November 25, 2007

The big O, almost

In his quest for that rarest of road hockey commodities, the shutout, Pig Farming Goalie was his own worst enemy.

With his team comfortably ahead in Sunday's game and running circles around their slower, more methodical opponents, the only question still to be decided was whether the veteran shotstopper could limit his foes to single digits, the Sunday Morning equivalent of a goal scoring goose egg. That's when he whiffed a slow dribbler, knocking it back into his own net as it rolled around at his feet.

While his side quickly recovered to win the game, 20-10, PFG remained haunted by his goaltending gaffe.

"I lost the shutout on the worst goal ever," said the humbled creaseminder as he peeled off his equipment. "It hurts a little bit."

Especially when the shutout is such a rare achievement. In the close confines of the road hockey court, shots come fast and furious from every angle; it's not unusual for a goaltender to face 60 or 70 shots in a game, many of them in flurries of rebounds and crease-crashing chops.

"It's very difficult (to get a shutout)," said Billy Idol, who's endured the shot barrage on more than a few occasions. "You're probably facing 60-70 shots a game, so to try to not let in 10 is pretty rare. They're coming at you from all sides."

And they're only getting more difficult to achieve as more skilled players throw their sticks into the pile.

"The quality of play here is so much stronger now," says Gump, who was on the losing side of his rival's rearguard feats on Sunday. "There's a lot of people who can score here, no matter who is in the net. It's gonna take a pretty lopsided draw to get a shutout nowadays."

With some of the game's fastest, most skilled players lining up on one side of the court Sunday, the table seemed set for just such a lopsided rout. Kid and Lak Attack anchored their lines, while the Colonel bombed blasts from the blueline and Billy Idol crashed the crease. They opened up a lead, and seemed poised to run away with the game, literally.

"When you've got the two big shooters, and you've got some speed from Kid and the two young guys, Doo and Scrappy, we just tried to split it up evenly," said Billy Idol.

But their opponents refused to turtle. Cowboy Bill crashed the boards, winning battles in the corners time and again. Smith and Elvis wreaked havoc in the slot, and Scooby was a dervish all over the court. And while their efforts didn't always pay off on the scoreboard, they forced their foes to be full measure for each of theirs.

"We worked really hard," said Gump.

In fact, for one remarkable 40 minute stretch, they kept their high-powered opponents off the scoreboard completely. But they also couldn't score themselves.

"Shooting against PFG, there's no sniper hear who can just beat him at will," said Gump of his side's achille's heel.

"It was tight for a long time, both teams were playing very well," said Pig Farming Goalie. "Once we got a little bit of momentume we played pretty well. I just had to keep it calm at the back, keep the rebounds down."

And make sure he didn't score on himself too often.

Sunday's game was played in ideal, dry conditions, a far cry from a year ago, when the roadsters were snowed out for the first time in the season, the first of three times that would happen.

Bird was a surprise visitor midway through Sunday's game. The diminutive scorer has been out of the lineup for more than a month after being diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat.

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November 18, 2007

Room to run

For more than half of Sunday's game, Lak Attack and his speedy mates could barely find room to move. But as play opened up, they discovered their legs, and the net, scoring eight straight goals to storm back from a 13-11 deficit to win, 20-15.

After jumping to a quick 1-0 lead with a goal off the opening faceoff, when the Living Legend won the draw with his patented forehand tip to a streaking Kid, who made no mistake stabbing a rising shot past a bewildered Smith, the speedsters suddenly found themselves with nowhere to run, shadowed at every step by bigger, stronger backcheckers. Frustrated by their inability to feed passes to an open teammate or to create open space on the court to set up for quality shots, they started to grip their sticks too tightly, looking for the perfect play. They seemed primed for an upset.

"Things weren't looking good for us," said Lak Attack of his team's early difficulties. "When you've got some speed and you've got some guys who are creative on offense, you've got to get that open court."

And against big, strong defenders like Unabomber and Cowboy Bill, they weren't going to get that room without a battle.

"I guess we knew we couldn't compete with their running game, so we just kept it simple," said Unabomber. "We just had to pick up our man, get back on defense."

Their offense also didn't win many style points.

"We knew we weren't going to score a lot of pretty goals," said Cowboy Bill. "We just had to do a lot of stuff, crashing the net, doing a lot of hard work."

For more than half the game, their gutsy effort paid off. Unabomber scored six times, many of them on rebounds as he battled in close to the crease.

But their physical style took its toll. Unabomber turned an ankle that slowed his ability to jump up into the fray. Cowboy Bill and Nibs tired, leaving their speedy opponents with more room to move, complete nifty passing plays, and regain their scoring touch.

"I figured we had more of an advantage in endurance than just speed," said Lak Attack.
"They'd start to get tired and we'd be able to take the opportunity to get ahead of them."

They did just that, with an eight goal run that swung the game's momentum their way to stay.

"We finally started to connect," said Lak Attack.

"I think we just ran out of steam," said Cowboy Bill. "They started to get lots of open shots and we just didnt have the energy to shut them down for the whole game."

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November 11, 2007


It's amazing what a run of goals can do for a runny nose.

Taking to the crease Sunday with a virus that had confined him to bed until game time, Gump barely broke a cold sweat as his team ran up the score, 20-4, on their hapless opponents. The road hockey shutout was the perfect remedy for what ailed him.

"Nobody can see how sick you really are," said the sickened shotstopper of the benefits of his side's dominating performance. "I think I actually play a lot better when I'm sick."

In fact, Gump wasn't the only player on his team suffering through yet another soggy, cold game, as Beetle Boy also defied the rain and rheumatism. At the other end of the court, Unabomber wheezed and sneezed for the losers. The dampness which has plagued more than half of this season's games is taking its toll.

"It's awful playing sick," said Beetle Boy. "You don't have much stamina, you don't have much breath, you don't have the power that you normally do."

"When you're feeling sick you get tired a lot quicker," said Cowboy Bill. "You know you're not going to be able to get back in time."

That means playing a more conservative strategy, slowing the game down, said Gump.

"It's as if the game is being played in slow motion. You just focus on the ball."

"The big thing is you're not going to be able to take too many chances," said Cowboy Bill. "You tend to play a little more positionally, you get away from using your speed and use more strategy."

"You try not to get caught out of position, try not to take too many chances," said Beetle Boy. "You're clearing the ball when you get the chance rather than trying to do anything fancy with it."

But for some roadsters, playing sick can be just what the doctor ordered.

"I think I actually play a lot better when I'm sick," said Gump. "You can see the ball a bit better because you slow things down a little bit. You just don't overthink things."

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November 04, 2007

Perseverance prevails

For Pig Farming Goalie and his mates, perseverance prevailed.

Having squandered a 17-13 lead they built through a monster third period, the beleaguered backstop and his floundering forwards fought to regain their focus just in time to extend the game to a pair of overtimes before Cowboy Bill banked a shot off Lak Attack's foot to seal a 22-20 win.

Playing on a dry court for the first time in three weeks, Sunday's game was one of momentum shifts. After spotting their opponents the early advantage, Pig Farming Goalie and his mates seized control of the game, scoring five straight goals and threatening to run away with it.

"Clearly we had the momentum and there was a lot of thought that we'd just push right through," said Pig Farming Goalie, who's limited his play this season to dry-weather games to diminish the risk to his fragile knees.

But Smith and his mates had other ideas.

"it was a gutcheck for sure," said the feisty forward of his side's scramble to regain control of the game.

That's when Colonel took command. With his early departure from the battle imminent, the veteran centerman scored two quick goals and nearly netted a third to lead his team back into the game just as he left it.

"He scored a couple of big goals on that shift to get us back in the game," said Smith of his linemate's inspired play. "He puts his money where his mouth is."

And his mates were quick to cash in, taking back the lead for the first time since the game's earliest moments, 18-17.

"All of sudden they started to work hard, they used their speed against us and put themselves back into the lead," said Cowboy Bill.

"We were a little bit weak on defense, but they were also just better on offense at that point," said Pig Farming Goalie.

But the long road back had exacted a toll, as tired forwards faltered on the backcheck or got caught upcourt pressing for the insurance goal. Cowboy Bill and his mates sensed their own opportunity to wrest back the game's momentum.

"We started to backcheck better, take control of the loose balls and win some of the battles in the middle of the court that we'd been losing," said the power-shooting pointman.

"I was able to make some good saves and give my team the chance to win," said Pig Farming Goalie. "We just had that little extra perseverance at the end."

And it paid off when Cowboy Bill chopped a seeing-eye shot from behind the net off Lak Attack's foot and past his befuddled goalie, Gump.

"It was just good to bear down and pull out the win," said the play's hero.

"That's just how it happens, you never get the pretty goals in overtime," said Smith of the ignominious end. "This was a really tough game to lose."

The roadsters were stunned mid-game when fellow founding father, Wink, dropped by, his first appearance at the road hockey courts since his off-season achievement of officially sanctioned sex. He was dressed in civvies; it was a social call. And while the outspoken defender was coy about his playing future, he did say, he's "not retired."
Wink hasn't played since late last season, missing the entire Stanley Stick championship series, and has been mysteriously absent despite recently moving only blocks away from the Sunday Morning Road Hockey court.

Lak Attack's inadvertent game winner, a deflection off his foot that eluded an aghast Gump wasn't the first time his team's goaltender was beaten by one of his own mates; earlier, Living Legend scored on his own net when a centering pass careened off his stick as he was checking a prowling forward. Were it not for those two "own-goals," the game would still be tied.

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