October 31, 2004

Shooters turn tourney

When a surplus of players serves up the rare treat of a tournament with multiple teams, there's no trick to success.

That was the scenario on Sunday, as the throng of roadsters who turned up on the sunny, brisk Halloween morning split themselves into four teams to play a series of games up to 10. And the squad that prevailed with the best record did so because they stuck to basics.

"You look at the teams that won, and they're the teams with the big shooters," says Wink, whose side succumbed 10-9 in the tourney's finale when renowned slapshooter Nibs ripped a rebound over a sprawling Lobsterboy. "You've got to have guys who can really shoot, because if you have to run to score, you're going to get tired, you're going to run out of gas."

"You've got to shoot, and you've got to hustle your ass off the get to the rebounds," says Beetle Boy, after his team bounced back from a first game loss to romp to a 10-6 in the consolation final.

"You've got to go out there and give it everything you've got," says Wendel, whose side didn't have enough in either of their games, losing 10-2 and 10-6. "You've really got to stay focussed and stay on your game. You've got to play your game from start to finish."

All that shooting puts a lot of pressure on the goalies, says Gump, who was feeling the heat in his first start of the season. "You don't want to let a weak one in, because if you do, it really gets the team down."

"You've got to have confidence in your goalie," says Wink. "You're going to run out of gas trying to backcheck."

And in short games to ten, a slow start can be fatal, a quick lead the key to victory.

"With the short game format, every goal counts," says Wendel. "In both of our games, we went down early and that was it. We spent the rest of the time trying to climb the mountain, instead of getting some momentum going."

"The game is to ten, so it goes by pretty fast," says Gump. "If you come out cold, you're toast. If you can come out early and get a lot of goals, then you're on your way."

"If you get that quick lead, then that's what you build upon," says Beetle Boy. "It's the foundation that lets you start to demoralize the other team so they start taking risks."

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October 25, 2004

Goalie shortage creates crisis

The early-season goalie crisis is changing the game, and some of the roadsters are grumbling.

So far, in two pre-season and two regular games, only one of last season's regular rearguards has strapped on the protective leg pads. Lobsterboy won his only start, in the exhibition opener, before embarking on his annual international scouting mission. The other goalies have yet to play; Ottoman is out of the lineup indefinitely as he recovers from a bout with kidney stones, Gump has yet to start after breaking his wrist in the off-season, and Pig Farming Goalie's career may be over after a series of knee injuries.

In their absence, Billy Idol and Lak Attack have stepped into the breach. Neither is a fulltime goalie, and the roadsters have had to adjust.

"When you've got the backup goalies out there, you've got to give them a little chance to warm up, get a feel for things, and not get overwhelmed too quickly," says Wendel. "You've got to push a little harder, try to block more shots and play better defense."

"You're not sure what they're going to do," says Unabomber. "You've gotta kinda be a bit more cautious about clearing out the rebounds."

Meanwhile, the neophyte netminders are biding their time, hoping the regulars will return. Soon. Lak Attack reported to training camp in the best shape he's been in in two years, but he has yet to get the chance to stretch his legs. And Billy Idol isn't having much fun facing down opponents' slapshots.

"It's been pretty frustrating," says the occasional creaseminder. "I haven't been enjoying myself playing goal."

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October 24, 2004

Billy bags first win

Billy Idol hasn't been having a whole lot of fun so far this season. But Sunday, as the clock ran down on his team's stunning 20-12 win, his smile beamed from behind his protective mask.

For the yeoman backup, who's been pressed into the big leg pads as Sunday Morning Road Hockey's regular shotstoppers recover from off-season injuries, it was his first win in four starts, dating back to the Midsummer's Eve exhibition game in August. For his team, playing with one less substitute and a distinct size disadvantage, it was a victory as unlikely as it was resounding.

With history, and the odds, seemingly stacked against him, Billy Idol stifled opponents' breakaways and smothered their rebounds, while his mates used their speed and cunning to unleash a withering attack of odd-man rushes. It was, says the rock-and-roll rearguard, a total team effort.

"I felt like I saw the ball better, I played my position better. And we had good offense today, we just kept going at them."

"Billy Idol was making the key saves," says Unabomber, who led his team's transition game with heads-up passes to streaking wingers, Kid and Bird. "We knew we just had to work a little harder, play with a harder work ethic."

The effort paid off immediately, as the underdogs never trailed, never allowed their lead to shrink to less than two goals.

"We never had it going right," says Elvis of his side's anemic performance. "We were behind the eight ball from the very beginning."

"We were fat and lazy, it was embarrassing," says Wink, clearly agitated. "We were a bunch of lazy scumbags, and they worked hard."

Indeed, the winners got big efforts from all four of their runners, as each of them contributed five goals. But none may have been so devastating as the Living Legend's natural hattrick that broke open a tight 8-6 game. The unlikely goals seemed to spark his mates and boost their confidence.

"Right after the Legend's hattrick, we just started peppering them with shots," says Unabomber. "I think it rattled them a bit. They kept leaving us open, and with our defense pinching in, we were able to find those open holes."

"That's sorta like watching lightning strike twice," says Wendel of the veteran forward's offensive outburst. "It's just one of those freak things that shatters your confidence for the rest of the game."

"This one feels good," says Billy Idol.

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October 17, 2004

Extending the pain

For Wendel and his teammates, a decision part way through Sunday's regular season opener to extend the game to 25 goals was like moving the net back in the middle of a breakaway.

After battling back from an early defecit to close within a goal, 12-11, the prospect of an extra period to score the win may have been just too daunting. They were thrashed 13-1 the rest of the way.

"You know you've got to start to pace it out a little more, you've got to parcel your energy," says Wendel, of the mid-game swoon that came on the heels of the announcement to add another period. "You struggle and fight and claw back and you get so close, but then it slides away, that's tough to handle."

For the second straight week, a slow start by neophyte netminder Billy Idol, pressed into crease duty again as regular rearguards Ottoman, Pig Farming Goalie and Gump recover from various off-season ailments, cost his team early. But as he closed his five hole, his mates closed the gap. KId rediscovered his deke, Unabomber found his fearsome slapshot, and a runaway romp was suddenly a desperate nailbiter.

"Billy Idol changed up his game, and everything turned around for us for awhile," says Unabomber, who was able to regain the range of his legendary blueline blasts despite being hobbled by a pulled calf muscle.

"Billy really stepped up his play, he was shutting the door on us," says Paul One. "That helped them with their confidence level. Those guys were pressing."

But then came the decision to add a period, and the urgency that had fueled the underdogs' resurgence deflated like a torn tire.

"I think having the pressure relieved by adding that extra five goal margin maybe gave them a bit of a false sense of security," says Elvis. "They eased off a bit."

The feisty forward and his mates were quick to take advantage. With the Colonel driving hard to the net, Paul One dominating the boards and Bird bouncing in bloopers, the romp restarted in earnest.

"You definitely wanna capitalize," says Elvis of his opponents' midgame meltdown.

"Once we got a couple of goals ahead of them again, I think they figured it was done," says Paul One. "You could sorta see them let down."

"They got a few quick ones, and that was a pretty big mountain to climb," says Unabomber. "I think it kinda took the life out of us."

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October 10, 2004

Nibs nets nine

While the rest of the roadsters were spending their summer off season sipping pina coladas, Nibs was sharpening his shot in the afternoon league. Sunday, his preparation paid off, as he fired nine goals to lead his team to a 20-16 win in the final tune-up before the games start counting, next week.

That this would be a big day for the soft-spoken slapshooter was apparent right from the get-go, as he racked up a hattrick even before the teams paused for the first intermission. With time to tee up from his wheelhouse, just inside half-court, he ripped blasts past the outstretched glove of a shellshocked Billy Idol and between the baffled backstop's pads.

"I was just shooting more," says Nibs, whose rapier blasts sail over the net and into neighboring gardens more often than not. "It was just that this time they were going in. Sometimes the luck just comes your way."

And that's the cue for opposing goalies to get out of the way.

"It's scary, you see these guys winding up and, eventhough you've got protection, it still hurts," says Billy Idol, who was pressed to strap on the goalie pads to relieve the first goalie crisis of the season with Lobsterboy away on his anuual scouting mission, and Ottoman and Pig Farming Goalie out with injuries. "He was just finding my five-hole everytime."

But Nibs had more in his arsenal Sunday than just his big blast. Showing rare bursts of speed, he drove deep into the corners and circled the crease looking for the wrap-around. He even played some defense.

"He mixed it up really well," says Wendel of his tricky teammate. "He showed us a lot of new looks that we're not used to seeing. He was playing positions we've never seen him play before."

And unlikely to see him playing again, says Elvis, who was burned more than once by Nibs' nifty footwork. "Well, once a year he has a big game. But, unfortunately for him, he wastes it in the pre-season."

Indeed, once defenders figured out they needed to pay closer attention to the point-shot specialist, they were able to stifle the run and gun game that Nibs and his mates had used to build a 19-12 lead. Four straight goals brought the underdogs within three.

"We just got a few lucky bounces," says Elvis, who also stepped up his game after a lackluster start. "Our passes started connecting and we started to hit the net to get the momentum back."

"We knew we weren't going to go down 20-10," says Billy Idol. "We just gave it all we had, we buckled down and made it close."

But the effort was too little, too late. Nibs' hard-shooting heroics was just too high a hurdle to overcome.

"He had made all the difference," says Wendel. "It was Nibs against the world, and he won. You couldn't ask for anything more."

Posted by jaysuburb at 03:44 PM | Comments (1)

October 03, 2004

MVP lives up to title

Last season's Most Valuable Player, Kid, picked up where he left off, whistling a high shot past a handcuffed Lobsterboy to seal a 15-13 win in Sunday's first pre-season game. But not before his longtime rival, Lak Attack, served notice that he has every intention of stealing away the status as road hockey's premier player.

Right from the opening faceoff, the Kid showed he hadn't lost any of his scoring touch over the summer, as crisp passing plays with linemates Bird and the Living Legend bewildered their flatfooted opponents and staked his team to an early lead that ballooned to as large as 10-4 at the second intermission break.

"Anytime Kid got the ball, it seemed to be going in the net," says Rudy, who was a surprise starter between the pipes when other regular rearguards failed to report for the first competitive game of the pre-season.

"The Kid was on fire today," says Lobsterboy, who struggled early in his only preseason start, before he embarks on another fruitless overseas scouting mission for the next four weeks.

"It's tough to climb out of that hole, because they have Kid, and he's a dynamic scorer," says Wink, beginning his 14th season. "We were having trouble shutting him down, we needed to do a better job."

That's when Lak Attack went to work, as he tried to expunge the bitter memory of his slow start last season that soured his fans and may have ultimately cost him the MVP award. Looking lean and moving fast, he wheeled, dealed and whirled through tiring defenders to spark his team to an unlikely comeback that fell short by only a goal.

"We had some character guys, some balls-out guys, and we knew in the end our character had to overcome whatever talent they had," says Wink. "I thought we deserved a better fate."

"Finally our scoring line started to score," says Lobsterboy, who also seemed to settle down late in the game, as he repeatedly robbed the Living Legend and stifled Beetle Boy. "I made some good saves and they felt there was an opportunity."

But while their seasoned opponents may have stuttered, they refused to collapse, feeding the evil orange plastic ball to Kid, as he motored up the wing to his favorite launch pad, from which he rarely fires a dud.

"We're veterans, we knew not to panic," says Southpark, who returned to the courts after missing most of the last two seasons.

"I thought we had a shot," says Wink.

Posted by jaysuburb at 03:57 PM | Comments (14)