teammates that we keep an eye on him-- with my advancing age, I’m getting better as a scout and as a commentator as I gradually lose a step or two or three to the under-30 crowd, and sure enough, I was right. I scored on a breakaway on my first shift, but the Wolves’ new guy tied it up ten minutes later. We went up 2-1, and New Guy tied it with about 25 minutes left (we play 60 minutes running time). Then with 4 minutes to go, New Guy picked up a loose puck in mid ice, behind our left defenseman, who’d unwisely pinched in the Wolves’ zone (so much for heeding my pregame advice), came in alone, and scored: he now had a hat trick, and it looked like he would beat us singlehandedly. So our bench decided to go to its One Goal Down strategy-- putting out a forward line consisting of me, Craig Polen, and Keith Varney, the three leading scorers on the team. And with two minutes left, Craig shot a long clearing pass out of our zone, from beneath the faceoff dot, off the far boards toward a streaking Varney, who corralled the puck at the red line, came in alone, and beat the Wolves’ goaltender to the near side-- clanking a wrist shot off the post. Just like that, we were at 3-3. Our line stayed on the ice, and with 30 seconds to play and the puck deep in our zone, I came across the middle and called for our defenseman to hit me with a breakout pass. He shot it my way, but maybe two or three feet behind me, and I thought, well, that’s that-- there goes our chance at mounting a last-second offensive rush. But just for the hell of it, I reached all the way back and tipped the pass forward, just barely getting my stick on the puck . . . and weirdly, that proved enough to put the puck out of reach of the Wolves’ last defenseman at center ice, whereupon Craig Polen swooped in, picked up the loose puck, bore down on the Wolves’ goaltender, deked him to the left, and slid the puck under him on the backhand. With seventeen seconds to go.
Well, that was fun, and uncharacteristically dramatic too. And the moral, for all you kids out there, is get your stick on the puck even when you don’t think you have a play. Redirect passes. Create open ice. Get a lucky assist on a last-minute winning goal. You never know.
The season so far: the Capitals are 15-6-1. I’ve played 16 of those games and now have 33 goals and 15 assists for 48 points; Polen leads the team with 27-23-50. By contrast, on my A team, the Centre County Misfits, I’m having a really terrible year: after decent seasons of 22 and 29 goals, I now have exactly 5 in 14 games. It hasn’t helped that in October I suffered a groin injury so severe that I couldn’t even put weight on my right leg for a while, and missed five weeks of A-level play (and three weeks of B), but still, the dropoff from last year’s numbers is pretty obvious to everyone on the team. Sigh. Hoping for better things the rest of the way.