Taking its toll

Playoffs on Saturday have come and gone, and today the I played last night took their toll on my body and emotions. I played 4 games last night, went 2-2, and had one game slip through my fingers.

I played for Who Cares my first game. A team that had only 7 skaters, and would have only had 6 had I not played for them. Their goalie skated out and we had a great first game. I played very well in net in a 5-1 victory, but it was the offense and defense that stole the show. I made some very good saves and I was feeling great.

My second game was my Malys team and we only had 5 guys show up all night. We took a quick 3-0 lead, but that evaporated as the game went on. I played an excellent game in a 5-4 loss though. Once again, a lot of diving saves and great positional play. While I was disappointed about the loss, I was pleased with my performance. I had two finals games to concentrate on now.

My third game was my finals game with Who Cares. While I had played terrific up to this point, here is where it ended. With us down 2-1, I missed a routine save from a sharp angle. I came out to cut the angle down, and the shot went through my armpit. I just couldn’t close my arm in time. Then, the game winning goal was a show from behind the net that banked off the back of my arm and into the net. That was the goal that annoyed me the most. Mainly because of my lack of positioning. That game should have been tied at the end of regulation. At it was, we lost 4-3.

Dekleine Builders had the final game of the playoffs and here is where the day ended on a great note. Dekleine took a 2-0 lead and I preserved the lead a few times on a few diving saves. One with an outstretched stick to deny an easy tap in goal. Village Bike, the opposing team, scored off a deflection goal and then on a 5 hole goal with a lot of traffic in front. With the game tied, Village took a 2 minute penality with 2 minutes to go. They called their time out, devised a plan, and executed it off a beautiful top corner shot to make it 3-2. Add an empty netter to complete the scoring and I have my 18th divisional playoff championship under my belt.

The toughest decision that was taking its toll on me was which team to play for on Wednesday. Do I play for Dekleine or Malys? Both teams I have been on for a long time. I have had a lot of success with both teams. So what do I do? After thinking long and hard about things, I have made the decision to stay with Dekleine and defend my championship. I have learned my lesson in the past that the best team doesn’t always win. The team that wants it more does. I feel that Dekleine has that right now along with the better chemistry. That call to Malys saying I won’t be back next season is going to be very hard to make thats for sure.

Going to rest up today thats for sure. Can’t rest all day though cause I play for Howies Hockey tape today.

Another successful playoff

I came in with three teams, and left with two playoff championships. Every game except one was a battle to the finish and I was just seeing the puck well all day.

My first game of the day was Groot Builders vrs Happy Jacks Show. I made some really good saves, but I had a one get by me that I should have had. One of them was a 4 on 2 for Happy Jacks when I didn’t cover my angles well and I was beaten on the short side. Otherwise, it went back and forth all game and it was tied 3-3 with a minute left. One of their players had a wide open net chance when I came out to take the angle on a shot. I dove over stick first and made a big save off a slapshot towards the empty side of the net. I heard a collective groan after I dove over, but I assumed they had scored. It was probably one of the best saves I have ever made thats for sure. That led to a fortunate bounce in OT for us when one of our shots hit the stick of their own defenseman and deflected into the top part of the net to give us the 4-3 OT win. It was one of those wins that never should have happened though. Without that big diving save and then our fortunate bounce that led to the win, we would have lost that game in regulation.

Dekleine Builders was my second game when they played against the Vipers. Both teams really worked hard, but it was the goaltender on the other end for the Vipers that really held their team in the game. I had two goals scored against me that were very unfortunate bounces. One of them went off my glove, then my helmet, and hit the back of the net. The other goal went off of my own defenseman. After those two chances, I was sitting a little deep in my net and a little more cautious while my team tried to break the 2-2 tie. With under a minute to go, a shot from the point either deflected or snuck into the net and we took a 3-2 lead and won the game. I had a couple good saves, but by far, my team really worked hard to get that win.

Biohazzard/Malys played the Brass house team for the right to play the undefeated team in the finals. I had some good saves and really came out to take the angles as we rolled to a 4-0 win. Winning the next game was going to be the big challenge though. I was looking forward to it.

Groot had the first finals game against the Lightning house team who upset the top team in the division and earned the right to play for the championship. We scored on our first shot in the game and then the game switched over to a very defensive game. Both sides had their chances, but the opposing goaltender and myself put on a clinic. I had 4 helmet saves, one deflection save, and a couple glove saves which are a rareity for me. With a minute left, they pulled their goaltender and we scored in the empty net. It was my 2nd consecutive shutout and my first championship of the night. I have the trophy sitting in my office right now and I was proud of my accomplishment. The sad thing is that I won’t be back for Groot next season. I am taking some time off on Tuesday in favor of playing an extra night of ice hockey. I would like to return to the Builders eventually…..but who knows if that will work out.

Dekleine Builders had their finals game against Village Bike Shop. Village beat us on Wednesday by a final of 7-5 and I didn’t play well so this game was big to me. Dekleine came out strong and netted the first 3 goals of the game. I was elated, but I only made one save up to this point. After the 3rd goal, their 2nd shot on net was from center ice. I came out and just missed making the save. It was my first horrible goal of the day, but also the first goal I had given up in almost 8 periods of hockey. Dekleine kept rolling though while Village folded early. The score got as bad as 7-1 before they got a goal off a screen shot from the point to make it 7-2, but that would be the final score. Aside from that bad goal I gave up from center ice, I played very well. Village had some chances, but just couldn’t convert. It was my second, and last championship of the night.

Biohazzard could not complete my perfect day though as we fell to the undefeated team 4-0. It was a great game for them, and for me for that matter. It was 1-0 up until under 2 minutes left in the game and we just could not get anything going. After they scored to get the two goal lead, my team just stopped playing hard. They got 2 more goals in the final 2 minutes to win the game. Once again, not a bad game, but could have played better.

I subbed in for the Rabid Wombats the last game of the night and lost with them 4-2. Once again, not a bad game, but not my best. I feel I should have had one of those goals that I gave up. Maybe one at the most. In every other game I played, I came up with a big save or two. The last game I didn’t have that big save though.

Overall, I went 5-2 on the day, played my last 4 games in a row, and captured my 16th and 17th championships in the Beginner/Intermediate divisions. It was probably the best I have ever played though. I remember my last few playoff days and I feel that this was my strongest. I was seeing the puck well all day. After the day was over, all I could think about was going home to sleep. I went out for a quick bite to eat with some friends and teammates first though. When I got home, that shower felt so good. My body was sore all over, and even today, I am a little aching.

However, for the first time in a while, I had problems sleeping when I woke up at 4am and couldn’t sleep. I thought about my day and what happened. I thought about what will happen next season. I was pretty happy with my performance, but I just couldn’t get the memories out of my head.

It was a good day.

Another playoff Saturday has come and gone

I woke up at 6:45 yesterday and had breakfast with a bunch of friends before my game. Obviously, a few of them were talking trash to me about how they were going to deny me a couple trophies by the end of the night. By the time the day was over, I had added one more championship to bring my total to 14.

My first game was my Builders team going up against Who Cares. We really didn’t play a strong game at all. Even though it was tied 2-2 at the end of the half, we didn’t come out with a great effort during the second half. Who Cares cycled the puck better than we did. They worked harder than we did. We took a few dumb penalties, including myself at one junction. It was not one of our best moments as we took a 4-2 loss. I got a piece of every shot that beat me and I suffered from a few bad bounces in the game. We had a deflection that went off one of my own defenseman’s stick and went into the top corner of the net. I had a shot hit my glove, hit me in the side of the helmet, and go into the net. It was just one bad break after another. On top of that, we were outplayed. It was the first time in three sessions that we didn’t win a championship. The Fury, the team that had a 50+ goal differential and went into the finals against Who Cares, lost as well by a final of 5-2. I guess all that goal differential didn’t matter. If you can’t put pucks in the net during the playoffs, you aren’t going to win games.

I played for the Dirty Bastards right after the Builders and we lost pretty convincingly. The team went 4-6 and they called to have me play for them on Thursday. It was fun to play for them, but I wish I could have stepped up and won that game for them. They are a nice bunch of guys.

After going 0-2, I skated out for my Dragons team for the first period. I assisted in a goal and had a few good shifts before I had to change into my goalie gear for my next game. We won 3-2 in OT.

Biohazard/Malys won their semifinal game 5-2 with only 5 guys in the first half and then 4 in the second half. We really did a good job in that game with not many players, even against the 4th seeded team in the league. With the Phantoms defeating Real Men of Genius, we would face them in the finals. That suited me just fine because of the 12-2 pasting they gave me on Friday and the 4-0 loss they gave me in the finals about 2 sessions ago. I was going to get another crack at them and this time for a trophy. After the Dragons loss in the finals by a very tight score of 3-2, Biohazard took the trophy in a win over the Phantoms by a final of 4-3.

Even though my teams went 3-3 overall, I thought I played very strong in net. My lateral movement was great and I really centered myself to the shot well. I really didn’t have any weak goals all day and that is the best I can hope for. Even though I thought Builders underachieved, I am proud of their accomplishments through the course of the season. I am especially proud of the team I skate out on, the Dragons. Here is a team that placed 3rd in the division, and we beat the 2nd place team in OT and came close to beating the top team in the division that went 10-0 during the regular season.

As for remembering the goals I gave up in the games I won, I really don’t remember. I don’t know if I was tired or I really just wasn’t disappointed in my performance. Either way, one day later, I am proud of my accomplishments.

With all the smack talk that was spread around before the games were even played, I once again came out on top when others were expected to win. I finished strong when others underachieved. Part of the reason why I won’t talk smack anymore.

As usual, I will be passed over when it comes to being considered to be a clutch performer in playoffs. That too is fine with me. I just want to play the game and have success.

Now I begin a 2 week break before the season starts back up again. I need the rest to be honest.

And from the ashes…

It was another unforgetable day, but one I NEVER expected to end the way it did. The story may suprise you. I know I was amazed when it was all over. I am sure in the coming years when I read this entry, it may still suprise me.

My Vintage Painting team was ousted in the first round by a 2-1 score in OT. The Ionia Skateland team that beat us went on to lose in the finals, but they really play hard and deserved to win our game. I had no regrets at the end of that game. My undefeated Bulldogs team played next and we lost to the Komets who went on to be the champions by a 5-4 final score. I really can’t say I played badly in either game. I just feel I didn’t play up to par. A goalie only goes as far as his team though.  I know I can’t do it alone, and the other teams I faced today just wanted it more than we did.

Upon playing my last game, I stuck around the rink just shooting photos and was considering taking off for the day. That is when the Reforms in Copper came calling. The Reforms consist of players I haven’t played for before, but they know me well. Apparently, their goalie chose not to play today and were pretty much told to find someone else. They asked me and I accepted. I really didn’t think much of it to be honest. The Reforms were a good team, but in order to make our mark in these two playoff games, they needed to play intense hockey.

Our first game we played against the Pole Hittas. (Side note story, this team got its name due to the face one of their team ran into a pole with his car apparently.) This team had one dominant player and stopping him was REALLY rough.  He hit me up for 2 goals early and the team was up 3-0 at one point. My Reforms team came back to score 4 unanswered, while I came up with some timely stops. The save I made that impressed everyone including myself was a diving across the crease to save a puck from going in. I just tipped it away with my stick. However, that dominant player once again came up with a key goal to tie the game. The Reforms notched the game winner in OT to bring us into the finals.

My finals game with the Reforms was not going to be easy. Standing in front of us was a Maly’s team who lost only one game all season.  As some of you visitors to my blog know, the Stick Heads cut me due to the fact I lost to Maly’s. I knew I would need to play the game of my life to win that game. For some reason, I put on my Stick Heads jersey. I have no idea why I did at the time. Maybe it was to signify that I played in Copper or the fact that if we did win the game, I could have my picture taken with the trophy with my ex-team’s jersey on. Maybe it would be kind fitting when the Stick Heads looked at the photo and they would notice the jersey. I know, that is kinda childish….but at the time, I seriously didn’t know why I reached for that jersey.

Anyway, Malys came out firing right out of the gate, but the Reforms notched the first two goals. Then, Malys tied it up on a pass to the opposite side and tap in, and then off a rebound chance.  The Reforms got back up in the game by a 3-2 score with under 5 minutes to play. I skated to the bench to tell my team how good they were doing and if we played the last 5 minutes of this game hungry, we would skate out of here champions. The performed, I got some timely saves, and we notched an empty netter to clinch the victory and championship. It is my 8th trophy, and I am proud to get one. My team, the other team, and my friends were all giving me props. I was just happy to have actually done something positive. After my Bulldogs and Vintage Painting team lost, I thought that I was done until next session. Looks like that is what I get for thinking.

Now that I have all these things down, I need to sleep. I was up at 7:00am this morning and it is now 1:22.  My eyes are heavy, my contacts are bothering me, and I am so tired. My body aches a little and I can’t wait to slip into bed tonight after a hot shower.

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.

Exhilaration and Disappointment

I will try to put into words what has happened in the last 72 hours. Not only has it been one of the highest points I have experienced in a long time, but it was also not without its low ones.

Saturday I walked into the arena at 9:00am ready to lead my teams through the playoffs. Since I am not superhuman, I found another goalie to take one of my three teams. Even I can’t play 2 consecutive games.

Game 1 – Team Kontakt vrs The Vipers
I have been goalie of Team Kontakt for a long time. This isn’t our first trip to the playoffs, but the team played very aggressive. After taking a 3-0 lead and playing a defensive game, I had a fluke shot from behind the net deflect off my own defenseman’s skate and go behind me to make it 3-1. About a minute later, one of their forwards picked the top corner to make it 3-2. My team regained the two goal lead with about four minutes left. The Vipers got back within one with 12 seconds to go, but the game was over by then. Gotta give big points to my team for working so hard.

Game 2: Stick Heads vrs Storm
This game was also another 4-3 game. It seemed whenever we took a one goal lead, the Storm was right there to answer back. My confidence never waivered though and when we scored with about five minutes left, I held them off for the win.

Game 3: Statewide Restoration vrs The Rage
I never played this game. I am glad I didn’t either. I didn’t have the energy to take them on after playing two games in the last 3 hours and this would have been a back-to-back game with the Stick Heads game I played previously. My backup goalie strained his groin 3/4 of the way through the game so he went home after the 6-2 loss.

Game 4: Team Kontakt vrs The Fury – Championship Game
I had another back to back game situation ahead of me here. With my Stick Heads team playing right after this one, I got another goalie to step in for me. I really had no choice in the matter. The last thing I wanted to do was lose my second game due to exhaustion.

This game was locked up at 1-1 for the longest time until The Fury scored with 9 seconds left to get the 2-1 win. My team was crushed. They worked so hard and got nothing out of it. I felt so bad like I let them down. Part of me still wonders if I played if I could have gotten them the win. It wasn’t like the other goalie I got to play was bad. He made save after save and did what it took to keep our team in it. I still cried after the game, but I had to shake it off because my championship game was coming up. I needed to be sharp.

Game 5 – Stick Heads vrs Off The Wall – Championship Game
With my eyes still red from crying, I stepped in the goal crease. My confidence was unraveled as my team took a 2-0 lead into the final period. My heart beat with anticipation as the time ticked off the clock. That is when Off The Wall made their move. A scrum in front of the net helped them get one goal. They got a second one off a shot that went top corner. I wish I got that first one, but the second one I had zero chance on. My team took two dumb penalties and gave them a two man advantage for the last two minutes of the game. They didn’t waste that either as they scored to make it 3-2 with under a minute to play.

I am going to stop time for a minute here and tell you how I felt. I felt terrible. I had a sick feeling inside me saying that I blew it. All that work for nothing. I was almost in tears. We were still on the penalty kill for the rest of the period and losing the game. I thought about the previous game and losing like my last team did and thought it was in the cards for this game.

Until…

I rushed to the bench after the puck was dropped, but I didn’t even get a chance to get on the bench. WE SCORED! Tied at 3-3! I didn’t believe it. I started practically dancing inside. To overtime we went. Still on the penalty kill though for a little bit. I stopped a great wraparound chance and a breakaway. When I covered the puck, the crowd cheered. I almost broke into tears again, but I tried to hold everything in until the end. About a minute later, we scored on a odd man rush. I charged out of the net flailing my arms. We had won. For the first time, I have led a team through the entire regular season and playoffs to a championship. A milestone for me. I broke into tears as the team piled on me and the guy who scored the goal in OT. Mission accomplished.

It has been a few days since we won, but I already found a song that I heard after we won that symbolizes our victory.

The Calling – Wherever you may go
┬╗www.songlyrics.co.nz/lyrics/t/thecalli..

Now, I am content. The demons inside no longer bother me. The hunger to do it again is still there. However, I have time. I am only 30. I know my time will come again, maybe next season. Now, I have a trophy to my name and I can call myself a champion.