Hockey Teams Battling and Winning Through Thick and Thin

Momma and the Boy were set to travel a little over three hours North last weekend, where his team would compete in a qualification tournament for the Silver Stick International Tournament in the new year. The Devil and I were staying behind as she had three regular season games of her own to play (what else is new?).

When we woke up on the morning of their departure I noted he had developed a pretty nasty cough, which didn’t bode well for a weekend performance on the road. Sure enough upon arriving at their destination 10 hours later,  the cough had become a hack from an increasingly sore throat with an elevated body temperature to boot. By dinner time the Boy’s condition continued to deteriorate and a teammate was required to deliver him, a shivering lump, back to the hotel room to hopefully sleep off whatever bug he was battling in order to play two games the next day.  Momma says he didn’t sleep much at all through the night.  He would text me later saying he thought he was going to die (a little dramatic, but most women can attest to how men can be debilitated by colds and flus).  The morning arrived with the nasties solidly in tow. Having driven as far as they did, the Boy decided he would give it the old college in the first game and play it by ear after that. To complicate things, the team’s backup goalie was likewise battling pneumonia, while one other defenceman took a big hit causing a concussion in a game earlier in the week. Qualifying for the big tourney would have to be accomplished short-handed.

Momma reports the Boy struggled through the first game with a notable and pretty understandable lack of energy based on his sleep or lack thereof.  The team would take their first match, perhaps lightening the Boy’s otherwise bleak situation.  Game two, scheduled to start eight hours later would be a hit or miss proposition.  The Boy spent the entire afternoon in bed then decided on college try number two.  The team would win again, but by all accounts the Boy was a merely a warm body on the ice to spell some of his teammates (warm being the operative word).  He and Momma were hopeful another night’s sleep would help to evict his unwanted guest. Unfortunately, the second night was much like the first leaving the lad iffy for the next day’s final round-robin and hopefully semi-final games. As it turned out, he would play or at least see ice-time in the third game and one period of the semi-final before he would finally succumb to his sickness.  I’ve since been told by other parents that we should be proud of the effort he gave under the circumstances.

As is so often the case with teams and viruses, a few teammates were also starting to show symptoms similar to the Boy’s. This is generally inevitable as teammates dress in close, stanky quarters where bacteria must salivate at opportunity to feed and breed. You can almost smell and feel sickness when you enter some dressing rooms. From her behind-the-bench vantage point, Momma (the team trainer) would report via text that at least one player may have left one of his lungs on the ice after having coughed it up in the semi-final game. And yet, with all of this turmoil the team would find the strength and conviction to work its way into the Championship game. The Boy would reluctantly join his two beleaguered comrades as a cheerleader in the stands. Perhaps some of their spirit helped to propel their shortened squad to a convincing victory in the final, claiming the Championship and the desired berth in the bigger tourney down the road. However, in keeping with the health-related theme of the weekend another player joined the ranks of the sick or injured when he was charged by an opponent leaving him with a broken clavicle and damaged shoulder joint. While the first three players, including the Boy, are set to return to action this week or next, he unfortunately is facing a few weeks away from the game. Hopefully, all will be mended for the Silver Stick.  I’m pleased to report the team has already had two games since returning from the qualifier (cuz there’s no rest for the wicked) and the Boy has competed in both. Momma, on the other hand, has not been so lucky her nursemaid duties put here square in the path of the same bug that bit the Boy. She’s been incapacitated since their return. I and the Devil have thus far dodged the deadly bullet (he says, all the while knocking on whatever wood is close proximity).

Speaking of the Devil and while the other two were off on their disease-ridden adventure, I watched the Devil’s team continue their strong play, albeit not without a couple of bumps in the road and injuries of their own. Case in point bump-wise is a match against their closest geographic rival, which found them on the losing side of a 3-1 score with only three minutes left in the game.  The coach decided to pull his goalie early. This proved to be a prudent move as the girls scratched to within one goal with about 90 seconds remaining. The goalie would return to her net for the ensuing faceoff, but as soon as the puck entered the opponents end, she was yanked from her perch again. Having an extra player on the ice worked for a second time as the Devil and her mates tied the game with less than 30 ticks on the clock. The opposing side was no doubt dumbstruck by what had just happened while the good guys extended their regular season unbeaten streak to 11 games.

The Sharks next game, a couple of days later, would be against a lesser opponent, yet they would enter the third period with only a one goal lead. The coaches’ between period speeches must have been effective as the team would extend the score to 5-0 when the final buzzer sounded.

Game three in four days for the Sharks would again see them falling behind 2-1 on the scoreboard after two periods on the strength of several big saves by the other team’s goaltender. However, again they would come out in the third with all guns blazing and skate to a 3-2 victory; running their regular season record to an impressive 13-1-1. This currently puts them in first place in the standings though they’ve played a few more games than their closest rival. Their only loss to date came in the first game of the year against the same rival and they have yet to play the victor from that game a second time. The rematch is forthcoming. It will no doubt be a barometer; setting a tone for the remainder of the season.

We’ve witnessed a lot of exciting games and situations through the both the Boy’s and Devil’s seasons already. Soon it will be time for a brief holiday rest. Then we will be right back at it to close the regular year and move into league and provincial playoffs.  We’ve at least two more trips on tap as well, which always have a way of generating stories whether we like them or not.  Stay tuned hockey fans….who needs the NHL with all of this real hockey drama?


Back to Reality and Full Steam Ahead

The Nashville hangover is nearly gone…I think. The Boy’s team got little to no rest with a practice the night after their return and a game the night after that.  For most of the trip I kept saying, “Glad I just have to watch and not play hockey”. That’s what young legs, lungs and hearts are for.  I even bailed on my men’s team, the mighty mighty Iceholes, who had a game at 10pm the night we returned. This old dog just wasn’t up for the hunt that night.  I’m sad to report the Iceholes dropped that contest 4-0 (not that my feeble contribution following a 15 hour haul on a bus would have likely made much difference).  But we’re certainly not here to talk about me and my faint grasp at youth.

The Boys were fortunate to re-enter their regular season with a match against weaker team because they too showed signs of a Tennessee hangover.  They were only up 1-0 going into the third period of a game which thankfully ended 4-0 and saw its share of fireworks down the stretch. Fireworks that even found their way up into the stands as there was some post-game quibbling amongst parents.

Games two and three of the week would not allow for any extended latency on behalf of the Boys as they’d face the two teams ahead of them in the standings.

Unfortunately, they didn’t get the memo in time for game two, which saw them come out terribly flat and give up a two-goal lead in a matter of minutes. And memo or not, they weren’t able to recover as the deficit mounted to 3, 4 and finally 5-0.  Not a pretty game to watch as my friend who came out to see the Boy play could easily attest.  Let’s just strike that one from our combined memory shall we?

And in game three of the week, the squad indeed seemed to have quickly stricken the memory as they came out a decidedly different team taking a 3-0 lead into the first intermission including one by the Boy (who’s been on a bit of an uncharacteristic goal-scoring tear since our visit down south) and two short-handed markers.  Unfortunately, despite several powerplay opportunities and good scoring chances, they were unable to extend their lead, and in fact, a couple of mistakes led to their advantage being whittled down to one. It was still 3-2 heading into the 3rd period, but that difference too would evaporate around some shaky backchecking/defending.  What started out promising ended in frustration as the home team would climb all the way back to take a 4-3 lead with just over two minutes remaining on a shorty of their own.  Said frustration would mount when with four seconds left on the clock and our goaltender on the bench, the Boy would tap a loose puck into the opposing goal only to have an out-of-position referee waive the tying goal off after claiming to have lost sight of the black biscuit. Don’t get me started on the quality of refereeing in this particular game, lest it should sound like sour grapes. At the end of the game, the team let this one slip away.  A little more memory striking required and/or a few more paddles in the water at the same time all the time moving forward. It’s still relatively early in the season, but these are the teams our charges need to impress against and defeat.

The Boys have what could be another fireworks-filled match tomorrow on the road followed by a game against an opponent they already have a 2-0-1 record against this year.  Two winnable games to be sure, but not games to be overlooked by any means.

Meanwhile, the Devil and her Shark crew have become something of a hockey Juggernaut with a 7-1 record in league play. So as not to risk perturbing the hockey Gods I will simply report 7-1 and 8-0 victories in their last two contests against weaker and somewhat depleted opponents. In the most recent match, they faced a team with only two lines vs. their full complement of three. This game could have actually been more lopsided had it not been for the heroics of an embattled goaltender in the opposite net.  The Sharks will have a better test tomorrow night against a team as yet undefeated in league play. From what we’ve seen so far, our ladies will hopefully be up to the task. They need only show up in a confident frame of mind and play to their potential.

Lots more hockey to watch as always. What’s that you say? “The NHL and NHLPA have been making some progress this week.”  Who cares…I got all the hockey drama I need.