May 30, 2004

Stanley Stick Game 1: Taking creative control

Elvis used his speed and Rudy and Lak Attack used their creativity to take control of the Stanley Stick Championship series with a 20-13 win in Sunday's opening game.

With each of the speedsters rotating through their various line combinations, their attack never relented, wearing down their undermanned opponents over the marathon match that lasted almost three hours.

"We were just trying to make sure we had some wheels out there for every shift, just try to keep moving all the time and throw off their defenders a bit," says Elvis.

By putting a fast player on almost every line, they were able to control the tempo of the game, forcing their opponents to react. With two, or sometimes all three, on the same combination, they dominated.

"We just kept going at them," says Rudy, who consistently outran defenders along the boards and twice initiated consecutive goals with lightning charges up the middle off face-offs. "We wanted to keep some creative players together, keep moving out there, keep dancing around and keep moving the ball."

It was all too much for their opponents, who were overwhelmed after taking a quick 4-1 early in the game.

"It was about hustle and getting outworked, I think we made them look good at the end," says notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink. "I think we just ran out of steam, we really didn't get any consistent offense."

For the underdogs, the wheels started to fall off when Pig Farming Forward left the game after he slipped on the rain-slicked concrete court, aggravating the injured knee that had kept him out of the lineup most of the season. The added workload quickly took its toll on defenders, as they tried to keep pace with their speedy opponents. And none moreso than the Kid, who still seemed to be feeling the effects of a back injury that had cost him the last two games of the regular season.

"I think we stood around worrying that Kid was hurt instead of stepping up, filling in and kinda picking up the slack," says Wink.

Their fleet foes were quick to take advantage.

"When guys end up being a little flat-footed, a little tired, they start making mental mistakes," says Rudy.

His side scored four straight goals to take their first lead, 5-4. They never looked back.

"We knew we had to switch up our lines a bit or do quicker shifts and just work hard to get a few quick ones of our own," says Elvis.

"The court dried up and that really helps guys battle hard," says Ottoman, who made a number of key saves en route to the first post-season win of his career. "It just goes to show you everyone was doing everything they can."

And that's just what the underdogs will have to do next week, if they want to force a decisive minigame, says Wink. "We've got to make things happen. It's the last game of the season and if we're not winning, we're gonna make sure their guys are going to tired and sore."

The speedsters aren't worried. They think they've found a winning forumula.

"As long as we're all communicating, and we're all covering defensively, then we don't have much to worry about," says Rudy.

"We've got to match up with the right people and try to make sure they don't get the jump on us," says Elvis.

"We have to play smart," says Ottoman.

At almost three hours, Sunday's game was the longest of the season. And the marathon took its toll.
"The game goes on this long, everyone gets tired and the long shifts will kill you," says Elvis. "It's important for us to keep rolling through the lines."
"We've got a couple of guys who hadn't played in a couple of weeks, and that didn't help us," says Wink.

When the Kid missed the last two games of the regular season to rest his injured back, he relinquished his reign as Sunday Morning Road Hockey's leading Ironman, a title he took over from the Living Legend last November when he missed his first game in almost four seasons.

With Pig Farming Forward unlikely to start Sunday's season finale after aggravating his oft-injured knee, his spot is expected to be filled by Wendel, who had previously booked off from the Stanley Stick opener to attend a previously-scheduled social function.

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:36 PM | Comments (30)

May 23, 2004

Stanley Stick preview: Dynamic duel

Ottoman can see clearly now. And he's got his sights set on his first Stanley Stick championship.

The third-year 'tender says he's seeing the ball better since undergoing laser eye surgery midway through the season. That's giving him newfound confidence. And that's bad news for opposing snipers.

"You see everything a lot clearer now," says Ottoman, who made a number of key saves late in Sunday's game to allow his team to claw back from match goal to win a 16-14 overtime thriller. "The point shots are a lot clearer."

Opposing fowards who used to pepper shots from the point and then battle for rebounds rolling around at Ottoman's feet are now finding their blasts smothered by the goalie's lightning glove hand or steered harmlessly into the corner. And holes between his pads or underneath his arms have suddenly disappeared. Always a formidable presence between the pipes in his rolls of oversized equipment, Ottoman has become an impenetrable wall.

"Ottoman is playing the best he's ever played," says Elvis.

His timing couldn't be better.

Heading into next week's Stanley Stick opener, there seems to be little to choose between the goalies, as Lobsterboy won three of the last four games in the regular season, falling just short of the season-ending sweep when Bird got just enough on a cross-court pass to knock Sunday's winning goal beyond the reach of the supine shotstopper. Their styles couldn't be more different; Ottoman's disciplined stand-up saves versus Lobsterboy's raucous diving and sprawling. But they're equally feeling the pressure.

"Everyone has pressure," says Ottoman. "No one wants to lose, everyone wants to go out there and work hard."

"Now it's the end game," says Lobsterboy. "You turn to the Zen moment, you try to play well, don't take any dumb risks. You just want to get in there and get the first win."

To do that will require chemsitry and hard work, say the roadsters. With the goalies at the top of their game, and opposing forwards evenly matched, those intagibles could be the difference.

"The Stick is all about determination and it's all about chemistry," says Elvis, who will be vying for his third straight championship. "You've got to keep cool heads, play as a team. You can't get too stupid by losing your head and getting off your game."

"The only thing that's going to win the Stanley Stick this year is hard work," says Billy Idol. "Everyone is playing a bit more physical, you're not able to walk through guys like you used to."

"You wanna go in on a positive attitude, and a win helps that way," says Paul One.

And that's just what his team achieved in Sunday's game, as they were able to battle back from a 14-11 defecit with five unanswered goals.

Battle being the operative word, says Elvis. "We just had to go out and win all the battles, beat them to the ball.

"I think we just had to pick up the intensity a little bit and start beating the other team to the ball in their own end," says Paul One. "We started to work real hard and hustle and that made all the difference."

So did the sudden departure of Lak Attack from their opponent's blueline. When the superstar speedster had to leave early to service the onerous demands of his exploitative employer, his side had a narrow 11-10 advantage. They responded with three quick goals to get them to the edge of victory, but then their hands turned to stone. Nibs twice blasted shots past the open side.

"I think what happens is they lose Lak Attack and they know they have to pick up their game, and that's exactly what happened," says Paul One.

"Obviously Lak Attack is a pretty big person out there, it's impossible to replace him," says Elvis. "Definitely with him out of the lineup we had an easier time going to the net and getting to our own rebounds."

"When Lak Attack left, it was just a matter of time," says Lobsterboy. "We just couldn't keep up. We just ran out of gas."

"It seemed like we just used all our reserves," says Billy Idol. "It was a tough, tough loss."

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:39 PM | Comments (22)

May 16, 2004

Cowboy Bill rides again

Cowboy Bill roped a pair of goals on his first shift in almost a month, while his lanky linemate Rudy rounded up bewildered defensemen to lead their team into the sunset with an easy 20-10 win.

Teamed with Beetle Boy, the tricky trio took control of the game as soon as they stepped onto the court. As Rudy spun and twisted his way into the corners, dragging two and sometimes even three defenders with him, his sharpshooting mates found themselves with plenty of open court and easy scoring opportunities. They didn't miss.

"They weren't the best goals in the world, but they got us off to a great start," says Cowboy Bill, whose two quick goals sparked his side to an 8-0 advantage before their outgunned opponents could respond. "Rudy just dances through everybody, which allows Beetle and I to have a cup of coffee on the rush."

"That's part of the gameplan for sure," says Rudy, who seems to have stepped his game up to a new level of dominance as the season winds down towards the climactic Stanley Stick championship series. "When you're playing three-on-three, it's so tight, so if you draw someone in to you, you bring them away from somebody else, and my linemates had great finish today."

"It just helps when everybody on the line is flying, because then the other team doesn't know who to concetrate on," says Beetle Boy. "They go to check Rudy and all of a sudden somebody like Cowboy Bill is loose to get a goal and that kinda throws everybody on their team into disarray."

That's exactly what happened, says Billy Idol, as their defense struggled and their offense failed to find the net. "Being so far behind right from the beginning, and facing Rudy and Lak Attack and their big shooters, we knew we were in an uphill battle. We were behind the eight ball all day today."

Especially with their starting goaltender, Gump, struggling in his first game in more than three weeks. Rebounds careened enticingly off his pads all day, and twice he steered seemingly harmless long shots into his own net.

"We were getting all the bounces, and there were some lucky hops there," says Cowboy Bill. "You've just got to pepper (Gump) with shots, nothing too fancy, and you know he's going to leave some holes open."

"You've got to put those first couple past him before he gets warmed up," says Beetle Boy. "It was important to get out there and get that momentum going."

"Our goaltender was pretty rattled and he managed to kinda get behind himself," says Billy Idol of his side's beleaguered ballstopper, who admitted he missed games the last two Sundays because of Saturday night debauchery. "You can't just take two or three weeks off to get drunk and then expect to just step in and play well."

It's a predicament Lobsterboy knows all too well.

"You lose your momentum, so it's hard to start off flying, especially this late in the season," says the shelled shotstopper, who goes into the last game of the regular season next week riding a three-game winning streak. "You forget how fast the players are."

"We gave him a tough welcome back," says Rudy.

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:11 PM | Comments (14)

May 09, 2004

Rudy paces comeback

Rudy twice undressed the Living Legend while scoring consecutive goals to spark his team to a 20-13 comeback win in Sunday's game.

With his team struggling and sniping at each other rather than sniping shots at the opposing net, Rudy spied a weakness and pounced, dancing around a flat-footed Legend to break in uncontested and roof a pair of shots over an embattled Ottoman. The lightning strike seemed to extinguish the firepower of his opponents, who had forged their way to a surprising 8-4 lead.

"They were definitely pushing forward," says Rudy. But they left their defense exposed, and that's when he found his seam. "It's gotta take the wind out of their sails... and it gave us the strength to just keep going."

"It's humoungous," says Unabomber of his teammate's quick attack. "Everything was feeling a little hopeless there for awhile and it gives you a lift that you didn't have."

"He was out-quicking us for sure, he had some awesome moves" says Paul One of the rocketing Rudy. "You get into this type of weather and the dry court, and you can definitely see the people who have the good endurance, the guys who can run down the ball and make things happen."

While Rudy left his opponents scrambling for their wardrobe, his side's goalie, Lobsterboy, made a key addition to his equipment after being felled by a blistering, rising shot to his neck off the stick of Lak Attack. The respite as the creaseminding crustacean gathered his senses and then strapped on a protective neck guard and a new facemask allowed his mates time to regroup and his resolve to play through the pain seemed to inspire them.

"He got rid of that tacky teal mask, put on the black defender and that just sort of changed his attitude," says Unabomber. "It was the intimidation factor."

"You'd think that shot might turn him the other way, make him a little gunshy, but it didn't happen," says Paul One. "He seemed to close the door after that."

Including a remarkable series of four stops on the Living Legend as he whacked at rebounds, and a diving lunge across the crease to rob the fellow founding father of a wide-open onetimer off a pass from Bird.

"He made several of the biggest saves of the year, that's for sure," says Rudy.

"When you do a save like that, and you hear everyone go 'woh,' it really rallies the team," says Lobsterboy, showing off the battlescars of his effort, welts and angry red bruises all over his upper torso and arms.

Even some late line juggling by their opponents in a desperate attempt to generate offense couldn't overcome the winners' speed and newfound defensive determination.

"We had to be more concerned about what we're doing or what we're not doing," says Paul One, of his side's sudden strategy to throw all their goal scorers on one super line.

But putting the Kid and Lak Attack together only seemed to affirm the effectiveness of their team's gameplan, says Rudy. "We stayed pretty positive. We just had to build on our own chances."

"We tried to play a little more of a control game, and we weren't feeling so desperate," says Unabomber. "We just settled down."

"Our guys just started working harder and passing better," says Lobsterboy. "It was an exciting game."

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:11 PM | Comments (10)

May 02, 2004

Lobsterboy's patience pays off

If good things come to those who wait, Lobsterboy should buy a lottery ticket.

The shelled shotstopper has been waiting all season to score his first victory, and then he had to wait more than three periods for his teammates to finally find their offensive legs as they roared back from a 17-14 defecit to eke out an overtime thriller, 21-19.

"It just feels good to win one game," says the creaseminding crustacean, who's been struggling to find his goaltending groove after being in and out of the lineup all season. "I've come close so many times, I've let in so many lousy goals."

For most of Sunday's game, it looked like it would be another one of those times as opposing speedsters Kid and the Colonel were able to careen around flatfooted defenders and convert two-on-one and even three-on-one breaks, while notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink, had ample time to tee up his terrifying slapshots from the point. But then Lobsterboy took control, smothering rebounds, lunging across the crease to knock sure goals away with his stick, headmanning clearing passes up the court, imploring his mates to battle back.

"He lets you know that you're still in the game and that you can still pull out the win," says Billy Idol, who's tenacious forechecking late in the game created a number of scoring opportunities. "Lobsterboy was definitely the difference today."

"He stepped up at the time they needed him the most, and they definitely started to work a little harder," says the Colonel who was robbed late in the game when Lobsterboy jabbed his stick across the open net to knock a sure goal from mid-air. "They controlled the ball along the boards, they beat us to the ball when it was loose, and when you have possession of the ball, good things tend to happen."

Like Bird and Billy Idol poking rebounds between Ottoman's pads, or Hoss and Elvis crashing hard to the net to convert scoring chances, or the Living Legend stripping the ball from a streaking Kid, spinning and ripping a shot in the shortside.

"We had a good finish," says Billy Idol. "We had scoring from every single person today."

It took a while to happen, though. After charging to a quick 2-0 lead, Idol and his mates seemed to lose their spark about the same time they lost their defensive quarterback, Wink, who was released to the other team to replace Hoss, as he dealt with an emergency demand from his exploitative employer.

"When we picked up Wink off waivers, it was an absolute coup, it changed the dynamic of the game" says the Colonel, as his side took a 5-4 lead into the first break. "We had a guy back there who could pass and shoot, he makes really good plays, he added another threat to the team."

"Wink is the quarterback for any team," says Lobsterboy. "He knows how to make the passes, he can slow down the game."

Suddenly struggling, his mates started pressing in the offensive zone, leaving their beleaguered backstop to fend for himself.

"We tried to be too offensive, and we just got caught too many times," says Billy Idol, who expressed his own frustration when he pitched his gloves and stick over the fence after a difficult shift.

"The wind just went out of their sails," says Lobsterboy of his misfiring mates.

So it was up to him to be his team's port in the storm.

"We were behind four times, and we always caught up," says Lobsterboy. "It makes you feel good that you can contribute by making some key saves."

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:10 PM | Comments (15)