Hearing bloodcurdling screams of pain and then watching your team captain get rolled off the ice on a gurney after suffering a season-ending leg injury is no way to start a championship game. But that’s the exact situation the Devil and her teammates had to contend with this past weekend.
My better half, the hockey mom, will concur as she, in her role as team trainer, was tasked with assessing the situation, ordering an ambulance and huddling on the frozen rink to console the frightened victim of a crater in the ice. I believe she would much rather simply deal with the normal course bumps, bruises and missing hair-clips that befall a female hockey team. But hockey is a fast-paced game, which does bring with it the occasional more serious injury.
It was heart-warming to see both teams lined up together on the blue line tapping their sticks on the ice in unison as the fallen soldier was ushered off by paramedics. This was definitely a new set of circumstances for almost all of them. Not a easy situation for any team to bounce back from, much less a group of 13-year old girls.
When the game finally resumed twenty five minutes later, the shell-shocked players were definitely off their game; their focus understandably shaken. On the bench, we extolled the players to regain their composure. We suggested they summon their strength and do it for their suddenly absent captain. The opposing side took advantage of the situation, scoring two quick goals before the first period ended. At the break, we tried to rally the troops, reminding them again that they were in a final game.
The cobwebs faded in the second. The team came out with a renewed commitment to winning; erasing the 2-0 deficit. They would have a brief lapse against a strong opponent and fall behind again 3-2, but would come storming back to take a 4-3 lead, which would last until less than two minutes left in the game. A quick, laser of a shot taken off a face-off in our end would find its way over the shoulder of an unsuspecting goaltender. The championship contest would need to be settled in a five minute overtime or possibly a shootout — far too much drama and stress for several spectators.
The game would unfortunately end on a scramble in front of the Devil’s net with only 30 seconds left in the extra frame. An opportunistic attacker danced around our keeper and slid the puck into the waiting net behind. The girls didn’t get the win, but they gained a world of experience in dealing with much more than just wins and losses. They rose above a tense situation that would have been pretty easy to just pack their bags on. They showed a fantastic resilience in the face trying circumstances.
Tonight they played game one of their opening provincial playoff series; hot on the heels of five weekend games and all of that drama. The effects of the weekend were evident in their sub-par play against a bitter rival, but they gutted out a 1-0 win and a 1-0 lead in the best of three showdown. Their injured comrade was able to attend; albeit on crutches as a scheduled surgery is in the offing to properly mend her injured limb. She led a team cheer before the game and in between each period, which no doubt buoyed a noticeably fatigued group. The team will miss their captain on the ice, but will continue to draw inspiration from her absence as they continue through to the end of the season. Time will tell how far that inspiration, coupled with their ever-improving play, will take them. Regardless, it’s games like the final we witnessed on the weekend that make us proud of how far they’ve already come.