March 29, 2009

Happily never after

The game that almost didn't start, nearly never ended.

Velma squeezed a wrap-around past Twizzler's pad in the fifth overtime to seal the victory, 27-25. It was the second consecutive marathon match; last week's thriller went four extra periods.

From its opening moments, Sunday's game was a tight, hard-fought affair, as neither side managed to open more than a three goal advantage. Snipers on both teams were silenced by goaltenders at the top of their game. Nibs, making his first start between the pipes in week, conceded little through the game's first half. At the other end, Twizzler overcame some early miscues to make some big saves that allowed his side to take its first lead at 13-12.

But it was late in the game the rookie rearguard showed his true mettle, diving across the crease time and again to stymie two-one-one break-aways. With his side down 19-17, he made a miracle glove save on Beetle Boy that extended the game into overtime. A few moments later, he caught just enough of a Lak Attack shot from the side of the net to keep the ball rolling just outside the goal line and just out of reach of Elvis' stick as he careened in from the wing.

"Twizzler just kept on robbing our team," said Scooby, who played his first game in more than a month.

"Twizzler was just shutting the door on us," said Beetle Boy. "Both goalies were playing phenomenal."

Both teams exchanged leads in overtime, but neither could score the clincher.

"We were starting to wonder if it would ever end," said Beetle Boy. "It was equal, back and forth. We just couldn't put it away."

Exhaustion started to take its toll. as players chopped shots at the net in the hopes a fluke bounce might make the difference.

"We just had to take a lot of shots on net," said Scooby. "A lot of our goals were just ugly bang-ins."

"We knew it probably wouldn't be a good goal (that would end the game)," said Beetle Boy. "That's all you can do, is just keep throwing it at the net."

Which is just what Velma did, as he swept around the post and jammed the evil orange plastic ball towards Twizzler's outstretched pad, squeezing it just past the goal post.

"That was one of the best games of the season," said Scooby, who collapsed in a heap after Velma's game winner.

"It felt great to win," said Beetle Boy. "That was one for the ages."

Except it almost wasn't, as a group of roguesters, refugees from a Saturday afternoon game, had tried to lay claim to the court the Sunday Morning roadsters have been calling home for 15 years. Tensions ran high as the newcomers argued for squatters' rights, but the roadsters refused to back down and eventually prevailed.

The unfortunate confrontation reinforces the need for the roadsters to get to the court well ahead of the scheduled 10:30 start time, especially as the weather improves. The spurned roguesters may try to make a point next week by refusing to respect the roadsters' long-standing claim.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:51 PM | Comments (8)

March 22, 2009

Doo-ing what it takes

Even as his team struggled with a five goal deficit, Velma knew they could still Doo it.

The Mystery Machine linemates found their goal scoring touch late in Sunday's game to lead their side to a comeback 24-22 win in quadruple overtime.

In fact, Doo's game winner, a high wire shot over Gump's shoulder, was the culmination of the long road back for the team that had to play from behind since the game's earliest moments.

"It really gets to you mentally to have to play from behind that long," said the young speedster, who first showed his comeback chops in last Spring's dramatic Stanley Stick championship series when he almost single-handedly sparked his team's resurrection from the brink of elimination.

Reeling and disorganized at the low end of a 16-11 score, Velma rallied his mates, determined to avoid the ignominy of another slaughter like he suffered in last week's game.

"I didn't want that to happen again, it was embarrassing," said the rookie winger. "I think we knew deep down we had a team equal to theirs or better than them, and if we dug down, played hard, we knew we could take them."

With the advantage of the extra player to spell off tired teammates, Velma and his mates started to gain the advantage in the offensive zone, winning battles in the corner, gaining the upper hand in crease clashes for bouncing rebounds. Even the Living Legend pitched in with two goals after being stoned by Gump's outstretched pad on a breakaway earlier in the game.

"Them having the extra sub really made a difference," said Gump. "We were playing in the heat for the first time, it really takes a lot out of you."

"If you have the extra sub, especially when you get into overtime, you just have that little extra jump," said Doo. "When the teams are this close, sometimes it's all that separates you."

"We had a couple of fast guys and they only had Kid, so that extra rest certainly helped me and Doo, especially for the overtime," said Velma.

They took full advantage of their advantage, forcing overtime and then taking their first lead, 22-21. Three times in the extra period the teams traded the advantage. Just as one team seemed ready to go home, they'd dig down to prolong the game even further.

"We just couldn't seem to get that last goal," said Gump. "The other team worked hard, they were winning all the little battles down low, they fought for their breaks."

"I was just thinking get the next goal, get the next goal, make the defensive play," said Velma.

With Twizzler getting on top of his game as the game wore on, his teammates were able to charge deep into the offensive zone, confident he could take care of any defensive lapses. Velma, Doo, and the Colonel seized the momentum.

"We got some great saves from Twizzler," said Velma.

"When your goalie makes a great save, it gets the momentum going the other way," said Doo. "It's also a huge mental boost when you get the confidence because your goalie is holding the fort."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:56 PM | Comments (4)

March 16, 2009

Whither Wink

With less than two months to go to the Stanley Stick Championship series, one of Sunday Morning Road Hockey's biggest impact players has yet to make a dent in the season.

Notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink, has been mysteriously absent all season, neither officially retired nor occasionall active. In fact, the fellow founding father has only played one game in the past two seasons. And the roadsters are missing him.

"It's sad," says Gump, who's been on the receiving end of Wink's mighty slapshots from the far end of the court. "He's the guy who brought me through, he was the guy who was always giving me pointers and helping me on defense."

It's that defensive contribution where Wink's absence has been most noticeable. Never the most mobile player, Wink built his career on taking care of business in his own end, sweeping the crease of opposing forwards prowling for loose rebounds, thundering emboldened wingers into the fence when they tried to lead rushes up court.

"He's definitely a solidifying influence on defense," says Cowboy Bill. "He's always reliable. He knew what he could do, and he did it really well."

"He brought a physical game," says Nibs. "He's a power defenseman."

He could also score, usually opportune blasts from the point, or even from his own goal line, his dipping, curving ropes eluding the outstretched pads or flailing trapper of stunned goalkeepers.

"He has one of those shots that you knew would always get you a couple of goals," says Cowboy Bill.

Perhaps Wink's most missed contribution are the intangibles, his passion and accountability. With Wink on their team, roadsters knew they'd have to take responsibility for their own play, own their mistakes.

"He knew how to get his team riled up," says Gump. "Every game you look at the stick pull to see who you've got who can cleat the net out, and you always hope you have a guy like that on your team."

With Wink holding fort in the defensive end, his teammates could flood the offensive zone, taking chances for creative plays they might not otherwise venture.

"You look for his calm demeanor," says Scooby. "He gives you a lot more confidence to go for it on the offensive side.

"He's probably one of the smartest guys out here," says Gump.

And, apparently, one of the most missed.

"He's one of the founding fathers of road hockey," says Gump, a little wistfully.

"It's kinda cool seeing these older guys, hearin gtheir stories," says Scooby, who joined the league three seasons ago. "Their experience definitely makes a difference."

"It feels like our dad ran away," says Cowboy Bill.

Posted by jaysuburb at 10:05 PM | Comments (4)

March 08, 2009

Taking advantage

With his team leading 19-18, Smith turned to his teammate, Cowboy Bill, as they stood on the sidelines, and predicted Sunday's seesaw game, in which each team had battled back from deficits then squandered their hard-fought advantage, would end with "an ugly one." Moments later, his sinking blast from behind his own goal line eluded Twizzler's glove and pads, sealing the win, 20-18.

"That was sweet," said Smith of his game winner that was more comic relief than highlight reel material.

"When you get a tight game like this, you know you're never going to get anything pretty," said Cowboy Bill. "The last few goals were just real ugly, mucking it up."

Indeed, the fortunes of each team in Sunday's game seemed to turn on less than perfect plays. After building an early advantage, Smith and his mates suddenly saw their clearing passes bounce off fence posts or a teammate's shins straight to opponents' sticks. And when those sticks are being held by the likes of Lak Attack, Doo and Elvis, lucky bounces usually turn into goals.

But even as his team found itself on the short end of a 12-9 score, Cowboy Bill remained confident.

"It's a 20-goal game, so you know they're bound to get a couple in a row," said the veteran winger. "We're bound to get some bounces come our way too. You've just got to stick with your gameplan because you know they're not going to get 20 good bounces."

In fact, the bounces started coming their way, including an unlikely goal by Smith who had to first deke around a teammate's stick in the crease before roofing a shot past a stunned Twizzler.

Smith and his mates also had the advantage of an extra player, giving their team two set lines. That allowed players to develop chemistry, and get a few precious extra moments of rest between shifts.

"With two set lines, you don't end up with that guy who's really tired," said Smith, as his side scored five unanswered goals to reclaim the lead, 14-12. "We had a couple of good lines, we had some real good chemistry."

"The combinations were good," said Cowboy Bill. "We always had three fresh sets of legs out there, but with those guys rotating, they're always going to have one or two guys out there who are tired. I think in the end, that helped us out quite a bit."

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:03 PM | Comments (7)

March 01, 2009

Lak-ing attack

Kid's rapier shot to the top corner to win the game was fast, hard and deadly accurate. It was also just in the nick of time, snuffing a furious five-goal comeback by a suddenly invigorated opposition that had turned a 19-11 rout into a 20-16 nail biter.

"It always heartbreaking to lose when yoiu're starting to play so well," said a dejected Velma.

The end for his team was as unlikely as it was unlucky. For half of Sunday's game, Velma and his mates were a disorganized and disenchanted lot, skipping passes over sticks, letting opposing forwards run around them with little opposition.

"We were able to have a lot of two-on-ones," said Billy Idol.

Then Lak Attack showed up.

The veteran speedster had been expected to miss Sunday's game. But when he dropped by the court to check out the game, he was quickly recruited by the underdogs, who were already down by four goals and counting.

Playing with a borrowed stick and ragged gloves, Lak Attack took command, quarterbacking the disheveled defense, sparking the offense, and, perhaps most importantly, calling to account some lazy plays by his newfound teammates.

"When Lak got here, he really kicked us in the ass and got us going," said Velma, who admitted he struggled early in his first game in a month. "He's got the motivation and that just gives us encouragement all around."

"When they brought in Lak, it was a whole new factor," said Billy Idol.

And a whole new game. With Lak Attack's wheeling and dealing drawing the attention of opposing defenders, Elvis and Velma were free to crash the boards and dig in the corners while aging veteran Living Legend struggled to stay upright. With nothing to lose, but the game itself, the underdogs finally found their game.

"We were really digging in, working hard," said Velma. "We thought the nine goals was going to be too much, so we really started trying."

They battled their way back with five straight goals, giving the leaders pause.

"We had to run, we had to make more plays, we knew we had to play a little bit harder," said Billy Idol.

Just hard enough to spring Kid from the right wing to unleash his winning shot.

Posted by jaysuburb at 08:13 PM | Comments (2)