Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Goaldiggers Playoffs - Semi-Finals - 2010-12-20

Second night in a row of Goaldigger hockey - very intense hockey at a higher level. I made some quick skate changes after last game because I broke the lace lock, but that's a different post.

Last game I felt that our d-men pinched way too much - but that is our team's game. This game made yesterday's game less extreme. We were short staffed on the blue line, and still they continued to jump up. At the same time, even by bringing it up with speed, we as a team had a hard time keeping the puck in our own zone.

Me, I didn't make too much of a difference in the game. I worked harder this game than the night before, and got my nose dirty a little bit in the corners. I had won a small battle in the neutral zone to keep the puck in their end, but with the size and skill of the guys against me, it is no surprise that the entire team was prepared for me to lose the battle.

I had another battle in the same spot almost that resulted in me putting a player on his wallet, but I still lost the battle to another guy who came in and helped.

My passing and recognition is getting better. Last night I was able to recognize the other winger streaking up the middle towards the end of my shift. There was a player between us but I could see how he was balanced and had a good opening between his feet and stick. I was able to slide it between him, and put it slightly ahead of my team mate. Unfortunately, it was a bit too far out ahead.

My main goal tonight was to go out, and skate hard every shift, and make some more contact with the opponent. I feel I did just that, so I guess it was a good game for me, despite the fact that I felt mostly invisible. The one thing I did forget though is that when you're skating hard, at the end of your shift, you're going to lose any battle to a fresh guy, despite their talent level. Line changes need to be fast and frequent, and I needed to be better about that.

The Goaldiggers lost the game and were eliminated from the playoffs. They just weren't a more talented team than the group of players we played against. Players from both side lost their composure at times, and they had better legs, and more talent. The team as a whole played well.

Just have to prepare for next season - which starts in like 2-3 weeks.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Goaldiggers playoff game - 2010-12-19

Quarter finals for the Goaldiggers in the playoffs tonight, and the game started early, at 8:10. Strange for me playing that early but I’ll take it. I show up a few minutes later than I would have liked. I guess it is a side effect from living closer to the rink, because I did it last week too.
Our opponents tonight have been familiar to us. A handful of our players played with some of them years ago, and we played them last year in the playoffs as well. They are a chippy team, and very hard working. We’d have to work hard, and keep our cool. My first shift on the ice, a defensemen pinched in, and I covered for them. They came back but it still led to a 2 on 2 against us, and I felt had I back checked harder, I could have prevented the first goal of the game. It really is deflating to let a goal in on your first shift, especially when there are guys who haven’t even seen the ice yet.
Later in the period, I tried to make up for it by working harder and did a half assed job at a board battle. I refused to go in against two opponents against the board. Instead, I stayed three feet away from the boards trying to work the puck out. That is just lazy in my opinion, and it doesn’t give you a good chance. Yeah, you have more control of your stick, but you lose the ability to use your feet to move the puck. I need to go in, and make some contact with the opponents to move the puck, and stop being afraid.
Still down by one, I again covered for a pinching d-man. The puck got around me and I didn’t skate full speed to recover it. As a result, the opponent chased it all the way down with me. And as a result, I had to crash into the boards to get to the puck. Had I skated hard the whole time, the opponent wouldn’t have had a chance. Either way, I still won the puck. The problem is it remained in play. I threw it around the boards, and some how it came down to the slot. Unfortunately, I again didn’t skate hard enough to cover him and the center was able to chip it in. The second goal I felt was my fault. While it was frustrating, I still tried to play shift to shift, and tried to make the best of it. The problem is, this time, when I crashed into the boards trying to recover the puck, I went funny into the boards. It was a lot like when I hyper extended my knee, where I spun around really fast with all of my weight on one foot. Luckily it only “shocked” my ankle, and it only bothered me for another shift or two.
In the second period, I played more of a solid period effort wise and results wise. We were still down by one. At one point, I found myself skating too hard, and found myself below the goal line. I’m a winger! Why am I under the goal line in my own zone!? I hustled back up to the point and luckily I wasn’t burned. I kept coming down too low tonight, but after I noticed this, I did a better job of just covering my man. It was a good thing too. Towards the end of the second, I got the puck at the top of the faceoff circle in my own zone. Normally I would play it safe and just try and chip it out of our zone. But I had time. I didn’t panic. I skated with it, and was able to get past the first d-man. The second d-man caught me at the red line, and was able to disrupt the break out, but still, I would never have dreamed of even trying that even 4 months ago. I’m gaining confidence with the puck.
It reminds me of something I was told very early when I started playing on ice. Look! Don’t just throw the puck away. You’ve probably got more time than you think. It is better to lose the puck in a fight, than it is to just throw it and give it to the opposition.
In the third, we were still down by one. I’m getting pretty nervous about losing the game, and the d-man keep jumping in to the play. Again, I’m on the blue line, covering for a d-man who went in on the rush. Then I noticed the other d-man went into the play as well. Why is the winger the only one standing on the blue line? Oh well. The puck came out to the blue line and I just flipped it on net. I don’t have a big shot, and I was somewhat off balance (like always) so it was stopped well before it got to the net. It didn’t bother me because when I play defense, the only thing I care about is keeping the puck as far away from my goal as possible. I stayed on the blue line as the other four skaters were working very well in generating chances. The one d-man came back out and played on the right side, so I was able to shift over to the left. The opponent tried to flip it out, but I was able to stop it, take a look and give it to the left winger. It ultimately lead to the goal that would tie the game.
The team would go on to win the game. I think everyone had a big part in the win tonight, from the talented guys with big shots, to the guys still lucky to stay balanced on their skates like me. I felt though that my effort wasn’t all there tonight until late in the second. I had no points, but in theory helped out on a few goals I kept it in on the blue line, I screened a goalie, but I also was partially responsible for a few goals going in on our own night. I walked way with bumps and bruises, and I’ll be feeling it going into the next game which is tomorrow, but I still have to be better. I have to keep balance but most of all, I have to give it my all on every shift.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Goaldiggers playoff game - 2010-12-15

It had been like three weeks since the Goaldiggers’ last game. The league just had a crappy schedule. There was a lot of confusion about our tie for second place and who we’d be playing in the first round, but because of tie breakers, we finished a lot lower than 2nd.

I felt really confident with the game because they were a team I played before, and I had a lot of ice time recently. The first two shifts I felt a lot slower than I thought I’d be. Perhaps the skill level was higher than I had been used to over the past three weeks, but that is ok. I kept composure and played my best. The third or fourth shift, a rebound went in the corner and I was able to pick it up in the opponents zone. For some reason, I didn’t panic. I had confidence and examined my options. The center and d-man came to close in. I saw the point open. I turned, gave him a nice pass to walk into and he one timed it to make it 1-0. Up to this point, I really felt that the opponent had the upper hand.

The next couple of shifts, I still took my time and was patient. For the first four goals of the game, I was on the ice for all of them. The problem was, I felt like I had a part in the two opponent’s goals. The defensemen went up, and I stayed up high covering for him. Unfortunately, my skating is still not very strong, and I blew coverage twice because of it and it lead to goals.

At one point in the second, I was in the slot with a puck just drifting towards me. It was behind me, and I tried to cradle it and shoot, but my balance was bad and if I were to move my stick, I’d fall. It was a bad feeling. Those are the ones that drive me nuts.

In the third, again in the slot, the center threw me a pass from the corner and I was able to onetime it. It was a great shot, and I’m impressed I got as much power behind it as I did. I miss one timers a lot, so it felt good to connect. Anyway, it was blocked by a defenseman and didn’t make it to the net. Good chance, right idea.

With five or six minutes left, we were only up by one. Kind of concerning to me, but I knew that the team was a little rusty as we were clearly better than the other team. At some point the flood gates just opened and our team went on a tear, and it became 7-3. There was a two on one, the puck came over to me, I stopped the goalie went down and I lifted it over his shoulder to make it 8-3. My third goal for the Goaldiggers. Felt nice to have everyone congratulate me afterward.

One assist and one goal on the night.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chicago Bruins Adult Hockey Class 2010-12-08

I was very excited about this practice to be on the ice with an old friend. He and I hit the ice, I did my stretching and skating drills. I feel my skating in a strait line has gotten significantly better. Occasionally I'll catch a rut and get off balance, but it is time for me to now resharpen my skates.

The bag of pucks was once again dumped in the neutral zone, and I did the stick handling of each of them as fast as I could. They'd get away, and I didn't have to chase them. A good feeling. I tried a couple of toe drags, and wasn't able to connect on them even at a medium speed. What this does is it helps you get used to just gliding the puck across the ice. I try to go as far apart as I can, at a reasonable speed.

During drills, it was reinforced that the weakest part of my game is the skating. Edgework and balance was our focus. I am not able to skate balanced. I'm not able to fall balanced, or get up in a balanced way. I need to work on my strength and balance. I'm going to get out my balance board again.

The scrimmage, I played D for the first 70% of the night. It was clear that I need to work on my patience and positioning. I don't play D often, so it is no wonder why I don't do as well as I'd like. In my defense though, the forwards just kept skating backwards on top of me. We basically let them take it into our zone no problem. Once I moved up, I made sure we fore checked, and it caused a lot of problems for the other team. All three forwards had some experience and worked well together for a good 3 minutes of zone time. I would dig in corners, a bigger guy had no problem shooting the puck, and the other winger would constantly be picking up rebounds.

I think the intensity annoyed the opponents because we weren't letting them bring up the puck. The problem is those guys were on a team together. If we just let them skate it up, how does that help them? It doesn't. And that is the problem with a scrimmage in general. The areas that are not practiced will never be improved on. And it shows in my game. As a result, I try and fore check. I try to move players out of the crease and I don't mind some contact.

Anyway, an okay night for me. Not my strongest performance, but definitely helpful. The drills showed me what I need to work on.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chicago Bruins Adult Hockey Class 2010-12-06

I went into this week fully prepared and ready to improve on the last performance. I switched back to my old stick during warm ups after having a difficult time with my stick last week as well. As the pucks were dumped out, I went there, and just tried to get used to the stick again. I forgot how big of a difference a light stick makes. I fumbled the pucks pretty quickly but I kept improving. It is a drill I'd like to keep doing, but rarely do I have a pile of +25 pucks just sitting to my left.

Interesting that I focused on that during warm ups because we focused on stick handling this week. It's strange to think that a year ago, I had a hard time carrying the puck all the way around the rink. Last night, during the scrimmage, I felt like I had the puck on a string, and went through two or three defenders.

The teacher gave a great tip in that, no one is ever going to pass to your back. As a winger, you think I'd apply that when getting the puck out of our own zone, but I rarely do it. We focused on transitions a lot. Skating towards the defensemen, transition to going backwards, receive the pass, turn and go. So I have to remember to not have my back to the play. Just going blindly up the boards never works. You're going to drop the puck anyway.

Perhaps the most interesting part of the night was a result of lack of goalies. They brought out a shooter tutor, with some of the smallest targets I've seen. I picked up a puck, skated in to about twenty feet, and fired top right corner, off the post and into the net. A beautiful sound. Picked up another, and did the same thing, without hitting the post. Third time, I went top left, and it went in off the post. It felt nice to be accurate again. I think by shortening my stick, I kept bringing up my bottom hand up on the shaft. Lowering it has given me more control. The fourth, I went five hole, but missed by a few inches. I started to work on my slap shot a little. I'm starting to feel I could take one in a game and have it be beneficial.

In the 4 on 4 scrimmage, I played with three members of the Flames. The Flames are the team I'd be joining if I went to this league, more on that later. I definitely feel our team was stronger than the opponents' squad. I had made a few really solid passes, and at one point I went through three of the opponents. Eventually, I gave the puck up to the fourth opponent - but only because I thought he was on my team. Stupid jersey colors. I demonstrated a lot of speed and confidence in the scrimmage. I got to a lot of loose pucks, and made some outstanding passes.

A solid night of transitions, and skating backwards practice. I gained a lot of confidence tonight. I want to play. Need to build up endurance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Decisions, decisions. Where will I play?

I spent some significant time during the day yesterday trying to figure out where I would be playing in January (one night a week of Goaldiggers hockey isn't cutting it). As I stated before, there is a league that is part of the class I'm currently in. They play real close to home, and seem to be at the same level as me, and are genuinely nice guys.

I sort of talked to a few people around the league, and it seems to be full. That is crazy to me. They cannot add extra teams, and get more ice time? It sounds as if the league also is filled with ringers. I don't like that. If a team wins +80% of their games, move them up a level! I am a firm believer in that the players you add to a team should not be better than your best player, or worse than your worst player. It'd be difficult to do, but is a rule to stick to if possible.

HNA is not as ridiculous as I thought, because I've noticed that the closer you get to the city, the more expensive the league is. I've also been noticing at their games, the more ridiculous rules haven't been enforced. It ultimately is like every other league, except it is played at a few different rinks, and has the levels broken out fairly and evenly.

Now I could just go back to the Immortals which are an HNA team, but they're mid season, and can't add players. I'd have to wait until May or something. Instead, I'd go through the beginner program again. This time I'd at least know the goalie really well who would be on my team. It would result in one more training class, but until I learn to stop the way I want to, I can still attend those.

I talked to a player played with once or twice about his skating classes. Apparently, he's taken and loved the Laura Stamm power skating classes. From the look of it, I don't feel I'm a good enough skater to be in them. The other important part is that they're only a weekend deal, and don't happen until the summer time in the Chicago area, so taking skating classes looks grim.

What is important to me is to be on a team where I know at least a few people. I've noticed it makes a big difference in going to the rink when you're not super excited about it. When I was first on the Goaldiggers, I didn't know anyone, and rarely said a word, ever. As I got to know them better and be a bit more outgoing, it was more fun, even if there was a bad night.

Bottom line, I'm not sure where I'll be for a second team yet, but it doesn't feel like it will be the Immortals. I am in search of pure skating classes, and decisions need to start being made.

Chicago Bruins - Adult Beginner Hockey Class - 2010-12-01

I missed the Monday practice because of a cold. I'm not ready to push myself into playing when sick, and the rest did me well. Wednesday I was ready hit the ice, or at least I thought I was.

I've had nothing but good experiences the past two weeks on ice. I had no reason to not expect it to continue. But I felt I just didn't do well at practice. My skating was a little bit off, and my stick handling was atrocious.

Part of it was I believe mental. A goalie made a comment, and I took it the wrong way. I make similar comments all the time, and I do it in jest. I don't know why it bothered me so much. It eventually ended up me being angry instead of challenged after that. I was more focused on impressing than improving. A bad approach in that situation.

The scrimmage went poorly as well. I felt completely out of shape. I know I hadn't skated in a week, and that is my own fault. Stupid Thanksgiving. I played on the blue line, and I just felt out of place. Any time a winger would come down the ice, I'd let him come down, instead of keeping him to the outside. I'm also not very comfortable going backwards.

After the first shift or two, I noticed I was having a bad night and was determined to work to turn it around. Bad move. I ended up tripping a guy (but he deserved it - let us take it out of our zone when you're playing scrimmages like we were). I also used my body in a good way along the boards to prevent the puck from coming any deeper into our own zone. It was too rough of a play though for the situation.

My skating has improved. I've been reading a little bit about power skating, and I can feel a difference. I won two key battles to loose pucks because I was the faster guy. But I couldn't control the puck at that speed to get it off the boards, or to stop and take control. Big issue.

I did make improvements on stopping though. In the skate around I focused on that for a little while, and I could feel myself do it right. Stumbled a lot, but it is part of practice.