Sunday, February 19, 2017

Biohazard and Piranha Weekend

I started off playing defense for Biohazard. We had 7 skaters for the game. I played really well. I figured I was going to play the whole game because of the few players, and conditioning our players, but I was probably on the bench more than most. That’s fine because I got to go all out when I was out there.

I made a few good passes, but a lot of what I was doing was getting the puck out of the zone. I’ve really started to like using behind the net. I would pick up the puck, take a quick look, and launch it into the opposite corner. As the game went on, I gained some more confidence, and really started pushing it. I would jump up on the rush and help out. Other times I would stay back and be a bit more conservative. I did better as the game went on. I would read plays in the offensive zone, and pick off passes. It was just natural to me. I would pick up the puck off the boards regularly, and just make a subtle move from side to side and shake an attacker. It was weird being able to dance through players.

In the second, I would intercept a pass at the blue line. I took a second to look on who to pass to. The corner? Covered. Across? It would get picked off for a rush. In the slot? Too much traffic. I took a small step in and saw a big hole for the goalie. I leaned into it and shot top left corner. The traffic in front distracted the goalie and I saw the net jump and knew it was in. Felt awesome. It gave us a 2-1 lead, and in the third, we mostly clogged the neutral zone and just kept it out of our zone. It ended up in no goals against, and we’d win 3-1.

Sunday night 9 skaters against a team we can beat, but we had only one of our regular defensemen. I jumped back and pulled back someone who I’ve played with D before as well, hoping to reignite some chemistry there. In the first period we were probably outplayed. But we outlasted them. We just needed some time in their zone, and fast because our blue line was getting tired. We had a guy show up late and it helped a ton. That’s when we started really getting moving.

I made some silly moves to start the second, such as changing on a 3 on 1 against. But then I calmed down. I had one great shot from the blue line off the face off that was just a couple of inches off the ice, hoping that someone could get there for the rebound, but it went between the goalies leg pads and just bounced a little bit for an easy cover for him.

I started jumping up on the rush to get 2 on 1s, I carried the puck end to end, looking for passes, and it worked because of our short bench and our centers would stay back. After the game, one of them said to me they were happy to do it because they were exhausted. Playing defense with one other full pairing is actually a less intense night than any night I’ve had with the Piranhas or Biohazard this season. Or maybe I’m just in better condition than I’ve been all year.

All night, I knew who was coming at me, and their strengths. It is an advantage of playing the same teams and players every year. I know their tendencies and what is coming next, so I like to use that to my advantage.

In the second period, I would jump up on the power play, get in real tight, and see no options to pass or shoot. I saw a winger joining me getting close. I put a low shot on, hoping for a rebound, and sure enough the rebound went right to the winger, and he didn’t get all of the puck, but just enough for it to gently slide across the line and in. I was thrilled for the guy to get his first goal in a while.

We’d go to overtime. 40 seconds into overtime, I stood up a player carrying the puck. I just stopped and he ran into me. I got called for interference. I’m still not sure why. I took my time getting to the box, hoping to run out some of the penalty because it was running clock, but the time keeper wasn’t running it. It is one of those gamesmanship things you do. If you can make the actual play time of being shorthanded less, then you do it.

We killed the penalty, I jumped on the bench, and then our goal scorer would assist on the game winning goal to another player who hasn’t scored much lately. I was thrilled for both of them. I was happy for the whole team since we won last week too, and it has been a while since the Piranhas have won back to back games.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Biohazard - 1 Healthy Scratch - 8

I have been getting to the rink later and later lately, so I made sure I was on time and got a full warm up. I needed it since I would be using a different stick than I’m used to. It is shocking to me how much different the stick can make a difference in how I feel the puck.

I switched back to an old Mako I had from 2012. I wish they still made this stick. I bought a bunch because I liked it so much. For the last couple of years, I’ve used a Nexus, which is a great stick as well, but the curves were slightly different. Combine that with I had chopped off an extra two inches from the Nexus, and I had a hard time carrying the puck. But that’s to be expected.

After the first period, I started getting used to it. I caught some passes that I thought I’d miss, and I also made one play that I need to use more. When I pick up the puck along the board, turn toward the center of the ice and bounce the puck behind me to protect the puck and allow me to turn and go. I’ve done it a few times, and was able to pull it off tonight.

I felt a little out of shape, but was in position for the majority of the game. During the third period, I was able to out muscle one of their defense men along the boards at the blue line. I got the puck into the zone, and just out of their reach. I kicked it forward about 4 feet, and knew I’d be alone if I could pick it up and cut across. I did just that. I put my hardest shot on net, and it went right into the goalie’s mid section.

I’ve noticed I do a lot of fly by on my fore check. I’ll skate hard, swipe at the puck and hope to deflect it or pick it up and skate on the rush. I did this tonight, and the defense-man missed his pass attempt and the puck just sat there for a good two seconds.  I felt foolish. I’m going to start stopping in front of the defense-man on the forecheck because I know I can take off quicker than most.

Where I was pleased was on the face off dot. I have been more attentive taking drops, trying to focus on winning it instead of just tying up the opponent. Still, that is partially a team stat. I told my left winger that I was going to try and win the draw over to him, so he needs to cut in for it. I won, cleanly only to see it slide through his legs, and he didn’t even have his stick on the ice. This caused a large amount of frustration for me for a variety of reasons, but I tried to remain focused and positive.

I did make some good passes, and handled the puck much better as the game went on. I also feel I didn’t get outworked at all, which is always a plus for me.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Biohazard vs 96ers

I had been playing well for Biohazard for a few weeks. Because of conflicting schedules though, I hadn't been seen the last couple of games. I was excited to get back out there. I started on a line with pretty much the best line mates I could ask for on the team.

In the first period, I seemed to be doing alright, winning a puck battle here and there, but I wasn't involved in the play much. Our defense was a bit more active, so I ended up covering on the blue line quite a bit. I also was the first man back quite a bit, which helped rush the opponents' passes.

All night I struggled on the break out. I tried changing where I should be, coming back a bit, going forward, but the puck would regularly go into a different direction. The times I did gain the puck, I didn't enter the zone the way I would have liked. I had an opportunity for a pass to my winger, but didn't have a strong enough hold on the puck to move it to him. I put a weak shot on net instead.

Most of the interesting things happened later in the game. I had made a great netural zone pass to a player who would carry the puck into the corner and lose possession. I had poke checked it back to my guy, and went to the net. He would fire a shot over my shoulder, and the goalie never saw it because of the screen and his defenseman standing in front of him.

As the game would go on, we were down and making a bit of a come back. I went in on a forecheck, but then tripped - on myself. I fell, the pass was still rushed. Before I could get up, the play was coming back into the offensive zone, and I was offside! I couldn't get back fast enough, which caused the puck carrier to skate across and didn't get a good scoring chance. Bad times.

In the third, I caught a pass in the defensive zone and felt my stick bend a little bit. I looked and it looked ok, So I kept playing. As I was bringing the puck up, I could feel it being unstable. I got to the blue line, dumped the puck into the opposite corner (was supposed to be a pass but ended up being a dump) and just went to the bench. Sure enough, broken stick.

We were down a man, and down by one goal at the end. Again, a defensemen pinched. I saw this, and went a little higher to help cover up high. But we needed the goal! The puck would squirt out, and up to me. At this point, I was exhausted, and needed a change. I took one stride in to see if anything would open but had nothing. I see the other defensmen wide open, knowing he'd have a better angle. I gave him a great pass, saw it slide right onto the tape of his stick. I turned and went for a change. I threw my skate over the board and heard, "Bad change! I looked, and there was a break away going against us." They would score, but I felt responsible for that.

We'd give up one more, but it was a whole lot of bad that night.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Piranhas vs. Vipers

My hips were tight and I didn't get as long of a nap as I wanted before the game. I knew it was going to be a difficult game as a result. I did my best to stretch as much as I could as long as I could before the game but it wasn't helping much. My back felt great though.

I had different line mates than I usually do, but that's expected when you have a short bench like the Piranhas have all year. I started off on center, and for a change, I was actually winning faceoffs. I had won a few the game before, and I was winning them cleanly and with control tonight. At the very worst, I was tying up the opponent and the puck would just sit there.

My line had a lot of speed, and it showed on the first shift. We had a couple of shots, but not great ones. We were in the offensive zone nearly the entire time we were on the ice for the first period. But eventually the short bench would come back and bite us. Wingers would go to low to help out tired defensemen and centers weren't getting low enough. 

There was a lot of board work, and it seemed this team was made of giants. They moved the puck well, lifted sticks, and made it difficult to move out there. I made some ok passes, but a few were too hard. Others were off the ice.

I really tried to focus on possession of the puck this game. The team had discussed a few things openly that we could change. I get a lot rushes because of my speed. I shoot, and have no one there for the rebound. I need to figure out something else to do with the puck because the shots are being seen clearly. I tried carrying the puck low and coming back up, gaining some time, drifting a little bit wider, and even driving to the net once. I didn't let that distract me from when I had the puck in a high scoring area, I was getting it to the net.

The Piranhas lost 3-1, with the empty net against. A close game, but still a loss.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Piranhas vs. Arsenal

I didn't get anything resembling a warm up. It was my own fault. I spent a lot of time at home stretching before coming to the rink.

The first few shifts of the game, my line did really well. We got the puck deep, and kept possession. I was playing with two players I normally never get to play with, and one was usually a d-man. I had a really good jump to my game early on. Our team would dump the puck in for a change, and their defense man would slowly go back to get it. I'd bet him to the puck and gain possession, but before I could get a handle, I'd stumble  and not much would happen. This continued, and it forced the goalie to make some bad decisions that lead to scoring chances. Early on, I noticed I was able to control a few faceoffs. In a draw in our own end, I was able to have my wingers line up in the slot, and I shot right as the puck was dropped.  The goalie was beatable.

At the end of the first we were down 4-1. In the second we really started to click. There was a good 90 seconds where our team was able to cycle the puck, and get scoring chances. It was exhausting for both sides. We were able to get a goal after I won a faceoff to the winger in the middle. He shot, I tapped at it to put it in but it got deflected somehow and went in from the rebound from my shot. The official gave me credit for the goal, but I think it was the winger. That same shift, he and I had a 2 on 2. I acted like I was going to pass to him, but used the defense man as a screen, and silently slid the puck through his legs, and the goalie barely saw it and it went in. Two goals in one shift. I'm really liking that play where I have the option to pass and I do the no look shot.

I had a battle in the corner in the offensive zone, where as I was falling to the ice, I saw a forward in blue right in front of the goalie. I made a very lucky pass and got it to him, but he fanned on the shot. I also had a couple of good passes to my defense man in the offensive zone, but not many solid outlet passes. Defensively, I didn't do much, but I didn't make mistakes. Overall, one of the better games I've played this season. The team played very well, but we lost 5-3. We didn't get enough quality shots in my opinion.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Three months off

I haven’t played hockey in three months. It wasn’t intentional, it just worked out that way. It was nice to have a break from hockey.

At the end of the winter season, I was happy it was over. Some seasons I’m ready for a small break, but this winter was different. The season was disappointing in a variety of areas for me. I wasn’t happy about my performance on the ice. I started whining towards the officials. All of these and more were just evidence and/or consequences of me not wanting to be around hockey.

The three months without hockey were actually productive. I started recognizing how bad my diet had become and made steps to change it. I got back into the gym enough so that I spent more time there in these three months than I did all season. I rediscovered old hobbies and found new ones as well. I did quite a bit.

When it came time to put the skates on again, I wasn’t that thrilled. I knew if I didn’t do it though, I’d probably not play for another year. Still, I committed to playing and I know how bad it is to have people fall short on commitments. I’m going to put forth my effort like I normally do. I’m going to follow through on my commitment. But I’m doing this season for myself. I want to just have fun. I’m not going to focus on making things go smoothly for everyone.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Summer 2015 Playoffs Review

It’s ova’! The summer is done, playoffs are over and it is time to start preparing for winter. The winter season is just a few short weeks away.
“But Squirrel! What happened in the summer playoffs?”

Settle down there, and I’ll tell you. The Piranhas (2nd seed) would play the Shooters (3rd) to get to the championship. The Piranha line up is out on the ice, taking warm ups, and there’s only two Shooters on the ice. The fish start hearing that they have no goalie.

The referee came up with these rules on the fly that neither side fully understood, allowing the Shooters to put one of their 8 skaters into the net and cover the puck. Oh, and the Shooters are missing their top center.

It was brutal. The Piranhas played down, and the Shooters played desperate. It made it into a difficult game. I could not get anything going. I would try to use my wingers to help break out of the zone, but I couldn’t do it. I didn’t have the endurance to skate the puck down, I didn’t have the patience to look. The Shooters played outstanding, and it threw me off. My frustration grew and grew. I would put one into the net, and it would go around the bottom so fast, that the official would not see it go in and out, and not count it. Even Shooter players admitted it went in, but obviously aren’t going to admit it. Piranhas win ugly, 6-5.

The very next night, the Moose would play the Force for the championship. I would jump onto the wing for the first time with that team, playing with an old team mate from the Coyotes. I kept making mistakes in the first period. I wouldn’t play my “safe” hockey. I would stumble, drop the puck, make bad passes, pretty much anything I could do poorly in the first two periods. Going into the third we were down by a couple of goals, and I knew I had to play better. I had to carry the puck, and dig quite a bit deeper. The entire team had to carry the puck – especially me. I would eventually pick it up and try to take it end to end. I did a lot of work below the goal line, and stayed strong on my skates. I would kick a backhand pass out to the slot, allowing my center to put one home. Ultimately, it wasn’t enough and the Moose lost.

I wasn’t frustrated or angry after the Moose lost. I spent more time focusing on the next steps. The winter moose, the Piranhas next game, and that was about it. I wasn’t playing well, and there’s little you can do to play better in the short term. Just mentally prepare.

The Piranhas would have a full bench against the Mastodons (1st). I would pop the goalie’s water bottle in warm ups, something I had never done before. I had my time to get my skates right – which is nice because they had felt off for a month or two. We shook up the lines a little bit, and gave me a little bit stronger of a winger as my line had been struggling a lot lately. Dividends would immediately pay off. My line’s first shift, I would poke check the puck away from the puck carrier in the neutral zone, and my new winger would cut across, pick up the puck and score on a break away. It set the tone. Each shift from every line was hard. The Piranhas didn’t give up anything easy, and that helped me out and play my best. It is easier to dig deeper when you’re surrounded by guys who are digging deep as well. A couple of penalty kills, a few solid defensive plays, and the Piranhas would win the championship.

I finished the summer on a down note performance wise. When I was rolling fairly well, I hit a dry patch. I now know why. I stopped working to get better, and as a result, I got worse. My conditioning didn’t improve, I lost battles, and I lost confidence. I’m fortunate to have had the team to pick up slack. Now it is just time to get ready for the winter.