April 28, 2014
Champions defy disadvantages to sweep
With the road hockey gods seemingly aligned against them, Colonel knew his team would have to strike quickly if it hoped to complete a sweep of the Stanley Stick championship series.
They did just that.
Beckenbauer scored on his side's first shot and the champions never looked back en route to a 20-9 win in Sunday's decisive game.
The apparent bad mojo for the favourites started even before Sunday's game, when scoring sensation, Holt, who led his side in goals in last week's series' opener, announced he'd be unavailable for the finale. The potential for problems was then compounded when veteran sniper Doo, who had missed much of the regular season, was ruled eligible for the championship and gifted to the underdogs.
"We wanted to go out quick and build from there," said Colonel, who won his second straight Stanley Stick. "You don't want to give the other team any momentum."
The strategy worked. The champions scored three times before the underdogs were able to reply.
And while the advantage never got as large as last week's 12-0 chasm that buried the underdogs, playing from behind for a second consecutive week took derailed their gameplan, said Bam Bam
"We wanted to take advantage of a quick start, but they got those first few goals on us and we had to fight back from behind," said the feisty forward. "That takes a toll on you."
The under-manned favourites didn't let their disadvantage get them off their game.
"We just kept to our game, kept it simple and boxed them out," said Lak Attack. "We were patient and that was key."
Also critical was the outstanding two-way play of Beckenbauer, who contributed a handful of goals and was a defensive stalwart every shift. That earned him the Conn Stick award as the series' most valuable player.
"It was because of him we got that quick lead," said Lak Attack. "He really stepped it up."
"He's smothering in the defensive end, he was able to hit the corners, he has a hard shot," said Colonel. "He deserved the MVP."
Beckenbauer's germanic gamesmanship also neutralized any boost the underdogs might have received from the injection of Doo into their lineup. While the wiry winger was his side's leading scorer, he wasn't the difference-maker some expected.
"Doo brings a lot of skill and gave them a little more mobility and offensive talent," said Lak Attack.
But Doo wasn't the answer to some of the underdog's problems that plagued them in the series opener.
"The one thing you hope for is you can find some sort of chemistry," said Bam Bam. "We dug in deep and tried to battle as much as we could, but nothing clicked."
April 21, 2014
Rout fails to rouse confidence
His team just won Sunday's Stanley Stick opener 20-5, but Lak Attack wasn't yet putting the champagne on ice.
That's because after nearly three hours of road hockey, the veteran centreman knew his side had been in a battle.
"It felt like it was a 20-18 game," said Lak Attack. "We carried the play, but they made it tough."
Indeed, the line score told only part of the game's story.
With a strong lineup of skilled players and big bodies, Lak Attack and his mates scored the game's first 12 goals before their opponents could answer. The barrage chased starting goalie Chico, who showed some rust from his extended absence from the crease this season as he pursued educational opportunities and familial responsibilities.
The displaced keeper went on to score three of his side's goals, but that contribution wasn't about to sway their fate.
"The score line isn't flattering for our team," said Bam Bam. "But we can take comfort that we did some things right and the bounces went their way."
Despite their insurmountable advantage, Lak Attack said his team wasn't about to take the margin for granted.
"You never know, the other team can always make a big comeback," said the versatile veteran. "We still felt like it was a one-goal game. We just made every shift count."
And they'll need to continue that kind of attention to detail this Sunday in the series' second leg if they're to clinch the silver chalice and avoid a decisive mini-game.
"The next game won't be the same," said Lak Attack. "Next week you'll see a much closer game."
That's the plan, said Bam Bam.
"We just have to be confident to get to the mini game," said the feisty forward. "That's all that matters."
April 14, 2014
Stanley Stick roster released
The list of eligible players for Sunday's Stanley Stick opener has been released. If all the players report, each team will have two complete lines, plus a goaltender. That could be crucial in the often long and gruelling matches that have become a touchstone of the annual year-end tournament that culminates the road hockey season.
The Stanley Stick is the only time in the season when teams carry over from one week to the next.
This year's Stanley Stick roster also features a wealth of goalies, with no fewer than four available to strap on the pads.
April 05, 2014
Yak attack snuffs comeback
Yak's laser shot to the top corner over Twizzler's shoulder was the difference in a tight 15-14 sudden-death victory Sunday.
The rapier blast snuffed a valiant comeback by the day's underdogs, who overcame a manpower disadvantage and a four-goal deficit late in the game to force it to a decisive goal.
"It's scary when you're up four goals and they start creeping back," said Yak of his determined opponents. "They were showing a lot of heart and we were showing a lot of fatigue."
In fact, both teams were weary as a dry court for the first time in weeks gave the roadsters a chance to air out their legs without fear of slipping and tumbling to the hard concrete.
"It's a game-changer when the courts are dry," said Colonel. "It brings out the best in all the players."
But even his side's best couldn't keep swing the game to their favour early on.
After giving up the game's first goal to Living Legend, who returned to action after missing the past two weeks, Colonel and his mates struggled to get on track. Only the precision accuracy and quick release of the new guy's sizzling shots that resulted in a bushel of goals for the late-season call-up kept them in it.
"He's got a good shot," said Yak of the Joker recruit. "It's accurate and low to the corner. He knows where to shoot."
Playing from behind most of the day takes its toll, said Colonel, whose side finally took their first lead of the game at the second break, 10-9. But they couldn't hold it.
Lak Attack said his side let their manpower advantage lull them into complacency.
"I think we just let off the gas pedal too much," said the veteran centerman. "The guys kind of slowed down. We took it for granted and they just chipped away little by little."
Yak said his side started reeling as they let their lead slip away.
"When they score a lot of goals in a row, you start to doubt your own ability to score," said the veteran speedster. "It's important to get one in and get your confidence again."
Which is just what he did.
March 16, 2014
Chico gives his men confidence
Some key saves early in Sunday's game gave Chico confidence in his first goaltending start in months. They also assured his team he could take care of business at the back end while they converted their scoring chances in the offensive zone en route to a 10-5 win.
Facing a team comprised of wily veterans keen to redeem themselves after last week's lacklustre representation of their generation, Chico saw a lot of orange plastic. But at the break, he'd yet to let one get past him as his side held a 5-0 advantage.
"We had a system and we stuck to it," said the comeback creaseminder. "I got a lot of permitter shots, a lot of bouncy stuff, but nothing we couldn't handle."
And whenever his defenders headed up court, they were able to make the best of their scoring opportunities.
"They were in our end the whole time, but we were able to convert," said Holt.
Not willing to go off into the rainclouds quietly, the veterans fought back gamely after the break, closing the score to within two, 7-5. But the effort took a toll, as they wheezed up three straight goals.
"There's a lot of swings to this game," said Chico of his side's ability to regroup. "We knew we just had to stick with what we'd been doing, play the chip, play the transition game and take shots on net."
They did, due in no small part to Chico's steadying play in their own net, said Holt.
"We had total confidence in him," said the slick sophomore. "We didn't ever worry about our goalie at all."
March 09, 2014
Attack fizzles after Lak leaves
Colonel didn't want to use Lak Attack's early departure as an excuse for his side's 10-5 loss in Sunday's game.
But when his side gave up six unanswered goals after holding a 5-4 advantage when the veteran speedster had to excuse himself, there was no avoiding it.
"We really slowed down when we lost Lak," said Colonel.
Not that they were going very fast in the first place.
With both Lak Attack and Living Legend making their way back into action from extended illness, and Colonel paying the fitness price for missing a couple of games, the side of wily veterans were lucky to have a man advantage and a lead half way through the game.
Both disappeared when Lak left.
"Even though they had the extra sub, we thought we had the momentum on our side," said Bam Bam, of his overmatched opponents. "They were a bit gassed."
And more than a little frustrated.
Despite holding a narrow lead at the break, the veterans had to battle hard to get there and that may also have taken a toll. Twizzler, making his first goaltending start in weeks, cast aside his reputation for slow starts by making a number of key saves early in the game. That gave his mates the confidence to press deep into the offensive zone and capitalize on scoring chances to take the early lead.
"We were more attack-minded in the beginning," said Bam Bam.
The veterans battled back gamely and took their first, and only, lead of the game at the break.
"Tizzler was a wall out there today," said Colonel.
With that assessment in their back pocket, Bam Bam and his mates knew it was only a matter of time until they held the upper hand. For good.
"One goal down with our speed and skill, we knew we were going to come back and win it," said Bam Bam.
March 03, 2014
It's not quite snow.
Most roadsters would agree it's worse than rain.
Sunday a handful of hearty players braved a slush storm that left the courts slicked and sloppy.
Survival, said Yak, was foremost in their minds.
"It's just a matter of when you might slip and fall," said the shifty centreman whose trademark quick cuts and fancy footwork were neutralized by the precarious conditions.
"You're always mindful of how hard you're going to go."
The second game to be scuttled in as many weeks by unseasonable weather only weeks from the official start of spring, the roadsters were especially careful not to risk injury as the season enters its critical run-up to the Stanley Stick.
"It does shake your confidence," said Yak. "You don't want to fall. It's tough to go hard."
But mostly, it was tough to battle along the boards, especially behind the nets, where semi-frozen slush and chilled water accumulated inches deep.
"It's always fun to go into that hard," said Yak. "You've got to make sure you're ready for it."
February 16, 2014
Twizzler deals decisive blows
Lak Attack is used to staring down Twizzler from opposite ends of the court. Sunday, the veteran forward turned goalie was turned inside out by the wily goalie turned forward.
Twizzler, who's taken advantage of the arrival of Joker as a regular rearguard to stretch his legs as a forward since his return to the lineup in January scored a handful of goals to lead his team to a 16-11 win.
Two goals in particular seemed to take the wind out of the opposition's sails and shake his facemasked foe's confidence.
"Twizzler kinda changed the game with those long range shots," said Lak Attack. "Once you let one in, the flood gates opened."
And while a five goal margin is hardly an apocalyptic deluge, Bam Bam said the timing of Twizzler's cannonading markers threw his side for a loop.
"He brought that big shot out today and we hadn't really seen it," said the speedy centreman. "It caught a few of us by surprise."
Until those goals the teams had regularly exchanged leads in a freewheeling, fast-paced back-and-forth game. Twizzler's offensive outburst staked his side to their first three-goal advantage. They never looked back.
"It was up for grabs," said Bam Bam of the hard-fought battle that started on a dry court but ended in a steady, cold shower. "Once those long-range shots go it, you can only ask a goalie to do so much."
And while Twizzler's slappers may have been the game's death blow, the slicking of the court by a late shower pretty much ensured there would be no miracle comeback.
"It had an impact on our guys," said Lak Attack. "They like the dry court so they can get in tight."
February 09, 2014
Coming back from the brink
A slow squibber by Holt that squeezed between Joker's pad and the goal post capped a furious three-goal run and clinched a 10-9 sudden death victory in Sunday's game.
It was a fitting finish for a team that had earlier squandered their own advantage.
"They pushed really hard early to come back, and that turned to our advantage later in the game," said Lak Attack of the game's shift in fortunes.
That's because Bam Bam and his mates may have blown themselves out clawing their way back from an early deficit.
"Whenever you're trying to catch up, you're using more of your energy," said the feisty forward. "Maybe that's why we didn't have more at the end."
Still, they had enough to charge ahead 9-7 in a half-court game to 10 as Bam Bam, Yak and Living Legend finally found the chemistry that had eluded them earlier. But they couldn't get that next goal to finish their opponents off as Joker came up with some key saves.
"If I'm getting better every week, I'm happy," said the rookie rearguard.
Despite teetering on the edge of defeat, Lak Attack knew his team still had a chance to win.
"We had the edge on the endurance part of it," said the senior centreman.
A lucky bounce ignited their comeback and another finished it off.
"When you have two tired teams any lucky bounce really helps you," said Lak Attack.
"It's frustrating," said Bam Bam. "They just wanted it more than we did."
February 02, 2014
Faces of pain
It was the worst of a whack. It was the best of a bad shot.
Two veteran roadsters were felled by injuries early in Sunday's game, changing team dynamics and the mood of the remaining players.
Colonel was chopped down by Beckenbauer's stick as the two foes battled for a face off. After writhing on the cold concrete court for a number of minutes, the senior centreman hobbled to the sidelines favouring his left knee. He didn't return.
Shortly after being traded to balance the sides, Living Legend went down, struck just above his right eye by a rising slap shot off the stick of his former teammate, Holt. His eyebrow swollen into a reddened mound, the founding father also left the game.
The departure of two experienced players in the same game because of injuries sent a chill through their teammates and opponents.
"To see two people go down in the same game, it's concerning," said Lak Attack. "It can be a very scary moment."
"In a sport like this you never know what's going to happen," said Bam Bam. "It's a dangerous sport."
"It reminds you how painful this game can be," said Beckenbauer.
The loss of the Colonel necessitated changes to his side's gameplan, as they were no longer able to take advantage of his big shot from the point to clear lanes.
But when Living Legend left the court, the roadsters had to regroup into a half-court game.
The impact of those injuries served as a sobering reminder to the game's fragility, and players' proximity to pain and suffering in the small court.
"As long as you're aware, that's half the battle," said Lak Attack. "You have to forget about it and continue to play."
"YOu always have to be aware," said Bam Bam. "You never know what's going to happen."
But at least one opportunity saw the sudden demise of players as an advantage he could exploit.
"I know my advantage is fitness," said Beckenbauer. "If there's fewer people running around, it's advantage Beckenbauer."
January 26, 2014
Bam bangs winner
Bam Bam and his mates overcame a late swoon and the departure of their two spare players to pull out a 16-14 squeaker in Sunday's game.
With Yak and Living Legend no longer available to relieve tired legs, Bam Bam charged hard to the net with new urgency to reclaim his side's advantage that they'd just squandered for the first time in the game.
"Whichever team commits hard, you just can't let up," said Yak of his side's fire to finish hard.
A dry court, bright sunshine and a strong contingent of players contributed to one of the most intense games of the season.
"Everybody is running," said Yak, as his side charged to an early 6-1 lead and continued to hold the advantage until late. "There's no reason to let up."
"Everybody's not falling all over the place," said Weeble. "You're not worried about falling on your ass and being completely out of the play."
The winners may have been helped by the unexpected offensive contribution of Twizzler, who was freed from the constraints of the goal crease when Joker returned after missing the last three weeks with illness. Bringing a big physical presence along the boards and assured hands around the net, Twizzler seemed to confound opposing defenders time and again.
"He's a big body," said Weeble. "You've got to stick to him, not give him too many chances."
"He's a bit of a wild card," said Yak. "You give him the ball and you don't know what to expect."
January 20, 2014
Stanley Stick dates set
This year's Stanley Stick will be contested April 20 and 27.
The annual battle for Sunday Morning Road Hockey supremacy is the only time in the eight month season that teams are carried over from one week to the next. That's led to some classic contests over the years, including the stunning series of 2008 when the underdogs battled their way back from a 19-13 deficit in the finale with a 21-19 win that sent the series to a decisive mini game that they also won, 10-3. The incredible 18-4 run still stands as the greatest comeback in Stanley Stick history.
Last year's Stanley Stick champions were led by stalwart veterans Lak Attack and Colonel, who got his first taste of victory champaign in years.
January 12, 2014
Colonel rewards goalie heroics
Colonel gave his team their first lead at the most important point of Sunday's game. He scored ton a breakaway that backed a hapless Twizzler right into his net to lift his side to a sudden-death 15-14 win.
"I was just hoping he'd fall over outside the net," said the wily veteran of the wiry goaltender who seemed to lose sense of where he was in his crease as he stared down the on-rushing forward. "Had he pokechecked me would have been over."
But he didn't and Colonel was able to lift a shot high into the yawning cage.
The victory was a just reward for the clutch performance by his team's goaltender, Lak Attack, who unexpectedly got the call to strap on the pads after Joker was a surprise no-show. The stalwart back-up made at least three electrifying saves, two with his glove hand and another with his outstretched pad as the Living Legend went to his backhand on a breakaway, to give his side their last gasp chance at pulling out the win.
It was, in some ways, an unlikely triumph, as Colonel and his mates played from behind for much of the game, which was played in a steady, cold rain.
Down by as many as four on two occasions, time and again they managed to chip their way back to even terms only to slip behind. But, said the Colonel, they never gave up.
"As long as the game doesn't feel out of reach, it makes it more intense," he said.
The failure by Bam Bam and his mates to put their opponents away for good was frustrating for the speedy winger who endured trans-Atlantic jet lag to make it to the opening face-off.
"We know the game is all about momentum," said Bam Bam. "With games like these sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don't."
And sometimes they end up in the goalie's glove.
"With a goalie like Lak, you know he's going to come up with the big save," said Bam Bam. "We had a few game winners that could have gone in but he came up with the big glove hand."
Those saves were as much a testimony of his will to win as his lightning reflexes, said Lak Attack.
"I said to myself I have to be better," said Lak Attack. "I had to be quick on the ball. It kinda stopped the bleeding."
More importantly, the saves put his team into a position to win.
"It was gratifying to come together as a team and pull out the win," said Colonel.
January 05, 2014
Goalie's offensive acumen no joke
Joker scored 10 times in his debut as an offensive player to lead his team to a 16-13 win in Sunday's Shrimp Ring Bowl.
The rookie rearguard, relieved of the big leg pads when Chico made himself available for a rare start between the pipes, revealed his offensive prowess by staying on his feet and shooting the ball at every opportunity. That's because defenders and even his own teammates couldn't get traction on the slippery concrete, frosted by an overnight chill that persisted through the morning.
"If Joker hadn't been shooting the ball, it would have been a different game," said Yak, whose own run and gun game was stymied by the ice. "It was a little slippery for sure."
So much so, scoring opportunities were created when defenders found themselves struggling to change direction on turnovers or floundering on their backsides after loosing their footing on an icy patch.
"You had to be able to anticipate when the other team was going to fall on their asses," said Yak.
The conditions were equally challenging for both teams. Beckenbauer skidded onto his keester a number of times.
"It was surprisingly exhausting to run on the ice," said the Teutonic terror. "You have to think about saving yourself."
He and his mates used smart positioning to create turnovers and set up Joker.
"I think we did a good job of spreading out across the court so we never got anybody trapped," said Yak. "We didn't have to turn on a dime, and we shot the ball."
Colonel, meanwhile, employed a strategy of avoiding icy upendings altogether by planting himself in front of the opposite goalie, waiting for the scoring chances to come his way. It might have worked, but for his stone hands and inability to help his mates defend odd-man rushes.
December 22, 2013
Lak on attack motivates mates
Lak Attack was so certain he'd putting in another start between the pipes, he drove to Sunday's game wearing his leg pads and mask.
But a surprise appearance by Twizzler gave the versatile veteran a rare chance to lead his team by example and to a 15-9 win.
Lak Attack set the tone for his mates right from the opening face-off as he worked hard in the defensive zone and created opportunities at the opposite end. Living Legend capitalized on the game's first shot, Bing drove hard to the net time and again, and Beckenbauer quickly dispatched the rust of his extended layoff to forge a 5-1 lead by the game's first break.
And while they faltered a couple of times to allow their opponents to climb back to with two goals, they forechecked and battled their way back to dominant leads.
"They were better at jumping on the ball right off the bat," said Yak of their determined opponents. "They were moving for each other and we took a little while to get going."
"When someone is running around, it kinda inspires the team and gets everyone running around," said Beckenbauer of Lak Attack's inspirational effort. "He gave us a bit more mobility that helped us out today."
That mobility advantage was especially important on a court slicked by snow and saturated slush. The challenging conditions seemed to hobble Yak, who relies on quick turns and swooping cuts to bedazzle flat-footed defenders. Colonel seemed tentative after losing his footing early.
And when the underdogs did find their legs, they were stymied by Twizzler, making his first start in net since opening week.
"He was solid early on," said Beckenbauer of his goalie's solid effort after a long layoff. "I didn't even think about his absence as he was just able to step back in where he left off. He didn't miss a beat."
Meanwhile at the other end, Joker struggled in his first sober start.
"Everybody has a bad game, and today he just got bit," said Yak of the shotstopper's struggles. "I think he was learning from it."
December 09, 2013
Angry Colonel awakens team
Nobody wants to wake Angry Colonel.
But Bam Bam did just that when his flailing stick clipped the irascible veteran in the head. The timbre and tempo of Sunday's game changed immediately.
Playing with new purpose and vigour, Angry Colonel and his mates buttoned down defensively and scored four straight goals to eke out a 15-14 sudden death win.
On a cold, crisp day that froze the evil orange plastic balls and sent passes skipping over sticks and shots pinging off posts, Sunday's game started as a reprise of last week's clash, with a minor alteration of Chico's season debut between the pipes.
Using their youth and speed advantage, Doo and his crew jumped to a 10-6 lead then ballooned it to a seven-goal margin with three more unanswered goals.
Chico was struggling. Making his return after an extended paternity leave, the veteran shotstopper was doing anything but as he battled the cold and a frozen trapper.
But a change of equipment seemed to bring him new resolve and a better handle on the icy spheres coming his way. He robbed Doo, Bam and Scrappy of surefire goals to give his side hope.
That hope arrived when Bam Bam's stick connected with Colonel's head, awakening his wrath.
Angered, Colonel executed payback with an elbow to Scrappy that created a turnover and led to a goal to close his side to within 14-11.
His mates took Colonel's cue. A headman pass by Chico to a streaking Weeble sent the diminutive junkman into a clear breakaway on Craigslist keeper Joker. He converted, tying the game at 14.
"I was just thinking shoot," said Weeble.
The goal set up Colonel's winner, his ultimate rebuttal to the blow that raised his ire. And his game.
-with files from Chico
November 24, 2013
Missed opportunities prove costly
Two missed breakaways by Yak may have been the difference in Sunday's game.
With his side in the lead after having fought their way back from an early deficit, the shifty winger found himself in alone on Lak Attack on two consecutive plays but he couldn't convert either into goals that might have put the game out of reach.
"In the moment you think 'ah, you'll get another chance,'" said Yak of his unrealized opportunities. "You really have to capitalize on every chance in a close game like this."
Which is just what Colonel and his mates did.
After floundering through the game's middle section, the feisty forward seemed re-energized after the two squandered scoring opportunities. He was determined not to let the game get away, as it very nearly did when his team blew their early lead and found themselves down 11-9 and the clock running out.
"It feels like momentum is against you," said Colonel. "We had to get one and then we found a bit of life to try harder."
Weeble took advantage of Doo's overly aggressive attempt to clear a loose ball in the corner to tie the game, then Colonel ripped a rapier into the high corner to win it.
The sudden turn of fortune was a tough blow to the upstart keeper.
"We'd fought hard all game, but it just came down to a couple of bad bounces late in the game," said Doo.
"It's a little heartbreaking," said Yak. "We were two breakaways from a win."
November 17, 2013
Clock snubs comeback
Doo and his mates were able to take advantage of some turn overs late in Sunday's game to spark a 9-8 comeback win.
But for some roadsters the game still wasn't over.
A controversial call by representatives from both teams when the score was tied at eight to recognize the next goal as the game winner went unheeded by some players. They cried foul when Doo and Bam Bam combined to complete the comeback.
"You've got to run really hard and try to take advantage of your opportunities," said Doo. "Work hard as a team and you'll get the win."
Though it took a while for his team to find their game.
Their opponents were quick to pounce. Colonel took charge with his sharp, curving shot from the point. Yak bedazzled flat-footed defenders with his deft deking. And Weeble peeled in at the side of the crease to pick up the garbage rebounds. They built a quick 3-1 advantage.
But their up-tempo game took a toll and they were soon huffing, puffing and strolling their way back into plays. Often too late.
"We started giving the ball away and they were able to come back," said Yak.
Doo and his mates found their stride as they found their voice.
"As the game went on we started to communicate," said Doo, whose side held a slim 5-4 advantage at the break. "We were able to get some really good passing plays. That's what did it for us."
Three quick goals put the underdogs back in front, but again, they stopped running.
"You don't have the chance to let up because when you do, you let the odd man opportunities start to happen," said Yak.
Doo and his mates fought back again. This time for good.
"You've got to be patient," said Doo.
November 10, 2013
A month into the season the roadsters have played but one full game.
The loss of regular goalies Twizzler and Chico to new work schedules and fatherhood redux respectively has been compounded by lackadaisical commitment and comebacks that were more hype than career reignitions.
It's disappointing and frustrating.
I's not unexpected.
The early going has been a struggle for the past few seasons as some roadsters fulfill school, work and travel commitments.
The core group of roadsters who continue to carry the game's torch have adjusted by devising a modified half-court game that provides competitive play and a good workout.
But it's not very satisfying.
Clearing the evil orange plastic ball to the far end wall isn't the same as headmanning it to an opportunist teammate to create an odd-man rush on the transition. Beating the goalie isn't as gratifying when you then have to immediately turn around and provide defensive support to him. Running to the edge of exhaustion because of a lack of substitute players to provide relief makes for games littered with mental errors and slothful defence.
If there's a silver lining it's that last year the first full-court game didn't happen until six weeks into the season. This year, the roadsters are actually ahead of that pace.
It may not be the glory days of yore, but as long as there IS a game, there's hope that the games will get better.
The roadsters just need to look at the empty court next door as testament to their resilience; after more than five years the latest incarnation of roguesters are gone, unable to sustain their game through waning commitment.
The Sunday Morning core is as strong as it's ever been, and as long as they have the resolve to weather yet another early season of attendance doldrums, the fire of competitive full-court games will return.
November 03, 2013
So far this season, the middle of the court has been unfamiliar ground to the roadsters. It's just not that important in the half-court game.
But in the first full court game of the new campaign, Yak and his mates used their superior transition game through mid-court to dominate their overmatched opponents, 15-2. It was one of the most lopsided scores in years.
"We capitalized on some transitions," said Yak. "It changed the nature of the game."
Without the necessity of having to regroup through the back court at every change of possession, as in the half-court game, Yak used his speed and stickhandling agility to draw defenders, while Colonel was able to tee up some sizzling slappers that cleared lanes and created opportunities against a beleaguered Beckenbauer, making his first start in net of the season.
"Getting that big shot from the point is key," said Yak.
Indeed, at least a third of his side's goals came off big shot plays. It would have been more had Beckenbauer not robbed Living Legend on at least three occasions when he was poised to chip in fortuitous rebounds and caroms.
"When you've got that big shot coming from the back, that's a big part of the game," said Chico, who took a break from his paternity leave to make a rare start as a runner.
Especially early in the season, as the roadsters are still finding their legs and creating chemistry with their linemates. Having that big blast to clear the track and generate rebounds can be a distinct advantage, said Bam Bam.
"You've got to be quick and fast on your feet," said the feisty forward, who smashed his stick in half after one particularly frustrating play cost his side a goal. "Sometimes you're caught in the wrong position, you're stopping and starting a lot more."
While the imbalance of talent wasn't as great as the score might indicate, Yak said his side's early advantage seemed to deflate their opponents.
"Once we got up by a few it changed the nature of the game," said the speedy forward. "You're not under pressure so you can start committing harder."
October 27, 2013
Patience pays off
Patience is a virtue.
In half-court road hockey it's also a key to victory.
Sunday, Bam Bam and his mates bided their time through a slow start before wresting control of the game from their tiring opponents en route to a 12-7 victory.
Even as his side struggled through the game's first half, Bam Bam knew his side had the chemistry and game plan to comeback.
"We play a lot together," said the feisty forward of his linemates Colonel and Beckenbauer. "We know our strengths and weaknesses."
One of those strengths was the ability to move the ball around the perimeter, forcing fatiguing defenders to scramble after them as Colonel set up shop in the slot ready to tip the centering pass home.
"They did a really good job of keeping Colonel at the net so he didn't have to run too much," said Holt.
But even as their legs faltered, fatigue also exacted a toll on the defenders' mental game.
"You start getting complacent," said Yak. "You start waiting for the ball to come to you rather than going after it. The more tired you get the harder it is to stay sharp."
Sensing the opportunities, Bam Bam and his mates started to take chances.
"We these types of games you have to take more chances," said Bam Bam.
Many of those chances ended up in the back of the net.
"We started giving them up and we gave them up quickly," said Holt.
October 20, 2013
The tendons above his knee no longer inflamed, Beckenbauer sparked his side to a 12-8 win in Sunday's regular season opener.
The lanky Teuton missed most of last season because of the injury. But he barely missed a step in his triumphant comeback.
"I've still got some of the jump I had when I left," said Beckenbauer.
That wasn't good news for Colonel, the lone goalie in Sunday's half-court game.
"He does everything well," said the emergency keeper. "He's excellent defensively, he's got a long reach, he shoots for the corners. You can only try to contain a guy like that."
And for the first two-thirds of Sunday's game, that strategy seemed to be successful, as Yak and the Living Legend opened an early lead.
But the crafty Kraut sensed it was only a matter of time before he and his speedy linemate, Bam Bam, would be able to kick in the afterburners and some goals.
"We've all been here before, so we know how exhausting it gets," said Beckenbauer. "We knew that it's a long game and everything gets evened out in the end."
Which is exactly how Sunday's game unfolded as Beckenbauer and Bam Bam wrested control and the lead from their aging opponents.
"It took us a while to get the touch back," said Beckenbauer, who took full advantage of some of the Colonel's miscues.
"The long shots were pretty good screens," said Colonel. "You've just got to let it go and move on."
October 06, 2013
Even though he's a veteran with his name etched on the Stanley Stick trophy, Scrappy was like a rookie in Sunday's pre-season opener.
He couldn't find his place on the court.
He couldn't connect with his linemates.
He couldn't score.
But after missing all of last season to pursue other interests, it took him half a game to reestablish himself as one of Sunday Morning Road Hockey's most explosive scorers. The elusive sniper snapped two quick goals to spark his side to a 10-6 win.
"The touch was just not there for the first little while," said Scrappy. "I was really leaning on my teammates."
Those teammates bided their time, confident their young centreman would recapture his game.
"It's easier in a half-court game because you're working in a more confined space," said Yak. "You cycle the ball more, try to find guys. It forces you to develop chemistry."
Even as he wheeled and drove to the net without little to show for his effort, Scrappy was observing, making mental notes of his teammates' tendencies.
"If someone has a big shot, you try to set them up," said Scrappy. "If someone likes to go to the net, you just want to give it to them and let them rush."
Which proved to be the formula for victory.
"We had some bounces go our way," said Yak.
"It all came together in the second half of the game," said Scrappy.
September 27, 2013
Sunday Morning Road Hockey's two-week preseason/training camp opens Oct. 6.
August 15, 2013
Chico paused as he pulled off his shoulder pads and chest protector after Wednesday's midsummer scrimmage, wondering if he'd ever have to put them on again.
No, the veteran shotstopper isn't leaving the game.
But the arch nemesis of all goalkeepers is.
Unabomber took to the rain-slicked court for the last time for at least a couple of years. A rare presence in the lineup last season as he pursued educational opportunities, that chase will be taking him to another city beginning in September.
And just like his explosive slapshot, he went out with a bang. Six of them in fact, bullet drives that sizzled into the net even before the keeper could twitch a muscle. He added another with a deft deke as well as set up his teammates with some pinpoint passes.
The effort wasn't enough to keep his side from dropping a 15-9 decision in the annual evening pre-pre-season exhibition.
"I think sometimes you come out for one game and you run on adrenaline for a bit," said Unabomber of his unique achievement.
Far from the game's fastest player, Unabomber menaced opposing goaltenders with his rapier shot that often sent defenders scurrying out of the way to save their shins, calves and even the upper reaches of their bodies. Sometimes even the well-protected shotstoppers were felled, as occurred in the decisive game of the 2008 Stanley Stick championships series, when a Unabomber slapper crushed Billy Idol's mask and face, turning the series' momentum and eventual outcome.
"That was a hard thing to see actually," recalled Unabomber.
Goaltenders feared and respected Unabomber's shot said Chico. But they also valued his ability to be able to turn a game around on a dime with a timely goal.
"It's good to have him on your team, rather than have him shooting against you," said the netminder, who took the loss.
Unabomber refuses to call his departure a retirement. The game, he said, has given him too much to walk away from it forever.
"I think it's the ritual of it all," said Unabomber. "It's been a lot of years and it ramps up towards the Stick, and when you get to the Stick it all makes sense. That's what it's all about."
August 07, 2013
Midsummer scrimmage could be Unabomber's last
Unabomber's first game in a while may be his last game for a while. But, he insists, he's not retiring.
The fearsome slapshooter has signed on for a two-year gig in Calgary, the road hockey equivalent of the KHL.
Unabomber says he'll likely be back, "We're leaving it open to return."
So next Wednesday's annual mid-summer scrimmage is likely to be Unabomber's swan song, but not his farewell aria. He missed all of last season as his time was consumed by higher educational pursuits.
The midsummer scrimmage, scheduled for 7 p.m., Aug. 14, is a sort of pre-pre-season opportunity for the roadsters to loosen their legs and assess their conditioning in advance of the opening of training camp in early October.