November 30, 2008

Doing the hustle

Hustle earned Cowboy Bill and his mates a 20-17 win Sunday. But not before a lack of it almost cost them.

The veteran journeyman and his mates worked hard to establish an early 7-2 lead, then let up only to find themselves down, 15-11. Hard work allowed them to tie the game at 17, then paid off with three straight goals to earn the victory.

"It was really just a game of momentum based on hustle," said Cowboy Bill, who set up the winner with a sharp pass from the corner to Kid, who rifled it home past a beleaguered Nibs. "We hustled to start and we got the lead, we slowed down through the middle and gave them the lead, and right at the end we really buckled down and it paid off."

"It all boils down to hard work," agreed Doo. "That's why we lost in the end."

As is often the case when the road hockey court is wet and slippery, Sunday's game was one of wild shifts of momentum as each team scored in bunches.

"You kinda get yourself caught up in thinking this is just a normal everyday game on the dry court, and that's where you get yourself caught out a bit," said Cowboy Bill. "You get caught up court, you can't turn around to play defense as quick, and you kinda go through these mental breakdowns. The weather really contributes to those kind of breakdowns."

Time and again players found themselves out of position when the ball changed possession as they were unable to gain traction on the hardtop, slicked by persistent drizzle and a thickening damp fog. Odd man breaks became the rule, rather than the exception, much to the dismay of the goaltenders, Gump and Nibs.

For the first third of the game, the former was almost impenetrable, while Nibs struggled. Then the lucky bounces, opportune deflections and two-on-breakaways started to go the other way, giving Nibs the chance to settle down. He responded with a series of spectacular saves.

"Nibs was there for us for sure," said Doo. "Especially through that middle stretch when we had the momentum."

"The way Nibs was playing today, he wasn't giving up anything," said Cowboy Bill.

Looking to catch the veteran backup out of position, forwards starting looking for the extra pass. More often than not, it found a defender's stick, setting up odd-man rushes the other way, where Gump faltered under the onslaught.

Cowboy Bill and his mates knew, to win the game, they'd have to get back to basics.

"Towards the end, we knew we just had to pepper him with shots, let's just get lots of shots, let's get some ugly trash goals."

Which is just what happened.

"I think at the end we just stopped taking the shooter," said Doo. "We got lazy, we opened up the shooting lanes and when they've got Kid on their team, they're going to put them in."

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:23 PM | Comments (1)

November 23, 2008

Gump's winning ticket

The cop got Gump for speeding before Sunday's game. Afterwards, he could have nabbed him for robbery.

The veteran shotstopper shook off a speeding ticket he got en route to the road hockey court to steal a 20-15 win in a game that was a goaltender's duel until the decisive final period.

Making his first start in three weeks, Gump was an impenetrable wall, turning back sharpshooters like Lak Attack and the Colonel while his teammates struggled to find their own scoring legs.

"With Lak Attack and the Colonel on the other team, you know they've got a lot of skill," said Doo, who scored the winner with a seeing eye bullet into the top corner. "Gump was huge. We couldn't have done it without him."

In fact, for more than half os Sunday's game there was little to choose between Gump and his rival at the other end, Twizzler, who's emerged as a Sunday Morning stalwart since escaping afternoon obscurity. With the score tied at eight, and each team flush with fresh legs, it was clear the side that could first crack the opposing creaseminder would romp to victory.

"Twizzler played great, but if you just keep firing it, you'll get the rebounds, and when everybody is hustling, you'll get the goals," said Doo.

Which is just what he and his mates started to do. After spending most of the first two periods firing shots straight into Twizzler's padding, Doo started to find the corners. So did Kid, Scooby and Cowboy Bill. Even the Living Legend contributed with a rifle shot to the top right corner. The tight creaseminder's contest suddenly ballooned to a 19-11 romp.

"Doo needed some real seeing eye shots and he found the corners," said Gump. "To be honest, when we watched (Twizzler) play, that's where the holes were, in the corners."

"We let the small mistakes become big mistakes, and you can't do that when you've got a lot of guys with good hands and good speed," said Lak Attack of his side's second half collapse.

A late lull by the leaders made the score closer. But it was too little too late.

"It was a little frustrating to let in a few more," said Gump. "But the bottom liine is we came away with the win."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:57 PM | Comments (3)

November 16, 2008

Twizzler unraveled by rival

Before Sunday's game, Twizzler had trouble squeezing his head into his helmet. By the end, he was struggling to extricate it from his backside.

The rookie rearguard, who's quickly established himself as a solid starter since defecting from the defunct afternoon game, struggled early and never recovered. losing his first showdown against his mentor, Nibs, 20-13.

To be fair, though, he wasn't the only player on his team who struggled. Against a lineup led by speedsters Kid and Scrappy, Twizzler's flat-footed defensemen were completely overwhelmed in the game's earliest moments, barely getting control of the ball let alone creating scoring opportunities of their own. They were down 5-0 even before they got a decent shot on goal.

"I actually thought the teams were fairly evenly matched, but we just didn't move as well as the other team," said the Colonel, who suffered the ignominious defeat on his birthday. "They buried it when they needed to."

"They got that quick lead, and we were just never able to recover from that," said Beetle Boy, making his first appearance since suffering an ankle injury three weeks ago while playing unsanctioned floor hockey. "They just got that initial lead, got us right from the beginning and I think that was the difference."

Indeed, the game's first period resembled a game of keep-away more than a hockey game, as Kid, Cowboy, Living Legend and Scrappy passed around the ball with aplomb. And on the rare occasion they were forced to retreat into their own zone, Nibs stood strong by playing a conservative game instead of his sometimes manic attempts to headman the offense with ill-considered clearing attempts.

"Our ball possession was really great today," said Scrappy. "The score just started piling up."

But that didn't mean they could just coast to victory. In fact, with Nibs' reputation for mid-game flakiness, they couldn't afford to take any margin for granted, something his teammates and his opponents were all too aware of.

"He's just so unpredictable," said Beetle Boy. "You don't know how the hell he's going to play the game, so you just fire it. He'll make some can-can saves and then he'll jump out of the way of certain shots."

Rattling the veteran goalie's cage almost paid off. When a long shot eluded his outstretched leg late in the game, shrinking their margin to two goals, Nibs wheeled around to chastise the Colonel, who was heckling him from the sidelines. But that was as close as the game would get.

The fluke goal was a wakeup call for Nibs' defense, who wanted to ensure their goalie prevailed against his upstart protege.

"You could just see Nibs start to get a bit frustrated," said Scrappy. "You've got to check against your own laziness because when you get up that high, you tend to take your foot off the gas a little and you know they're going to come at you hard."

Posted by jaysuburb at 03:29 PM | Comments (6)

November 09, 2008

Young season at crossroads

Sunday Morning Road Hockey is at a turning point.

For the second time in a season that's just four weeks old, the roadsters cooled their heels for most of the morning, wondering if there would even be a game. This time the problem was a lack of goalie equipment, as the usually reliable Kid, who was entrusted with almost two full sets of gear, failed to show up.

For the eight players who defied the steady drizzle and slippery court, the uncertainty was especially frustrating; amongst them were two regular goalies, Twizzler and Cowboy Bill, and two emergency backups, Doo and Colonel.

"Today is extra frustrating, there's people here, we've got goaltenders but no equipment," said the Colonel, who showed his mettle last week when he won his second career start between the pipes, 20-11. "You entrust that equipment to people and they don't come out and now we're waiting."

"I think people are willing to step up this week, but we just don't have the gear," said Cowboy Bill, who's saved a number of games during his long career by strapping on the pads.

While the roadsters eventually played a modified game of target hockey, aiming their shots at goalie gloves suspended in each net to register a goal, the disappointment of the day has some players questioning the future of the league and their own commitment to it.

"I've only been hear for one year, so it's hard for me to say if this is regular, but people have got to pick it up or otherwise there won't be a league," said Scrappy, one of the Scooby-Doo gang of four young players whose dedication to the games have salvaged many in the past two seasons.

"The whole league is in a bit of a transition," said the Colonel, who blamed the season's early woes on the sporadic attendance of some of the game's formerly stalwart veterans. "People who came out all the time aren't here. You end up with a core group of guys who are very young who want to come out, who want to have fun."

And if they keep walking away frustrated, they may give up on the league.

"I think it's setting a bad tone for the year," said Cowboy Bill.

Alienating the commitment of the game's new generation could end up killing it, said the Colonel. "We're at a make it or break it point. If we don't turn the corner in a positive manner, the league will fold."

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:44 PM | Comments (15)

November 02, 2008

Colonel shuts up shooters

Colonel put his money where his mouth was on Sunday, but it was the opposition that was talking to themselves.

The outspoken veteran, who was critical of last week's editorial by the Living Legend calling for a curfew as a solution to the chronic late starts that have plagued games so far this season, showed up at the road hockey court ready to strap on the goalie pads for only the second time in his career. Constant badgering and negotiating to convince players to play net have contributed to the delays.

After a tentative start that spotted his opponents an early 7-4, the Colonel settled in to lead his team to a decisive 20-11 win. Only two late goals separated him from his first career shutout.

It was an unlikely turn of fate for the player who donned the protective leg pads to make a point, then ended up earning his team two.

"I just wanted to hold my position, stop the shots, and as long as they were coming straight on so I could see them, it wasn't that hard," said the unsure shotstopper.

His mates were equally nervous.

"I wouldn't say we were full of confidence," said Cowboy Bill. "I mean, we've got a goalie who hasn't been in net for years, we haven't seen him play, we don't know how competent he's gonna be in there."

Opposing shooters salivated in anticipation of a quick, and easy, romp. They quickly feasted, charging to a quick 7-4 lead.

"We just figured it would be a cakewalk," said Gump, making his regular season debut after missing the first two games due to other commitments.

Even the Colonel was doubtful. "At 7-4, I thought 'geez, I didn't really know how this was going to go."

But then he made a pair of big saves, instilling confidence in his tentative teammates and shifting the game's momentum in their favor.

"He made a couple of good saves and that gave us the confidence that we could leave him alone a little bit, put some extra pressure on the forecheck," said Cowboy Bill.

Buoyed and emboldened by their goalie, the Colonel's mates rallied. When rebounds escaped his grasp, they were on the scene to clear the evil orange plastic ball from opposing sticks. Scooby and Cowboy Bill dominated the boards while Kid and Scrappy knocked down passes through the middle.

"We amped up the defensive pressure and that gave us some breaks going the other way," said Cowboy.

"I knew we would really have to play a team game on defense if we were to have a chance at winning," said Colonel.

They did more than that, scoring ten straight goals to win the game running away. Literally.

"Once you're down like that against a team with the speed they had, you're not gonna come back," said Gump. "Colonel made some big saves which gave their team confidence and at the same time, he took away our confidence because we thought we were supposed to have easy goals."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:38 PM | Comments (9)