Tough tests…lessons learned
The Devil’s team was offered a spot in a tournament this past weekend with three teams rated above them (level A vs. BB). The tournament was in need of an additional team and it was decided that this would provide a good barometer for the girls to measure themselves against. Before the tournament, the coach explained that there were no expectations around winning, but rather the goal was to understand the level at which A teams are playing; then to strive to get to that level by season’s end.
I’ve been asked to join the coaching staff and have gladly accepted. This weekend I was able to get some great insights into the make-up of the team and its players. This is something you can only really get from interacting with them in the dressing room pre- and post-game as well as on the bench during the game. This weekend taught me a lot about the character of this team. After only a few games I am marveling at the maturity and character of many of the players; no doubt a product of their age and experience. Each year brings a progression as it rightly should.
The first game of the weekend was against the tournament’s strongest team. The Devil would unfortunately miss the game along with two other players due to injury (as per the previous post), but her cohorts competed valiantly in a 4-0 loss. While they were outshot by a fair margin and kept in the game by a brilliant goaltending performance, the depleted squad had several scoring chances of their own. The score could have just as easily been 4-2 or 3-1. The coach rightly heaped praise on his short-handed charges who were buoyed for their next two tests against two slightly weaker teams a day later.
In game two, the girls came out strong again and took the game directly to their counterparts. The score was deadlocked at zeros at the end of the second period and a win or tie was certainly in sight. Unfortunately, the third period saw the Devil and her teammates fall behind a step and soon a goal, followed by three others. Another 4-0 loss that felt like anything but a 4-0 loss. In everyone’s eyes they had held their own for a solid ¾ of the game.
Undeterred, the team looked forward to game three against what was assumed to be the weakest of the three opponents they would face in the tournament. But this third team had felt the sting of two losses and came out determined to stop the streak there. Our girls, on the other hand, seemingly succumbed to the physical and mental burden of the the previous two games. Though hopes were high based on the perceived level of the competition, the end result would be eerily familiar; 4-0 for the wrong team.
Throughout the tournament, the head coach buoyed the girls confidence and put the tournament in perspective. They had played hard, had not given up and at no time looked out of place against these “superior” teams. As you looked around the dressing room after the third game, you could see the players were tired, but not defeated. The results, not the scores, of these three games bode well for this team. They already know they can compete at a relatively high level. With practice and commitment they will only get stronger. We are all looking forward to what this team is able to accomplish.
To round out the storied weekend, the team would play one more, previously scheduled, game against a team they will be facing in their regular league. In this fourth game in three days, we saw a much different team than the one who had competed the previous two days. They were a step slower. Decisions were made a ½ second later, which in hockey generally leads to turnovers and missed opportunities. They also came up against a stellar goaltending performance from the other side. The final was 3-0. For those keeping score, our girls were 0 for the weekend, but it was not for a lack of scoring chances. This too shall pass as it so often does in the ebbs and waves of hockey in general.
A practice was originally scheduled for tonight, but was fittingly deferred until later in the week. The announcement of the rescheduled practice at the conclusion of game four was met with several sighs of relief. The team knows it needs home for a rest before embarking on the busy schedule that is the regular season with tournaments sprinkled in between. We will have that schedule in the next few days. The fun stuff is just beginning.