March 25, 2007

Colonel sparks comeback, for other team

The Colonel sparked a six goal comeback on Sunday. But it wasn't for his own team.

With his side leading 16-14 and seemingly on the road to victory having never trailed all game, the feisty forward unwittingly knocked a rebound under the pads of his neophyte netminder, Nibs. They never scored again, while their opponents capitalized on their good fortune by netting five unanswered goals of their own for a 20-16 comeback win.

"I think it was really big for us," said Snoop of his side's sudden reversal of fortune. "That sorta looked like it discouraged them a bit so we just kept pressing, potted a few more and ended up with the win."

"Colonel's own goal was the bounce we finally needed," said Smith, whose own wheeling and dealing in that furious final period had defenders running in circles. "You get the ball luck, then you get your feet going and then you get the bounces happening."

"It seems everything went wrong on that last shift," said Bird, of his side's final period collapse. "They came out running hard, shooting it at the net and everything went in."

For three periods Bird and his mates seemed to have the game well in control, taking the lead early and never relinquishing it. Nibs, making his first start in net after missing amost two months to recover from toe surgery, was solid, making a number of key saves to preserve their advantage while Unabomber piloted the offense with his powerful cannons from the point.

So when the Colonel scored on his own net, his mates didn't panic, they didn't worry.

"I don't think there was a sense of panic at first," said Bird.

But when their opponents kept coming at them, the wheels fell off. Quickly.

"The next thing you know, you're down by two late in the game and it was over in a matter of minutes," said Bird. "I was surprised they were able to put a run like that together that late in the game."

"Sometimes you've just gotta have faith," said Snoop of his side's unexpected victory. "We just kept plugging away, just kept taking the shots, going to the net, and they started to go in for us."

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March 18, 2007

Colonel gets mad, then gets even

When the Colonel got mad, his team got even.

Stinging from a blistering clearing shot that careened off his thigh, the fiery forward knocked down the evil orange plastic ball and launched a laser of his own past a shellshocked Billy Idol. The goal sparked his side's 21-19 overtime win.

"I was mad, I was in pain," said the Colonel of Smith's clearing blast gone awry. "I just wanted to hit the ball as hard as I could and get it on the net."

The sizzler bounced off Billy Idol's chest and rolled past his pads into the net. For the fourth time in Sunday's game, the Colonel and his mates had pulled themselves back within a goal of their foes. But while the other comeback attempts were quickly snuffed out, this time they were not to be denied.

"That was a big motivator for us," said Gump, whose early struggles helped put his team in the hole from which they spent most of the day trying to escape. "You hear that yelp first and then you hear the scream when he scored, that fired us up for sure."

And it couldn't have come at a more opportune time. After spotting their opponents a quick 6-0 lead, the Colonel and his mates had battled back to within a goal three times; but they lacked the fire inside to take their game up the notch they needed to tie the score.

"it's like quicksand," said Gump of his side's inability to seal the comeback deal. "You're trying to pull yourself out, but you can't quite seem to make it."

Until Smith's sloppy thighslapper ignited the Colonel's famous temper.

"Everyone knows that when the Colonel gets angry, you've got to keep your distance from him," said Bird. "They started to get sloppy defensively."

Indeed, both the winning goal and the clincher were the result of giveaways in the defensive zone.

"In the moment, you think it doesn't matter," said Smith of the sloppy clearing passes that cost them the game, including one off his own stick right to Tractor, who made no mistake to tie the game for the first time, 19-19. "In hindsight, you think you shouldn't have done that. We just woke up the wrong people."

"We were coming from behind the whole game," said Colonel. "We just wanted to try to win, and when we got a few good bounces, we buried them."

With no rain, and the courts drying, it seemed a perfect day for road hockey. But the tardy arrival of a number of roadsters had some of the early arrivals thinking a game might not even happen. In fact, they were preparing for an improvised scrimmage of two-on-two when Smith, Cowboy Bill, Kid, Colonel all showed up late.

They were joined by Sunday Morning upstart, Tractor, a visiting journalist on the prowl for a story about the enigmatic Beetle Boy who was handed a stick and implored to learn about the real Beetle Boy, he'd have to play against him. After a shakey start and some unsure footware sent him tumbling to the court three times in his first two shifts, he rallied to muck it up along the boards and then score the game-tying goal.

For Sunday's victors, it was a long road back. But despite playing from behind all game, they never lost confidence.
"I think when you're battling and battling, you just have that drive, you don't give up," said Gump of his side's persistence.
"As long as it's close, you're always in it here," said Colonel. "We knew we just had to keep playing hard. You're working hard because you have to come from behind, you can't afford to take any shifts off."
Meanwhile, said Smith, constantly seeing their leads whittled away may have had a deflating effect on his team. "It wears on you. You're scoring a few goals but they you keep blowing the lead. It sucks."

With only six games remaining before the start of the Stanely Stick championship series, time is running out for veterans like Paul One, Lobsterboy, Wendel, Pig Farming Goalie and Ottoman to play the requisite games to be elligible for post-season play.

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March 11, 2007

Weathering another storm

On the wettest day yet of road hockey's soggiest season, there was a ray of optimism.

With only two dry games all season, the roadsters have become accustomed to dodging raindrops and charging through the puddles. But nothing could prepare them for Sunday's biblical deluge that slicked the courts and left shoe-high puddles pooling behind each goal and in the corners. Visibility was minimal, comfort just a dream.

For Smith, a rookie who's become one of the game's most stalwart players, there was no doubt; the game must go on.

"I knew I was going to come no matter what, and that's the attitude you've gotta take," said the wet winger.

Nine of his fellow roadsters agreed, sacrificing the warmth of their dry homes to soak their socks.

"I think it's a perfect day for road hockey," said notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink.

"It's only rain," said Gump, whose rain-soaked goalie's gear weighed twice as much at the end of the game as when he first strapped it on. "This is not Sunny Morning Road Hockey, it's Sunday Morning Road Hockey."

But Bird was skeptical. The seasoned centerman has endured many a rain game through his soiled career, yet with four cancellations due to weather already this year and some of the game's most reliable veterans mostly missing in action, he said he was prepared for disappointment.

"I didn't think we'd have a game at all here today."

And that's a dangerous attitude to have, said Bird.

"If you start missing games for a few reasons, it all starts to unravel."

In fact, that's what got the venerable game, now in its 16th season, in trouble earlier, discouraging and disheartening veterans like Wink, and his fellow founding father, the Living Legend.

"I'm not gonna lie; my 'give-a-dam' was busted earlier in the year. It makes it easier and easier not to come out; all of a sudden it's too windy today, or it's too bright. There's always a reason not to come out, but you have to find reasons to come out."

For Smith, it's all about dedication.

"There's that core group of guys that you can pretty much count on. As long as you have those guys, you can get a game going, you make sure it happens."

And when there are three rookies, Smith, Scooby and Doo, counted amongst that core, earlier fears of road hockey's demise may be greatly exaggerated.

"It's great for the game," said Gump. "It shows nothing can stop this game."

"Seeing guys like Cowboy and Gump, guys who've been regulars all year, and young guys like Doo, they've really inspired me to come out on a day like this," said Wink.

"I think the fact the new roadsters see we're here rain or shine, it ensures the game does continue on," said Bird. "There's always been a core group of guys who are will to play regardless of the weather."

Sunday's rainstorm slowed play to a crawl at times, as the roadsters struggled to find footing on the slick concrete and the evil orange plastic ball stopped dead in the deep puddles behind each net. That meant making adjustments to the usual raucous running game on the small court.
"You've gotta slow it down, move the ball well and just shoot at everything," said Smith. "The goalies aren't just fighting the ball, they're going to be fighting the rain in their eyes, so there's going to be a lot of ugly goals."
"The puddles are a factor," said Bird. "The ball just dies in the corners with the water there."
"It slows you down," said Wink.

The unsure footing also sent the Living Legend to the sidelines, as he continues to nurse his dislocated shoulder back to full health.
"Whenever it's this slippery, there's always a chance of someone getting hurt," said Bird.

The dates for the Stanley Stick have been announced; the two-game finale will be contested May 6 and May 13.

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March 04, 2007

Deja-vu decimation

For Smith, it was a case of deja-vu all over again.

The rookie forward scored three goals on his first shift, two of them on identical plays only moments apart, to lead his team to a decisive 20-6 win in Sunday's game.

After spotting their opponents a quick one goal advantage, Smith charged deep into the offensive zone. Streaking down the right side, the he feigned to his left, then paused for a split second. That was all it took. Gump committed too early, allowing Smith to rip his forehand shot just past the goalie's outstretched trapper and into the far corner of the net.

Moments later, he did it again.

"He had light pads on today, you could tell he wanted to come out all guns a-blaring," said Smith of his deft delay. "He comes flying out of the net and you just had to play a waiting game with him. I went the same way twice, and on the third one I went the other way. It was kinda fun."

"I was just going down too early," said Gump of the two identical goals that put his side back on their heels after their promising start. "You wanna move a little quicker, but you've really got to be more steady in the net, take your time, wait for them to make their move."

Smith's back-to-back breakaways gave his side the early momentum, which they never relinquished.

"I think it set the tone," said Smith of his early hat trick. "Our confidence just goes, the passes are working, you're going up the court and you're not even thinking 'I'm going to pass' or 'I'm going to shoot,' either way you know it's going to work out."

"It had to be just a little dejecting for them to go down like that," said Unabomber, who returned to the court after missing more than a month with a wrist injury. "It was really a momentum shift."

"I think that took a lot of the wind out of the sails of the team," said Gump.

"When a guy who can't normally score in warmup comes out and scores three in a row, momentum just swung and we could never get it back," said notorious gameshow host gone bad. "The teams were fair and we just couldn't produce."

They also couldn't run, battle the corners, or generate many quality scoring opportunities, as they quickly fell behind 7-1. From there, it only got worse.

"We got out-hustled, we got out-worked, we got out-everythinged," said Wink. "We didn't do anything well."

"We dominated a good chunk of that game," said Smith.

"We got seven goals in a row there, and it was tough for them to climb back from that," said Unabomber.

"They had a lot of weapons," said Gump of his powerful opponents. "They really had a lot of ebb and flow out there. They had a lot of speed and they definitely outworked us today. They just always seemed to have the extra guy open."

After charges and challenges through the week, Sunday's much-anticipated Six-Pack Challenge between Gump and Billy Idol was postponed when lapsed backup ER reported for his first game in almost two years.
The unexpected change of plans may have thrown Gump off his game.
"I was pretty pumped up and ready to go," said the ebullient backstopper, who instigated the rivalry with his netminding nemesis. "I wasn't playing against Billy Idol, and looking at the outcome, I'm kinda glad we didn't because I would be down a six pack right now."
"I think he went flat a little bit," said Smith of Gump's disappointment.

Meanwhile, ER picked up where he left off when last he climbed between the pipes, sucking up rebounds like a vacuum, denying opportunists like Bird and Beetle Boy.
"He definintely did the job," said Unabomber. "He didn't allow any rebounds, he gave us a chance. I think the game was close than the score indicated but ER really made a difference."

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