July 29, 2015
Midsummer scrimmage to warm up season
The summer heat has settled in.
But road hockey season isn't far off.
The annual Midsummer scrimmage will be held Wednesday, Aug. 19, 7 p.m. at the hockey courts.
The casual game is a chance for the roadsters to test their off-season fitness, reacquaint themselves with their equipment and assess lineup gaps for the coming season.
The game lasts until the goalies can no longer see the ball. Afterwards the roadsters can convene at a local pub to compare bruises.
April 26, 2015
Stanley Stick champions hang on not to lose
Doo and his mates barely had the energy to pop the champagne bottle when they won the Stanley Stick on Sunday. Or rather, didn't lose it.
The champions were forced to a decisive mini-game by their persistent opponents who refused to give in even as they lost their starting goalie, Joker, and then one of their key offensive battlers, Nouvelle Guy. With a patchwork lineup that included a hobbled Yak in street clothes planted in the offensive zone, and Radar reprising his goaltending heroics from the opener, the underdogs overcame a 15-12 deficit at the last break to force the extra game with a 20-18 win.
But that effort took a toll.
Looking to exploit Radar's inexperience and the odd-man rushes they enjoyed because of Yak's inability to run on his wounded knee, the champions buzzed to a quick 5-0 advantage.
But the underdogs weren't about to give up easily, as they replied with three quick goals of their own to close within two and cause more than a few anxious glowers from the other side of the court.
"I think we let up and we were angry with ourselves," said Doo. "But we really wanted it. We had that killer instinct."
Indeed, they went on to outscore their overmatched and exhausted opponents 5-1 to claim the Stanley Stick trophy. But after more than four hours of play, they were barely able to hoist it.
"We had to grind today," said Doo. "We didn't want to lose it."
Although they almost did.
Joker returned from his mysterious absence to strap on the pads for the underdogs, but the rust of his three-week layoff quickly became apparent as three of the first four shots he faced squibbed past him in most unlikely ways, soft shots between his pads, lobs to the far corners.
The veteran netminder fought to regain his composure and slowly his team was able to fight its way back into the game. They tied it at 12 before giving up three straight, and Joker said he had to leave for another commitment. The comeback train seemed ready to come off the rails once and for all.
Their chances to force a mini-game took another hit when Nouvelle Guy also had to depart early, leaving the underdogs to look to Yak, who'd dropped by to watch, to pick up a stick and try to keep his side in the game.
He did that and more.
Planted permanently in the offensive zone, he was able to take advantage of the opposition's tiring legs to take stretch passes hard to the net, or protect the ball until his teammates were able to join him.
"We put together a game plan that was opportunistic," said Colonel. "We gave up some chances in the hope of springing a guy up the court, and it worked."
Meanwhile, Radar was standing on his head in a defensive capacity. Or rather sucking up every shot into his chest protector, frustrating opposition snipers and boosting his mates' confidence.
"He just gobbled up the ball and slowed down the play for us," said Lak Attack. "That allowed us to structure our game a little bit."
The underdogs fought back to take their first lead, 18-17, then scored two unanswered goals after their opponents had tied it up again at 18.
"It's amazing what can happen when a team starts to believe in each other," said Colonel.
But the miracle ultimately fell short.
Doo and Bam Bam wrested control early in the mini-game, peppering shots at Radar, hoping to create rebounds or find corners.
"We had that killer instinct," said Doo.
The underdogs' comeback stalled at 5-3. They were spent.
"When you put a lot into the end of a game like that, you can carry some of it over, but you're also tired," said Colonel.
"We kept grinding," said Lak Attack. "We knew we were in tough for the mini. It's just too hard to sustain when you're short a guy."
Doo's 10 goals in the first game and another six in the mini earned him the Conn Stick Award as the series MVP.
The roadsters were all so exhausted at the end of the Sunday's marathon finale, which lasted more than four hours, they didn't have the energy to go for their traditional season-ending gathering at a local pub. Look for an announcement here for just such a gathering in the near future.
April 19, 2015
Depleted rosters take toll in Stick opener
Untimely injuries and poorly timed travel put the roadsters in a precarious predicament on Sunday.
Even as the spotlight shone brightly on the opening of the climactic Stanley Stick championship series, it was a dark day for road hockey.
Barely enough players filled out the lineups for both sides, staggering players, leaving them gasping for air. It was clear from the opening face off, the team best able to manage its energy would prevail. In the end it was the young speedsters Doo and Bam Bam, anchored by the wily veteran Living Legend who hung on for a 20-15 victory.
The fleet-footed youngsters took the game to their opponents right from the get-go, jumping aggressively into the offensive zone to create scoring opportunities. Six times in a row they converted, half of them by the Living Legend.
"We played well as a team right from the start," said Doo. "When you have that chemistry that can really give you the advantage in a three-on-three game."
"It didn't start the way we wanted," said Lak Attack, who was the goalie victimized by those six straight goals.
A subsequent change of netminders changed the timbre of the game.
Radar, making only his third start since being called up, declared the pace was just too intense and volunteered to take over in net.
But he wasn't just taking shelter between the pipes. He owned his new role, making a number of key saves as his team broke through on the scoreboard. In fact, they outscored the game's winners 15-14 the rest of the marathon three-hour game.
"It changed the tempo of the game," said Lak Attack of the roster shakeup. "Once we changed the goalie we were persistent and we were able to make it a game."
More than once they were able to shake the confidence of the leaders, shatter their poise and create mistakes.
"When they got their legs we had to weather a storm or two," said Doo. "There were a lot of garbage goals but I don't think we lost our heads."
Twice the underdogs were able to creep to within four goals. But they couldn't break through.
Still, the signs are there for a strong effort in next week's finale.
"We have lots of hope," said Lak Attack.
The leaders will have to be at the top of their game to sweep, said Doo.
"We know we have to put our noses to the grindstone right from the beginning," he said. "Hopefully our chemistry will carry over."
Joker was AWOL once again, and Eight Ball was a surprise scratch. Their absence was compounded by injuries to Yak, who aggravated a tender knee during last Sunday's regular season finale, and Bing, who sported a brace all week to nurse a jammed wrist.
The depleted lineups exacted a toll on the usual frenetic pace and tripwire intensity of the championship.
"It's totally different," said Colonel of the lack of spares to spell off tired players. "We depend on each other to play, so it really does affect the play."
"There's lots of odd-man rushes," said Lak Attack.
"it would have been better to have more guys," said Doo. "But both teams brought the Stick intensity."
Players on the injured list for Sunday's opener will be eligible for the finale, with a placement card pull to disperse them if necessary.
April 12, 2015
Goalie worries cloud rainy regular season finale
On the eve of the Stanley Stick, Joker has gone missing.
And that's causing all the roadsters to hold their sticks a little tighter.
None more so than Lak Attack, who was an unexpected starter between the pipes in Sunday's regular season finale after Eight Ball also scratched.
The versatile veteran was so caught off guard, a slow start put his team down by three goals early. But the superior speed and feisty forechecking of Bam Bam and Scooby sparked a third period comeback that culminated in a 13-12 win in sudden death.
After the backstop bonanza that allowed the league to weather the season-long injury woes of Chico with goalies to spare, Joker's unexplained disappearance caught everyone off guard.
In fact, the sophomore shotstopper seems to have gone off the grid. He hasn't commented on stories nor replied to text messages enquiring about his game status.
"It's a concern," said Yak, who used Sunday's finale to test the readiness of his injured knee for the Stanley Stick finale that begins next week. He hadn't played since suffering a slight dislocation of the joint.
"You have to prepare for the worst," said Lak Attack. "It will be a challenge and it will impact the game. I won't have a chance to fine tune what I need."
The worst reared it's ugly head early in Sunday's game, as the stalwart backup fought to shake the rust off his leg pads. His teammates also struggled as their speed advantage was neutralized by variable weather conditions that slicked the court with rain, then hail, then rain again.
That gave Colonel and Yak license to unleash cannon shots from the point as Bing and the Unnamed Rookie mixed it up in the crease.
"It was pretty slippery," said Yak. "The last thing you want is a loose jockstrap, and when that's bugging you you really have to take it easy."
But as Lak Attack settled into his newfound role, his team responded with confidence and more assured footing. Scooby, Bam Bam and Living Legend passed the evil orange plastic ball with aplomb while Nouvelle Guy charged hard to the crease.
The Gallic go-getter was rewarded when his low shot from the point squeezed between Twizzler's legs to give his side their sudden death victory.
"We outplayed them through the game," said Lak Attack. "The guys kept going."
"They started executing and were able to score," said Yak.
Scooby's game was his last for about a year, as he heads to South America on an extended scouting trip.
Beckenbauer and Holt are also out of the country and will miss the Stanley Stick.
To be eligible for this year's championship series, roadsters must have played at least two regular season games. That means the roadster who has yet to be named can play. But Velma is out of luck after he made his only start of the season just last week.
April 05, 2015
Eight Ball snookers scorers
The long skipping point shot by the Colonel that just eluded Eight Ball's pad made the battling backstop a loser.
It also gave him the victory.
There was no rest for the substitute shotstopper Sunday as he did double duty in the absence of regular rearguards Twizzler and Joker.
But if Eight Ball's schizophrenic role in the half-court game wore him down, he wasn't showing any signs as time and again he came up with clutch saves en route to a marathon 10-8 victory. Er, loss.
"He started off sharp right from the get-go and he just sustained that throughout the whole game," said Lak Attack, who was frequently frustrated by Eight Ball's lightning glove and outstretched leg pad. "He saw pretty much everything."
"He played great for both sides," said Scooby.
Eight Ball's effort was especially remarkable as the constant assault of oncoming forwards from either team meant little opportunity to catch his breath, regroup, gather his faculties. And it had been almost three months since his last start between the pipes.
"Within a few minutes you get the sequence of your players," said Eight Ball of the challenge presented by keeping the teams straight when both are coming at you. "It doesn't take much for me to be prepared, the agility always seems to be there."
That agility served and frustrated players from both teams. But, in the end, it was persistence that won the day.
"If you're tenacious on the ball it's going to pay off for you," said Lak Attack.
But it wasn't his side that cashed in. After twice holding two-goal advantages, they fell behind for the first time at 8-7 before tying it. Then Scooby scored from the slot after being fed a seeing-eye pass from the side of the net by the Living Legend before Colonel ended the game with his long blast from the point.
"The game really dragged on and we had to grind it out," said Scooby. "I was wondering when the game might ever end."
roadhockey.net will be making an experimental step into livecasting segments of next week's regular season finale via the Periscope app on Twitter. If it proves manageable, further casts will be transmitted live from the Stanley Stick.
To view download the free Periscope app and follow @jaysuburb.
Sunday's game featured a guest appearance by veteran agitator Velma, who proved he hasn't lost a step while adding considerable facial hair.
March 22, 2015
Empty court stalls season's momentum
Stanley Stick fever seems to have turned into the flu.
With the start of the two-week championship finale exactly a month away, action on the road hockey courts should be at a frenzied pitch as goalies hone their game, snipers sharpen their aim and Colonel ramps up his intensity.
Instead the veteran instigator slumped in his truck, dejected that a lack of players had scuttled Sunday's game.
Sunday Morning Road Hockey seems to have hit an attendance crisis at a critical juncture of the season. Last week five roadsters were forced to play a modified half-court game by the lack of quorum.
It's a discouraging and disconcerting turn to a season that had been progressing so well.
The injection of enthusiastic newcomers like Eight Ball, as well as the continuing commitment from veterans, ensured substitute players crowding the sidelines for many of the early season games. Better yet, the return of of Twizzler swelled the goalie pool to four despite the injury to Chico that has kept him out of action since the pre-season.
But that momentum has faltered.
Instead of careening headlong towards the Stanley Stick, the league is lurching. Even the roguesters were able to get their crew together for a game, while the Sunday Morning court sat barren, joyless, eerily quiet.
And with three players - Beckenbauer, Holt and Scooby - already declaring their intention to miss the season's climactic showdown, the prospects for a rousing, intense finale are fading.
There's still time to right the listing ship.
Conditions should be ideal for the three games remaining in the regular season. Busy roadsters like Lak Attack and Doo should be finished their off-court commitments.
An all-hands show of force for at least two of those games will propel the roadsters into the championship season at the height of their game. And increase the likelihood of a series for the ages.
March 15, 2015
Adventure duo to be denied Stick
Beckenbauer will not defend his Conn Stick award as the Stanley Stick's most valuable player.
The crafty centreman and his frequent foe, Holt, played their last game of the season Sunday as they depart for an extended adventure to Nepal and the Himalayas. They won't return until after the season concludes with the two-game championship showdown at the end of April.
So it was with mixed emotions they faced off against each other in a half-court effort necessitated by meagre attendance. Holt, playing alongside energy forward Bam Bam, prevailed 7-4 over his traveling companion who was paired with the Living Legend.
After the game, Beckenbauer tried to put a positive spin on their truncated season. Rather than looking upon the long grind of the regular season as a wasted effort with no final result, he regarded the campaign as early preparation for next season.
"It's something you build up for the whole season," said Beckenbauer of the championship series. "As it turns out we'll just be training for next year."
In fact, the duo tried to schedule their travels to accommodate the full road hockey season. But when dozens of climbers perished last spring in the very same part of the world where they're headed, they decided on a more cautious itinerary when the weather is more predictable.
Unfortunately that window falls smack dab during the Stanley Stick.
Still, Holt expects their dedication to the regular season will serve them well at their destination.
"It's a huge motivator," said Holt. "If it wasn't for hockey, I'd just be a fat slob sitting around drinking beer."
Beckenbauer said he expects the lightning reflexes and hand-eye coordination that serve roadsters well in the hockey court will come in handy on a Nepalese piste.
March 09, 2015
Dates set for Stanley Stick
The Stanley Stick final series will be played April 19 and 26.
Let the griping and whinging begin.
While the advocates for a summer season will complain Sunday Morning Road Hockey's climactic finale is earlier than ever before, it actually coincides with the pattern that has been established over the past several seasons. That's made for some exciting games in almost ideal conditions, not too warm with a good chance for a dry court.
This year's early Easter weekend, when attendance is usually sparse, also means the roadsters will have one additional week to prepare for the championship showdown.
However some regular season stalwarts have already indicated they won't be available to play, no matter how the schedule is massaged. Both Holt and Beckenbauer will be out of the country as the regular season winds down, and Yak has been hobbled by a knee injury that could keep him out of action.
March 01, 2015
Doo wins Hanna Barbera duel
Living Legend scored seven times, including the game winner.
Too bad the latter was for the other team.
A wrap-around by Nouvelle Guy deflected off the ageless veteran's toe and past a stunned Lak Attack to give their opponents a 15-12 win.
The game almost ended before it had a chance to really get started when Colonel flailed his left arm to knock off his tormentor checking him closely in the offensive end. The defender, making his Sunday Morning debut, marched off the court after the unexpected violence. Even the Colonel's own goalie rebelled, threatening his departure because of the confrontation.
But apologies were offered all around and cooler heads prevailed.
After the Legend sparked his side to a quick 6-2 lead, five of the goals off his stick, the game became a spirited Hanna Barbera humdinger as time and again Scooby and Doo found themselves warring at close quarters for the advantage. More often than not, the slight speedster emerged with the evil orange plastic ball, and helped his side score seven of the next eight goals.
"That game was all about momentum," said Doo. "Once we were in it we didn't want to let it slip away."
But they almost did.
Up 12-9 and seemingly rolling to the win, Bam Bam got busy in the defensive zone, forcing turnovers that turned into three straight goals that tied the game.
But that effort pretty much emptied the team's tank, said Scooby.
"We definitely lost some steam in the second half of the game," he said. "We were pretty gassed at the end."
Doo scored two quick ones before Nouvelle Guy carried the ball from the corner to the back of the net then bounced the game winner off Legend's toe.
"You just have to step on the gas at the end," said Doo. "We managed to get a few bounces and that came from hard work."
Scooby could only rue would could have been.
"I thought we could have won it," said the lanky veteran. "We didn't quite have the touch and they finished their chances."
February 25, 2015
Chico's pain in the neck persists
An MRI on Chico was inconclusive, but the veteran goalie still can't offer a clearer picture of when he might return to action.
The stalwart shotstopper has missed most of the season with vertigo-like symptoms.
That's made for a frustrating year after Chico was shelled in last season's Stanley Stick finale. He also missed much of that regular season as he pursued educational opportunities.
In his absence the league recruited upstart netminders like Joker and Eight Ball, who've stepped into the crease admirably.
Chico admitted his injury woes have put his role as a starting goalie in jeopardy. In his only appearance this season, he played out.
"I've been reading about Eight Ball's emergence," said Chico.
While the clean bill from the MRI exam hasn't brought him or his medical team any closer to resolving his symptoms, Chico said it has eliminated "the really bad things."
Doctors will now work to determine if his dizzy spells and nausea may be related to an issue with his neck muscles.
At the peak of his playing career Chico proved remarkably durable as time and again he scraped himself off the concrete to endure another barrage of shots through sometimes porous defenders.
Chico's relative inaction over the better part of two seasons have left his conditioning wanting.
In fact, he said it's "at an all-time low. I'm hoping to get in the gym starting in a week."
While Chico's extended absence may have proved a fatal blow to the league two seasons ago. the development of Joker and Eight Ball as reliable rearguards, and the retrenchment of Twizzler as a frontline starter has, for the most part, mitigated any lingering goalie crisis.
Before the newcomers came along the roadsters were forced to develop a modified set of rules for a half-court game to keep the league going with only one consistent keeper. Since Joker and Eight Ball became established there have been only a handful of such games.
February 08, 2015
Odd men out
The Living Legend and Scooby each scored six times and the Colonel added another three to lead their side to a 15-13 win in Sunday's game. But their offensive bonanza wouldn't have been possible without Eight Ball's yeoman effort in net.
The rookie rearguard with the unorthodox style that defies description and basic physics made some key acrobatic saves to bail his side from their defensive lapses. And give them the assurance they needed to spark their transition game and press deep into the offensive zone.
"He made some saves when we needed them," said Scooby of his team's stalwart shotstopper.
"Eight Ball bailed them out on a lot of big opportunities," said Holt.
Though the winners never trailed, age and fatigue caught up with them late in the game as they allowed their feisty opponents to crawl back within a goal after trailing by as many as five earlier.
"We had two good periods that we won," said Holt. "We didn't give up."
Instead they tightened their defensive effort by keeping Joker back and pressuring the Colonel every time he wound up for a big shot from the point.
"He's got a shot from anywhere on the court," said Holt of the veteran's seeing eye slapshots. "If you're not working in that space between him and the net, it's always a danger."
Still, Colonel's frustration created opportunities for his mates, as time and again Scooby and the Living Legend were able to create odd-man rushes from turnovers.
The onslaught wore down Twizzler, who returned to the net after missing the last two weeks.
"We were winning some of those battles that gave us those breaks," said Scooby. "We were aggressive on the forecheck."
Playing with the lead all game gave the winners a mental edge that paid off as players fatigued.
"It helps having the lead," said Scooby. "When you're up, you don't grab your stick as tightly."
"They played hard the whole game," said Holt. "They deserved the win."
January 27, 2015
Half-court game a full-on challenge
A goalie shortage for the second time in the past three weeks left the roadsters gasping for breath Sunday.
And recalculating their formulas for victory.
Managing the modified half-court game successfully is all about controlling the court, said Holt. That means using the corners to lure defenders out of position and create open lanes to the net.
Defensively the emphasis needs to be on clogging the centre of the court to ensure those lanes stay blocked.
But most importantly, said the sharp shooting centreman, it's about stamina.
"You've got to make sure you're not chasing guys into the corners," said Holt. "You can't get tired, you can't get pissed off and fall for their traps."
That takes discipline, said Yak.
"It's good positioning and knowing when to run and when not to run," said the veteran speedster.
The team that best controls the ball on the transition plays will find success, said Yak.
"You have to put a forecheck on the backboards."
For the goalie in the half-court game, the pressure is relentless.
"You've got to amp up your energy," said Joker. "When you're the goalie you're going to be way more busy than you normally are."
That can take a toll mentally, as a defensive ally one moment is an oncoming sniper the next.
"It's so back and forth," said Joker. "Shots are coming at you from every angle. Everybody has got to do their part."
January 18, 2015
Drought-busting goal sparks win
An extended goal drought took its toll on both sides in Sunday's game. But it was Lak Attack and his mates who broke through to romp to a 15-9 win.
As both teams struggled to put the evil orange plastic ball past Twizzler and Joker, it quickly became apparent the side best able to weather the dry spell would seize the game's momentum.
"We just continued to be more persistent around the net," said Lak Attack. "It paid off for us."
And while Scooby and his mates quickly answered, their legs and fortitude had abandoned them.
"When you feel you're outworking the other team, that's tough mentally," said the veteran speedster. "It gets to you."
A 4-1 run down the stretch sealed their fate, said Scooby. "We had a lot of chances, but we just couldn't put them in the net."
That's because Twizzler played one of his strongest games, controlling rebounds, smothering loose balls at every opportunity.
"He let us stay patient and we knew we'd get some goals," said Lak Attack.
The frustration amongst opposing shooters was palpable.
"It's hard to come back when they're three away and we're down by four," said Scooby."
Still, Lak Attack and his mates weren't going to take anything for granted.
"I thought we kept control of the pace," said the seasoned veteran. "We just stayed patient and we knew eventually we'd get the goals. It was just a matter of time."
January 11, 2015
Mirror goals seal OT win
Colonel and Lak Attack scored in overtime on mirror images of the same play to give their side the two goal advantage they needed to win Sunday's game, 17-15.
The wily veterans shielded the evil orange plastic ball with their backs to the net, then whirled and blasted their shots past a surprised Eight Ball, Colonel on a backhand, Lak Attack from his forehand.
The goals were the coup de grace of a three-goal run from the brink of defeat after Yak scored on a controversial penalty shot on Twizzler to give his side the advantage.
The seesaw overtime was really a truncated version of the entire game as both teams squandered then rebuilt leads numerous times.
"Both teams were in it," said Yak. "Both teams worked really hard but you know it's going to one way or the other."
And for a moment it seemed like the game would go in favour of his side. After Colonel threw his stick in a desperate attempt to break up an odd man rush by Nouvelle Guy and Living Legend, Yak was selected to take the penalty shot over the objections from the play's perpetrator.
The diminutive veteran with the knack for executing spinnerama plays kept it simple and straightforward, rifling a shot past the outstretched pad of Twizzler.
"Twizzler usually stonewalls people on those," said Colonel. "Yak made a great shot."
The goal put Yak's side another marker from victory.
But it never came, as the game's length and tempo tinally wore defenders down, mentally and physically.
"It takes the edge off when you're only one away from winning," said Yak. "You're in the lead and you don't feel you're in danger."
But, said Colonel, his side wasn't about to give up.
"It's a game of mental fortitude more than anything," said the senior centreman.
Beckenbauer said his side just ran out of gas.
"I think the wheels fell off," said Beckenbauer. "They just kept pounding away and we didn't have enough gas in the tank."
January 04, 2015
Intrepid seven play on
The shrimp ring may have cowered in the refrigerator, afraid to confront the hellacious rain and sleet storm lashing the road hockey courts Sunday, but that didn't stop seven robust roadsters from welcoming the new year.
With three players, Yak, Lak Attack and Eight Ball, designated as rotating rovers, switching sides after each scoring play, the team anchored by Joker from his goal crease prevailed in the downpour, 15-13.
But they almost let the win slip down the drain.
Lak Attack and Beckenbauer scored early and often to lead their side to a quick 10-5 lead. But then Eight Ball switched sides and got hot. Time and again he found the top corner beyond Joker's reach.
Curiously, when he was switched back to his original team, he suddenly proved defensively inept.
The Jekyll and Hyde act allowed his part-time mates Holt and Yak to get back into the game. A deflection by the latter off a slap pass by the former tied the score at 11.
But the superior fitness of Lak Attack and Beckenbauer proved too much to overcome. Ironically, it was a mid-air chop by newly-reacquired floater Eight Ball that sealed their victory.
Shrimp Ring Bowl on ice
The Shrimp Ring Bowl is being put on ice for this week.
Sunday Morning Road Hockey founding father Living Legend said in a prepared statement that the poor weather as well as previously-announced scratches meant the crustacean celebration would be more like a trial of survival.
"There's no doubt this rain/snow/sleet would severely water down the cocktail sauce," said the veteran journeyman.
And while the shrimp ring has been put back into the refrigerator, Sunday's game has not been officially called off, said the Legend. But he's unlikely to be there as he tries to beat a cold that has dogged him all year.
"For those hardy players who still want a work out, and don't mind getting their feet soaked, the courts are open," said the Legend. "But it sure doesn't look like it would be a lot of fun playing in this slop."
The Shrimp Ring celebration of the new year will officially be played next week.
December 21, 2014
Gapping the generations
Sunday Morning's generation battle is getting a little old. Which suits the game's young speedsters just fine.
For the second consecutive week the stick pull pitted a team of junior players against a side comprised of grizzled veterans.
Again, speed and stamina won out, 15-8. Despite a sizeable territorial advantage by the veterans.
While the senior squad enjoyed a territorial advantage, they didn't have the legs to keep pace with the speedsters' counter attack and quick transition from defence to offence. More often than not, the veterans got left behind on odd-man rushes that resulted in scoring chances.
"They had the speed, so they can transition quick," said Lak Attack. "At times we may have tried to get too cute with an extra pass."
And when that pass was intercepted by a fleet-footed defender, the resulting two-on-one and three-on-one breakaways proved too much for Joker and his wheezing defensive corps.
"Joker was so good on the direct shots, you really had to be patient to wait for the late man coming in," said Doo.
An injury scare midway through the game seemed to motivate the oldsters. Both Yak and Lak went to the sidelines after they tumbled to the concrete. After gathering their faculties they both returned for their next shift.
But not until Doo was traded and quickly scored a goal for his new mates.
And while the young speedster was sent back to his kin with the return of the fallen veterans, the oldsters began to play with a spark of intensity that brought them to within three goals.
"We were playing better," said Lak. "We changed our game in the second half, we gave up fewer opportunities on the odd-man rushes."
But that was as close as they'd get, as Twizzler shut down every scoring opportunity that came his way.
"Twizzler had to play better than he should have," said Doo. "(He) had to come up with some big saves."
December 14, 2014
Speedy youngster make short work out of vets
Fleet-footed youngsters made quick work of their aging opponents.
Bam Bam, Scooby and Doo used their speed and limitless stamina while big Bing crashed the crease to handily win Sunday's time-shortened game 10-5.
Despite spotting the veterans an early 2-1 lead, the fresh-faced youngsters maintained their composure and their game plan. That consisted of headmanning the ball at every opportunity. The resulting odd-man rushes quickly took their toll.
"They did a good job getting the transition going," said Yak, who seemed a step behind most of the game, yet was likely his side's swiftest forward.
It was a strategy that played to the young stars' strength.
"I think we had a couple of guys who had speed out on the wing, and then the other two guys could go to the net and battle for the ball," said Bam Bam.
Having to chase down those speedy wingers wore down the doddering defenders.
"I think if you weighed us all, we've got an extra 150 pounds," said Yak. "After a while it takes a lot out of you."
While Eight Ball reprised some of the spectacular saves he made in his victorious debut last week, even his acrobatics weren't enough to stanch the offensive tide drowning his side.
"You've just got to test him out, take a lot of shots from odd angles and go for the rebounds," said Bam Bam. "We got a few dirty ones by him."
December 07, 2014
Eight Ball racks up first win
Eight Ball started Sunday's game behind his namesake
By the end, he'd racked up a 15-8 win for his team.
The rookie rearguard stumbled out of the gate of his first start of the season, spotting his opponents a 5-3 advantage at the end of the first period.
He got the tap on the leg pads when Lak Attack was a late scratch and Twizzler missed his second consecutive start. The unexpected call posed a challenge.
"The first period was a little hard," said Eight Ball. "I had to see certain players tendencies, what they did with the ball."
But his teammates saw enough to stir their confidence coming out of the break.
"We were down, but we were down as a result of our own mistakes," said Yak. "I think it was pretty clear he's a solid goalie. We knew we had everything it would take to come back."
Assured that Eight Ball could take care of himself, Yak and his mates pressed heavily on the forecheck that created scoring chances.
"The forecheck from those guys was really good," said Doo. "The effort was there, but we got frustrated."
Rattled and reeling they gave up eight of the next nine goals. As their lead devolved into an insurmountable deficit, the frustration of Doo's mates boiled over. Colonel called out Joker for a poor effort on some shots. Joker snapped a shot about weak defensive support.
Eight Ball knew the game was his for the taking.
"The more you shut it down, the more they try to shoot from everywhere," said Eight Ball. "That kinda starts to play to your advantage as a goalie."
One that proved just the edged his side needed to win the game going away.
"You have to put your trust in your goalie," said Yak. "You know he's solid back there and you just go hard to the net and try your best to put shots on the net and be gritty."
November 30, 2014
Fearless roadsters frozen out
Sometimes it's just too cold. Even for the roadsters.
Confronted with the prospect of slapping around a frozen evil orange plastic ball on concrete that had been chilled and slicked to tundra by a nasty northern wind, many of the game's heartiest players decided early, and frequently, to stay inside. Where it's warm.
A Friday night rainstorm was followed by a cold snap that froze the moisture on the concrete into jagged crags of ice and snow.
Colonel was the first to beg off, followed by founding father Living Legend.
When those seasoned veterans decide it's too cold and too slippery, it's serious business. Both players have weathered some of the fiercest weather over the years, including blizzards and monsoons, to ensure the game goes on.
Others quickly saw the folly of playing in the frigid conditions.Yak, Scooby, Lak Attack and Joker joined the ranks huddled for warmth in their homes.
Somewhere in Hawaii, Beckenbauer is smiling.
November 23, 2014
Doo gets it done
Doo didn't give up on the ball.
His team didn't give up on Sunday's game.
The diminutive speedster corralled the evil orange plastic ball at the edge of the crease to Joker's stick side and squibbed a backhand between the keeper's pad and goalpost for a sudden death 15-14 win.
It seemed an unlikely result for a side that had trailed by as many as seven goals.
But Doo and his mates kept working, creating the breaks that started to pay off on the scoreboard.
"We stuck with it," said Doo. "We turned it into a playoff game. We grinded it out. We were hungry."
No one was more famished than the speedy centreman who's played a key role in previous monster comebacks. A spectacular goal Doo scored characterized his determination to steal the win. Swooping down the left side of the court he cradled a pinpoint saucer pass from the Living Legend and somehow managed to go forehand to backhand as he crashed over a sprawling Joker and tuck it into the corner of the net.
The jaw-dropping goal filled Doo's mates with confidence and belief in themselves.
"I knew we had it in us to come back," said Doo.
"They battled hard," said Colonel of his side's fearsome foes. "They battled to the end and everybody chipped in."
Especially Lak Attack, who strapped on the goalie pads when Twizzler was an unexpected scratch.
The versatile veteran had a shaky start but became impenetrable as his teammates started finding success at the opposite end of the court.
"When Lak started making the saves he did, we really felt the belief we could do it," said Doo.
Lak's smothering saves frustrated his opponents.
"It was like we hit him every time," said Colonel. "That means he was making great moves, making great saves."
November 16, 2014
Joker gets the last laugh
Joker got the last laugh.
The sophomore shotstopper bounced back from a lacklustre effort last week to backstop his team to a 15-9 win in Sunday's game.
Time and again Joker came up big when his team needed him to, repelling odd man rushes and smothering the ball at every opportunity.
With supreme confidence in their back end, Joker's teammates were able to exert a strong forechecking game that created scoring opportunities aplenty. With defenders jumping up into the offensive zone with impunity, Twizzler was defenceless.
"They put a lot of good forechecking pressure on us," said Yak, as his team found themselves at a 5-1 disadvantage at the game's first break. "We coughed the ball up and that made our passes weaker. They took advantage of it."
"You get offensive chances when your goalie makes a really big save," said Doo.
Snipers like Doo, Holt and Lak Attack were quick to make their opponents pay for their mistakes.
"You just have to capitalize on your chances," said Doo.
The relentless counterattack wore down Beckenbauer and beleaguered mates.
"It was just a mental game to try to get it under control," he said.
And whenever they did show signs of wresting momentum, Joker came up with a big save to snuff it out.
"I thought we had some good pressure, but he was always there to stop us," said Beckenbauer.
"If he hadn't been making some showstopper saves, it would have been a different game," said Yak.
"He was motivated, and I think he delivered," said Doo.
November 09, 2014
Veterans spark underdogs' win
The wily old guys came to play Sunday.
Living Legend scored five times and Lak Attack played an excellent two-way game to lead their undermanned squad to a dominating 15-7 win.
With two ageing veterans in their lineup and one less spare player to spell off tired teammates. the underdogs knew they'd have to strike quick to gain the advantage.
But once ahead, they never relented.
"I think we had a bit of chemistry," said Eight Ball.
Taking the early lead also boosted their confidence, said Beckenbauer.
"Getting out in front was a huge advantage for us psychologically and physically," said the Teutonic centreman. "It gives you a lot of confidence and you're not chasing the game so much."
They also managed their shifts wisely, changing on the fly and ensuring a tired player didn't stay on long enough to get caught up court.
"We were rotating pretty fast," said Eight Ball.
"They just kept rolling," said Bam Bam.
Those fresh legs allowed the underdogs to spread their scoring. Every player scored multiple times.
"It was a good team effort," said Eight Ball.
And when the play headed the opposite way, everyone showed a strong commitment to hustling back to defend.
"We had pretty good defensive awareness," said Beckenbauer.
That frustrated their opponents.
Late in the game, as their deficit grew, Bam Bam and his mates left a player parked deep behind their opponent's defenders hoping to convert quick transitions to comeback goals. It didn't work. Instead the underdogs sprung a series of odd-man rushes that sealed their victory.
"We got to a point where we just wanted to shake it up a bit," said Bam Bam.
"We just settled down and stuck to our gameplan," said Eight Ball.
November 02, 2014
Slippery court saps confidence
A slippery court and lack of team speed proved too much for Holt and his mates to overcome, as they dropped a 15-8 loss in Sunday's game.
In fact, the score would have been a lot worse were it not for the goaltending heroics of Twizzler, who, time and again was called upon to make multiple saves in quick succession as his defenders struggled to find purchase on the rain-slicked court.
Holt and the normally agile Yak both went down hard. The latter even cut his elbow on one of his tumbles.
That seemed to hurt their confidence at both ends of the court, said Holt.
"You second guess yourself," said the sneaky sniper. "If you're scared, you just have no advantage."
Especially when your opponents are led by the fleet feet of Lak Attack and Beckenbauer, two of the most tireless players in the league.
"They're fast," said Holt. "They're just great athletes."
That team speed allowed the up-tempo teammates to command the middle of the court.
"You don't want to be running around too much," said Lak Attack. "You want to play very positional, make good outlet passes and be in the open for the other guys."
More often than not, those outlet passes generated odd-man rushes in the offensive zone. Enough of those, and the result is inevitable, said Lak Attack.
"You wait for your chances, but you've also got to create opportunities," said the veteran speedster. "When you can pressure them and take the ball away, you turn it into an odd-man rush."
The tsunami of scoring chances mounted as the defenders tired in the first game of these season with no substitute players to spell tired legs.
"They always seemed to have one more guy in the offensive and defensive zones," said Holt. "We just got tired."
October 26, 2014
Bam Bam's early exit deflates mates
Bam Bam is a battler.
But when a deflection of the evil orange plastic ball into his eye forced his early departure from Sunday's game, the fighting spirit also seemed to leave his team en route to a 15-12 defeat.
Playing from behind from the game's earliest moments, Bam Bam and his mates struggled to find their chemistry. And when passing plays did click, shots were rebuffed by Joker who was at the top of his game between the pipes.
Still, Bam Bam's plucky defence and commitment to go into battle along the boards kept his side within a lucky break or two of swinging the game their way.
Until one of those board battles deep in his team's own zone sent the ball up into Bam Bam's face and the feisty forward dropped to the concrete holding his hands up to his left eye.
While there was no damage immediately apparent, Bam Bam left the game.
HIs side's opportunistic opponents seized their advantage.
"It was definitely an opportunity for us to capitalize," said Beckenbauer. "When they're down a man it gives you a chance to run them down into the ground."
It wasn't quite that easy, said Yak. But his side did start breaking down defensively more often without their teammate's back end leadership.
"We started to get a little loose on defence that they really capitalized on it," said Yak. "I think we lost our mental toughness."
Only Twizzler's goaltending heroics kept the score within reach.
And when opportunities finally did start coming their way, their opponents were forced to play with more urgency.
"I don't know if it was nerves or just grim determination to make sure we ended it," said Beckenbauer.
Yak said the final score was an accurate reflection of the game's ebbs and flows. His side just hadn't done enough to wrest victory.
"They worked a little harder," he said. "They kept on the ball a little harder, and they jumped on their checks a little faster."
October 19, 2014
Goalie change sparks comeback
It may not have been the turning point that changed the outcome of Sunday's game.
But the swap of goalies to replace starter Lak Attack with Joker certainly veered the game to a close, competitive battle that came just a little short with a 15-11 loss.
Prior to the change, Sunday's game had been anything but close.
As Holt and Beckenbauer preened for the TV camera on the sideline, their side couldn't get any traction on the court. They fell behind 6-1 and seemed destined for a rout.
They couldn't run. They couldn't score. They were feeble on defence.
Then Joker hurt his hand and sought refuge between the pipes. He switched sides and put on the pads for his new mates, ousting the veteran backup Lak Attack from the crease.
The move paid off instantly.
"Whenever you swap goalies it feels like a new game," said Yak. "I think we were already mentally beaten at that point."
Joker made some big saves. Lak Attack brought new life to the legs of his teammates.
"Lak is an excellent player out, so any team that has him on their side is going to benefit from that," said Colonel.
"He's definitely a very efficient and skilled player when he's out," said Bam Bam of Lak's attack. "You add a guy like that to the mix and you're going to change the dynamic."
"More than anything, Lak brings hope," said Yak.
Lak's example seemed to spark Holt the most.
Freed from his TV obligations, the gifted goal scorer found his touch. He scored four of his side's next six goals. The comeback was on.
"You try hard and you start to build momentum," said Yak.
That momentum pushed their opponents back on their heels.
"Once we got the big lead, maybe we got a bit complacent," said Bam Bam.
"When you're up by a lot and a team starts to chip away, you start to feel their momentum and enthusiasm growing," said Colonel. "They start to believe in themselves."
So much so, they were able to take their first lead, 11-10, early in the third period.
But it turned out to be their only lead.
A couple of seeing-eye shots by young sniper Doo deflated the comeback. They also restored the faith of his teammates.
"It takes a great deal of mental fortitude to focus, reestablish yourself and come back," said Colonel. "We got the bounces and we were able to take over."
"When a guy has a hot stick like that, you just let him do his thing," said Bam Bam.
October 13, 2014
Compressed training camp shows speed, competitiveness
It usually takes the roadsters a game or two to run out the off-season kinks.
Sunday, they did it in one morning.
After a lacklustre, dispiriting training camp opener the teams regrouped to put on a run-and-gun show of precise passing, fancy footwork, rapier goals and solid goaltending that would have pride of place late in the schedule.
When the concrete dust settled, Lak Attack and his mates hung on for a 10-8 nailbiter.
"The second game was a really good pace," said the versatile veteran who was solid in his first goaltending start. "You saw a lot of nice plays. There's a lot more parity."
Doo said more players are taking off-season conditioning seriously, ensuring they're able to hit the court running come training camp.
"If you stayed in shape over the summer, then you're pretty good," said the young sniper. "I thought everybody's legs were going really well."
That bodes well for the coming season, which officially opens next week.
"You can see what to expect," said Lak Attack. "The guys are in shape. You've got speed, a lot of skill."
"The skill level is high out there," said Doo. "I think everybody got adjusted really quickly."
"A lot of guys are ready to play," said Yak.
Lot begin the operative word.
Sunday's pre-season game was one of the best attended in years. Motivation was high.
More importantly, the league's annual struggle to find committed, consistent goaltending seems to have eased.
Joker's back and ready to fight off any signs of a sophomore jinx while defending the Stanley Stick championship he won in his rookie season.
Lak Attack is ready to step in when needed.
And a new recruit, Eight Ball, showed up with leg pads, body armour and a positive attitude about playing net.
Add them to veteran stalwarts Twizzler and Chico, both of whom missed training camp but indicated they'll be ready to go for the regular season, and, for the first time there seems to be a wealth of riches between the pipes.
That's allowing the rest of the players the rare luxury to focus on their game, rather on whether there will actually be a game.
"You have to prepare yourself," said Lak Attack. "You're going to see a good pace through the season."
Which made a quick start in training camp that much more important.
"It's a good indication that there's not going to be a lot of time out there," said Yak.
"I think a lot of guys needed to measure themselves against the other guys," said Doo. "They needed to learn tendencies again. Those are the things you can't work on over the summer."
"You've got to be ready every second," said Lak Attack.