March 27, 2006

Nibs serves notice

NIbs started the season as the backup goalie of last resort. Sunday, he served notice he's a savvy shotstopper as he made a number of key saves to lead his undermanned team to a 20-15 win.

Playing an unconventional style in which he mostly ignored his glove hand, the rookie rearguard recorded his second win in three starts against grizzled veteran Gump. And with his team rarely threatened despite playing without a substitute player, he made it look easy.

"Nibs was great," said Elvis, who played one of his strongest gams of the season despite arriving at the courts just before the sides were chosen. "He made some big saves. He's starting to save more balls that he's facing rather than turning away from them. He's playing the pass better. He's playing more games and he's getting more comfortable between the pipes."

He especially shone late in the game, when his mates seemed to be flagging. He may have bowed, losing his bid for his first career shutout, he never broke, as his side's lead never shrank to less than three goals.

"We were getting lazy there towards the end, and Nibs bailed us out," said Unabomber.

"He kept us going there when we were running out of gas," said Elvis.

But Nibs' biggest save may have been one he didn't make. With the game tied 3-3, he couldn't squeeze his big leg pads together quickly enough to stop a sizzling backhand by the Living Legend from the top of the crease. The evil orange plastic ball hit the back of the net and shot right back out. Or did it? An argument ensued as to whether the ball hit the support post in the middle of the net, or one of the outside posts. The memory replay proved inconclusive and the goal was disallowed. It was the closest Nibs and his mates came to trailing the game all day.

"That one hurt," said Gump, reeling from another loss to his netmindiing nemesis. "That was just huge. That was one of the worst calls I've ever seen. It was obviously in the middle of the net."

"I still think that goal was in, it hit the center post," said Bird. "I don't know if you can attribute our entire day to that, but it certainly didn't help."

"It might have been the turning point of the game," said Unabomber.

With the road hockey gods clearly on their side, and Nibs gaining confidence with each save, the undermanned upstarts rebounded from their close call by opening up a five-goal lead. They never faltered. And their opponents never threatened again.

"It was a complete team loss," said Wink. "That's probably the worst passing team I've ever played on. It was just a bad mix of guys. We were awful.

"It was a total team effort on sucking today," said Bird. "Nothing went right, we didn't do a good job on scoring, on defense, on passing."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:17 PM | Comments (17)

March 21, 2006

Scooby basks in the Sun

With the season weather heating up, the battles for road hockey supremacy at the courts are doing likewise. A large weekend turnout clashed under the first heat wave of the year, and in the toasty test it was the young legs that dominated.

Scooby, a new recruit this season, used his quick reflexes and youthful endurance to help push his team to a strong 20-13 finish. Backstopped by PFG, Scooby and his teammates came back from two early deficits in what became a war of attrition.

“We had generally more speed” Scooby said in assessment of his team “so we were able to capitalize on our chances.

He also gave a lot of credit, if slight mispronunciation, to his linemates, Colonel and Hoss.

“We gelled great I think. Me and Hoss kept forechecking and making chances and getting rebounds. Colonel was a rock on defense.”

Indeed, strong defense on both sides of the court early in the game heralded for a long battle. In passing each other at mid court during the period break, PFG was heard commenting to Gump that most of the goals were going to be flukey garbage, and not a lot at that. The first period took almost an hour to play.

And garbage goals did happen, unfortunately mostly against Gump’s team. Scooby was able to use the distraction of Hoss’ big rump in front of the net to poke home some loose balls, and Wendel’s frequently off speed wrist shot found some extra English today, as he was able to pot three strange goals past Gump.

Wendel was philosophical of his unusual offensive outburst. “I’d like to think I was personally responsible for undermining Gump’s confidence today” he declared. “If I score three goals in a game, you know you’re having a bad day as a goalie.”

Gump had a different take on the matter, believing his team’s downfall had perhaps less to do with that than with other factors.

“The sub was a big thing today. They had two lines, and they had a game plan from the start. We were down one from the beginning.”

“I blame Paul One," he added with a grin, “we were expecting him to show up. You can quote me on that.”

And given the increasing heat throughout the morning, it is not surprising that the game hinged on ugly goals.

“They were there on both sides” PFG said. “Both Gump and I had strong starts, and the only goals that were going in were odd ones.” PFG was victimized by two shots where his initial stick save popped up and over his head to drop into the net.

For their part, though, Scooby and his teammates were happy to have the pig slopping goalie in net.

“He was our MVP.” Scooby remarked.

“ He made all the saves, the big and the small. He really was a difference.” Wendel appraised.

Even Gump was impressed. “PFG is a role model for me, I’ll be honest with you.”

But not too impressed. “I’ll beat the [expletive] next week.”

Making a strong showing for the losing side, Shakey Walton, Elvis, and Wink kept pressure on PFG for the first long half of the game, holding a lead at 8-6 when they capitalized on some defensive break downs.

“They were pretty fast too,” PFG remarked. “When we weren’t sharp on defense, they pounced. That Shakey is a pain in the butt.”

Shakey Walton agreed with Gump, though, that the sub was a factor.

“You want to get off after a long shift, but you realize that you’re only replacement had just subbed off himself. It was tough.”

The third quarter definitely showed the signs of wilting players. After managing to run the score to 14-9, PFG’s team faced a interminable stretch of shots and a goalless drought in which the agrarian goaltender began to wear down. At the other end, despite the advantage, Gump’s team only managed two goals in that same stretch before Colonel buried beautiful three way pass to end the quarter and bring a much needed rest.

After the break both teams kept pressing. As not unexpected in a game where Colonel plays, much of the action was physical and grinding. As a surprise though, the aggressive play was not lead by Colonel, but by newcomer Shakey.

“I was just trying to spark up our team. We needed something later on.”

Unfortunately it was too little, too late. Scooby put away Bird and his bunch for good the same way he had done all game, circling the net with Hoss, then pouncing on a rebound. His final post game assessment was appropriate.

"Hey, if you can't take the heat...get off the court."

The aggressive play had it’s toll this week. Shakey suffered a rolled ankle in the third quarter at the end of a long shift, in what may have been a decisive turning point for his team. His reduced speed clearly had an impact, as his team was less able to produce a sustained attack on PFG. When questioned about the injury after the game, Shakey gave only the short, curt statement, “Lower body injury.”

PFG, for one, was glad that Colonel kept more of his cool this week.
“He was great. Held the fort, forced rebounds with his shot—when it hit the net—and controlled the flow from the point. He and Cowboy Bill both were solid two way players this week.”

On the injury front, the Sunday Morning Hockey had a surprise visit before the game from Lak Attack. And although clearly yearning to hit the courts, he forestalled the excited reaction to his appearance by announcing his rehab is still continuing. His herniated disc, while improving, is not yet ready for the ball hockey test.
He did test out his skills as photographer. The jury is still out.

The clear weather also brought out one of the larger turnouts of the year. Thirteen players graced the courts Sunday morning, one short of two full lines for each team plus goalies.
“It’s a good group of guys, and everyone wants to be here. It’s harder over Christmas, but spring is coming, and so is the Stick.” Wendel pointed out.
Wendel also noted with wry humor the absence of the commissioner this week.
“It’s interesting that it was such a good game, and the commissioner wasn’t here. I’m not sure what to make of that.”
Reports indicate that the commissioner will be back next week, as he will no longer be chasing down bands such as the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Elefant in Portland nightclubs. Apparently a journalist convention was squeezed in there somewhere too.

As a further oddity for this week, the game was almost settled by time, not by score. With many players having to leave by one o’clock, and the score sitting at 10-8 at noon, it seemed a time limitation would indeed dictate the length of the game. It could be argued that it did; the last four goals of the game were scored in the last five minutes, when the game seemed pretty much sewn up by Scooby et al.

Posted by Cub Scout at 12:26 AM | Comments (19)

March 14, 2006

Brothers bring hope

Sunday Morning Road Hockey's first brother act, Shakey and John Boy Walton, sparked their veteran team to a 20-7 romp in Sunday's game. They may also have breathed new life into the league.

Using their speed, pinpoint passing and keen sense for positional play, the rookie siblings combined with fellow founding fathers Wink and the Living Legend to charge back from an early 3-1 deficit to score the most decisive victory of the season.

"Those two guys are really really easy to play with," said Wink, who was a commanding presence on the point as he headmanned passes to his slick linemates. "When you've got two guys who go to the open space, it makes it a lot easier; you've just got to find the open spaces, put the ball there and they'll go get it."

"They were everywhere," said Gump, whose battle against the brothers, and a lingering hangover, got more and more futile as the game wore on. "They were on offense, they were on defense. Those guys are special."

And noone benefitted more from their freewheeling than the Legend, who scored a season-high seven goals while assisting on a handful more.

"We gelled as a team after the first five minutes," said John Boy, who ventured to the road hockey courts for the first time after his brother, Shakey, made his debut the week before. "It all seemed to come together, and we went forward from there."

That spelled bad news for Gump and his overmatched mates, who grew increasingly sullen and perplexed as they were overwhelmed by the Waltons' wave.

"They had free reign out there," said the blitzed backstop. "We just got a couple of bounces that didn't go our way."

"Top to bottom, we played a pretty good game," said Shakey.

But, perhaps more importantly, they gave the game new hope. In a season plagued with weird weather, waning attendance and growing indifference, the brothers brought a buzz.

"The Waltons could be the two new stars of the game," said Wink. "Road hockey has its ebbs and flows with talent, and these guys could be the new Kid or the new Lak."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:17 PM | Comments (9)

March 06, 2006

Billy Idol Deflects Praise

The game began and almost ended the same way. The first shot on PFG was smoothly deflected by Billy Idol into the net, and became a running theme for the day. The rebellious roadster was a scourge in front of the net all game, using his timely deflections to help lead his team to a hard fought, 21-19 win.

"I just had the touch today," Idol responded with uncharacteristic modesty. "Sometimes it's on, sometimes not; today, it was on full volume. 11."

It was a tactic that was particularly effective on the slick courts, as a number of steady downpours reduced any freewheeling to a minimum. Passes and shots had to be accurate, as switching directions became a challenge to all players.

And while Billy Idol wasn't deflecting shots past a beleaguered PFG, the goalie's own players were. With his team up 19-18 and pressing for the win, another long shot from Unibomber was deflected by Elvis into his own net. PFG could only look on in bemusement.

"It was a tough game," the agrarian goaltender commented afterwards. "It was hard not to second guess every shot, with so many ricchots and deflections occurring. And when they start coming off your own players, well...nuff said."

On the plus side for PFG's squad, a new acquisition, TBA, turned in a stellar performance, leading his side with several goals. He had an eye for the top and bottom corners, picking his shots with Kid-like precision. And while Lobsterboy responded with a number of clutch saves, the tenacious TBA was given enough chances to find the back of the net. Lobsterboy was also was victimized by several one timed two-on-ones that kept the game close.

"Defense was understandable fragile, for both sides," the clawed backstopper lamented. "With footing so unstable, when the play suddenly reverses, it's difficult for the defenders to respond. Both me and PFG had our work cut out for us today."

Despite the soggy conditions, the turnout was reasonably strong. Each team had two subs, enough to keep the pace of the game, if not the players' balance, steady.

Yet another roadster has purchased real estate, and is subsequently going on holiday. Earlier this year it was Gump buying a condo and then striking out on a leisure jaunt; now, it's Kid doing the same. In a blithe announcement before the game, Kid revealed that he had purchased an appartment, and "as a celebration" he's going to Mexico. Clearly some of these roadsters have more lucrative contracts than others, if they are able to afford both a home and a holiday in the same month...

A scary moment for PFG in the afternoon has left him doubtful for next week's game. Playing in his second game of the day after not being able to find a replacement, PFG torn his knee again while sliding across his crease. And although he was able to finish the game, his knee was definitely unstable, and swollen and sore the next morning. To PFG, however, it was just another day in an aging body.

"I've popped it easily half a dozen times in the last year, and although this one was pretty nasty, it's nothing I haven't handled before. Hey, it's either just another tear, or I've blown it completely. And unless I get surgery, there's little I can do about it. Except not play."

Not an option he cares to consider. However, in the interest of health, PFG's status remains questionable, and he probably will be a game time decision next week.

Posted by at 04:26 PM | Comments (5)