April 26, 2015

Stanley Stick champions hang on not to lose

Doo and his mates barely had the energy to pop the champagne bottle when they won the Stanley Stick on Sunday. Or rather, didn't lose it.

The champions were forced to a decisive mini-game by their persistent opponents who refused to give in even as they lost their starting goalie, Joker, and then one of their key offensive battlers, Nouvelle Guy. With a patchwork lineup that included a hobbled Yak in street clothes planted in the offensive zone, and Radar reprising his goaltending heroics from the opener, the underdogs overcame a 15-12 deficit at the last break to force the extra game with a 20-18 win.

But that effort took a toll.

Looking to exploit Radar's inexperience and the odd-man rushes they enjoyed because of Yak's inability to run on his wounded knee, the champions buzzed to a quick 5-0 advantage.

But the underdogs weren't about to give up easily, as they replied with three quick goals of their own to close within two and cause more than a few anxious glowers from the other side of the court.

"I think we let up and we were angry with ourselves," said Doo. "But we really wanted it. We had that killer instinct."

Indeed, they went on to outscore their overmatched and exhausted opponents 5-1 to claim the Stanley Stick trophy. But after more than four hours of play, they were barely able to hoist it.

"We had to grind today," said Doo. "We didn't want to lose it."

Although they almost did.

Joker returned from his mysterious absence to strap on the pads for the underdogs, but the rust of his three-week layoff quickly became apparent as three of the first four shots he faced squibbed past him in most unlikely ways, soft shots between his pads, lobs to the far corners.

The veteran netminder fought to regain his composure and slowly his team was able to fight its way back into the game. They tied it at 12 before giving up three straight, and Joker said he had to leave for another commitment. The comeback train seemed ready to come off the rails once and for all.

Their chances to force a mini-game took another hit when Nouvelle Guy also had to depart early, leaving the underdogs to look to Yak, who'd dropped by to watch, to pick up a stick and try to keep his side in the game.

He did that and more.

Planted permanently in the offensive zone, he was able to take advantage of the opposition's tiring legs to take stretch passes hard to the net, or protect the ball until his teammates were able to join him.

"We put together a game plan that was opportunistic," said Colonel. "We gave up some chances in the hope of springing a guy up the court, and it worked."

Meanwhile, Radar was standing on his head in a defensive capacity. Or rather sucking up every shot into his chest protector, frustrating opposition snipers and boosting his mates' confidence.

"He just gobbled up the ball and slowed down the play for us," said Lak Attack. "That allowed us to structure our game a little bit."

The underdogs fought back to take their first lead, 18-17, then scored two unanswered goals after their opponents had tied it up again at 18.

"It's amazing what can happen when a team starts to believe in each other," said Colonel.

But the miracle ultimately fell short.

Doo and Bam Bam wrested control early in the mini-game, peppering shots at Radar, hoping to create rebounds or find corners.

"We had that killer instinct," said Doo.

The underdogs' comeback stalled at 5-3. They were spent.

"When you put a lot into the end of a game like that, you can carry some of it over, but you're also tired," said Colonel.

"We kept grinding," said Lak Attack. "We knew we were in tough for the mini. It's just too hard to sustain when you're short a guy."

Doo's 10 goals in the first game and another six in the mini earned him the Conn Stick Award as the series MVP.
The roadsters were all so exhausted at the end of the Sunday's marathon finale, which lasted more than four hours, they didn't have the energy to go for their traditional season-ending gathering at a local pub. Look for an announcement here for just such a gathering in the near future.

Posted by jaysuburb at 08:45 PM | Comments (8)

April 19, 2015

Depleted rosters take toll in Stick opener

Untimely injuries and poorly timed travel put the roadsters in a precarious predicament on Sunday.

Even as the spotlight shone brightly on the opening of the climactic Stanley Stick championship series, it was a dark day for road hockey.

Barely enough players filled out the lineups for both sides, staggering players, leaving them gasping for air. It was clear from the opening face off, the team best able to manage its energy would prevail. In the end it was the young speedsters Doo and Bam Bam, anchored by the wily veteran Living Legend who hung on for a 20-15 victory.

The fleet-footed youngsters took the game to their opponents right from the get-go, jumping aggressively into the offensive zone to create scoring opportunities. Six times in a row they converted, half of them by the Living Legend.

"We played well as a team right from the start," said Doo. "When you have that chemistry that can really give you the advantage in a three-on-three game."

"It didn't start the way we wanted," said Lak Attack, who was the goalie victimized by those six straight goals.

A subsequent change of netminders changed the timbre of the game.

Radar, making only his third start since being called up, declared the pace was just too intense and volunteered to take over in net.

But he wasn't just taking shelter between the pipes. He owned his new role, making a number of key saves as his team broke through on the scoreboard. In fact, they outscored the game's winners 15-14 the rest of the marathon three-hour game.

"It changed the tempo of the game," said Lak Attack of the roster shakeup. "Once we changed the goalie we were persistent and we were able to make it a game."

More than once they were able to shake the confidence of the leaders, shatter their poise and create mistakes.

"When they got their legs we had to weather a storm or two," said Doo. "There were a lot of garbage goals but I don't think we lost our heads."

Twice the underdogs were able to creep to within four goals. But they couldn't break through.

Still, the signs are there for a strong effort in next week's finale.

"We have lots of hope," said Lak Attack.

The leaders will have to be at the top of their game to sweep, said Doo.

"We know we have to put our noses to the grindstone right from the beginning," he said. "Hopefully our chemistry will carry over."

Joker was AWOL once again, and Eight Ball was a surprise scratch. Their absence was compounded by injuries to Yak, who aggravated a tender knee during last Sunday's regular season finale, and Bing, who sported a brace all week to nurse a jammed wrist.
The depleted lineups exacted a toll on the usual frenetic pace and tripwire intensity of the championship.
"It's totally different," said Colonel of the lack of spares to spell off tired players. "We depend on each other to play, so it really does affect the play."
"There's lots of odd-man rushes," said Lak Attack.
"it would have been better to have more guys," said Doo. "But both teams brought the Stick intensity."
Players on the injured list for Sunday's opener will be eligible for the finale, with a placement card pull to disperse them if necessary.

Posted by jaysuburb at 08:56 PM | Comments (12)

April 12, 2015

Goalie worries cloud rainy regular season finale

On the eve of the Stanley Stick, Joker has gone missing.

And that's causing all the roadsters to hold their sticks a little tighter.

None more so than Lak Attack, who was an unexpected starter between the pipes in Sunday's regular season finale after Eight Ball also scratched.

The versatile veteran was so caught off guard, a slow start put his team down by three goals early. But the superior speed and feisty forechecking of Bam Bam and Scooby sparked a third period comeback that culminated in a 13-12 win in sudden death.

After the backstop bonanza that allowed the league to weather the season-long injury woes of Chico with goalies to spare, Joker's unexplained disappearance caught everyone off guard.

In fact, the sophomore shotstopper seems to have gone off the grid. He hasn't commented on stories nor replied to text messages enquiring about his game status.

"It's a concern," said Yak, who used Sunday's finale to test the readiness of his injured knee for the Stanley Stick finale that begins next week. He hadn't played since suffering a slight dislocation of the joint.

"You have to prepare for the worst," said Lak Attack. "It will be a challenge and it will impact the game. I won't have a chance to fine tune what I need."

The worst reared it's ugly head early in Sunday's game, as the stalwart backup fought to shake the rust off his leg pads. His teammates also struggled as their speed advantage was neutralized by variable weather conditions that slicked the court with rain, then hail, then rain again.

That gave Colonel and Yak license to unleash cannon shots from the point as Bing and the Unnamed Rookie mixed it up in the crease.

"It was pretty slippery," said Yak. "The last thing you want is a loose jockstrap, and when that's bugging you you really have to take it easy."

But as Lak Attack settled into his newfound role, his team responded with confidence and more assured footing. Scooby, Bam Bam and Living Legend passed the evil orange plastic ball with aplomb while Nouvelle Guy charged hard to the crease.

The Gallic go-getter was rewarded when his low shot from the point squeezed between Twizzler's legs to give his side their sudden death victory.

"We outplayed them through the game," said Lak Attack. "The guys kept going."

"They started executing and were able to score," said Yak.

Scooby's game was his last for about a year, as he heads to South America on an extended scouting trip.
Beckenbauer and Holt are also out of the country and will miss the Stanley Stick.

To be eligible for this year's championship series, roadsters must have played at least two regular season games. That means the roadster who has yet to be named can play. But Velma is out of luck after he made his only start of the season just last week.

Posted by jaysuburb at 07:08 PM | Comments (11)

April 05, 2015

Eight Ball snookers scorers

The long skipping point shot by the Colonel that just eluded Eight Ball's pad made the battling backstop a loser.

It also gave him the victory.

There was no rest for the substitute shotstopper Sunday as he did double duty in the absence of regular rearguards Twizzler and Joker.

But if Eight Ball's schizophrenic role in the half-court game wore him down, he wasn't showing any signs as time and again he came up with clutch saves en route to a marathon 10-8 victory. Er, loss.

"He started off sharp right from the get-go and he just sustained that throughout the whole game," said Lak Attack, who was frequently frustrated by Eight Ball's lightning glove and outstretched leg pad. "He saw pretty much everything."

"He played great for both sides," said Scooby.

Eight Ball's effort was especially remarkable as the constant assault of oncoming forwards from either team meant little opportunity to catch his breath, regroup, gather his faculties. And it had been almost three months since his last start between the pipes.

"Within a few minutes you get the sequence of your players," said Eight Ball of the challenge presented by keeping the teams straight when both are coming at you. "It doesn't take much for me to be prepared, the agility always seems to be there."

That agility served and frustrated players from both teams. But, in the end, it was persistence that won the day.

"If you're tenacious on the ball it's going to pay off for you," said Lak Attack.

But it wasn't his side that cashed in. After twice holding two-goal advantages, they fell behind for the first time at 8-7 before tying it. Then Scooby scored from the slot after being fed a seeing-eye pass from the side of the net by the Living Legend before Colonel ended the game with his long blast from the point.

"The game really dragged on and we had to grind it out," said Scooby. "I was wondering when the game might ever end."

roadhockey.net will be making an experimental step into livecasting segments of next week's regular season finale via the Periscope app on Twitter. If it proves manageable, further casts will be transmitted live from the Stanley Stick.
To view download the free Periscope app and follow @jaysuburb.

Sunday's game featured a guest appearance by veteran agitator Velma, who proved he hasn't lost a step while adding considerable facial hair.

Posted by jaysuburb at 09:19 PM | Comments (16)