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.