Variety is the Spice of Hockey
Day two of the Silver Stick qualification tournament produced two very interesting games, which both ended favorably for the Boy’s team, but provided a ton of excitement and a little dismay in the process.
In game one, the good guys got off to an all too typical shaky start. In fact, the first goal, of the shorthanded variety, could best be labeled as a “fluke” or “garbage” goal as a puck last touched by a member of the Boy’s team rolled harmlessly towards the waiting goaltender with a friendly defenceman sauntering back to retrieve it. But then the not so harmless puck found its way up the goalie’s angled stick, over the goalie’s unsuspecting shoulder and into the net behind him. The now frantic defenceman lunged forward in disbelief, but he was too late. The referees, who were well behind the play, didn’t even see the puck go in. They never blew their whistles. They were left to concede the goal when the puck was begrudgingly fished from the net by the aforementioned defenceman. 1-0 bad guys.
The very same defenceman would be the one to tie the game at one apiece a short time after; notching his first marker of the season after an end-to-end rush.
But then, as luck (or unluck) would have it, one of the good guys, trying to support his team on a scrambled play in front of the net, would inadvertently slide a second goal past his own goaltender. The opposing team would take a 2-1 lead into the third period on two shots they did not take.
In the third period, the Boys took the game to their opponents. A vast majority of the play was in the opponent’s end. They threw a lot of rubber at the other goalie who turned most of the shots away. One shot he did not manage to corral was deftly guided past him as one of the good guys tipped a shot from the point out of the air. However, the referee, who was apparently unfamiliar with the rule on deflections said the boy’s stick was above his shoulders. The goal was subsequently disallowed. The actual rule states that the stick must be below the top crossbar of the goal – which the referee reportedly agreed that it was.
Undaunted the Boys continued their pressure, but time was most certainly ticking away. During that time there were a couple of near misses, one shot that solidly struck a goal post and at least one quick whistle on the part of the referee. They were finally able to break through and tie the game at 2 on a beautiful back-handed shot taken after a successful face-off with less than two minutes left in the game. Parents cheered wildly. And yet, this was not all, as a frantic rush by a forward with the clock ticking down near zero saw him deposit the winning goal with a mere 7 seconds to go. More crowd jubilation coupled with some frayed nerves as the Boys pulled one from the fire. Little did we know there was even more drama yet to come.
After an eight hour break, the Boys were scheduled to play game three against a familiar regular season rival against whom they’d had some limited success with a win and two ties; including a recent 0-0 contest. Having won their first two games, the Boys were pretty much assured of a berth in the semi-finals, but of course, they wanted to beat this rival and maintain their momentum. The rivals scored the first goal, as usual in this tourney, but there would be an answer in relatively short order.
Then, I feel strongly that it would be fair and unbiased to say that the refs took over the game. I’ve stated previously that I don’t like to complain about officiating. I realize it’s a difficult job. I swear I do my best to bite my tongue. All the more reason in this instance as our 15 year old boys were being overseen by a young gentleman and lady who did not appear to be much more than a couple of years their elder. I would have been concerned for both as well as for players on both teams had any overly physical play broken out – which it didn’t. However, the head referee proceeded to make a rash of highly questionable calls against both teams. A clear check from behind was deemed a holding penalty, a nudge was a roughing call and one player was tossed from the game after the opposing team’s assistant coach reported that he uttered a “racial” slur.
This last call is subject to hearsay evidence and is a particularly touchy area. As it turns out, the player in question is himself from a visible minority and has reportedly been on the receiving end on more than one occasion. Lots of words, racial or otherwise, are hurled back and forth by these testosterone charged players; some of whom go to school together. Nasty, albeit tamer, barbs are even tossed around in the Devil’s games. The dilemma in this case is that one of the linesmen heard the “slur”. And so, the lesson, as Grandma would so aptly put it; is “If you don’t have something nice to say…yadda yadda yadda.” We’re told the offender will now miss at least three games for his indiscretion.
But wait, that’s still not it for the intrigue. Tied at 1-1 in the third and in a 5 on 3 penalty kill situation, yet again, we witnessed another fantastic individual effort as one of the Boy’s teammates forced a turnover in the opponents’ end. Driving towards the goal, he managed to put the puck past another bewildered keeper. The good guys held on to the 2-1 lead for the victory; leaving many parents nerves in relative shambles.
Following the 3-0 start, the semi-finals are tomorrow morning and hockey-gods willing the finals will follow in the afternoon. A few more nails will undoubtedly be whittled to the quick, but that’s why we go to the games after all – to exult in our kids’ victories, to commiserate in their defeats and to be genuinely entertained.