By Collin Insley, Staff Writer
For as long as the NHL Lockout lasts, I’ll be using this space to report my beer league roller hockey team’s weekly games. Follow me on twitter @SoCalPuck for even more exclusive content.
Last week my beer league team Motley Crew beat Quicksilver by a score of 9-8. We didn’t have our full contingent of players, and it was a back and forth affair that saw both teams trade goals back and forth before we ultimately took the lead for good.
Knowing that our league was a little bit more diverse this season, we were all anxious to see who our next opponent would be, and how good they were.
The day of the game, my calendar had game time at 7:40. (Before a season starts, I always go through the game schedule and input times and teams into my Google calendar – not so much to remind myself that I have a game, but more so to as sort of start mentally preparing for the season.) I should’ve known better than to rely on the initial schedule.
Thankfully, our captain Jon Fleishman sends out an email the day of every game, reminding us of the time, and alerting us to any teammates who won’t be able to play – usually due to work commitments. Well, the email Jon sent said that our game time was actually at 8:35, not 7:40. At first I thought that the mistake was on his end, so I logged onto The Rinks Huntington Beach website to check, and sure enough, Motley Crew was scheduled to play Anything at 8:35. I opened up my Google calendar, and sure enough, I had the game time inputted as being at 7:40. I started looking at the rest of the season’s games, and wouldn’t you know it: all the times (and opponents) were completely different from what I had in my calendar.
This isn’t at all uncommon to beer league hockey. Teams drop out of leagues all the time, which never fails to throw the league-wide schedule for a loop and necessitating a schedule overhaul. And of course, there was no email sent out by the rink management. It’s frustrating, but comes with the territory. I’m just glad Jon sent out his usual email – and that I got it before I left for the rink – even though he wouldn’t be there again this week. One of our veteran d-men Jamie Tinnion wasn’t so lucky. By the time I pulled into the parking lot at 8pm, Jamie had been there since about 7 – and without any NHL hockey to watch on TV!
* * *
One by one, we all started to trickle into the locker room and going through our pre-game rituals. Part of my “ritual” – if you can even call it that – is to drop my bag off in the locker room, grab my water bottle, and take a stroll to the water fountain to fill up for the game. On both the way there and the way back, I get to take in the games being played on the other rinks, and in doing so start to get in the right mind frame. Plus, it provides for an opportunity to do a little bit of pre-scouting on teams we haven’t yet played.
Anything – the team we’d be facing off against tonight – was in our league last season, though we only played them once, skating to a loss. The only of their players to stand out to me was this guy who I recall having a permanently cocky grin attached to his face – and it drove me absolutely crazy, especially because he was a really good player, and the main engine driving SRK. If you shut him down, chances are you’ll give yourself a better chance to win. We’d have to try to do that tonight if we wanted to continue our strong start to the season.
* * *
We played a great first period, jumping out to a 3-0 lead before the buzzer sounded. In one sense though, we were on the ropes. They had played just as strong a period – if not stronger – but simply hadn’t been able to hit the net. We were the beneficiaries of some good bounces, and taking advantages of our chances, and although we were moving the puck well, I felt that Anything was controlling the pace of the game, and it would only be a matter of time before they broke through on us. And I said as much during our brief break between periods, urging my teammates to tighten up defensively, and start winning puck battles.
The message must not have clicked though, because slowly but surely, Anything broke down our lead and wound up scoring six unanswered goals. Perhaps a few of their goals were softies, but the fact of the matter was that they were just playing better. We’d have to significantly raise our level if we wanted to make a game of it.
Towards the end of the 3rd, we finally broke through again. I collected the puck off of a turnover at the center red line and went the other way, using my body to shield the puck from an Anything defender. I was coming down the right side and although I now had a clear lane to the net, another defender was rapidly closing in to cut down my angle. I took a peek at the goalie and thought that I could beat him short side high, so I quickly got a shot off, and – I don’t know what happened.
I know that I didn’t make my shot, but the goalie had trouble handling the puck, and it wound up bouncing up and into the net. I’d take it. 6-4, now.
A short while later I again picked the puck up off of a turnover in the neutral zone and quickly got my head up to find that Greg was wide open deep in Anything’s zone. I saucered a pass through two Anything sticks and it landed on his tape. He showed real patience in faking to his backhand, waiting for the goalie to bite, and then quickly moving the puck to his forehand and putting it top shelf. 6-5.
We pulled our goalie.
On the ensuing face-off, I lined up on the left wing and glanced at our center, Aaron Delfs. He motioned with his eyes for me to go forward off the draw. The puck dropped. I jumped forward and past the Anything player lined up opposite me. The puck went forward, but towards Danny and the opposite wing. He reached for it and poked it past the defender. I raced after it, and for a second thought that I’d be able to get to it and be in all alone with their goalie. However, after reading the situation, Anything’s keeper sprinted out to try and grab the puck as well. It would be close. Very close.
I reached out to try and toe drag the puck around him. He got there first and knocked it past me to a back-checker. They went the other way and quickly put it in our open net with only a few seconds left. The game would end 7-5.
Losing sucks, no doubt – but it can often be a learning opportunity, and I hope that going forward we’ll keep from making some of the same mistakes.
Tune in next week for more adventures in beer league hockey!