January 30, 2011

Spare crisis

The reliability of rookie rearguard Chico and the continued commitment of Twizzler means the goalie crisis in Sunday Morning Road Hockey has largely passed. Too bad there's not enough players to enjoy it.

Once again this week there was barely enough players to convene a proper game, despite glorious sunshine and a dry court. Playing with spares to spell off tired roadsters has been the exception this season rather than the rule. And that's frustrating some veterans as much as it's tiring them out.

"It's that lack of commitment," says Lak Attack. "I don't think people understand that the guys who do come out have a real passion for the game and maybe some of them don't have that sort of passion."

"It' deflating when they don't come out," says the Colonel, whose attendance this season has been impeccable, even as he's added a third son to his own familial roster. "It's totally disappointing when you show up, it's a beautiful day, the courts are dry and you're waiting around, wondering what to do."

In fact, Sunday's game was salvaged only when Velma showed up unexpectedly, despite a heavily-taped wrist.

The lack of spare players is talking its toll. Games start at a frenetic pace then decline into a series of bumbling errors and mental lapses as players tire.

"it's tough, especially on the forwards," says Chico, who played Sunday despite staying up most of the night before to tend to a sick dog. "When they get tired it affects their decision making. The more people that come out, the better it is for all the players."

Particularly vexing to many of the roadsters is the ongoing absence of formerly stalwart veterans like Beetle Boy and Unabomber, who haven't announced their retirement, fueling players' optimism that they're still a part of the game.

"It's totally on their shoulders," says the Colonel. "Some of these guys who don't come out should take a look and see exactly how it's affecting their health. They've got to come out and play once a week here to make sure there's some form of health left in them, otherwise they're just going to be fat and old."

"It's hurting the game," says Lak Attack. "You can learn a lot from the character of players who are willing to do whatever they need to do to come out every Sunday morning and play hard."

Guys like Bam Bam and Chico, rookies this season who've elevated the game's skill level, and, most importantly, it's enthusiasm.

"We've all got lives," says the newfound netminder. "I think it's important for the guys to know they're counted on."

With a speedy team in front of team that wore down their opponents, Chico was able to post his first victory of the new year, 15-8.

Despite solid efforts between the pipes week in and week out, the lack of scoreboard success was becoming an increasingly heavy lodestone, said the rookie rearguard. "It felt like forever."

And for a few moments, it appeared forever might stretch on a little longer. After opening a quick lead on the speedy playmaking of Kid and Lak Attack, capably supported by the hard work along the boards and in the corners of Bam Bam, their offense faltered through the second period, allowing their overmatched opponents to get within a goal, 8-7, when the Living Legend squeezed a backhander between Chico's pad and the goalpost.

"That's when the guys came back and I said just get me two quick ones," said Chico.

They did, and never looked back.

Posted by jaysuburb at 04:48 PM | Comments (6)

January 23, 2011

Gump and Legend spark comeback

With Kid and Bam Bam the high-rev engine, veterans Gump and the Living Legend were the spark plugs who ignited a ten-goal run to bring their team from an 8-5 deficit to a 15-8 win in Sunday's game.

The former goaltender and wily founding father combined for nine goals with timely shots and opportunistic rebounds as their speedy teammates maintained a frenetic pace that wore down their opponents.

"They're opportunistic," said Lak Attack of Gump and Legend's unlikely contribution. "Those guys are going to get the type of goals you score when you're hanging around the net. We just weren't able to get to them."

The role of offensive dynamo is a new one for Gump, who's spent most of his career in net trying to prevent goals. His slapshot is awkward and occasionally wild. But when he does get it on net, no one is more surprised than the goalie. And nobody can question his work ethic.

"He works really hard on the forecheck, so he gets a lot of opportunities that way," said Lak Attack. "You have to watch for him and you have to play harder against him than you would normally think."

Gump knows he's got a learning curve as wide as some of his shots. But he's a quick study, applying lessons he's learned in another battlefield.

"It's kind of like being the single guy at the bar, you can't try to pick up all the girls right away or you're never really going to go home with anybody," said the neophyte goal scorer. "But if you wait to be that guy still there at the end of the night, you score the winner and take the girl home."

Or take the victory home from the road hockey court.

After spotting their fleet-footed opponents an early 8-5 lead, including whiffing the first shot of the game, Gump and the Legend set to work, the latter with a pretty inside-outside deke on a beleaguered Chico who couldn't settle the rebound after a spectacular toe save.

"They were beating us to the ball," said Lak Attack. "They were controlling it better."

Taking full advantage of their man advantage, Gump and his mates picked up the pace as their foes withered.

"There was basically two games out there," said Gump. "In the first half we were a little tight, but then we started taking it to them."

The payoff was 10 straight goals.

"Our legs just got tired in the latter part of the game," said Lak Attack.

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:31 PM | Comments (740)

January 16, 2011

Gump sticks hat trick

Gump overcame problems with his stick to score a natural hat trick, leading his team to a comeback 15-11 win in Sunday's game.

The veteran creasekeeper, who's been forging a new identity this season as a forward since the arrival of Chico, quickly ran into problems with his lumber only a few shifts into his first game of the new year, as his Zetterberg street blade started to delaminate. But Gump was nonplussed, scoring three straight goals including a clever dragging change-up that rolled slowly through his heir's splayed leg pads.

"I'll take them any way I can get them," said Gump, whose hat trick forged his team's comeback from an early deficit to take their first lead, 6-5. They never looked back. "I won't say they were all on purpose, so it's kind of a miracle that any of them went in at all."

Gump isn't the first roadster to struggle with his stick since the road hockey court was resurfaced last year with a rougher texture. The sandpaper surface has taken a heavy toll on blades of all kinds, wood, plastic and composite, rendering many roadsters discouraged and depleted as they struggle to adjust their game. Some of them try two or three sticks in consecutive shifts, looking for confidence in their equipment.

"When you're switching from a stick you're used to, to one you're not used, it can make it frustrating for a while," said Colonel, who twice swapped out his own stick during Sunday's game. "There's a different weight, it might be a little bit longer or a little bit shorter, it might have a slightly different curve, a little different flex, they all factor in."

"It's frustrating," said Gump. "The sticks get thin so you can't knock the ball down as well. To have a stick that actually puts that ball in the net, it's a godsend."

The timber trouble has led many roadsters to carry multiple sticks to each game, inflicting pain on their pocket books as they search for the magic formula of strength and durability.

"The key is you just can't use a stick too long, you can't let the blade get too thin," said the Colonel.

"You just keep having to get new sticks every week," said Gump.

And hoping they've got goals in them.

Posted by jaysuburb at 06:10 PM | Comments (6)

January 09, 2011

Velma slays in return

Velma's winning goal in Sunday's Shrimp Ring Bowl wouldn't have wounded a fly. That's a long way from the lion he witnessed taking down a wildebeast during his global travels that kept him from the road hockey court through the season's first half.

It was a triumphant return for the feisty forward who found his feet and then found the net, including the game winner on a roller that eluded a splayed Chico between his legs as he looked for a high shot to the upper corners.

"What can you say, he fooled me," said the beleaguered backstop. "I was playing high side, he'd been going up on me all day."

Velma, who'd just returned from his voyage days earlier, struggled early as his team found themselves a goal down only seconds into the game when Twizzler whiffed the first shot of the game right off the opening faceoff. HIs fitness faltering, as well as his footing on the frost-slicked concrete surface, he geared back his patented speed bursts and hard digs to the corner to buy himself some time.

"At the start I was just about a quarter of a player," said Velma. "The court was slippery which meant a big adjustment. I really had to pace myself."

HIs mates were also tentative on what kind of impact the resurrected player could have in his first game of the season.

"You're not sure if he remembers his defensive coverage, so you play a little more tentative on the back end," said Doo.

Velma quickly proved their concerns unfounded, his hard digging in corners created scoring opportunities, his speedy backchecking derailed the opposition's offense.

"He showed us pretty quickly that he hadn't forgotten anything," said Doo. "He was a great asset. He's great in the corners, and as Velma warmed up, we got it done."

"As the game wore on, I got stronger," said Velma. "I really had to pick my spots."

A favorite was mucking it up in the crease with the likes of Kid and Scrappy, pestering the goaltender.

"He's intense," said Chico. "He really goes after the ball, he's a hard working forward andhe's got a deceptively heavy shot."

Which made it especially ironic when the rookie rearguard was beaten for the winner on a fanned deke.

"Not all the goals are going to be pretty," admitted Velma. "You've got to get the garbage goals."

"There were a few soft ones I wanted back," said Chico. "I hate that orange ball."

Posted by jaysuburb at 06:23 PM | Comments (5)

January 02, 2011

Lak swallows attack

Strapping on the goalie pads for the first time this season, Lak Attack was worried he might have bitten off more than he could chew. Instead, he swallowed shots and smothered rebounds to lead his team to a 20-11 win in Sunday's first game of the new year.

The veteran forward, who climbed between the pipes when regular starter Twizzler was a surprise scratch for the second straight game, didn't let a hodge-podge of second rate equipment discourage him from standing up to a barrage of scoring chances in the early going from speedy opponents Scooby and Bam Bam and opportunist veteran Living Legend.

"In that first period we were trying to take a lot of shots when Lak Attack was looking into the sun," said Scooby.

But they rarely cashed in, as the capable creaseminder rarely allowed a rebound to escape the clutches of his trapper or the safety of his thick leg pads.

"That was the key, especially on a cold day like today when the ball is bouncing around a fair amount," said Lak Attack. "You want to be able to corral it down, stop the play and have guys start upcourt fresh."

That's when his side's offensive dynamos, Doo, Colonel and Kid went to work, deftly tipping long shots and cross-court sizzlers past flat-footed defenders and a hapless Chico.

"The first half of the game we were pretty much outworked and out-skilled," acknowledged Scooby, whose team found itself down by as much as 17-6 before surging their way back into the game.

Chico also settled down, making some dynamic saves that gave his mates confidence to press forward into the offensive zone.

"They had a few quick ones and they were able to come back pretty strongly," said Lak Attack.

"We picked up our defense, and Chico started to play amazing," said Scooby. "We were able to pick it up."

But a seeing-eye shot that squeezed between Chico's feet ended any hope of a miracle finish, giving Lak Attack his first win of the season as a goalie.

"They were playing pretty strong at the end of the game, so it was a relief to see the Colonel score that winner," said the thankful shotstopper.

Posted by jaysuburb at 05:46 PM | Comments (9)