By Collin Insley, Staff Writer
For as long as the NHL Lockout lasts, I’ll be using this space to report on my beer league roller hockey team’s weekly games. Follow me on twitter @SoCalPuck for even more exclusive content.
When we played PM Machines last week in what turned out to be nothing but an organized scrimmage, confusion and bad blood reigned supreme. The silliness that overshadowed the whole game painted a picture of beer league hockey using only its negative colors.
What a difference a week can make.
We played Quicksilver this week – again. We had also faced off against them in the first game of the season, which saw us skate to a 9-8 victory in a game that really shouldn’t have been that close. What would this game have in store for us?
Simply put, if last week’s game against PM Machines highlighted all of the unfortunate aspects of beer league hockey, this week’s game against Quicksilver highlighted a lot of the positive ones.
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We’d be short again this week with both Jon and Aaron Arak out of town for work. (Aaron also works for USA Soccer.) Rather than skate with only six bodies, we decided to bring in a few subs. Greg brought one of his ice hockey teammates Eric into the fold and also asked me to bring one of my hockey-playing roommates David.
I went to high school with David, although we didn’t really run in the same circles at the time – it was only recently that we reconnected, when we ran into each other at a stick time session at one of the local rinks. Soon after that I started subbing in on a beer league team that David and a few of his friends had started, the truly excellently named Penalty Box Heroes. That was over a year ago. We moved into a house with two other guys (one of which also plays hockey) about a month ago.
David had never played an actual game at this rink, or in any of these leagues before, and he was nervous about the level of play. After playing hockey for most of his childhood, he’s only gotten back into it in the last few years, and has only played in beginner leagues thus far. I assured him he’d be fine – he was. And good thing, too!
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This week, I had some of the most fun I think I’ve ever had playing in beer leagues. There’s always something, it seems – whether it’s an obvious ringer running up the score, or unnecessarily physical play, or a referee making horrendously one-sided calls – I’ve seen it all, and this game had very, very little of it.
I felt that both teams were evenly matched and that each played a hell of a game. It was a hell of a lot of fun to be a part of.
I opened the scoring with the first two of the game. Goal one was a result of a heads-up play by Aaron Delfs. I was breaking out of our zone and saw that Quicksilver was a little loose defensively in the neutral zone. Delfs was camped out along the boards right near the red line. I got it to him and made a bee line past their high forechecker to the soft spot in the neutral zone, on the other side of the center red line. He gave it straight back to me, and I drove right before using one of their defensemen as a screen to fire it past their goaltender, low short side.
The second goal was the result of a great pass by Danny. Off of a turnover during their defensive zone breakout, we found ourselves two-on-one, low in their zone. Danny drew their defenseman towards him and then gave me the puck, alone in the slot. I faked left before dragging the puck back across my body to my forehand, trying a quick shot directed to the upper right corner. Their goalie made a tremendous save on the initial shot, but couldn’t control the rebound and I jumped on it, quickly knocking it through his five-hole.
It was 2-0, but Quicksilver would soon mount a comeback. We started playing loosely in our own zone and Quicksilver capitalized. Midway through the third period, they had tied the score at two. Then David stepped up.
One of our players threw a shot on net that went high and wide. The puck hit one of the stanchions behind the net and took a funny bounce, right to David, who was in position near the bottom of the right circle. With one of Quicksilver’s defensemen near him and the puck coming to him on his backhand, David simply batted at it in an attempt to keep the pill deep. He wound up making great contact with it (he described it as home-run-flush) and before any of us knew what was happening, including Quicksilver’s goalie, the puck was in the back of the net.
In the locker room later, I described it as the kind of goal that wins a triple overtime Game 7 Stanley Cup Final game. It was a thing of beauty, and we were up again, 3-2 – but not for long.
One of Quicksilver’s star players tied the game again, with a hell of a snipe coming down the wing, beating Andrew high glove side. With both teams nearing exhaustion (it was very humid during the day, and hot inside the rink that night), it would take a fluke goal, or a terrible defensive breakdown for either team to take the lead again.
We got the fluke goal. Aaron Delfs was johnny on the spot on another weird bounce, this time off of the dasher boards behind the net, and potted the last go-ahead goal we’d need. With a 4-3 lead and only a few minutes left, there were some hairy moments, and we found ourselves pinned in our own zone for most of the rest of the game. Quicksilver pulled their goalie for an extra attacker, and we had several slightly obstructed chances to salt the game away, but either missed wide or were victimized by some key shot blocks.
With only a few seconds left, there was a mad scramble in front of our net. The puck was bouncing around between sticks and skates, with no one able to get a handle on it. Finally it squirted loose, right to me, and I fired it down the length of the rink. 4-3, final score.
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Spirits were high in the locker room after the game. Much of this, I’m sure, is the fact that we had won, though I’ve gotta think that at least some of it can be attributed to the collegial attitude shared between the two teams. The game was hard fought, and both teams seemed to have a healthy amount of respect for each other. Oftentimes two players would chat in-between whistles, congratulating each other on nice plays – several times I tapped their goalie on the pads after a particularly acrobatic save. It was nice.
It’s a shame that more beer league games aren’t this much fun. They can be, though. All it requires is equal parts competitive spirit, sportsmanship, and mutual respect. Is that too much to ask for? It shouldn’t be, but it seems that it usually is.