February 26, 2007

Slip sliding away

Down 4-0 before they even managed to get a shot of their own on net, Wink and his mates knew not to panic. Sure enough, as the court slicked up from a persistent light rain, the game slipped back to them.

"We knew we had the better team, we knew we had better talent. It was just a matter of time before we rallied," said the notorious gameshow host gone bad, as his side went on to outscore their overmatched opponents 20-12 to win Sunday's game 20-16.

But with the usually reliable Lak Attack struggling between the pipes, and the defense in disarray, it took an early gutcheck to turn the game's momentum around.

"You almost start to lose a ittle confidence in your goalie," said Cowboy Bill. "So you just have to turn it around on some hard work, play some solid defense."

"We had to start working, we had to wake up," said Wink.

And wait for the courts to slick up from the rain that started to fall shortly after the end of the first period.

"As the conditions slickened out there, it evened out the speed," said Cowboy Bill. "That allowed us to control the ball a little more often and gave us some control of the game."

"It was unsure footing for everybody," said Wink. "But road hockey is a game of ebb and flow and we knew it was just a matter of time before we'd get some shots on goal."

It would take more than just a lot of shots on opposing goaltender Billy Idol, who came into the game filled with confidence after two consecutive wins.

"We needed to get bodies in front of the goal and just make life rough on Billy Idol," said Wink.

"We gave up a few too many turnovers, a few too many defensive lapses, and they killed us," said Bird. "We made a lot of mental errors."

Early on, though, it seemed Bird and his mates could do nothing wrong. Led by the Living Legend, who played with renewed confidence and vigor while the court was still dry, they stormed the net, cycling the ball deep in the offensive zone and finding plenty of porous holes around and in the net.

"We got off to a pretty quick start, we were doing okay," said Bird. "It's always tough to lose, but when you get off to a 4-0 start, it's rough."

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February 18, 2007

Shifts of momentum

First the Colonel came back from a knee injury that kept him out of the lineup for more than a month. Then he sealed a four-goal comeback late in Sunday's game to steal a 20-18 win for his team.

But the table for his late-game heroics may have been set much earlier, when his side's second unit snapped their own scoring drought and sparked a similar four-goal outburst, giving them the lead for the first time.

"Without that shift, we wouldn't have been in the game at all. It was pivotal" said Colonel of the earlier turnaround that put his side ahead, 7-6, but, more importantly gave them a boost of confidence at a critical time in the game. "It was perfect timing."

Indeed, the outburst transformed their team from a one-line unit to a full-on threat, serving notice that goals could come from anyone, anywhere.

"That was really the turning point," said Bird, crediting the effort by Wink, Doo and the Living Legend for getting their side back into the game they seemed on course to squander. "We were having a lot of problems just hitting the net and scoring. We had a lot of chances and we couldn't bury them."

"All of a sudden, they had all sorts of confidence," said Smith. "We thought the game was already over, we had a comfortable lead, we thought we were going to cruise to a win, and it just fell apart. They started shooting, Gump started missing a couple of shots he should have saved and everyone on our team started losing confidence."

In fact, Sunday's game was one of momentum swings, as each team seized leads, only to squander then seize them again.

"Momentum was huge, and you saw it shift," said Beetle Boy. "Each team was scoring goals in stretches."

"You get a couple of goals, you see them drop their heads and that gives you an extra shot of energy," said Paul One, who made his first start of the season.

And in a game fueled by momentum, one bad shift can end up making the difference.

"We just didn't have that consistent of a game," said Beetle Boy. "Some shifts we'd go out there and do really well, and some shifts we wouldn't do so well. We just couldn't keep it consistent."

"We blew it," said Smith. "We were all going for the game winner and we ended up getting scored on four straight."

"We had our worst shift right at the end, and it cost us four straight goals and the game," lamented Paul One. "We picked the worst time to have our bad shift."

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February 11, 2007

Losing Legend loses game

It's been awhile since the Living Legend broke a game wide open. Sunday, it was what he didn't do that made the difference.

Still favoring a sore shoulder he injured two weeks ago while servicing the onerous demands of his exploitive employer, the fellow founding father made his first start in three weeks Sunday. He even set up two goals on his first few shifts as his side bolted to an early lead.

But as a persistent drizzle slicked the courts, he realized his comeback was folly; an inopportune fall onto the concrete could jumble his joint for good. So he sat. And he could only watch as his side's once-formidable 12-5 lead turned to a tough 20-17 loss.

"Not having the extra man really caught up with us," said Elvis, whose team struggled without the spare player to spell off tired teammates. "We just ran out of legs."

"We quit working," said Wink. "I think we were a whole lotta lazy. It's frustrating. We got outworked, we got outhustled, we got outcared."

"With the Legend out, they were getting a bit more tired, and we took advantage of that," said Bird. "I think we were beating them to the ball a lot more, and when you've got ball possession, it makes it a lot easier to score."

"The Legend went down, and it was all over," said Smith, who overcame a shaky between the pipes to hang on for the win. "They didn't have the sub, they ran out of energy, and from there on we outworked them."

Indeed, shortly after the Legend left the game for an extended stretch, Bird and his mates exploded, outscoring their flagging opponents 9-2 to pull within two goals, 14-12. No longer playing just to avoid embarrassment, they stormed a beleaguered Billy Idol with newfound intensity and determination.

"We were getting our shots on net a lot more, looking for rebounds," said Bird "We knew we could win it, that it was within our grasp."

"They were able to start moving a little quicker, outrun us and beat us to a lot of the balls," said Elvis. "We had a hard time keeping up with them."

With his team now down 15-14 and back on their heels, the Legend defied the rain and returned to the game. He scored a goal on his first shot, and set up another, to tie the game at 16.

"They came back with some energy," said Smith. "The Legend was back on and they felt like they had some fresh legs so they started to go."

But the spark was short-lived. A floater by Cowboy Bill, off Billy Idol's shoulder, extinguished it for good.

"I'm totally shocked," said Smith of his side's unlikely victory. "Those guys usually don't give up, but they totally lost the drive and we just stuck it to them."

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:46 PM | Comments (2)

February 04, 2007

Rain doesn't dampen hardcore

For the handful of roadsters huddled under the tarp, wondering if enough players for a game would brave yet another cold, rainy Sunday, it felt a little like one step forward, two steps back.

Two weeks after the roadsters rallied to save the weekly game by chopping and shoveling snow and ice from the concrete court, and then last week's season-high turnout, it was more of the same old same old Sunday. Only the fierce determination of the seven players who reported for play prevented yet another game from being lost to the elements.

"This is brutal," said Cowboy Bill of the poor turnout that forced the roadsters to play a modified game in which one team counted goals only when their shooters hit a goalpost. "Sure, we're having some brutal weather, but for the guys not to show up, it's just really disheartening."

"It's unfortunate," said Wink, a fellow founding father who's endured every weather challenge through his long career. "I think a few guys came out today, and a lot of guys are sitting at home eating bon bons. I think road hockey's collective heart is broken right now."

Indeed, when the roadsters responded to Gump's challenge by showing up in force with shovels and rock salt to clear the court of two weeks of snow and frozen slush to ensure the game could go on, it seemed the league had reached a turning point in its most difficult season. Weeks of rain, cold and indifference in the ranks were forgotten, as veterans recalled the game's spirit that has fueled it for 15 seasons and newcomers looked forward to the rest of the season with renewed enthusiasm.

"This is an awesome group we've got out here, and you wanna keep doing it every Sunday," said one of those rookies, Smith.

"I thought, you know, this is really gonna be good for the second half," said Cowboy Bill of the encouraging turn the season seemed to have taken in previous weeks. "But then we come to this week and here we go again, with the same old people out here and not enough guys to play."

"I think it's about one step forward and four steps back," said Wink. "it's really not that bad out, but some guys would rather sit around, sip on their diet sodas and watch TLC."

"I can't say I wasn't expecting it," said Smith. "But at the same time, screw it, get out of bed, you get your blood flowing."

"This just shows these guys really are the heart and soul of road hockey," said Cowboy Bill of Sunday's sullen attendance, which even included the injured Living Legend, still recovering from a dislocated shoulder. "We're the hardcore guys who are out here no matter what."

Posted by jaysuburb at 06:43 PM | Comments (3)