Da Boy has reached the end of his minor hockey career, but the Devil is still going strong with four-day trip to the Provincial Championships coming up next week in the Nation’s capital. A couple of nights ago we we drove an hour for a warm-up exhibition game against a team the ladies are schedule to be facing in the round-robin portion of those same championships. And the Devil had a pretty good showing with two markers, one of which was a particularly dirty little shot off the glove-side post after she froze the keeper on a 2 on 1 rush. She unmodestly patted herself on the back for that one as we climbed into the van for the ride home. Then she trumpeted about it again to her brother when we arrived home. So there’s still some hockey to be played and watched.
However, my focus is already slightly beyond next weekend as I found out a few weeks ago my application for coaching next season’s Midget 2 girls team was accepted and approved. The process involved the submission of an application/coaching resume followed by a 1/2 hour interview with the selection committee; a semi-grilling I had gone through on a few other occasions in the past. I was hopeful of being selected as I’ve come to miss the behind the scenes experience and player interaction I gained a fond appreciation for as the head coach two years ago. Watching and cheering in the stands is great, but being on the bench really puts you into the game. But before any of the fun practice, game and interaction stuff can start, there will be a week or so worth of hell called the tryout process. Yup, there is little to no rest from one team or season to the next as the tryouts start literally days after the provincial end. And any coach would or should tell you tryouts, or more specifically cuts, are the worst part of the job. Having followed the Devil’s team all year and having a pretty good sense already of who will be competing to play on next year’s squad, I know there will be several tough decisions and a few feelings hurt….there’s really no way around it when you’re talking about rejecting a 15, 16, 17 or 18 year old girl – some of which will be current teammates and/or friends of your own kid. I know all too well from having to be the hatchet man two seasons ago. The last few cuts are always the toughest as there is generally very little to differentiate between the skills of one player or another. Rather it might come down to character, the need to fill a particular role on the team or simply gut instinct. Regardless, you almost always find yourself second-guessing and over-analyzing to make sure you’ve made the “right” choices. Luckily, I will have some qualified friends to guide me as non-invested, unbiased evaluators. So while I’m looking forward to coaching again, I’d be fine to just have a team chosen for me and forego the whole selection process. Then, of course, I’d hardly be able to take on the responsibility of calling it “my” team so I’ll just have to suffer through.
I suppose one of the only silver linings is this will be the first year in many Momma and I don’t have to go through the whole ordeal from the other side of the glass. No more tryouts for da Boy, of course, and I can fairly confidently say the Devil should be safe to make my team. That’s not to say she doesn’t have to give it her all on the tryout ice, cuz she does need to help me prove she and I deserve to be at the level and on the team I’ve been given the opportunity to coach.
I’ll definitely take time to enjoy the championship hockey this coming weekend (my last as just a hockey dad for a while) with an eye in the back of my mind on the nerve-wracking and most likely sleepless week to follow.
I thought this final chapter would be a little difficult to write through eyes blurred by the memories of 14 years on ice, so I decided before we embarked on our weekend trip to the 41st Annual Leo Boivin Major Midget AA/AAA Showcase tournament I would try to construct something of a photo essay of our journey to the end of the Boy’s minor hockey life. Pictures, as they say, tell a thousand words and in some cases even these photos fall short of summing up an incredible three-day hockey experience. This was, without a doubt, one of the best tourneys we’ve ever attended…and how fitting it should be the last. So follow along if you will and forgive any typ0s, which will have nothing to do the occasional nostalgic tear dropped on my keyboard I assure you.
Van loaded to the roof though it is only a three-day tourney. Luggage – check, Equipment – check, Sticks – check, Cooler for Dad – check. And of course, it’s snowing.
Every real minor hockey trip starts at the local Timmies…and the snow continues to fall.
Something of a hockey player convoy as five carloads of players, parents and even a coupla siblings make their way four hours down the highway. We’ve also move south and left most of the snow behind us.
With the first game scheduled for two hours after our arrival, we stopped early to fuel our finely tuned young athletes. Are those pre-game french fries and root beer I see?
The Leo Boivin Community Centre, iconic home of this now fabled tourney is a classic small town Canada barn with wooden bleachers and championship banners from days gone by hanging from the rafters.
Each team in the tourney adopts their own personal runner for the weekend, who is responsible for filling water bottles, hanging jerseys, familiarizing the players with the rink and lending one more voice to cheer at game time. Our team in turn supplied the young lad with his own signed jersey, which apparently and quickly became a prized possession.
The Boys’ first test of the tourney would be their toughest in Team Latvia, who had reached the Championship game at this tourney the year prior. The team did well to skate with their skilled opponents trailing by a single goal after the first period. But the lead would be extended to four after the second. The Boy was the beneficiary of a broken play, which allowed him to break a Latvian shutout bid. The final score read 8-1 leaving the Boys a little dismayed, but by no means defeated.
Before game one the team introduced themselves and made symbolic offerings to “The Row”, a special group of fans who are symbolic guardians of the tourney and whose allegiance can be swayed by those bearing gifts and showing reverence.
Another Leo Boivin tourney tradition is a post-game 3-Star selection with a twist. Those Boys selected as stars are required to accept their awards from one of the town’s fairest maidens. In return, they are expected to plant a quick peck on the cheek of said maiden…to the merriment of the crowd. On occasion, The Row demands the star to “Kiss All Three”. Those teams more familiar with the process were noted to send their stars equipped with flowers for the young ladies. All very pomp and circumstance-ish.
Opening ceremonies complete with a parade of all 16 teams, a ceremonial puck drop, the anthems of the US, Latvia and Canada and an appearance from Leo Boivin, the tournament’s namesake, himself.
Coincidentally, this weekend would also find da Boy becoming da Man by virtue of his 18th birthday falling on Saturday morning. Quite the juxtaposition of a minor hockey career ending and a whole new chapter of life beginning. He subsequently got to open a few presents in the hotel room prior to game two. Fittingly, one stayed true to the hockey-themed weekend and would be eerily prophetic of things to come.
Game two pitted our squad against another AAA foe, but one we all felt would be an easier mark, particularly if our side brought their Double A game. And indeed we watched two very closely matched teams battle to a 1-1 tie through two periods. Unfortunately, a half-hearted shot from just above the slot about halfway through the final frame somehow found its way behind our goalie, who had played a stellar contest to that point. An empty netter would spell a second loss for the good guys and a rematch with a decidedly unpopular rival at 7:30am (an equally unpopular time) the next morning.
However, night two of the tournament featured a skills competition, which included fastest skater and hardest shot categories along with a one-on-one breakaway challenge and a four-on-four mini all-star match. Somehow (methinks birthday related) the Boy was selected by our coaching staff to compete in the hardest shot category, which immediately had me envisioning his infamous “Woooof” a few years earlier; only this time in front of a few hundred more onlookers in a packed Leo Boivin Community Centre. I tried not to remind him of the somewhat embarrassing moment (he says with the knowing smirk of a caring father). Regardless he was honoured to be chosen and Momma and I were thrilled to see him and three of his teammates competing against players from all of the other teams.
A highlight of the Skills Competition was watching local five or six year olds participate in challenges of their own, mimicking their midget counterparts’ skating, shooting and scoring. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the stands looking down and trying to remember when my kid was that small.
I’m pleased to report there was no Wooof this time around. And while the Boy didn’t measure up to some of the big shooters speed-wise, he did manage to go “bardown” with a 69 mph slapshot, much to the foul-minded amusement of the crowd.
Sunday morning and our 6am wake-up call arrived way too early. All bets were off on what type of game we might expect from our Boys or their all too familiar opponents, whom they’d ousted from the Provincial playdowns only a few weeks ago in a thrilling five-game series. To sweeten the pot in this grudge match, the opponents are still locked in a regional playoff battle with the other local league team the Boys removed from the Provincial championship equation in the following, equally exciting five-game series. It’s a wonder we have parents still standing. What we did all know is this could be the final game for our lads should they not be able to secure a win. As the game started, it seemed the knew this too as they were definitely the aggressors early on with a strong forecheck and several shots launched at the opposing keeper. A few minutes into the initial period, they would strike first giving us all a shot of hope. But the momentum would not be sustained as a few penalties were taken enabling the bad guys to tie the score and take the lead late in the second. And then, with the clock winding down in the middle frame, our goalie took exception to the taunting of an opposing player camped out in his crease as a whistle sounded to stop play. Within moments each players arms were flailing as others on the ice, including da Boy, watched from the periphery. I should preface this with mentioning da Boy’s team had one “fight” all year. Suddenly, a player close to da Boy decided to secure him in a headlock to which he says he responded, “Do ya wanna go?” Now his assailant apparently replied “No”, but da Boy had already decided a “fight” had indeed started and he was gonna finish it. He managed to remove his opponents “bucky” as they affectionately refer to their helmets and tossed a few right hands in the right general direction of his target. Meanwhile, one of his linemates grabbed his own dance partner and a partial line brawl ensued. The fracas was relatively short-lived as the linesman moved in. And with that, da Boy’s minor hockey career was brought to an abrupt end one period early; the upside being yours truly and da Boy would watch the rest of the game together side-by-side in the stands.
The Colts would not be able to mount a comeback in the third period. In fact, they gave up an empty netter for a second straight 3-1 defeat, thereby ending the minor hockey careers of all but one player. And while the three losses naturally stung as they should, the entire experience of the weekend felt far from hollow. In an impressive, unprompted show of class and character the Boys led by their Captain skated out in front of their parents to raise their sticks in a salute for not only this weekend, but a nearly quarter lifetime’s worth of getting up early, stopping at Timmies, driving to frozen rinks and sharing their victories, as well as their defeats.
Thank you Boys!
I count myself lucky for having the above photo to go along with all the others trapped securely in my head and I believe da Man sitting next to me will most likely say the same. Of course, I wanna hold onto da Little Boy sleeping in the back seat on the way home as long as I can.
Now could you kindly pass the tissue cuz I gotta wipe off this blasted keyboard?
New Brunswick hockey parents have been added to the list of those required to take mandatory “behave yourselves or else” courses in an effort to improve their spiralling image and that of the game we love….and starting next year they’re even going to have to pay for it. That oughta be popular…
I don’t usually like to write, talk or even mention games before they happen out of fear of angering the ever-present hockey gods. But this time is different as next weekend we will embark on the final road trip to play the final games of da Boy’s minor hockey career. A few on the team thought last weekend’s provincial semi-final loss was the end (eliciting a coupla well-earned tears). However, as it turned out the coaching staff was able to find and register for a last-minute tournament for the squad to compete in. And not just any tournament; the 41st Annual Leo Boivin International Midget AAA Showcase Tournament. The key words here being AAA, International and Showcase in that order. AAA because da Boy plays on a AA team (one rung below AAA) and there are only only two other AA teams taking part in this tourney, which will make for some pretty stiff competition to be sure. This group is coming off a great playoff run, this is really a no pressure tournament for them and hot goaltending can go a long way in a short tourney so ya just never know. We do know from the last few weeks there’s no quit in our side. The International means the Boys get to play teams from a bunch of different places, including Latvia in game one; a pretty cool opportunity. And the Showcase means there will be scouts from schools, Junior teams and elsewhere in the stands. Not that any of our kids are heading to the Show, but another cool factor to add to the swan song hockey experience. As always for me it’s about the memories created and carried forward.
Which gives me pause to bring back a few recollections from the Boy’s many tourneys past. Each and every season has brought its share of moments on and off the ice.
Like the time someone, who shall remain nameless, forgot da Boy’s skates in the trunk of his car, which was sitting in his driveway over three hours away. After suffering through the first game with undersized circa 1960 skates donated by the local rink rat, da Boy was able to finish the tournament on a teammate’s blades as four of his comrades found themselves suspended following a game ending brawl. He probably would have been involved in the skirmish, but he could barely skate. All I could say to the disappointed player’s parents was, “Sorry about your luck…what size are your kid’s feet?”
Or the season ending tournament held in Niagara Falls over the St. Paddy’s day weekend, which found several parents, one of whom shall again remain nameless, playing texas hold em poker and sipping Irish whiskey until the wee, wee hours of the night before the final game on Sunday morning at 7:30am. As I recall, we lost the morning game and I had to settle on counting my poker winnings in the passenger seat on the way home for faint solace.
A couple of trips to the Nation’s Capital have afforded us chances to skate on the canal, visit the War Museum, catch a Senators game and take the kids on a tour of where Hockey Momma and I spent our college years (speaking of memories). Ottawa also produced da Boy’s infamous Whooosh…. moment shared here for your, or perhaps simply my, enjoyment.
As you can see, he had planned on a booming clapper from the point as he rarely played D that season. He swung mightily and missed, much to the merriment of several of us in the stands who happened to be standing next to the cameraman’s microphone. Yet, my favourite part is the part you don’t see when da Boy turns to unceremoniously salute us before refocusing on the play.
Of course, this season provided one of the most memorable tournament experiences as hockey took us all many hours south to Nashville, Tennessee. A trip deserving two full sets of remembrances by yours truly. Though the team came home with a well-deserved Championship, hockey was merely the backdrop to a much larger life event.
A similar such event, though not a tourney per se, took place a couple of years ago when the Boys were treated to a bus ride to Oswego, New York to visit the Oswego State University of New York and to get a feel for US Division III hockey. A trip which included a practice on the university rink followed by chat with the school’s team coach, a tour of the locker room and campus, a couple of successful exhibition games against a local high school team and capped by tickets to a Oswego State Lakers Men’s Ice Hockey Team game.
Needless to say, the students at Oswego State luvs them some hockey. The spirit in the rink was infectious and was one of the highlights of the trip – maybe of the season.
Then there was a great weekend in Ann Arbour, Michigan about five or six years ago, where the Boy and I shared a room with one of his teammates (a teammate to this day) and his hockey dad in the interest of saving a few bucks in hotel fees. Little did the other father and I know this would automatically designate our room the warzone for the weekend, as the timing of this trip coincided with the height of the popularity of rapid-fire Nerf guns. I couldn’t locate a photo so you’ll simply have to imaging an entire room disassembled and reassembled with makeshift forts and strewn with all manner of projectile from the traditional nerf “bullets” to toilet paper rolls and water soaked hotel towels. Oh yeah, the team also got to play in the fabled Yost Ice Arena, home to the Michigan Wolverines college hockey team. If I recall, the team settled for a second place finish on this particular trip and we had a long, quiet ride home.
Yeah, I could probably go on here ad nauseum as plenty of scenes flood back into my head and please do add any here should they occur to you. Even caught myself going back to look through old pics in the process.
I guess they really were that small once. Gonna have to take a lot more pics next weekend to complement the ones we’ll feverishly stuff into our already jam-packed minds.
p.s. So as I lay awake last night with the gears spinning in my head, as they are often wont to do, another great moment popped to the fore. This one methinks occurred seven or eight years ago during a sudden death quarterfinal match in Guelph; a game which had ended in regulation at 2-2, then went through 5 minutes of 5 on 5 overtime, followed by 4 minutes of 4 on 4 overtime with no decision. At the end of the 4 on 4 our side was assessed a penalty meaning the next round of OT would put us at a rare 2 on 3 disadvantage. I and the father standing next to me looked on with trepidation as our two sons were sent out onto the ice to take a faceoff in our zone. I may have actually said out loud, “Aw cmon, don’t put my kid out there!” But then the play which has stayed etched in my subconscious lo this many years unfolded. The Boy successfully won the draw and pushed the puck forward between his combatants feet. His agile teammate, who is still a close friend to this day, pounced on the loose biscuit, flew by an unsuspecting defenceman and took off on a breakaway. With three players in hot pursuit, he hurled the puck past a no doubt nervous little goal keeper and bedlam ensued as fifteen little bodies threw themselves on top of him with da Boy leading the way. I’m pretty sure this particular tournament ended for our lads with a loss in the Championship match, but no matter as no one could erase the drama which was the quarters.
p.s.s. I lay there some more, because I don’t have to go to work on Monday morning or anything, and thought it would be kinda cool to try to remember all of the places da Boy played tournaments – each one with a set of moments of its own. Here in no particular order, save for the first and the last, is the somewhat complete list to the best of my recollection: Oak Ridges, Beaverton, Bradford, Barrie (multiple times as it’s the home rink), Aurora, Markham, Richmond Hill (again), Belleville (twice), Guelph, Niagara Falls – Ontario (more than once), Niagara Falls – New York, Ann Arbor – Michigan, Sudbury (two Silver Stick qualifier championships), Sarnia (two Silver Stick appearances), Ottawa (a coupla times), Toronto, Mississauga (2 or 3 times), Pickering/Ajax, Welland, Fort Erie, Nashville – Tennessee, Prescott (in just a few days to put a cap on this story). Of course, then I had to consider the Devil’s travels as well, which have included some repeats in Ottawa (deux fois), Toronto, Pickering/Ajax, Sudbury, Mississauga (twofold), Niagara Falls, Aurora and Guelph, but also had us driving to Midland, Coldwater, Darlington, Stouffville (dos veces), Brampton, Whitby, Aylmer, North Bay, London and Windsor (x2). No US trips for the Devil…yet. I’m sure I missed a couple in there somewhere and I’m also sure Hockey Momma will remind me which they were.
p.s.s.s. My dreary-eyed remembrance is actually more of a coincidence as I recalled the Boy’s first tournament at the ripe age of four in Oak Ridges. One of the players on an opposing team was the son of then active NHL goalie Curtis Joseph. I remember Cujo showing up at the arena and immediately being mobbed by his adoring Toronto Maple Leafs fans (something I personally couldn’t fully appreciate being a lifelong Leaf hater). I recall he politely asked to be left alone to watch his boy’s game in a quiet corner of the rink and then graciously signed autographs for upwards of an hour thereafter. The small coincidence arises in the fact our boy’s paths would not cross again until this season when their teams would battle against each other right up until their league quarter-finals, which ended with our side’s victory just a few weeks ago. The happenstance is obviously lost on Mr. Joseph, but I thought it an interesting correlation as I pondered the past in the middle of the night.
For the second time in a few weeks, I find myself begrudgingly having to recap a playoff series; only this time the taste is a little more sour as the end of a series marks the almost-end of the Boy’s minor hockey career.
The provincial semi-finals started quickly, just beyond the end of a dramatic three-game comeback by the Boy and his cohorts; a series no doubt mentally, if not physically draining. I would miss game one as I stayed back to escort the Devil to her own provincial playdown game. As chance or bad luck would have it, the Devil’s game would be played in one of the only places on Earth without cell service and so I would have to wait until her game ended to get an update. Just moments after pulling out of the arena parking lot, I noted a faint signal so I pulled over to the side of the road (much to the dismay of the Devil who’d just finished competing in a dramatic game of her own) to see if my Hockey Momma had relayed a recent score. Instead I was greeted by a flurry of messages from one of my bestest friends who actually drove over an hour to catch the game after having acquired the playoff bug by attending two pressure packed games in the previous series. I was pleased to hear the Boys were up by a goal in game one and apparently controlling most of the play. I drove home quickly so I could continue following the game via my loyal texting messenger. For the next hour I was treated to and suffered through updates every 15 to 20 seconds as the game made its way back and forth, up and down the ice as my brother from another mother cursed and clutched his heart as he reported each painful highlight from a distance. All was positive until about 5 minutes left in the third when I saw the omninous word F#@K flash onto my mobile screen. The bad guys tied the game and would shortly thereafter force a 10 minute overtime. I bristled on the end of my phone as a few minutes later the offending four letter word was repeated, thereby signalling a 1-0 series deficit. Upon their return from the game shortly before 1:00 am, Momma reported ours was the better team overall. She said the series was their’s for the taking if the Boys replicated their performance from the two previous series victories, which brought them to this point.
A few days later the home stands were packed and hummed in anticipation of a Colts victory to knot the series at one game apiece. I was personally confident in light of the game one reports I’d received. Game two would see the good guys take a one goal lead early as they had apparently done in the opener. And while the opponents were game, the home side certainly dominated the balance of play. Still the visitors would tie the score at 1-1 just before the end of the second period after a scramble in front of the net. The Colts got a much needed goal to pull ahead in the third and we all held our breaths hoping they could extend or at least protect the lead over the next 10 minutes. As time ticked down under two minutes we all exhaled as the rivals took an ill-timed penalty. They would remove their goaltender moments later and everything seemed to be headed in the right direction. Unfortunately, under the pressure of desperate play from their opponents the home side would take one and then a second penalty of their own. Suddenly, their one man advantage had turned into a two-player deficit. And then, with only 31 seconds left in regulation time, and me perched behind our keeper (which is an admittedly odd place for me to be watching a game) I saw the puck land precariously close to the goal line in behind the scrambling netminder. Sensing the dangerous position of the offending disc, he swung his arm back but touched no frozen rubber. The one or two seconds the puck laid there felt like an eternity. I so wanted to lunge headlong through the plexiglass myself to bat the puck away ahead of the foreign stick I saw poke it over the line to tie the match and send it to another 10 minute overtime; one in which the Boys would have to start with a player still in the penalty box. Luckily, they would weather that mini-storm, but would leave the game down three points to one instead of being tied at two. The next trip to the opposing rink would need to be more fruitful than the first. So far, by all accounts, the Boys had been the “better” team without the record to show for it.
Not surprisingly, it was apparent early on that game three would be another close contest – how could it not. The Colts would have a couple of great scoring chances off the hop, but would not find the back of the net. Instead, the home side would sneak one behind our goalie, which evaded the view of the head referee who was apparently out of position and would need to call on his linesman for confirmation; much to the chagrin of us watching in the stands. More scoring opportunities would come, only to be turned away or narrowly missed. 1-0 would hold up until the 13:40 mark of the final frame, when our keeper would be pulled in favour of an extra skater. The advantage would not be enough as the puck found its way into our empty net, forcing a do or die contest back on home ice.
Game four started only a few hours ago with everyone trying to say all the right things. “You’ve done it before Boys…and you can do it again.” But somehow, for me anyways, there was a more palpable bad feeling around this game borne out of the frustration of having outplayed, but not outlasted, the competition to this point. Many of us sincerely hoped, nay prayed, for another great comeback. Yet knew it would take a monumental effort with only one point to spare through the next three contests. And for a fourth time in as many games, the Colts buzzed around the opposing net with nothing more than shots to show for it. One made scramble and several whacks at close range were somehow stifled by the other side’s large, agile netminder. Instead, and as had become the norm of late, they trailed 1-0 heading into the third period. They were by no means out of it, but assuredly feeling the pressure of being 15 minutes away from elimination. A fellow spectator correctly observed and pointed out, “They need to get a bounce…bang in a dirty goal…just something to get them going.” Yet, the dirty equalizing marker would not come. With six minutes left in the game, a powerplay for the visitors after a questionable tripping penalty would result in a doubling of their one goal lead. Now the series and the season were indeed slipping away. Our young men would continue to battle. Goals would remain elusive. The final buzzer sounded and shortly thereafter I watched a few Boys (and Hockey Momma to be sure) wipe their eyes before entering the series-ending handshake line. Something may have inadvertently found its way into my tear ducts as well. A wonderful, somewhat surprising, playoff run had ended sooner than any of us were ready for; particularly in light of this being the final season for a majority of our lads. Though it ended abruptly, these young men and the older men who led them can be proud of the way they competed and conducted themselves throughout the season. The efforts of all are to be commended.
Yet, I said off the top we marked the almost-end of a minor hockey career. Almost because we’ve been notified there is one more tournament on the horizon. A coincidental affair tied to the Boy’s 18th year of existence. He’ll enter adulthood playing his beloved childhood game in an official minor hockey capacity one last time. Not to say there isn’t likely plenty of hockey in some other capacity in his future, but what more fitting conclusion to this chapter for him and a certain proud hockey dad?
A true part of our Canadian fabric shuffled off this mortal coil earlier today, but his words and music will no doubt live on in hockey rinks around the world for years to come. Stompin’ Tom Connors’ iconic “The Hockey Song” has been played before, during and after minor, recreational and professional games for as long as any of us can remember.
My own little memory goes back to when the Boy and the Devil were a few years younger. At the start of each season I religiously created a pre-game pump up CD and every one of those new-age hockey mixed tapes started with The Hockey Song. To this day, when either play teams with pre or in-game music, the classic tune invariably and eventually rings through the rafters.
Before he died, the fine Canadian musical gentleman penned a final letter to his fans, speaking volumes to his love of Canada, its people and culture. Thanks Stompin’ Tom for providing the soundtrack to so many past and future hockey memories, which sit close to the heart of our northern nation!
Fresh off of their disappointing early playoff exit, the Sharks needed to refocus their attention this week on a four-point series to qualify for the Provincial championships, a daunting task considering the opponent; one of the only teams they hadn’t beaten all year with a less than stellar 0-1-1 record. As I’ve likely bemoaned here in the past, the whole qualification process is a little misguided as some teams, depending on their geographic location, are required to face-off against several opponents while others may automatically qualify if there is no team at their level in close proximity. In the Devil’s team’s case, the number of teams in their way was just the one.
Early on in game one it was obvious the Sharks’ closest nemesis would continue to be a bee in their hockey bonnet. This series would be much like the games preceding it. The Devil and her mates would hold the balance of play, but their scoring woes of the past couple of weeks would continue. They would be able to net a single marker, which would be matched by game’s end. A win and at least a tie in the next two contests would be necessary if the Sharks hoped to move on. Neither was expected to a simple proposition.
However, in game two a few days later, ours was the dominant side from start to finish. The net result was a slim 2-1 victory, but at least to me it felt like the team had regained some of its swagger. The score would have been much more lopsided had it not been for some very good netminding between the opposing pipes.
And so, there would be an opportunity to finish the mini-war in the third game with a draw or victory. The script in this fifth meeting of the year between the two combatants would repeat itself as the good guys on the home side would start as the aggressors, throwing plenty of pucks at the visiting keeper. Plenty of pucks, which would be turned away time and again. At the other end of the ice, a miscue in the defensive zone was turned into a one-goal advantage, which would remain in tact until halfway through the second period when the score was finally knotted at 1-1. A tie would be enough, but sure wasn’t welcome by those of us with weak nerves on the sidelines. A two or three-goal victory would have been far preferred. While the girls did not provide the wanted margin, they did spend the majority of the third period in the offensive zone again registering several good scoring chances. Yet, the only other goal they would score to cap the series was an empty-netter when the visiting coach realized a draw was not enough for his crew to stave off elimination. Regardless the means, our ladies are headed to the Provincial championships for a chance to avenge their league playoff defeat.
The only problem now is the Provincials are five weeks away. There are a bunch of practices scheduled between now and then; with a few of those likely becoming exhibition games, but ya gotta figure in a month’s time a lot of players will have lost that hockey luvin’ feelin’. It will be interesting to see how long it might take some to get back up to speed. Other teams, having advanced further, or who’ve had to battle through bigger divisions will not have had a chance to get rusty. Then again perhaps ours will surprise and be chomping at the bit. In either case, we’ll be cheering them on.
The Provincials will also set the stage for 2013-14 season rep tryouts happening in our centre just one week later. On that note, I’m going to have to get back up to speed myself as I’ve managed to secure another head coaching position; a new adventure which will no doubt provide plenty of hockey and rink-related fodder for the next 12+ months. Feel free to send along your congratulations and/or condolences as you see fit. I’m hopeful a year’s experience followed by a year in the stands will serve me well to guide my new charges through a successful season. More on my specific plans and aspirations for next season to follow. Let’s finish this one on a high-note first. Go Sharks Go!