February 22, 2009

Twisting the day away

Twizzler twisted. Gump resisted. With so little to choose between the goaltending rivals, Sunday's marathon battle became a game of attrition; to the spoilers went the victory.

Inspired by Twizzler's strongest game of his nascent Sunday Morning career, his mates overcame a two-goal deficit late in Sunday's game with three straight goals to propel them to a hard fought 20-18 win.

"He allows us to push forward," said Smith of his goalie's motivational performance. "You can really go for the offensive chances at the other end."

Which is just what they did in the waning moments of a game in which the lead changed hands numerous times, and by never more than a couple of goals.

"Both teams were running and gunning when they had the opportunity," said Lak Attack, still smiling despite the difficult defeat. "It was close, but they just had a little more at the end."

The tight, seesaw battle was largely due to stellar goaltending at both end, as Twizzler and Gump matched each other save for save.

"He plays a good game," said Smith of his rookie rearguard. "You've got to beat him off the corner, you've got to beat him off the post; he doesn't have holes."

"Twizzler was hard to beat," said Lak Attack. "He settled down on the shots very well and he never really gave us much."

At the other end, Gump was very much his equal.

"He was playing really fundamentally sound," said Smith. "He was so under control, so technically sound, it was tough to beat him."

Indeed, the goalies were so good, as the game entered its third hour for the first time this season fatigue started to take a toll. With the extra player, Twizzler's team seemed to have just a little more in the tank when it counted most.

"We started to run on them... and we got a couple of extra bounces," said Smith.

"Being one man short played against us today," said Lak Attack, whose shothanded side seemed to suffer particularly in the slippery conditions. "Your legs get a bit heavy at the end."

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February 15, 2009

Winning the waiting game

Good things come to those who wait. So do road hockey wins.

Sunday, Billy Idol and his mates waited until the game's final moments to take their first lead, 19-18, before capping the comeback with the winner past a shellshocked and bewildered defense that had coughed up a 9-3 run after leading all day.

"I think we sort of got away from our game," said a crestfallen Elvis, still trying to digest his side's collapse.

More like his team took it away, said Idol. "We were making the plays, we were fighting for the ball behind the net, we were pulling the balls out of the corners. We just got better and better as the game went on."

Their journey to the victory was long and arduous. Even as they fell behind by as many as five goals they refused to give up, confident they could eventually wear their opponents down and reap the rewards for their work.

"We just kept going hard," said Smith, making his first start of the new year. "We started to hit the net, we made better passes, we got a little bit tougher defensively."

Their resilience and refusal to die seemed to rattle their opponents, who appeared to be cruising to a routine win with solid goaltending from veteran keeper Gump and some stalwart defensive work by the Colonel and Elvis. As their lead slipped away, some of them lashed out; frustrated when a scoring attempt was tripped up, Colonel swung his stick wildly, slapping Twizzler's protective pads with a loud thud.

The problems escalated as their lead shrank.

"We stopped checking, we started chasing a lot," said Elvis. "Instead of taking the man in front of the net, we were just sort of watching."

And the once impenetrable Gump suddenly struggled as opposing forwards crashed the net and wreaked havoc with their sticks poking his gloves and leg pads.

"We had to get in his face a little bit, and we had some guys get up there in his crease," said Billy Idol.

Meanwhile, at the other end, Twizzler settled down from his unsettling start, repeatedly robbing the Colonel, Elvis, Living Legend and Beetle Boy, all of whom failed to convert breakaways or odd man rushes.

"He definitely started closing the door on us," said Elvis of his netminding nemesis.

Which was just as his teammates asked in a meeting just before the start of the final period.

"He said he was gonna close the door," said Idol. "We put a little extra pressure on him to play better, and he pulled through for us."

"It came down to wanting it a bit more," said Smith.

And waiting for their chance to take control of a game that almost got away.

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February 08, 2009

Overcoming a lak of defense

With his team suddenly struggling after romping to a quick 10-3 lead, Gump knew the pressure was on. If he gave up the goal that would seal his opponent's comeback, giving them the lead, it would be all over.

"If you let them get the lead from being down that much, that's really gonna shock the troops," said the veteran shotstopper. "You know we've got to bounce back."

Which is just what they did. A couple of clutch glove saves ensured the comeback never got closer than a goal and shifted the game's momentum back to his forwards, who were able to battle for a 20-18 nailbiter.

It should never have got to that point, though.

With the game seemingly well in hand, Gump's defenders suddenly abandoned him, caught deep in the offensive zone, wheezing and fatigued, or maybe just too lazy to run back and help their overwhelmed netminder.

"Our defensive game went to pot," said the Colonel. "I'm not happy with the type of game we played today. We could have routed them, and we didn't."

Indeed, their collapse seemed inevitable when their best defensive player, Lak Attack, who also contributed with a handful of electric goals, left the game just as his mates were wallowing at their worst.

"We had a player leave who had been playing very good defensively and I think most of the rest of us were just taking a rest out there," said the Colonel.

The loss left his side reeling and disorganized. They gave up three quick goals, closing their once formidable advantage to a single goal. Colonel looked skyward in disgust. Living Legend and Doo looked at their shoes in shame.

But the flurry seemed to rouse Gump, who responded by shutting the door on a couple of odd man rushes. His mates responded by returning to the formula that had brought them their early success, crashing the net and digging for rebounds.

"Good things happen when you crash the net," said the Colonel. "Goalies can't see, they can't react to the ball, and we got quite a few of our goals today that way."

"It's a team game and we knew we had to get back to what we had been doing right at the start," said Gump. "We knew we had to play to our strengths."

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February 01, 2009

Gump delivers soggy win

Neither rain nor sleet nor snow was going to keep Gump from making his return to the crease. Sunday, he had to overcome all three to lead his team to a resounding 20-14 win.

Playing his first game in almost two months, the veteran backstop slipped and slid on the thin layer of slush created by the persistent snow and rain that pelted the roadsters much of the morning, frustrating opposing shooters who fought their own battle with traction. And while the soaking conditions weren't the most comfortable, he turned them to his advantage.

"It was nice, because it slowed the players down," said Gump. "It does take away the players' chances on breakaways and two-on-ones. They don't have the manouverability."

Snipers like Lak Attack tried to adjust.

"I think the first thing you recognize is you can't over-commit," said the soggy speedster. "But you do have to continue to move your legs, and that was the biggest thing we didn't do. We were stationary too often."

Rookie winger Velma seemed especially frustrated, as his usual speedy rushes and deft dekes were neutralized by the treacherous traction.

"You've got to make sure if you do make a move, that it's a safe move," said Lak Attack.

That cautious approach was especially costly in the early-going, as his team fell behind 12-6. As the snow let up and the slush melted into puddles, they were able to scoot and swoop their way back into contention.

"The slush really slowed down the passes," said Lak Attack. "When the courts started to clear a bit, that was to our advantage."

But the deficit was too great.

Buoyed by a couple of lightning glove saves, Gump wasn't about to let his first win of the new year slip away.

"We didn't really have much doubt after we were able to build up such a big lead," said the soggy shotstopper.

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