Sunk in

The last few days have been really busy for me. First off, Monday and Tuesday were long days due to system crashes or problems at work. Yesterday was full of around the house projects such as mowing the lawn and so on. Thursday, the trend continues. At least I have ice hockey tonight.

Speaking of hockey, it finally sank in. I really reflected upon my season past and the playoffs. I still can’t believe I won two championships though. After all the adversity and hard work, it finally paid off. I am a realist though. I have to understand that you can’t finish that way every season. The last time I finished as a winner was last year in September. Before that, it was a good year ago. With 4 playoffs a year and teams constantly changing or reloading for a run, it is hard to stay competitive. The changes to my Stick Heads team next session won’t be earth shattering, but enough to cause a ripple effect. I am looking forward to playing already that is for sure.

Overall, I needed this break. I was worn out after my games on Saturday and a long season concluded with 4 teams. This season, I am goaltending on two teams and skating out as a forward on one. I might consider skating out on two teams, just to get my leg strength up though. I already can’t wait for the puck to drop tonight. Then, after a relaxing weekend, I get to play again on Monday.

A day of firsts

Saturday was as exciting and physically exhausting as I thought it would be. After having breakfast with a couple of my teammates, we headed to the rink at 9:30am. I expected I would be there most of the day, but it was a very challenging one to say the least. After taking pictures of the first 3 games, I got dressed for my first game with Team X.

Team X vrs Groot Builders – It was a hard fought contest in a 4-3 win for Team X. I made a couple mistakes. With us up 2-0, I bobbled a pass back to me and an opposing forward scored. The big event in the game was the hard work of our captain. The game winner was scored by our captain, a man who has missed a majority of the regular season with family problems. He said to me before the game, “Don’t expect me to make a huge contribution”. Well, when he picked up his own rebound and planted it home to get the 4-2 lead, our team was incredibly happy. After all the hardship, he came through when we needed him to. Groot Builders brought the game within one and came close to tying it a couple times, but just came up short.

After playing that first game, I went out and got a sandwich with the Team X captain and waited for my second game to start. To be honest, I was more concerned about the games from here on out.

Stick Heads vrs White Tigers – I find it fitting that I am facing my former team in the playoffs. I used to play for the White Tigers last session. This session was a different story for them. Last season, we finished 4-7. This session, they finished 6-5. Anyway, I felt like I had no room for error. This Stick Heads team had finished at the top of their division. Losing in the playoffs would have been considered a lost season. At least that is the way I felt it was going to be like. The finger may have been pointed at me as well if I let in a soft goal or did something wrong. I didn’t have anything to worry about the first game as we beat the White Tigers 5-2. I let in the first goal of the game off a screened shot from the point. The second goal was a nice 2-1 chance with a pass across to a wide open winger who tapped the puck past me. Overall, a solid effort by my team. They kept the shots from the outside which I stopped without a problem. The Stick Head defense really kicked in as the game went on and limited their shots in the second half of the game.

Two games, and so far, two wins. This also means two finals appearances. At this point I was still feeling very good. I had been eating a little bit of food all day. I got a 17″ sub and had been eating 1/4 of it every so often. Gatorade or Powerade to drink along with lots of water. I was going to need to keep up my strength if I wanted to play at the top of my game.

Bulldogs vrs Flying Squirrels – Make no mistake about it, the odds were not stacked in our favor. My Bulldogs team clinched a playoff birth on Friday night after our game. The Flying Squirrels have been there since the season started. The Squirrels not only finished the season undefeated, but also had a goal differential of 66. That is an average of 6 goals per game scored more than their opponents. The game was scoreless for the first 10 minutes and then the Squirrels got on the board with a wrist shot in the slot to take a 1-0 lead. They brought it up to 2-0 when a wide open forward too a pass to my right and shot it past me. The game was 2-0 going into the middle part of the game and we made it interesting when we made it 2-1. That was as close as it got though. The Squirrels had 2 more odd man rushes and a few forwards that were parked in front of the net without anyone on them. They got 3 more past me this way, and we got one more at the end to make it 5-2. Overall, a solid effort by my Bulldogs squad. Yes, I was disappointed. At the same time though, we came close to beating this team and had nothing to lose in the process. They just had more firepower than us, and on top of that, they were solid on defense. We gave it our best shot and that is all that mattered.

I had two finals games. I had a chance to take home two trophies, which was a record for me. Yes, I have taken home a trophy before, but not two in the same night. Reguardless, I put that out of my mind. My main job was to focus and give it everything I had. Just like I did the previous three games. No regrets either. That was another thing. If I went out and lost both games, I wouldn’t regret my effort out there.

Team X vrs So What – I thought we would face Extreme Graphics in this game. However, they fell to So What in overtime. I haven’t beaten Extreme Graphics in close to a year. Maybe that was playing on my mind the last few times I faced them. Anyway, So What was going to be a better matchup for us anyway. At least that is what I thought at first. So What got on the board first with two quick goals. The first was off a scrum in front of the net. The second was a wrist shot that went top left corner on me on a 2-1 chance. We went into the second half of the game down by two and very few shots to show for it. Team X then exploded and tied the game up off two wrist shots. So What got the lead back off another scrum in front. I dove for the puck, but an opposing forward was there to put it past me before I got my glove on the puck. Team X tied it back up off a shot from behind the net that banked off the goalie and in to make it 3-3. With under 3 minutes to go in the game, Team X got a power play and we called our timeout. Our team drew up a play and it worked as we took a 4-3 lead with about a minute to go in the game. So What only had one shot through the rest of the game and Team X took their first championship and first two playoff wins ever with me in net. It was an incredible feeling. To go from thinking you were snakebit and cursed to a level of victory and success. The captain took the trophy home. I don’t know why he tried giving it to me in the first place. He offered it to me, and I turned it down saying I already have one here at home….and I do. I see it everyday I come into my office. The trophy is best given to the player who put this all together. That would be our captain. I took pictures of everyone individually and have plans to post them up on my site later for everyone to get.

One down, one to go. The one I was most nervous about. I sat by myself reflecting on my latest win but also reflecting on what I had to do my next game.

Stick Heads vrs The Legion – The Legion was going to be a hard team to beat. We had beaten them before 4-3 two times in a row, but both of those were overtime wins. I expected the same thing this time around. Early on, the Stick Heads turned it up and really went after the Legion. I faced a few shots my way, but a majority of the high quality chances were going our way. Neal Downer scored the first goal to make it 1-0 for the Stick Heads. I was pumped after that goal. Stick Head defenseman Matt Skobrak was put in the penalty box for 2 minutes and the Legion cashed in. I stuck myself to the post when a forward went to the side of the net. He shot the puck into me and I thought it was in my pads, but it squirted out behind me and another forward was there to put it into the net to tie the game. The Stick Heads went back to work shortly after that. Ben Maslowski chiped in a breakaway goal over the Legion goaltender to make it 2-1 just before the halfway point of the game, but there was a long way to go. When the Stick Heads made it 3-1 with about 6 minutes to go in the game, I leaped inside. Victory was in our grasp, all I had to do was continue doing what I was doing. The last 5 minutes of the game was the test for me, and proof I can still play in this league. I faced open shots in the slot, a couple from the side that went off my mask. Scrums in front of the net that I got before the Legion was able to put them home. I played a flawless second half of the game. As the seconds ticked down, I knew I did it. I had earned my second title of the night and 7th in my short 5 year career as a goaltender. My whole team piled on top of me in celebration. It was one of the happiest moments I can remember, and a painful one when 11 members of your team are on top of you.

Overall, my team said it was the best game they have seen me play. If the Legion played like they did the last five minutes from the start of the game, they probably would have beaten us. As it was, it didn’t happen. I took all my stuff off and got pictures with my team and individual shots with the trophy. Everyone then went their separate ways. One more title game was played, which I watched as the Flying Squirrels got their championship with a 7-0 victory over the Komets. I then packed my stuff, and headed home. A quick stop on the way back for food first though. I got home a little after 10pm, ate, showered, and went to sleep. I was physically exhausted, and it showed. I only slept 9 hours last night, and today I am still a zombie.

It was worth it though. Definetly a day to remember.

The Big Day

Last night wasn’t a totally sleepless night for me, but it could have been better. I got to sleep almost instantly, and then woke up at 2am. I got back to sleep about 30 minutes later and then woke up at 6:15. Probably got around 6 hours of sleep when it was all said and done, and I hope I have the energy today.

Today is playoff day. I have three teams in, and I will be playing in less than 3 hours. I could play as few as 3 games and as many as 6. I am hoping for 6 and 3 championships. Obviously, my odds are better with some teams than others. It really depends on how we come out as a team and play. It also depends on who shows up.

First comes breakfast though. 🙂

I have much to work on

It looked like I was headed to another loss, but instead, my ice hockey team came back to win the game 7-6. The one thing that bothered me was the six goals I allowed in that game. This same team I played with last session, I didn’t give up that many goals. This session, I am giving up 5-7 a game and it is just not a good thing.

Could the defense be improved? Yes. However, I have to concentrate on what I can do to get better.

Things like sticking to the post when they are behind or to the immediate side of the net. Today, I leaned down to take the pass away to the center, and the shooter knocked it off my back and in. I have got to stick to that post. Another thing is the rebounds. Today, I let too many rebounds go off me and right to other players. Some of the shots were weak enough where I just should have frozen them. If my defense can’t pick up the rebounds, then I will have to start picking them up myself.

Now that I think about it, rebounds last session were picked up by my D more often. This season, they are getting to them more often. Good news for the opposing team. Bad news for me.

I am going to take 2 hours out of my schedule a week to work on these basics with open hockey ice time. The more I work on them, the better off I will be down the road.

Coming Soon – Playoffs

This was one of the most anticipated weeks coming up for me. After avoiding my journal and concentrating on hockey and life the last couple weeks, I am revisiting my journal to add things. Mainly so I can reflect on them down the road. Especially after the playoffs are over.

I have three teams poised to enter the playoffs this season, a record if it happens.

First up on my mind is the Stick Heads. A Copper team that clinched first in the division over two weeks ago. They finished with a 10-1-0-1 record, but with 4 games decided by one goal or less. Yes, from the figures we are poised to take our 4th championship. However, we also have everything to lose. This is the team that is going to have the most pressure on them. If we lose in tripple overtime in the final game, it will be a bad season.

Second up is Team X. A team who started out strong, but has declined slightly as time went on. We have a key defenseman out with injury and have had attendance problems from some of the other teammates. We are sitting 2nd in the division with an outside chance to catch 1st, but I wouldn’t count on it. In addition, the top teams in the league have given us a real hard time recently when we played them. I believe this team has a chance to go all the way, but it all depends on who shows up on Saturday.

Last up is a team on the bubble, The Bulldogs. A team that had a poor start, but has come on as a team lately. This is the team that has the most uncertainty of any of the teams I am leading into the the playoffs. Lately, we have been playing very well, but can we compete with those top tier teams in the division? We are a combined 1-3 against the top 4 teams in the division, but as I said, time changes things. In order for the Bulldogs to make it, we have to win on Friday, which is very doable. I am confident we will get the W.

My heart has been beating a little faster than normal when I think of these upcoming games. Not only because I get a chance to compete for championships in multiple divisions, but also a chance for me to solidify myself as a winner in pressure games. I am talking confident now, but there is always that small doubt hanging around in the back of my mind. The thought that I will do something wrong and find myself on the losing side of things. Last playoff game I played for example, I had a shot that went off my skate and went into the net. It was “slightly” embarassing. Some idiots at the rink claimed it was an “own goal”. Sorry, I didn’t put it in myself….just a bad bounce that didn’t go my way. When you are facing a hot team and you make a mistake like that, there is no easy rebound. We lost 2-1 in that game.

These weekly updates stink

It took me almost a week of being busy before I started thinking about my journal. I guess that is why I haven’t thought about it.

Where to begin….

Hockey has been up and down for me as of late. After blowing an ice hockey game 7-4 last week, I rebounded with a good game on Friday and won 7-6. On Monday, my Stick Heads team clinched first in the division by winning 4-3 in OT. Today I lost a heartbreaker of a game with Team X in a 7-6 loss in OT to Extreme Graphics.

What does all this mean? It means I am playing streaky in my opinion.

Speaking of my opinion, I have been told by a lot of people that I don’t give myself enough credit. Ok, maybe that is true. However, every goaltender I see seems to play a lot more steady than I do in net. Maybe it is the saves they make or the way they play. Either way, I need to build my confidence back up a couple notches. I am going to give a couple examples of my confidence POSSIBLY playing a role. The Team X game and my ice hockey team last week I just didn’t feel good about those games. Team X actually held the lead until about 30 second left in the game when Extreme tied it. Windemuller, my ice hockey team, didn’t hold a lead in that game. I was smoked by 3 breakaway goals.

It could be confidence, and then again it could be my team in question. Lets face it, the team is what wins games. Sure, a team with a beginner goaltender isn’t going to do well. Just like an elite goaltender in the advanced leagues isn’t going to play well when his team consists of beginners. A goalie may steal a game, or a team may play to a higher potential, but that is about it. For the most part, the games are going to be decided on the skill level of the team that is put out on the ice.

Teams like the Stick Heads are going to do well but teams like Windmeuller are going to take time to find a grove or struggle until better help comes. I am not trying to deflect blame here. I know some blame should go to the goaltender who lets in a weak goal or two. The Team X game today is a prime example. My team has the lead with 2 minutes to go. I should stop an along the ice shot from going in. Sure, it was a great shot, but I have to get my butterfly down fast enough to take that away.

Maybe I don’t give myself enough credit. Maybe I am holding myself a little too high on the list of standards I have set for myself.

I have to think about that a little bit.