April 28, 2013
Stanley Stick a fight for survival
Colonel may have won the battle, but there was no doubt he had been in a war.
After romping to a 20-11 win in last week's soggy opener, the feisty veteran and his mates were confident heading into Sunday's second game. But after opening the scoring with three straight goals they were pushed to their physical and mental limit, taking more than three hours to grind out a 20-17 win.
When Weeble tipped home a seeing eye blast off the Colonel's stick, they barely had the energy to celebrate.
They didn't so much win the Stanley Stick as survive it.
"They just kept coming," said the Colonel, as he savoured his first title in five years. "We had a lot of confidence we were going to prevail, but they just didn't give up."
"They gave us everything we could handle," said Doo. "They gave us everything they had until the end."
A goal by the Living Legend, his first in the series, seemed to spark the underdogs' belief they were worthy competitors.
"That galvanized us to believe that this was the only chance we've got," said Yak of his team's doggedness. "We've got all the tools we needed, it was just a matter of effort."
But no amount of heart and determination could stanch the wheeling offensive power of Doo, who piloted the transition game, and Colonel, who scored 10 times for the second week in a row, while Lak Attack was a stalwart on defence. Time and again they reestablished their three-goal margin. Time and again the underdogs battled back to within one.
"We really wanted to open a big lead, but it just didn't happen," said Colonel. "Once you start to believe in yourselves, then anything can happen."
"We had to grind out every single goal," said Doo. "We had to work our asses off."
Which was a small consolation to the losers, as they watched the subdued celebration of the champions.
"It was really even and hard fought," said Yak. "It really boils down to executing right from the get-go, and we just took a little longer to get going."
"Nobody had anything left in the tank at the end of the game," said Doo. "The relief was huge."
Lak Attack was voted the winner of the Conn Stick award as the championship's most valuable player.
"He was able to keep the pace of the game in their favor," said Yak. "You know you're going to have to stay honest the whole time he's out there."
The veteran centerman was also recognized with his selfless contribution through the regular season when he strapped on the goalie pads week after week to ensure games could be played as regular starters Chico and Twizzler worked through injuries.
April 21, 2013
Weather twist fails to turn tide
Even an unexpected twist in the weather couldn't steer Colonel and his mates from taking the first game of the Stanley Stick championship with a decisive 20-11 win on Sunday.
While the dry cool conditions at the opening face-off allowed Colonel, Doo, Lak Attack and Bam Bam to use their skill and speed to build a big lead, a sudden cold deluge that even included a few snowflakes sparked their opponents to a goal burst that got them close. But not close enough.
"Our main objective was to get lots of shots and take advantage of scoring opportunities and that's what we did," said Colonel, who contributed half his side's offence. "We ran hard, moved the ball around and got lots of shots on net quickly."
It was all too much for the overmatched underdogs, who were hobbled by lingering injuries to Yak and the Living Legend. They fell behind by as many as eight. Only some outstanding saves by Chico kept their hope alive.
"We just didn't play very good sound fundamental defence," said Chico. "We didn't lose this game on offence, we lost it on defence."
"We were trying to play a man-on-man defence but they were really good at hitting the guy right when he started moving," said Yak, who was slowed by a sore back. "Their passing was really quick and that made a huge difference."
Until the rain and wind started.
With the speed advantage of Lak Attack, Doo and Bam Bam neutralized by the rain-slicked concrete, the underdogs got renewed life with three straight goals that got them within four.
"With people sitting around, it took awhile to adjust to the weather," said Colonel. "I think people's energy level dropped."
Playing with renewed confidence, the underdogs, led by Scooby's sure footing in the treacherous conditions, pressed to get even closer.
"We needed a few successes to convince ourselves that we could do it," said Yak.
As the conditions deteriorated further, the game slowed to a cautious crawl. That gave the Colonel and his mates the respite they needed to regroup and refocus.
"You forget about the rain and try to play like you normally do," said Colonel. "Everything comes from that."
"When it came down to a grinding, mucking game, with that big lead it was very difficult to chip away at it," said Chico, whose side must now win next week's finale to force a decisive mini game.
It's a tall order, said Yak. But not impossible.
"We have everything we need to win the game," said Yak. "I think we're going to have to go back to basics."
"It's all about commitment," said Chico. "We've got to make that effort coming back."
Colonel and his mates are ready.
"The only game that's more important than the first game is the second one," said the veteran centerman.
April 14, 2013
Lak goes on attack
Goaltending is always key to the Stanley Stick.
But next week, it's who won't be strapping on the pads that could end up making the difference.
Lak Attack got one of his rare opportunities to air out his legs Sunday after playing goalie most of the season as regular starters Chico and Twizzler battled injuries. Even as one of the game's most senior players he showed why he's a decisive force when championship bragging rights are on the line as he led his side to a 16-10 win in the final tune-up before the two-game finale.
"Even when he doesn't try, Lak Attack is still working harder than every other person on the court," said Yak. "He just ups the tempo of the whole game and everybody else has to run harder."
"He's one of the best conditioned guys out there," said Bam Bam. "You've just got to take into consideration that he's going to go around you all the time. You've just got to keep an eye on him."
That's easier said than done, as time and again Sunday Lak Attack drove hard to the net, or looped back to the point to pilot a give-and-go offence. Liberated from his goaltending duties, he made the most of his freewheeling style.
"It's nice to get out there and work on my timing," said Lak Attack. "There's more opportunities created by speed."
It was that speed and skill advantage that catapulted his side to a lead they never relinquished and made scoring heroes of the recipients of his pinpoint passing and knack for attracting desperate defenders. Living Legend, back in the lineup after missing last week's game, scored five times, all of them on defensive breakdowns that left him uncovered.
"If you're playing against Lak, you've got to control the space," said Yak. "If you're chasing him around he'll beat you."
April 07, 2013
Giebelhaus better late than never
In Sunday Morning Road Hockey, a tie is like watching Weeble and Giebelhaus make out after a night drinking growlers of cheap beer.
Disappointing to say the least.
Sunday, the two rivals led their teams… absolutely nowhere, as the game ended in a 12-12 stalemate when Lak Attack announced his punctual departure at 12:30 p.m.
Giebelhaus' steamroller antics in tight and eclipsing of the goalie's line of sight time and again embarked his side on the comeback trail from an 8-5 deficit when he was injected into the lineup. A save by Chico on a penalty shot awarded Holt after Colonel threw his stick to break up a scoring opportunity further fired up the underdogs as they closed to within a goal and then traded scores.
Weeble's high blast over Chico's trapper seemed to snap the pattern by opening up a two-goal margin.
But with Giebelhaus clogging the crease, Bam Bam was able to rip a pair that caught Lak Attack by surprise, knotting the score at a dozen each.
The keepers then kept it that way through the game's dying moments.
"That's it," said the Colonel as the teams trudged off the soggy court, each unsated by the lack of an outcome. "I've got to live with this until next week."
With files from Chico
March 31, 2013
A tale of two goalies
This is a story of two goaltenders: one desperate to play but unable; the other the reluctant saviour.
Fate, and Twizzler's ongoing attendance inconsistency and injury issues, have put them on a collision course for the Stanley Stick championship series.
Sunday, Chico won his second game in as many starts since he returned from a knee injury that had sidelined him since the preseason. More important than the 13-9 line score though, was the poise and confidence he exhibited between the pipes.
"He's stepping out of the crease and challenging shooters," said Bam Bam of the comeback creaseminder. "You know he's got his confidence and that gave us confidence. We knew when we had to back up and we knew when we could be aggressive and pinch."
For his part, Chico said he's beginning to feel at home in the crease again.
"I'm feeling a lot better," said the veteran shotstopper. "I'm seeing the ball pretty well. The guys are quick but I don't think that part of the game has left me."
His fear of reinjuring his knee is also diminishing, as he throws himself from post to post with abandon. At least twice he robbed Doo on cross-crease set-ups.
"I've gotta keep working laterally," said Chico. "There were a lot of two-on-ones today and I managed to get over."
"He's reading the ball well," said Lak Attack of his rearguard rival. "He's on his game."
And so is Lak Attack.
Despite expressing his ongoing dismay with being handed the goaltending responsibilities week after week when Twizzler fails to report, the versatile veteran has quietly put together an MVP season, saving shots and saving the game.
With two regular season games left before the finale, Lak Attack is resigned to finishing out the year in net.
"I've just got to commit that I'm going to be the goalie, and that's got to be my focus," said the reluctant rearguard.
But to be on the safe side, he's also doing dry land fitness training to be able to answer the call should Twizzler retake the goaltending reins.
March 24, 2013
Holt sparks win
Holt scored early and often to spark his team to a decisive 20-14 win in Sunday's game.
It was the second straight game in which the would-be magnate has confounded opposing defenders, eluding their attention and finding unlikely ways to get his stick on the ball.
"It seems like it hits his stick and goes right into the net no matter what you do," said Weeble of his rival. "You cover his forehand and it just hits the back of his stick."
"He's got a deceptively quick shot," said Bam Bam. "He can pick the goalie's weak spots."
There was no shortage of those early in Sunday's game, as Lak Attack struggled with his unexpected role after Twizzler was a surprise no-show. Playing the give-and-go with Doo, Holt time and again managed to skulk past flat-footed defenders and convert his opportunities.
"You notice when a guy takes his eye off you and you try to take advantage," said Holt. "You can't get lazy."
Even without the benefit of a spare player to spell off tiring legs, Holt and his mates were able to build a lead as large as eight goals. Behind them, Chico was solid in his first full-game start of the season after he hurt his knee in the preseason.
"We didn't have the jump we needed," said Bam Bam of his side's feeble effort early.
"We weren't shooting enough early in the game," said Weeble. "We were trying to be too fancy, make too many cute passes."
By the time they did find their game, it was too late. And their nemesis, Holt, had shifted his attention to the defensive zone.
"I enjoy stopping people from scoring more than I enjoy scoring," said Holt.
March 18, 2013
The Living Legend will miss Sunday's game and is a game time decision for the following week as he continues to cope with a painful foot injury that has hobbled him for much of the past six weeks.
The wily veteran has plantar fasciitis in his right foot, an inflammation of the tissue and muscles that connect the heel to the arch. He says the condition worsens through each game he plays, leaving him hobbled and barely mobile for days afterward.
"I know my inability to keep pace has hurt my team," said the Legend in a statement. "I want to be in the best form possible for the Stanley Stick which is only a month away. Hopefully a little rest, and a lot of ice and stretching will help make that happen."
The Legend, Sunday Morning Road Hockey's founding father and most senior player, has enjoyed a remarkably injury-free career. At one point his iron man streak stretched over three seasons, unmatched by any other player.
Plantar fasciitis is commonly suffered by distance runners and is often caused by shoes with inadequate support. The Legend said he likely succumbed because of a new pair of runners he acquired at the beginning of the season. They've since been replaced.
March 17, 2013
Real work begins for Chico
On a rare dry day Sunday, it rained. Goalies.
For the first time this season, three shotstoppers suited up for Sunday's game. That's because Chico would be taking to the crease to test his healing knee.
And while his team was pummelled 20-9, the silver lining was the veteran goalie's beaming smile after playing two periods sliding the big leg pads across the gritty concrete, stabbing out his glove, doing the splits to make a toe save. Even a tumble on one of his offensive shifts that elicited gasps from the others on the court didn't phase him.
The knee was sound, unbowed.
Now the real work begins.
"I need to get up to game shape," said the comeback creaseminder. "The speed of the game is really intense so I had some timing issues. I've got to work on my rebound control and find a little more luck."
He's got four more games to get his game together in time for the Stanley Stick championship series. The rest of the roadsters are looking forward to getting consistent goaltending in the season's home stretch, after a rotating cast of volunteers stepped in as both Chico and Twizzler overcame their knee problems.
"Chico and Twizzler are the backbone of this league," said Doo. "It kinda throws the rhythm of the league out a little bit when you don't have those goalies."
One of those super subs, Lak Attack, is especially keen to unburden his legs of the big pads.
"The name of the game is speed," said the veteran centreman. "I've got to get the legs going to be able to make the transition game."
He got that opportunity for one period Sunday, when Chico pulled an extra stint in net for the final period. But with the game already out of reach, there was little opportunity to make an impact. Still their opponents were vigilant.
"You don't want to give him any space," said Doo of Lak Attack's return to running. "He's got the speed, he's got the shot, and we had to pick up our defensive game."
March 10, 2013
Transition to victory
Colonel and his mates may have lost an hour's sleep before Sunday's game, but they didn't lose a step moving the ball up court from defence to offence quickly and efficiently to power their way to a 15-12 win.
The transition game is always important on the small court where defensive plays convert to offensive opportunities in a heartbeat. But never more so than when there are no spare players to spell off tired teammates.
That's been the rule rather than the exception for most games this season.
Sunday, the Colonel, Holt and Living Legend moved the ball crisply up court to leave opposing defenders spinning flat-footed and their goaltender without rebound support.
"If you can play a little less aggressively on defence you get caught up a little more in the transition and that kills the other team," said Colonel, of his team's triumphant resurgence from an early 5-2 deficit.
"The transition game is huge," said Holt. "When there's no sub you're really trying to make calculations on the fly whether you should run after every shot. If you keep it short and use your angles you save your energy."
That conservation of effort paid dividends late in the game as the two wily veterans and their sophomore defenceman were able to convert their scoring chances.
"They just had a bit more time to do what they wanted to do," said Lak Attack of the relentless bombardment that eventually did his side in. "They were able to finish."
Of course, pressing up court couldn't happen without a yeoman effort in the net behind them, and Twizzler was up to the task in his first start in two weeks.
"You've got to have a lot of confidence in your goalie," said Holt.
"If you know the goalie is likely to make the first save, and even the second and third save, then that means we can cheat a little here and there," said Colonel.
March 03, 2013
Chico and the plan
But as he continues to strengthen the wounded knee that's kept him out of the lineup since the preseason, the stalwart shotstopper is being cast in an unfamiliar role. He's trying to score, instead of stopping other players from scoring.
The role reversal is the next step in his long rehabilitation that will hopefully put him back between the pipes for at least a few games prior to the start of the Stanley Stick championship series.
It's been a gruelling road back, said Chico.
"We're working on stops and starts, on the balance beam and doing a lot of running while carrying weights," said Chico of the rehab regime devised by his medical team. "We'll go back to the gym, ice the knee down and see how it is in the next couple of days."
Feeling no pain after his hour-long return as the swing man in a spirited half-court game, Chico is confident he's on track.
"The guys were taking it pretty easy on me out there," said Chico. "If I'm to get back into game shape I certainly have to be treated like everyone else."
That's easier said than done, said Bam Bam, as the roadsters worked to integrate the rearguard regular into their offensive and defensive game plans.
"It's just like any other time you have a new player," said Bam Bam. "We tried to get him the ball as much as we could, get him in front of the net digging for rebounds."
That created some unsettling moments for Lak Attack, who's accustomed to scoring on Chico rather than preventing him from scoring.
"It's a strange feeling," said the super sub, who's filled in admirable as Chico and Twizzler work through their injuries. "It's a bit different to see Chico out there making some nice plays."
He better get used to it, said Chico. His plan is to play two more games on defence, working on his conditioning and testing his knee then, if all remains well with the jumbled joint he'll return to the crease to extend his Stanley Stick championship streak to three.
"I think right now I've just got to work on my conditioning and getting the legs up to speed."
February 17, 2013
Chico battling to get back
Chico is optimistic he'll be back between the pipes. But whether that happens this season, in time for this Stanley Stick championship series, will be determined by his doctors and the extensive rehabilitation regime they've tasked him with.
The shotstopping stalwart has yet to strap on the goalie pads this season after he injured his knee at a charity road hockey tournament in the pre-season. And while he managed to avoid surgery, the road back to the court has been long and frustrating.
"I just want to be healed as quickly as possible and get back to playing," said Chico in an email interview. "I've never had any kind of prolonged injury and it's been really hard not to just ignore the physiotherapist and surgeon."
The reliable rearguard had missed only a handful of games in his first two seasons, making his absence all the more difficult to endure.
"It's a big loss in my life," said Chico. "I've honestly avoided the (court) because I don't want to put even more pressure on myself to ignore the medical staff advice."
That advice has just embarked Chico on a program of speed walking for one hour every other day. He'll have to do that for two weeks before he's allowed to run. Then he'll have to strengthen his joint to endure the stops, starts and splays that come with his butterfly backstopping style.
Chico said he's at least four to six weeks away from even considering a return to action. And even then he's likely to ease himself back by playing a number of games on defence before strapping on the pads again.
That puts him perilously close to the Stanley Stick, which is scheduled to be played in late April.
"When I do come back, better watch out," said Chico, who's backstopped two successive Stanley Stick titles. "I want to be in the net when it counts for everyone. Even if I'm not the MVP for the finals, just making one important save that can keep my team in the game is what I dream about at night."
February 10, 2013
Freed from the weighty burden of the goalie pads, and able to streak up and down the entire court, Colonel owned the first full game to be played in weeks. The irascible veteran scored 14 times in his team's 20-8 victory, tying Kid's longstanding record for most goals in a game to 20.
Ironically, it may have been Colonel's penance between the pipes that fuelled his offensive outburst. Strapping on the pads as the league weathered injuries to regular starters Twizzler and Chico, Colonel said he was able to study the moves of other players, look for the edge that would allow him to find open court.
"You get a bit of a chance to sit back a bit and watch other players," said Colonel, who scored 10 goals in a row, including all five his team tallied in the third period. "You learn a bit about their skill set that, when you play out, you can leverage to your benefit."
He did just that, seemingly scoring at will from every part of the court.
"Defensively, we just couldn't contain him," said Bam Bam.
As his side put the game out of reach, Colonel's linemates made it their mission to give him the best chance to break Kid's scoring record.
"At that point we were up quite a bit, so there was a lot of generosity to feed me the ball," said Colonel
"That opportunity doesn't come around very often and it's exciting for everybody," said Yak. "It's the kind of thing if you have the choice and both of you have good scoring opportunities, you're going to give it off just to see if he can get the record."
But early on, it didn't seem the Colonel and his mates had anything going their way.
Starting the game two-on-two against Bam Bam and the Living Legend, Colonel and Yak struggled, getting caught up court as the speedy Bam Bam drove the counterattack hard to the net.
"We started out slow," admitted Colonel. "I don't think we were ready for the two on two game. Yak and I were getting caught up court and the other team was burying us."
The late arrival of Holt seemed to right the listing ship.
"We started to do a good job of getting passes onto sticks," said Yak. "There were a lot of times we were making passes into traffic but they were always going tape to tape."
That precision was just too much for their overmatched opponents, who sputtered at both ends of the court.
"Every time we had a chance, we seemed to be gripping our sticks too tight," said Bam Bam. "We were missing some good scoring opportunities."
February 03, 2013
Before the rain started to fall, Colonel and Yak were raining shots at the net. Their bombastic attack paid off with a hard-fought 7-5 win in Sunday's half-court game.
With two players a side and Bing the swingman, both teams measured their effort by leaning into shots and digging for rebounds.
"You've got to know when to use your feet and run the ball, and when to just for the net and play for the rebound," said Yak.
But with Lak Attack on top of his game between the pipes, rebounds and extra opportunities proved hard to come by.
"You look forward to the shots coming because you know they're coming," said the backup turned game-saver. "The sooner you can stop some, the easier it is to get into your groove."
Playing his sixth consecutive game, Lak Attack was definitely dug in, coming up with big saves against both sides and leaving few scraps rolling around at his feet.
"Sometimes the game is like that," said Bam Bam, whose side battled back all game and pushed it into double overtime with a gritty effort.
But trying to contain the speedy Yak proved to be to much. The fleet forward set the tempo early by charging through the defence, decking the ball through defenders' feet then feeding the Colonel's big shot artillery.
"It's really important for the first couple of shifts that you don't blow your load," said Yak. "You've got to get out there and go hard."
But his opponents quickly learned to close their legs.
"You just try to cut his angles off," said Bam Bam. "I thought we did a good job defensively."
Denied his advantage, Yak started to feed passes to the point then charged hard to the net for rebounds floating around the crease.
"You've just got to keep it simple," said Yak. "If you don't shoot, you don't score."
January 27, 2013
Patience is a virtue. Especially in the half court game.
Sunday, Bam Bam and his mates didn't give in to panic when they saw their lead evaporate late and were rewarded with two straight goals to wrest a 10-9 win from the jaws of defeat.
"We knew if we just kept playing our game, the bounces would come back our way," said the feisty forward, whose side had the upper hand for most of the game until three straight goals put them down late, 9-8. "You've got to stick to your game plan, pass it, cycle it and take lots of shots."
That's easier said than done when an unexpected change of possession often results in an odd-man rush.
"Mistakes are really costly in the half-court game," said Yak, whose own unfortunate positioning cost his side a goal after a cross-court chop bounced off his shoulder and past a confused Lak Attack. "You can't really panic. You just have to decide you're going to work harder."
But with no spare players and a furious pace, errors were inevitable.
"The entire day was about angling, conserving your energy," said Holt. "You've got to be in the smart position and make the smart play."
In the end, the result may have come down to desire.
"We just pushed a bit harder," said Bam Bam. "It's all about hustle."
"They wanted it more," said Holt. "It was such a close game, it just takes that little bit more desire and they took it home."
January 20, 2013
Colonel withstood a furious late comeback and six goals by the Living Legend to lead his team to a hard-fought 15-12 win in Sunday's game.
The win was the erstwhile backup's second of the season against two losses, which is far more than he ever expected to play between the pipes. That's because the game's last line of defence has been the first in line at the medical clinic, with both regular rearguards, Chico and Twizzler, sidelined by knee injuries.
Historically the goaltender's position has been particularly hard on players' health. Turk, Gump and Pig Farming Goalie all had their careers interrupted and even shortened by injuries to their knees. The latter pair even endured surgery.
"You've got to move a lot side to side and that's a big challenge," says Lak Attack, who, ironically, has become the default backup this season because he's recovering from injury. "Goalie is one of those positions where I think your body really has to be ready to go, you have to be limber."
"It's up and down and side to side," says Colonel. "You've got to go down a lot of times, it's hard on your knees and you're bound to strain a groin too."
"If you're not sure about your footing, your knees, ankles and hips are vulnerable," says Beckenbauer. "If you make one wrong move any of those joints can go."
Sunday's game was especially treacherous as a moonscape of ice and snow fused to the concrete court made footing at one precarious and shots and passes unpredictable. At the opposite end, the glare from the low winter sun off the slicked surface made visibility almost impossible.
"If you can't see the ball, you can't move to stop it," says Colonel. "You're vulnerable and you can't protect yourself."
The injuries to the regular goalkeepers, and the ever-present possibility of injury to the selfless substitutes has been wearying on many of the roadsters.
"It means the players have to step up week in and week out," says Colonel. "As conditions get better people won't want to be in net quite as much."
That could be a problem as the season progresses towards the Stanley Stick championship series in April.
"It's always a bit of a question mark," says Beckenbauer.
January 13, 2013
Comeback slips away
Lak Attack's team battled to get within a goal, 12-11, but then they gave up the next three goals to let Sunday's game slip away. Literally.
A cold snap frosted the concrete court, creating precarious footing for the speedsters and heartstopping moments for the goalies.
"It's one of the elements of playing outdoors," said Lak Attack, whose difficulty gaining traction in his crease may have contributed to his yawning five hole that cost his side a handful of goals. "It definitely changes the game."
Especially for speedsters like Scooby and Bam Bam.
"You can't make those turning-on-a-dime plays as much as you'd like," said Scooby, one of the league's more sure-footed forwards. "You can't come out of the wheelhouse in the slot like I'm used to."
"I like to go into the corners and I've got to fight to keep my balance going in," said Bam Bam.
Adding to their trepidation were the hidden patches of ice beneath the glistening white frost that sent a few players tumbling to the concrete.
"You've just got to watch your footing," said Bam Bam. "You've got to make crisp passes, make sure you're strong on the ball."
"You have to be more cautious," said Scooby. "You don't want to fall on your ass."
The cold also wreaked havoc on the ball, changing its heft and hardness. That made it tough on Lak Attack and his opposite counterpart, Colonel.
"You have to be aware that shots can be a bit harder and you're going to feel them a bit more," said Lak Attack. "There's going to be a bit more of a bounce."
The hard, lively ball also creates opportunities, as defenders get out of the way to spare pained shins and shattered toes.
"Guys are a bit less willing to block shots," said Scooby. "You want to let them rip from anywhere."
The key, said Bam Bam, was adapting.
"You've got to be able to go with the bounces," said Bam Bam. "You've got to be smart, play within yourself and take it as it is."
January 06, 2013
The extra spring in the roadsters' steps Sunday morning may not have come just from the pre-game shrimp feast.
Only hours before the season's second half officially got under way, the NHL and its players announced they'd finally resolved their labor difficulties that had already scuttled more than half of their schedule. And while the bright lights and big arenas of the pro game may be a long way from the concrete band box, slicked and flooded by more winter rain, some of the roadsters conceded the hockey impetus had suffered without a regular dose of the game the way it should be played to fuel their desire.
"I know when I see great plays it's inspiring," said Holt. "You want to try things out."
"Some of the awesome plays you see, the dekes, the moves, the highlight reel plays you see on TV, you want to mimic them on the court," said Lak Attack.
"It's a good culture to have some hockey back no matter where it is," said the Colonel.
"It gets guys excited," said Weeble. "A good game on the TV the night before gets them excited to get out and play the next morning."
The extra boost from the return of the pro game comes not a moment too soon, as the roadsters embark on the stretch drive after a lacklustre first half that was encumbered by lackadaisical attendance, goaltending crises and unsatisfactory half-court games.
With the Stanley Stick only four months away, it's time for the roadsters to get serious said Lak Attack.
"Everyone wants to find their legs, get their timing and get ready to peak at the right time," said the veteran centreman who continued his fine play as a substitute goalie on Sunday.
"Now is when you have a chance to create some chemistry, get familiar with all the players you play with," said Bam Bam.
Others, though, were more pragmatic.
"Today's driving force to come out was definitely that shrimp," said Weeble.
December 16, 2012
Yak spins to win
It was the spinnerama move that turned Sunday's game around.
With his undermanned team trailing early, Yak made a deft inside-out deke through his own legs and past a befuddled Bam Bam before launching a shot over Twizzler's shoulder. His side was back in the game. Soon, they were in front for good.
"It's always nice to feel like you can make those kinds of plays," said the shifty sophomore.
The goal seemed to lift his mates into believing they could overcome the manpower disadvantage that left them without a spare set of fresh legs to spell tired teammates.
"He took the leadership role there for sure," said Lak Attack. "IWhen you've got a guy like Yak he can draw two or three guys towards him and that opens up other guys, gets them lots of opportunities.
Even Giebelhaus was able to cash in. Though hobbled by wonky knees and a rough night before, the lumbering veteran contributed a handful of goals and made a few key plays in the defensive end.
"When they split up our attention, they pick us apart a little bit," said Beckenbauer. "They kept good pressure on us down low and made us run around."
All day Yak seemed incapable of a misstep, even when he was dumped to the concrete by the Living Legend's flailing stick. Yak scored on the resulting penalty shot, drifting across Twizzler's crease before chipping it under the falling keeper's arm.
"It always nice to get some momentum," said Yak. "It really builds your confidence and it's really hard on the other team."
Especially as that other team seemed content to sit back and wait for the game to return to them as their opponents tired. It never happened.
"We figured it was just a matter of time until they wore down," said Beckenbauer of his side's ill-fated strategy. "They just scored too many goals too fast and they were able to end the game before they had to pay the price for running around."
"You're always your own worst enemy," said Yak of his team's ability to overcome their manpower shortage. "You've just got to take your time, play smart and you'll get your shots."
Sunday's game was the first in weeks for Twizzler, who was recovering from a knee injury. He's been given the clearance to play by his doctor, but at times during Sunday's game he seemed a bit tentative to test its true capabilities.
The roadsters now enjoy a two week break for the holidays. Play resumes Jan. 6 with the annual Shrimp Ring Bowl, the highlight of road hockey's social calendar.
December 09, 2012
Bad bounce buries comeback
Road hockey is a game of bounces. A fortuitous one here, an unlucky one there can make all the difference.
Sunday, an unexpected bounce off a piece of debris on the court caught the Colonel going the wrong way and Beckenbauer's surprise goal reignited his team's momentum in a 15-7 victory. After corralling the ball in his own end, the Teutonic centerman fired a low hard shot that skipped off some branches that had blown onto the court in the cold and rainy conditions, curving past a confused Colonel at the far end.
"Sometimes they go your way, and sometimes they don't," said Yak of the unfortunate carom that stalled his side's comeback and propelled them into a spiral to defeat.
After spotting their rivals an early advantage, the underdogs had clawed their way back to within a couple of goals and seemed poised to take advantage of their waning fitness.
They'd done that, said Yak, by firing shots at the net instead of relying on pretty passing plays that would inevitably peter out into lost opportunities in the corners.
"Sometimes you've just got to get back to basics," said Yak. "You can't be making too many fancy passes, you can't be trying to make too many creative plays in your own end."
But even as they righted their game, their opponents remained focused, passing calmly, taking advantage of their opportunities.
"I think the other team did a better job of that," said Yak. "The more frustrated and tired you get, the easier it is to try to dish to somebody else to make the run."
December 02, 2012
Chico's loss a big blow
With Chico out indefinitely after he was diagnosed with a torn MCL, it's time for the rest of the roadsters to man up, says Yak.
But some players say the loss of the goaltending stalwart could imperil the existence of the league itself.
Out of the lineup since he tweaked his knee at a charity road hockey marathon the week before the opening of the regular season, Chico got the grim news last week after an MRI. And though he has an appointment with a surgeon in two weeks, there's some question whether he'll be able to play at all this season.
That's a big blow for the roadsters, who seemed flush with shotstoppers heading into the season; Twizzler had proven himself a reliable rearguard and Gump had expressed a renewed commitment after recovering from his own knee injury that had kept him out most of last season.
But Twizzler's missed more games than he's played, and Gump has mysteriously vanished. That's meant cajoling creaseminders is a weekly crapshoot. Last week the Colonel and Scooby were the unlikely goalies. Sunday, Lak Attack and Yak strapped on the big leg pads.
It's not his preferred place, but the sacrifice is necessary to keep the game alive, says Yak.
"All of us have to be willing to step into net," says the speed sophomore. "I think it's good for all of us to get an understanding of the commitment it takes to play net, and hopefully we'll all have a better respect for the position after this."
"You definitely have to pick it up to keep the game going," says Lak Attack, who's saved many games as an emergency backup through his long career. "It's fine to do it once in a while, but it's a different thing to make it a permanent role."
The crease uncertainty is wearing says Holt.
"If you lose your goalies you lose your league pretty quickly," says the seafaring centreman. "It's just not as much fun."
So much so, some roadsters may be staying away because they perceive the games diminished without regular goalies.
"It really does change the game because you never know how well the person who steps into goal is going to play," says Lak Attack. "You're always wondering who's going to strap on the pads."
"It just takes away so many parts of the game that are fun," says Holt.
"It's not as fun when you're not shooting on goalies," says Yak. "Some guys find it a difficult motivator."
But all are determined to weather this latest shotstopper setback and keep the game alive for Chico's expected comeback.
"It's a cool group of guys," says Holt. "Chico's such a big part, he's the guy who gets everybody ready to go."
November 25, 2012
Singing praise for the unsung heroes
As Scooby pulled the goalie mask down over his face, he warned his teammates to lower their expectations for Sunday's game. After all, he'd never before stepped between the pipes, and the equipment he was wearing was at least two sizes too big.
But the most surprised were his opponents, who were stymied by the emergency backup time and again as the offensive dynamo turned emergency netminder made a number of key saves to lead his team to a resounding 15-4 win in Sunday's game.
At the other end, Colonel, who usually ends up being pressed into shotstopping service at least once every season, struggled mightily against opposing shooters and his own disappointment.
With Chico still to see action this season as he recovers from a tweaked knee and travels to faraway lands, Twzzler absent and Gump a continuing no-show, the season's first six weeks have been a patchwork of half court games and unfamiliar goaltenders. It's a wearying trend, said Yak.
"If you can't rely on the goalies, then you're just never really going to believe there's going to be game," said the sophomore sniper. "It hits your motivation."
"It's a big investment of your Sunday morning," said Beckenbauer. "You want to be able to expect you're going to have a full set of goalies and you're going to have a couple of good squads to give you good bang for the buck."
The biggest bang Sunday was the resounding clang of the evil orange plastic ball hitting the wire fencing at the back of Colonel's net. After jumping to a quick start, the wheels fell off his team's bus when Bam Bam tried a sliding backcheck to thwart a solo breakaway. He was never same after he hobbled his knee.
At the other end, Scooby oveercame his initial jitters to make some solid stops, using his size advantage to loom over oncoming shooters and guard more of the goal.
"It seems like no matter who you slide in there, they end up having a pretty good day in net," said Beckenbauer. "It's always challenging beating whoever is playing in net."
Scooby's solid performance made some of his mates reflective over the league's treatment of their most precious resource.
"We've got to develop a little more resilience to let the goalies take the odd week off," said Yak. "The goalies are the true unsung heroes. If they don't show up, then there's no game. You've gotta love them."
November 18, 2012
Lak thwarts attack
Maybe it was fitting; the first regular season game in which two goalies dressed became a battle between the ballstoppers.
Anxious to get back into action despite being hobbled by a bad back, Lak Attack came off the sidelines to strap on the big leg pads and lead his team to a gutsy 15-12 comeback victory.
The versatile veteran made a number of key saves that allowed his team to blast their way back from a 12-9 deficit with six straight goals. But none was bigger than the pad save that kept the score tied at 12. His mates scored on the transition and never looked back.
"It's one of those heartbreakers," said Bam Bam of the decisive play. "We had the opportunity to score and they turned it around and scored on us."
With his team playing at a manpower disadvantage, Lak Attack came up big time and again to hold down the back end, allowing his mates to forge an early lead.
But Bam Bam and his mates were resolute, battling back to tie and then eventually take the lead. They didn't take control, however, thanks to Lak Attack's goaltending.
"I think we thought the extra man would help us out," said Bam Bam. "But when you're playing against a hot goalie, sometimes the frustration level gets really high. You're trying too hard, you grip the stick too tight. It just wasn't our game today."
November 11, 2012
Deked and confused
On a day dedicated to remembering, Sunday's game was decided by forgetfulness.
A bunch of roadsters forgot to show up.
Franz Beckenbauer forgot where his net was.
And Bam Bam forgot that his team was on defence.
Beckenbauer and Bam Bam were both caught horribly out of position on the goal that gave Bing and his mate Velma the 10-9 win in another half-court game. The roadsters have yet to play a full-court game this regular season.
"I don't know if I just lost the net," said Beckenbauer who was surprised the shot beat him. "I was pretty far out of the net."
Meanwhile, Bam Bam was pretty far behind the play, caught out by his own mistaken assumption that his team had claimed possession.
"I was jumping up to take advantage," said Bam Bam, who could only watch the goal that ended the game from afar. "You've really got to be cognizant on the defensive end."
Being aware who has the ball on offence and who is defending is especially critical for the goalies, said Beckenbaeur. He also admitted to moments of confusion.
"A couple of times I was caught sleeping, thinking the wrong team was on offence."
Indeed, the half court game can be schizophrenic at times, as possessions change on a dime, and the players who were protecting their goalie one moment are bearing down for a shot on net the next.
"You're on everybody's team and nobody's team at the same time," said Beckenbauer. "You just try to save the shots as they come and support the defensive team as best you can."
November 04, 2012
A pass too far
The Living Legend fired pinpoint passes and Yak finished with lightning shots that eluded Twizzler's glove hand to power their way to a decisive 10-2 win in Sunday's game.
With attendance still suffering through injuries, vacations and unexplained absences, the roadsters who did brave the persistent drizzle steeled themselves for another exhausting half-court showdown in which accurate passing is quickly rewarded with odd-man breaks.
That was the edge the Legend and Yak played as they worked the give-and-go to gain territorial advantage and generate scoring chances on Twizzler, the sole guardian of the goal for the third straight week.
"When you're playing in a game like that, it's all about the passing," said Yak, who didn't let a sore hand slow him down as he beat Twizzler on the glove side time and again. "When you're playing with the Living Legend the ball just kind of appears on your stick."
For Giebelhaus and Bing, preventing the pass was an exercise if frustration.
"They had magic on their sticks," said Giebelhaus of their wheeling and dealing opponents. "Every time the ball came near, it just stuck to them."
Establishing a successful passing game not only creates opportunities, it also opens up the court for spectacular solo rushes as defenders move up court to prevent plays from developing.
"You can't be afraid to carry the ball," said Yak. "There's a lot of space out there and you have to try to commit to the stick handle."
That can be particularly effective against flat-footed defenders. Which is exactly how Giebelhaus labelled himself in his first start of the season.
"I thought I was in a lot better shape," said the veteran. "But when you're playing without a break out there, you've just got to keep going and going."
October 28, 2012
Scooby stacks side
Even with his side enjoying a man advantage, Scooby's first game since last December proved formidable.
As Chico sat out his second straight game recovering from a knee injury he suffered at Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer, the roadsters again faced-off for a half-court battle.
"Even with the full-court game, it would have been pretty hard," said Scooby. "It's a totally different game."
Using the full measure of their fresher legs, Scooby and his mates cycled the ball and used some nifty playmaking to open a lead. They also got the bounces.
"We got some lucky breaks," said Bam Bam.
"You can't do much about them," said Weeble of the fortunes that didn't seem to go his team's way.
But they were undeterred, battling gamely to steal bursts of momentum that kept them in the fray.
"We see this every week when a team has the man advantage," said Bam Bam. "They seem to do very well and then they have a bit of a lull. We dug ourselves out of it when we got some lucky breaks."
"We got some good cycling going, that was a big part of our game" said Scooby. "It seemed like things were going our way today."
October 21, 2012
Half court, not half assed
There's little room for error in the tight confines of the half-court game. Doo and his mates learned that the hard way in Sunday's truncated season opener as their tentative play and missed opportunities cost them a 12-10 overtime loss.
injuries to Lak Attack and Chico, and Holt and Beckenbauer away on extended scouting missions to faraway lands depleted Sunday's lineup, turning the game into a chance for those players who did brave the cold rain to stretch their legs and further hone their timing after last week's pre-season finale was canceled.
"It takes a long time to warm up those hands for the full season," said Doo.
But a half-court game is not a holiday.
With six players crowding the same area of the court, precision and up-tempo play are rewarded with scoring chances.
"You've got to be a little more creative," said Yak, whose side squandered a three goal advantage before prevailing in extra time. "You've just got to play the smaller space better."
That smaller space tends to limit free-wheeling players like Doo.
"You have to work on your down-low plays," said the speedy centerman. "You can't get too fancy."
That basic approach paid off for Sunday's victors, who used some pinpoint passing and a deft touch around the net to build a lead that got as big as three.
"You have to play with a light touch because everybody is in the same part of the court whether they can run or not," said Yak.
"The other team exploited the full court and we didn't," said Doo. "It's important to be aggressive on the ball."
October 14, 2012
Playing for a cause
From early October to late April the roadsters gather at the concrete court every Sunday to play off their week's frustrations, get a bit of a workout, trade quips, score a few goals, make a bunch of saves, have fun.
They've been doing it for 21 years.
And while all the faces but one have changed over the years, the spirit of the game hasn't.
It's an escape. A diversion. A world unto itself that exists for a couple of hours on Sunday mornings before everyone returns to their everyday lives.
But occasionally, the challenges of everyday life manage to pierce the protective bubble of Sunday Morning Road Hockey.
Last year the roadsters kicked off their 20th season by taking their game to the road, literally; playing the Wink Classic in front of the home of the former founding father who was still recovering from a year-long battle with cancer. In the spring, sophomore shotstopper Chico played with a heavy heart when the disease claimed a beloved co-worker.
It's probably safe to say every roadster has had a brush with the disease.
So when a call went out for the roadsters to represent at a new fundraising event that would showcase their beloved game, they answered. Sure, it would take them out of their Sunday morning environs, but they were comfortable in the small courts. And the spirit of the event, competition for the sheer joy of it, melded perfectly with the motivation that has kept the Sunday Morning game alive for 21 years.
The roadsters raised $14,450, enough to pick 13th in the special draft of celebrity players awarded to the top 15 fundraising teams.
They selected Paul Reinhart, an offensive-minded defenseman who had a distinguished career with the Calgary Flames and the Vancouver Canucks. A gracious teammate, he feathered passes with aplomb and went to the net when it counted. His two-game contribution helped the roadsters to a 4-1 record in their division, and a top offensive output of 58 goals in five games.
In all, more than 50 teams participated in the event. Even the driving rain that flooded many courts in the morning, and cold wind that shivered many players through the afternoon couldn't diminish the camaraderie of the great game.
October 13, 2012
The forecast for a heavy rain and wind storm, and an anticipated dearth of roadsters means Sunday's preseason game has been cancelled.
The regular season will begin as scheduled next Sunday, Oct. 21.
October 07, 2012
Colonel pitches preseason battles
Sunday's preseason opener was supposed to a leg-loosener for the roadsters atrophied by a summer of sloth. Nobody told the Colonel.
The irascible veteran was his mid-season fiery self as he in turn battled Bam Bam and Bing in running conflicts of crashing bodies and challenging words.
"Colonel is that type of player," said Bam Bam, none the worse for wear as his undermanned team hung on for a 10-7 win. "But it's good to have that kind of competition in the preseason. It was a good battle out there."
In fact, the skirmishes along the boards and in the slot between Colonel and Bam Bam may have been the wakeup call the rest of the roadsters needed, reminding them of the effort they'll need to expend when the games start counting.
"It's time to get serious," said Yak. "You've got to get your discipline together."
That includes a renewed commitment to backchecking, an element sadly lacking in Sunday's game.
"You didn't see any hustle out there," said Chico. "The guys just got lazy."
That laziness almost cost his side, as they let Colonel and his veteran side fight back to within a goal, 8-7, before icing it with two straight.
"Our mad disadvantage definitely caught up to us," said Bam Bam. "We got caught a bit because we got tired."
"They're rusty, they're lazy," said Chico. "They're all chipping away like they're hacking through four inches of ice, and then they didn't come back on defence."
The veterans were quick to take advantage of that lapse, scoring three straight to pull within one.
"I think at some point you've got to let the young guys know they just can't get an easy win," said Yak. "At some point you just have to step up the pressure."
September 23, 2012
Season begins Oct. 7
Two exhibition games will precede the official opening of Sunday Morning Road Hockey's 21st season on Oct. 21.
The preseason begins Sunday, Oct. 7 and concludes the following week, Oct. 14.
Coming off a successful mid-summer scrimmage, and with a healthy contingent of goaltenders for the first time in years, optimism is running high for the coming campaign.
Stalwart netminders Chico and Twizzler are expected to carry the bulk of the backstopping load again this season, but the return of a healthy Gump means the weekly recurrence of goaltending crises that almost scuttled the league three years ago is unlikely.
Last season's rookie sensation, Holt, is also returning. He's amongst a new generation of roadsters including Franz Beckenbauer, Bam Bam and Yak who have brought new energy and commitment to th game. They'll be lining up with venerable veterans Living Legend, the only remaining active founding father, Colonel, and Lak Attack. After a year of sporadic appearances in the lineup, Doo is also expected to reestablish himself as a regular.
Hope remains that longtime roadsters Unabomber and Kid will rediscover their love for the game and return to the courts.
August 16, 2012
Beetle Boy heats up comeback
Beetle Boy picked the hottest day of the year to begin his comeback. He hopes his game will be just as hot when the Sunday Morning Road Hockey season begins in earnest in October.
The veteran forward with the ubiquitous tongue and a knack for scoring timely goals missed huge chunks of last season as he battled injuries, scheduling challenges and general indifference. But he showed up for Sunday's special Midsummer Scrimmage with renewed enthusiasm and commitment to the game.
"I hadn't played in a long time and I just didn't want to embarrass myself," said Beetle Boy, whose side lost 17-16 in sudden-death darkness despite his offensive contributions. "I'm jazzed to start coming out more, it makes me want to come out more."
Indeed the annual hot-weather showdown fired plenty of optimism amongst the roadsters as a record number of them gathered in the twilight for the first time since the Stanley Stick finale in April.
"We're all itching to play," said Yak. "It's been three month since we've played and the excitement was in everyone's eyes."
While Beetle Boy used the game to test his mettle for the upcoming season, others like Yak measured their off-season fitness regime.
"Playing in the summer at least a month ahead of when you get started again gives you a chance to take a step in the right direction before the season starts," said the sophomore centerman. "You've got to work to get your endurance back, to get your flexibility back."
"A lot of guys who showed up were in shape and ready to go," said Beetle Boy. "it was definitely a lot more competitive than I thought it was going to be."
For the first time in four years each team had a goalie and a spare player to spell off tired teammates. The consequence was a spirited, fast-paced clash that seesawed back and forth until descending darkness forced the sudden-death conclusion.
"You definitely saw shorter shifts tonight as everyone tried to take their breaks to get water whenever they could," said Yak. "All you can do is get out there, play hard and try not to faint."
"It was hot, but it was a lot of fun," said Beetle Boy. "I'm looking forward to the season starting."
August 07, 2012
Summer scrimmage set
The days are getting shorter. The nights are (supposed to be) getting cooler. Somewhere, a leaf falls from a tree.
Road hockey season is nigh.
And to preview the coming season, as well as gauge off-season training regimes, Sunday Morning Road Hockey's annual Midsummer Scrimmage will face off Wednesday, Aug. 15 at 7 p.m. at the hockey courts.
Silent since the Living Legend and his mates hoisted his second straight Stanley Stick championship trophy in April, the courts will once again echo with the thud of the evil orange plastic ball against shin guards, the ping of rapier shots off the goal posts, the yelp of anguish when the Colonel thumps an unwitting rival into the end boards.
The informal game will be followed by an upper body workout at River's Reach pub.