Last night at hockey I had an amazing bounce back game, but to really understand that we have to go back to Friday night.
As you may recall I play goalie on Friday nights and forward on Saturday nights, however this week our usual goalie was away and so I was asked to play net for our team on Saturday as well. I accepted the challenge, it would be my third game playing goalie for us and I know I can play well enough to win in our league.
Friday night came and I went to play goalie for the pick-up hockey game as usual. I arrived on time and began to get dressed. As I was putting on my pads I put on both of the toe laces first, which I don’t usually do.
I don’t lace them up quite as complicated as that though!
What I had done though was put the pads on the wrong legs! I didn’t notice this until I went to do up the buckles and then had to undo both laces and switch the pads. I continued to get ready and when I got on the ice Jeff remarked that I had forgotten to put on the suspenders for the pants. So I took of my sweater and just put them up over the chest protector, not ideal but I wasn’t peeling off the protector as well!
Jeff and I played with the puck a bit and I took a couple of warm up shots and then the game was on. It wasn’t until a couple of minutes in that I realized that I did not tap each post and the crossbar, a tradition I began ages ago when I played net in floor hockey in high school.
I think the preparation begins to tell the story of how bad the night was that evening. The first shot of the night was a goal, and later I waved at a puck going by my trapper instead of moving to be in front of it. A third goal got past me that I should have had as well before the half way point of the game.
At half time I switched ends since I was the only goalie there that night and both teams like a chance to shoot against a person instead of a pylon, though that pylon was pretty amazing in net! (For those that don’t know, when you play with a pylon in net you have to hit said pylon. Not as easy as it sounds, especially since you spend most of your time in hockey trying not to hit things in the net and get it past someone)
This is when things really began to fall apart. Jeff who I usually play wing for decided to light me up like a Christmas tree. In twenty minutes he scored 4 goals on me. From impossible angles, on breakaways, and one five-hole that was absolutely violating! His teammates got a couple of goals as well and nearing the end I was looking at the clock just hoping the arena guys would blow the horn and end my misery.
Not my best night for sure. And not the kind of experience you want when you are playing for your team the next night! It was not exactly a confidence builder.
I shook it off, ‘Those guys don’t really play defence.’ I said to myself, and it was true. ‘I was just a bit off on my angles’ Which I was. I knew that in the warm up for Saturday I just wanted to feel the puck. The stick handling and passing skills are great to practice and I have a marked improvement since working on those, but I needed shots.
I got to the rink a bit early last night and made mention of my horrid game the night before in the dressing room to the few guys that were also there early, but I assured them, jokingly, that I would get a shutout tonight and all we needed was one goal to win. We all had a good laugh at that!
I got suited up and was the first player on the ice, I skated, and stretched and took shots. Loads of them, and I was stopping them too. I wanted to move and catch pucks and feel it hit me. It was a good warm up. We gathered at center, the captains said their pieces and I went back to the net, banged on my posts and crossbar and was ready.
Our team plays a pretty complete game, even when I am subtracted from the wing and put in net. Most guys know where to go and last night they really picked up defensively keeping the majority of shots from the outside. When the shots did come though, I was one my game. In the way of everything, or getting pieces with my blocker or pads.
I stopped one clean breakaway about mid way through the game and a few partial breaks as well. Mostly I made the stops from shots coming from the perimeter and the defence would clear away the rebound, just like it is supposed to go. We scored the first goal, and the second and the third. One of their shots whizzed by my head and rang off the crossbar, there was only about ten minutes left and that was the only shot to get past me, but it wasn’t a goal. My joking prediction looked to be in pretty good shape.
Finally they hemmed us in our zone and were getting shot after shot. I stopped maybe four shots within second of each other and finally it came to one of their guys right on the edge of the crease. I moved across but not quite far enough, and he put it past me into the net. That would be the only goal they would get and we added another for a 4-1 win. All my teammates apologized for leaving that guy alone in front of the net for so long, but if I had moved just and extra six inches, I would have made that stop too. The important thing to me was that we won, not the shutout.
It was the perfect bounce back game. After being lit up so much that I would have had sunburn if we had goal lights, to come back the next night and only allow one goal feels fantastic. That one game justifies buying that goalie equipment a year ago in my mind. I can be great when I am on my game and my teammates are there to help me out!