Tonight the girls played a relatively weak and decidedly shorthanded team. It was only an exhibition game, so apparently half the players from the other side opted to play in a soccer match, which probably carried more weight. The Devil’s team had a full complement of fifteen skaters and a goalie, while the opposition was only able to field eight meaning one spare defenceman and two spare forwards. Compounding the lack of numbers was the fact that this team is likely to be designated a B team. Our girls will be rated BB putting their general skill level slightly higher. Our girls burst out of the gate and scored their first goal within a minute. They would tally four more in the opening frame, while their opponents struggled to get a shot on net. After two more unanswered goals in the second period you could start to feel piercing stares from a couple of parents at the other end of the bleachers in response to muted cheering. Proud parents, particularly early in the year are eager to clap and raise their voices following a Summer break. But the final two goals received but a smattering of praise and the players likewise scaled back their post goal celebratory head patting. One has to question, knowing the circumstances, why the opposing coach would even schedule such a game; what benefit could his charges have received from being trounced. It’s one thing to be challenged and quite another to not have a chance.
One of the Boy’s teams a number of years ago entered a Major level tournament meaning the majority of teams were from the 2nd year of a two year age division. However, in one of their games they were put up against a Minor level American team from a non-hitting league. Our boys, some of which were almost two years older, over a full head taller and upwards of 50 pounds heavier had been playing contact hockey for a couple of years. It was not pretty, but the tournament format counted goal differential so the boys were not instructed to ease up. I believe the final score of this game was in the 13-1 range and I found myself apologizing to some of the parents of the other team; who were in turn none too happy with their coach having entered such a mismatched tournament in the first place. This team had traveled over six hours to get there and I’m pretty certain their other games had similar results. Placed in their shoes, I’m quite certain I would have had more than a few well chosen words for our coach and manager.
But then there are, of course, those other occasions when the tables are turned or fate intercedes to command the outcome of a game. One such game occured when I was assistant coach for one of the Devil’s former teams. In yet another tournament, we faced a small town team who came into our game having narrowly lost their previous two encounters. We’d been told they had a “hot” little goaltender who had kept those matches close. In the first period of our game, the girls were dominant firing shot after shot on or narrowly by the net. The opposing forwards and defence, on the other hand, did not manage to make it out of their half of the ice. The fabled little goalie held true to her billing and kept the puck from reaching the waiting mesh behind her. The lopsided trend continued into the second period until about four minutes in when one of our defenders fell down and one of the other team’s forwards found herself on a breakaway; a breakaway which resulted in the opponents’ lone shot and unwittingly, a goal. As we approached the end of the second period and the little goalie continued to “stand on her head”; I looked over to the head coach and silently mouthed “We’re not going to score.” He nodded in equally silent agreement. The rest of the game would see the girls have several more shots on net and equally as many near misses, but none of which would serve to pull us even. The final unofficial shots on net, as reported by one of the parents maintaining stats in the stands, were 30 to 1. And the final score was indeed 1 to 0.
While not quite a David and Goliath scenario, the game certainly proved why all games need to be played to their conclusion. Sometimes one player or one set of circumstances can make all the difference and level the ice rink so to speak. We can only hope for more of the last example as it was truly a game worth remembering; while the other two are better forgotten.