March 31, 2013

A tale of two goalies

This is a story of two goaltenders: one desperate to play but unable; the other the reluctant saviour.

Fate, and Twizzler's ongoing attendance inconsistency and injury issues, have put them on a collision course for the Stanley Stick championship series.

Sunday, Chico won his second game in as many starts since he returned from a knee injury that had sidelined him since the preseason. More important than the 13-9 line score though, was the poise and confidence he exhibited between the pipes.

"He's stepping out of the crease and challenging shooters," said Bam Bam of the comeback creaseminder. "You know he's got his confidence and that gave us confidence. We knew when we had to back up and we knew when we could be aggressive and pinch."

For his part, Chico said he's beginning to feel at home in the crease again.

"I'm feeling a lot better," said the veteran shotstopper. "I'm seeing the ball pretty well. The guys are quick but I don't think that part of the game has left me."

His fear of reinjuring his knee is also diminishing, as he throws himself from post to post with abandon. At least twice he robbed Doo on cross-crease set-ups.

"I've gotta keep working laterally," said Chico. "There were a lot of two-on-ones today and I managed to get over."

"He's reading the ball well," said Lak Attack of his rearguard rival. "He's on his game."

And so is Lak Attack.

Despite expressing his ongoing dismay with being handed the goaltending responsibilities week after week when Twizzler fails to report, the versatile veteran has quietly put together an MVP season, saving shots and saving the game.

With two regular season games left before the finale, Lak Attack is resigned to finishing out the year in net.

"I've just got to commit that I'm going to be the goalie, and that's got to be my focus," said the reluctant rearguard.

But to be on the safe side, he's also doing dry land fitness training to be able to answer the call should Twizzler retake the goaltending reins.

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March 24, 2013

Holt sparks win

Holt scored early and often to spark his team to a decisive 20-14 win in Sunday's game.

It was the second straight game in which the would-be magnate has confounded opposing defenders, eluding their attention and finding unlikely ways to get his stick on the ball.

"It seems like it hits his stick and goes right into the net no matter what you do," said Weeble of his rival. "You cover his forehand and it just hits the back of his stick."

"He's got a deceptively quick shot," said Bam Bam. "He can pick the goalie's weak spots."

There was no shortage of those early in Sunday's game, as Lak Attack struggled with his unexpected role after Twizzler was a surprise no-show. Playing the give-and-go with Doo, Holt time and again managed to skulk past flat-footed defenders and convert his opportunities.

"You notice when a guy takes his eye off you and you try to take advantage," said Holt. "You can't get lazy."

Even without the benefit of a spare player to spell off tiring legs, Holt and his mates were able to build a lead as large as eight goals. Behind them, Chico was solid in his first full-game start of the season after he hurt his knee in the preseason.

"We didn't have the jump we needed," said Bam Bam of his side's feeble effort early.

"We weren't shooting enough early in the game," said Weeble. "We were trying to be too fancy, make too many cute passes."

By the time they did find their game, it was too late. And their nemesis, Holt, had shifted his attention to the defensive zone.

"I enjoy stopping people from scoring more than I enjoy scoring," said Holt.

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March 18, 2013

Legend hobbled

The Living Legend will miss Sunday's game and is a game time decision for the following week as he continues to cope with a painful foot injury that has hobbled him for much of the past six weeks.

The wily veteran has plantar fasciitis in his right foot, an inflammation of the tissue and muscles that connect the heel to the arch. He says the condition worsens through each game he plays, leaving him hobbled and barely mobile for days afterward.

"I know my inability to keep pace has hurt my team," said the Legend in a statement. "I want to be in the best form possible for the Stanley Stick which is only a month away. Hopefully a little rest, and a lot of ice and stretching will help make that happen."

The Legend, Sunday Morning Road Hockey's founding father and most senior player, has enjoyed a remarkably injury-free career. At one point his iron man streak stretched over three seasons, unmatched by any other player.

Plantar fasciitis is commonly suffered by distance runners and is often caused by shoes with inadequate support. The Legend said he likely succumbed because of a new pair of runners he acquired at the beginning of the season. They've since been replaced.

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March 17, 2013

Real work begins for Chico

On a rare dry day Sunday, it rained. Goalies.

For the first time this season, three shotstoppers suited up for Sunday's game. That's because Chico would be taking to the crease to test his healing knee.

And while his team was pummelled 20-9, the silver lining was the veteran goalie's beaming smile after playing two periods sliding the big leg pads across the gritty concrete, stabbing out his glove, doing the splits to make a toe save. Even a tumble on one of his offensive shifts that elicited gasps from the others on the court didn't phase him.

The knee was sound, unbowed.

Chico's back.

Now the real work begins.

"I need to get up to game shape," said the comeback creaseminder. "The speed of the game is really intense so I had some timing issues. I've got to work on my rebound control and find a little more luck."

He's got four more games to get his game together in time for the Stanley Stick championship series. The rest of the roadsters are looking forward to getting consistent goaltending in the season's home stretch, after a rotating cast of volunteers stepped in as both Chico and Twizzler overcame their knee problems.

"Chico and Twizzler are the backbone of this league," said Doo. "It kinda throws the rhythm of the league out a little bit when you don't have those goalies."

One of those super subs, Lak Attack, is especially keen to unburden his legs of the big pads.

"The name of the game is speed," said the veteran centreman. "I've got to get the legs going to be able to make the transition game."

He got that opportunity for one period Sunday, when Chico pulled an extra stint in net for the final period. But with the game already out of reach, there was little opportunity to make an impact. Still their opponents were vigilant.

"You don't want to give him any space," said Doo of Lak Attack's return to running. "He's got the speed, he's got the shot, and we had to pick up our defensive game."

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March 10, 2013

Transition to victory

Colonel and his mates may have lost an hour's sleep before Sunday's game, but they didn't lose a step moving the ball up court from defence to offence quickly and efficiently to power their way to a 15-12 win.

The transition game is always important on the small court where defensive plays convert to offensive opportunities in a heartbeat. But never more so than when there are no spare players to spell off tired teammates.

That's been the rule rather than the exception for most games this season.

Sunday, the Colonel, Holt and Living Legend moved the ball crisply up court to leave opposing defenders spinning flat-footed and their goaltender without rebound support.

"If you can play a little less aggressively on defence you get caught up a little more in the transition and that kills the other team," said Colonel, of his team's triumphant resurgence from an early 5-2 deficit.

"The transition game is huge," said Holt. "When there's no sub you're really trying to make calculations on the fly whether you should run after every shot. If you keep it short and use your angles you save your energy."

That conservation of effort paid dividends late in the game as the two wily veterans and their sophomore defenceman were able to convert their scoring chances.

"They just had a bit more time to do what they wanted to do," said Lak Attack of the relentless bombardment that eventually did his side in. "They were able to finish."

Of course, pressing up court couldn't happen without a yeoman effort in the net behind them, and Twizzler was up to the task in his first start in two weeks.

"You've got to have a lot of confidence in your goalie," said Holt.

"If you know the goalie is likely to make the first save, and even the second and third save, then that means we can cheat a little here and there," said Colonel.

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March 03, 2013

Chico and the plan

Chico's back.

But as he continues to strengthen the wounded knee that's kept him out of the lineup since the preseason, the stalwart shotstopper is being cast in an unfamiliar role. He's trying to score, instead of stopping other players from scoring.

The role reversal is the next step in his long rehabilitation that will hopefully put him back between the pipes for at least a few games prior to the start of the Stanley Stick championship series.

It's been a gruelling road back, said Chico.

"We're working on stops and starts, on the balance beam and doing a lot of running while carrying weights," said Chico of the rehab regime devised by his medical team. "We'll go back to the gym, ice the knee down and see how it is in the next couple of days."

Feeling no pain after his hour-long return as the swing man in a spirited half-court game, Chico is confident he's on track.

"The guys were taking it pretty easy on me out there," said Chico. "If I'm to get back into game shape I certainly have to be treated like everyone else."

That's easier said than done, said Bam Bam, as the roadsters worked to integrate the rearguard regular into their offensive and defensive game plans.

"It's just like any other time you have a new player," said Bam Bam. "We tried to get him the ball as much as we could, get him in front of the net digging for rebounds."

That created some unsettling moments for Lak Attack, who's accustomed to scoring on Chico rather than preventing him from scoring.

"It's a strange feeling," said the super sub, who's filled in admirable as Chico and Twizzler work through their injuries. "It's a bit different to see Chico out there making some nice plays."

He better get used to it, said Chico. His plan is to play two more games on defence, working on his conditioning and testing his knee then, if all remains well with the jumbled joint he'll return to the crease to extend his Stanley Stick championship streak to three.

"I think right now I've just got to work on my conditioning and getting the legs up to speed."

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