May 15, 2005

Stanley Stick Game 2: Lak spells relief

When Lak Attack swept a shot from the top of the crease past a sliding Pig Farming Goalie in the first overtime to give his team the Stanley Stick championship with a 21-19 win, his teammates sighed with relief.

They'd just survived four hours of the toughest, most rugged road hockey of their careers against an opposition that gave no quarter and made them battle for every advantage. For their trouble, they'll get their names engraved on the Stanley Stick trophy, and the summer to heal their aches and pains.

"It was definitely a tough game," says Lak Attack, who shook off a bruised sternum to score the winner. "I think all my teammates are quite injured."

"What a relief," says Lobsterboy, whose wounded toe, hurt in last week's series' opener, was further aggravated by a number of choice chops around the crease. "I can't believe we won. It was hard on the body, I can barely move, but it was worth it."

"The way this game was going, it could have gone either way," says Unabomber, who had been felled earlier in the game by a shot to the head.

"We were starting to think about the mini-game," says Elvis, nursing some bruises of his own, inflicted by the close checking of the Living Legend and Paul One. "We were pretty scared. We weren't feeling too good."

In fact, late in Sunday's game, they weren't looking too good either. After spotting the underdogs a quick 1-0 lead, the series' leaders seemed well on their way to an easy sweep when they stormed ahead by as many as five goals, 9-4. But their feisty foes clutched, grabbed, interfered and chipped away, wresting their first lead since the game's early moments, 17-16.

For Lak and his mates, it was gut-check time.

"We realized we had to start moving a bit more," says the speedy centerman. "We were too stationary, so we had to start coming to the ball."

"We just had to focus, check a little harder, rush a little more to the ball," says Elvis.

"We just had to remind ourselves to keep shooting," says Kid, who led his team with five goals. "Whenever we stopped scoring, it was because we were passing too much, but if we were just shooting, good things would happen."

Three straight goals gave them the lead, and another would give them the championship. But their gritty opponents weren't dead yet, as Paul One countered with two quick goals to tie the game at 19, sending it to overtime.

"When we tied it at 19, I thought, 'this is it,' we had momentum" says Pig Farming Goalie, whose acrobatic goaltending inspired his mates and earned him the Conn Stick award as the championship series' Most Valuable Player. "We had so much hope, we fought right to bitter end."

But their tank had run dry.

"We were so close," says Wendel. "It kinda breaks your heart when you've given it your all, that you've taken an impossible mission and almost made it happen."

"We're disappointed, but at the same time we have nothing to be ashamed of," says Pig Farming Goalie. "We stepped up and played as best we could. But for a couple of bounces, we could have won that game."

"All the odds were against us," says the Living Legend. "They had a lot of speed, they had a lot of scoring, but they had to work for every goal. They had to earn that win."

And for the next four months, the Stanley Stick Champions will enjoy their reward.

"It's a great feeling," says Kid.

"Winning the Stick is something to savor," says Lobsterboy.

"Sweet. That's all I've got to say," says Lak Attack.

Pig Farming Goalie was awarded the Conn Stick trophy despite losing both games of the series. But players from both teams agreed it was heroic effort between the pipes that kept the championship so close.
"He kept making the key saves," said Lak Attack. "He gave them the confidence to keep going hard."
"PFG stood on his head," said Lobsterboy. "He calmed down his players."
"He played a great game," said Kid. "He was covering the ball really well, there were no rebounds."
"He gave his team the time to fight back," said Elvis.
"In a game like this, you need a stellar goalie and we needed PFG to play the best he could possibly play," said Wendel. "He did not let us down at all. He deserves that Conn Stick trophy, he was easily the best player out there."
But, said the agrarian goaltender, he couldn't have done it alone. "MVP award is nice, but I feel it is total team award because every goal that they score we forced them to earn it."

While some roadsters spent the week between games debating the merits and ethics of a proposed trade to try to even up the sides for Sunday's decisive battle, Paul One pitched a gameplan to his teammates that almost succeeded. Conceding speed and skill advantages to their powerhouse opponents, the underdogs set out to control the pace by tying up their checks and changing lines at every pause in the play.
"We had to come up with something that would recognize our faults; we didn't have speed, we didn't have the talent they had, but we could work hard," said the Living Legend. "Paul One came up with a strategy that made sense and we stuck to it. We didn't let egos get in the way. It was a complete team effort."
"We just had to grind," said Wendel. "This series was the all-stars versus the grinders and we had to outgrind them, outplay them and outhustle them for every single ball."
"The fact that we were able to stick on their players played a little bit of mind game on them," said PFG. "When we played physical, they start to back off a little."
"It was tight defensively out there," said Elvis. "It was really hard to get any room, we couldn't really get away from anyone. There wasn't any room out there for pretty plays."

Sunday's finale lasted almost four-and-a-half hours, the longest single game in Stanley Stick history. By the time it ended, through one downpour of rain and three showers, virtually every player was aching from some sort of injury. Besides Lak Attack's bruised sternum and Lobsterboy's aggravated toe, Pig Farming Goalie tweaked his fragile knee twice, including once during a collision with his own player, Paul One, Billy Idol suffered two hard whacks to his forearm from Unabomber, the Living Legend had jammed his wrist, and Kid was sore and frustrated.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:40 PM | Comments (39)

May 08, 2005

Stanley Stick Game 1: Grit not enough

If Paul One is to win his fourth straight Stanley Stick championship, his team of gritty underdogs will have to play a full game.

Sunday, a lull through the middle two periods cost them eight straight goals and a golden opportunity to shake the confidence of their high-powered opponents, who battled to a 20-11 win in the opener of the two-game season finale.

"We came out firing, we got some early goals, and I think we kind of surprised ourselves that we can play with these guys," says the veteran centerman, as his side charged to a quick 3-1 lead. But against a potent offense led by the game's speediest forwards, Lak Attack and Kid, and its three most powerful shooters, Unabomber, Wink and Nibs, it wasn't enough. "We got a little lazy, let them take over the game because they've got the talent on their side."

While eight straight goals may have sealed their fate on the scoreboard, it hasn't diminished their resolve. Playing with as much grit and determination as their foes had talent and speed, and anchored by the lightning glove hand of Pig Farming Goalie, the underdogs walked off the court battered and bruised but far from broken.

"They're an all-star lineup, they've got a lot of top players, but you've just got to outgrit them," says Wendel. "We played these guys a really tough, hard-fought, long game, we had them back on their heels, and I think that shows we can beat them."

"We might all be pluggers, but we'll keep plugging away," says Pig Farming Goalie.

That means Wink and his mates can't take their win on Sunday for granted, says the veteran defender. "We've got to work just as hard as they work. It's about trying to get three guys out there every shift that will work hard."

"We were being outhustled and outmuscled in every corner and on every play," says Lobsterboy, who overcame a shaky start to make some key saves as his mates built their insurmountable advantage. "We have to play to win. We've got to come out as killers. We can't afford to float and bask in our victory today."

But grit won't be enough for the underdogs to even the series and force a decisive minigame.

"I think we need a little bit more luck on bounce of balls," says Pig Farming Goalie. "We were running lots but taking very low-percentage shots."

"We have to make the most use of the talent we have," says Wendel. "We've jsut got to stay really focused and stick to our gameplan."

A plan the leaders will spend the next week preparing for.

"We're gonna have to withstand their early charge and not let it affect us," says Wink. "They're gonna push and they're gonna push hard, so we're gonna have to push back. Pack a lunch, put the dog in the kennel, call a nanny to clean up the house, because this is going to go long."

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:48 PM | Comments (36)

May 01, 2005

Stanley Stick preview: comeback sets stage

Sunday's losers may just have what it takes to be winners in the Stanley Stick, which begins next week.

Paul One and his mates stormed back from an eight-goal deficit in Sunday's game to force overtime. And while they ultimately succumbed 21-19, the veteran forward says his team played with the kind of heart and determination that will be key to prevailing in the two-game championship series.

"We came back and pushed it to overtime and that bodes well for the Stick," says One, who knows what it takes to engrave his name on the championship trophy as he inhabits multiple panels. "I don't know how much people were playing for today as much as they were playing for the game next week."

"You want to have confidence going into the Stick," says Gump, who's knack for causing chaos in the crease to create rebounds for his linemates propelled his side's unlikely comeback. "It was a great team effort today, it gets you excited about the Stick."

"The way the team rallied really shows who the character guys are," says Elvis. "Games like today put it all into perspective, it lets you see how the team can turn it around."

Indeed, after falling behind 11-3, it would have been easy for Elvis and his mates to just pack their equipment bags and hope for a better team selection next week. They were in disarray, neglecting their defensive assignments, coughing up the evil orange plastic ball in their own end and floundering in the offensive zone.

But with next week's championship looming, Paul One wasn't about to give up.

"You're never really out of it," says the veteran centerman, who continued to charge hard into the corners even after he was hobbled by a twisted ankle. "I don't think you ever let your head get down, you keep plugging away, and today proved you can still have a chance."

Nine straight goals, including a freak shot that bounced high off the fence behind Lobsterboy's net, caromed off the back of his leg and then dribbled over the goalline, tied the game at 15.

"A few bounces went our way, built a little momentum," says Elvis. "That was enough to get us going."

In fact, for a brief moment, it even got them the lead, 17-16. The game had become a test of character for both sides.

"You've always got to battle every moment because your lead can slip away pretty fast," says Bird. "Everyone wants to show they've got what it takes to win."

That meant getting back on their gameplan, says Wendel. "We just kept pushing. We stayed focused and confident that we could make the goals and make things happen."

And while his side may have won the game on the scoreboard, both sides say they felt like winners.

"Nobody can be upset today," says Gump. "We're proud of that comeback."

"It's a bit of a moral victory, I think," says Elvis. "We definitely feel better about the comeback after such a rough start, and you can take something from that."

"We've got a lot of guys who are at the top of their game right now," says Wendel.

This season's earlier start to the Stanley Stick may mean some roadsters aren't in peak physical form, but, say some, it should make for a spirited, competitive series.
"I think the game itself will be better because the last couple of years it's just been incredibly hot and the games have lagged," said Bird. "Both sides are usually the same when it comes to skill, so it'll come down to whoever works the hardest and gets the bounces."
"I think it's a good idea, especially with the weather starting to get so hot," said Wendel. "It's gonna come down to who's the hotter goalie and to which team can make the passes and the plays when they need to."
"Making it a bit earlier might even help the game," said Paul One. "Everyone is a little sharper."

Unabomber returned to the court Sunday after missing most of the season with torn ankle ligaments. And while his fitness may have lagged, his rapier shot was as sharp as ever, as wary defenders gave him too much time to tee it up.
After the game, the powerful pointman declared himself ready for next week's Stanley Stick. His presence could prove pivotal as defenders will have to pay close attention to the added dimension he brings to his teams offense.
"It'll free up a guy because someone will have to cover the pointman," said Unabomber.

Next week's Stanley Stick is the first of a two-game series, the only time in the season when teams are carried over from one week to the next. Those teams will be chosen by a card draw. Players not present for the card draw will not be put on a team and will have to hope for a scratch to get a playing spot in the second game.

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:38 PM | Comments (22)