November 29, 2009

Legging out a win

For the first time in three weeks, each team was able to put a full side on the court with multiple spares to spell them off. It didn't last.
Sunday's marathon nailbiter, which took almost three hours to decide a winner, 22-21 in sudden death overtime, took a toll as three roadsters were sidelined with injuries. The wealth of players had become a recession.
Colonel was the first to go down, when he tweaked his knee after staking his team to an early advantage by scoring their first three goals, two of them on sizzling seeing-eye shots from the far end of the court. Then his teammate, the Living Legend, was sidelined after getting a chop to the knee while battling Lak Attack at the edge of the crease. He tried to carry on for a couple of shifts but ultimately couldn't continue, leaving his side only one spare where once they employed two full lines.
The lack of fresh legs started to wear.
"It was a big factor," said Unabomber of the sudden disorganization to his side's finely tuned line structure. "It threw off our shifts and it allowed the other side to get back into the game."
Their opponents were quick to take advantage, scoring three quick goals to take their first lead of the game, 16-15.
"You just have to continue as is," said Lak Attack, who had little sympathy for the other team's plight. "You have to try to play the same way, you have to try to play hard."
But those words would soon come back to haunt him, as feisty forward Mouse, who managed to wreak havoc deep in the corners every time he stepped on the court, left the game with cramps in one of his legs.
Both sides were now equally disabled. And neither had the horses to pull away and win.
"I think that's why it went the distance," said Unabomber. "Both teams had to deal with injuries."
In the end, it was fortitude and resilience that paid off. Cowboy Bill gave his team the lead in the first overtime, but his side couldn't seal the deal. Then they had to battle from behind to tie it at 21. With both sides suffering, it was decided to end the marathon with sudden death.
But even that wasn't clear cut, as Velma's cross-crease shot seemed to carom off the middle post and straight out. Or did it? An argument ensued, but the goal stood.
"Those guys were fairly resilient," said Lak Attack. "A good 80 percent of a game like this is just sticking with it, battling hard and believing you're going to get the next goal."

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:44 PM | Comments (5)

November 22, 2009

Chairmen of the boards

First they owned the boards. Then they owned their opponents.
For the second consecutive game, a team of road-hardened veterans ground out a tough victory, 15-9, over younger, speedier upstarts in a modified half-court game Sunday. The semi-game was necessitated by a lack of equipment for a second goalie meant Twizzler had to do double duty for both squads.
Playing with virtually the same lineup that triumphed in last week's rainy showdown, Cowboy Bill, Living Legend and Kid, bolstered by the addition of Doo, forced the play along the boards, winning battles for ball possession time and again, stifling their opponents any opportunity to establish offensive momentum.
"Even though we don't have much speed, we know how to win those battles on the boards, and that's really where we won the game today," said Cowboy Bill, who had a knack for scoring timely goals on long shots that extricated his team from a couple of jams Sunday. "We won a lot of those balls off the boards."
With offensive ball possession in the half-court game determined by the team that could control the ball off the end boards at the opposite end of the court, the reward went to the team that could grind out those battles for the ball. That meant size and toughness ruled the day.
"The other team had the advantage because they outweighed us," said Velma. "That weight advantage in those battles along the boards was pretty huge."
But Cowboy Bill said it was more about guile than girth. "We did a great job on the far end with forechecking, not allowing them to get any good momentum going up the court and maintaining good possession of the ball."
The veterans also seemed better at measuring their effort, pacing themselves for the long haul while their speedy foes blew themselves out trying to establish break-out rushes.
"It's all about just grinding it out, taking care of the ball when you can," said Cowboy Bill. "You have to try to build momentum with good defensive plays."
"You get speed going back to the other end, then you have to turn around and come back; you have to accelerate twice as much and it gets you tired," said Velma.

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:36 PM | Comments (4)

November 15, 2009

SPECIAL REPORT: Courts take toll on sticks

The rough sandpaper surface of the road hockey courts isn't just costing roadsters like Scrappy goals, it's costing them money. The young speedster is already on his third stick, just six weeks into the season.
And while he smashed one of them when he was the goat on a bad goal, the blades on his other sticks have been wearing down quicker than they used to.
"I don't think they last as long," says Scrappy.
While most of the roadsters are adjusting to the new playing surface, their sticks are more like toothpicks. That's taking a toll on some players' confidence.
"For finesse players, the blade is pretty much everything," says Doo, eyeing the narrow sliver of his stick's blade. "You need to be able to control your passes, receive passes and make those finesse plays, and you just can't do that with a stick quite like this."
"I'm having a lot of trouble with it," says Velma. "It's pretty tough especially for me because I make my money by going to the front of the net and keeping my stick on the ground."
But with less stick to put on the ground, passes hop harmlessly over depleted blades, shots don't have quite the snap, or sail wildly wide and over the net.
"You have to get your shot right off the toe of your stick," says Doo. "You can't go heel to toe anymore."
"I'm finding I have to shoot off the toe of my blade a little more rather than the heel," says Velma. "It's tough on everyone."
It's also taking it's toll on some players' confidence. Stickhandling is more tentative, feathered passes are easily intercepted.
"When you know your stick is dying on you, you lose confidence quite a bit," says Scrappy. "You worry you can't get the shot off or pass it off. It effects you mentally."

Seven roadsters braved Sunday's cold rain. They played a modified game of three-on-three half-court that pitted a team of wily veterans against the upstart Scooby gang. The veterans used their experience and guile to measure their effort in trying conditions to prevail, 15-8.

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:02 PM | Comments (4)

November 08, 2009

Gump gives team a chance

The rain may have kept most of the roadsters away from Sunday's game, but that's when Gump comes to play.
The veteran goaltender made a number of huge saves in his first start of the season, but, more importantly for his tired teammates who didn't have the benefit of a spare player, he wasn't afraid to make some aggressive plays to initiate their offense by headmanning the ball up the court.
And while his playmaking efforts didn't prevent his side from succumbing, 18-16, in triple overtime, he kept them in a game that threatened to get out of their reach a few times.
"You've got to look to make plays," said the veteran keeper who time and again swept the ball up court instead of depositing behind his own net for a teammate to initiate the offense. "If you just keep throwing it behind the net on a freeze and they're out of position, it's better for me to just throw it up and hope we can get a couple of odd-man rushes out of it."
It also helped his team preserve their legs by not having to run back behind their own net as much.
"You've got to make sure your team gets breaks," said Gump., who honed his shotstopping skills at goaltending school over the off-season and seemed to put some of his training to good use Sunday with solid positioning and effective smothering of rebounds.
Those brief respites proved invaluable as the sides traded leads throughout the game, neither able to open up an advantage of more than two goals.
"Both teams had several chances to put it away," said Lak Attack. "It could have gone either way."
In the overtime it almost did, as Lak Attack's side took the first advantage, then gave up two straight goals to find themselves with their backs against the wall.
That's when Scrappy took over, as the young speedster found another gear and a deadly touch for finding holes in Gump's equipment even as he was right on top of the steadfast shotstopper.
He scored two straight goals, taking advantage of odds hops and fortuitous bounces to give his team the lead one last time.
"Scrappy really came on in the end," said Lak Attack.
"They got some lucky bounces off the back wall," said Gump.
As the game entered its third extra period, both sides knew they'd put up a good battle on a wet court, with no spare players.
"It was tough, because both teams had several chances to put it away," said Lak Attack.
"I thought we played well enough to win," said Gump.
And based on his performance in his first game, perhaps even deserved to win.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:25 PM | Comments (1)

November 01, 2009

Favorites need total team effort

As his teammates gathered up their sticks from Sunday's decisive stick-pull, Velma was downcast. With a young lineup bolstered by a rookie goaltender making his first career start as a forward, the feisty forward saw only doom and gloom ahead.
"I thought we were going to get destroyed," said Velma, after his team battled to the bitter end before succumbing 20-18 in the closest, most hard-fought game of the young season.
Going against a lineup of proven veterans like Colonel, Lak Attack, Nibs and the Living Legend, and rookie speedster Mouse, he wasn't the only one thinking rout.
"I thought both teams had a different said of skills," said the Colonel, who predicted an easy victory for his squad before the start of Sunday's game.
But, it turns out, there was little to choose between the sides, as each team played to its own strengths, producing a seesaw battle in which each squad built and then lost three goal advantages.
The underdogs were full measure for their effort, even if it fell a little short, said Velma. For a stretch through the middle part of the game, they even had their opponents on the ropes after reeling in a three goal deficit.
"Our whole team banded together and we just kept crashing and banging" said the sophomore centerman, who was pretty banged up himself by the end of the game, with a scraped, bloody knee and a bruised jaw from a rising slap shot by Lak Attack that caught him squarely in the face.
They also seemed to have a knack for converting every lucky bounce that came their way, an important asset this season as players continue to adjust to the sandpaper surface on the hockey courts.
"Barely any of our goals were from nice skilled plays," said Velma. "We were relying on a lot of lucky bounces."
But with Colonel making some nifty moves, Lak Attack driving hard to the crease, Mouse digging doggedly in the corners, Nibs teeing up from the point and even the Living Legend chipping in with a pair of goals, it took a total team effort for Sunday's heavy favorites to realize their destiny.
"You need everyone chipping in all the time," said the Colonel. "Everything adds up to the final score."

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:55 PM | Comments (3)