Thursday, May 19, 2011

2011 USA Hockey Adult Classics - Kalamazoo

The Goaldiggers participated in a USA Hockey tournament in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I was looking forward to this one because I really like this team, and I needed a break from life in general. We brought most of our squad, but were still a little short handed, having only 4 defensemen, and 6 forwards.

The drive up was easy for me because I had to take the dog to my parents, which was about half way. I spent some time with my parents, and then had another hour and half drive up to the hotel. I miss the long drives with nothing but hockey on my mind. It really helped me focus.
I got to the hotel, relaxed with the team for an hour or two and went to the rink, less than a quarter mile from the hotel. We were playing in Wings Stadium. The Kalamazoo K-Wings play there I believe. Seating about 5,000 people, it reminded me of my first hockey game that I watched which took place in that rink. I never played in a rink that big, and with so many advertisements everywhere. The ice was awful because of how fast we had to get on the ice after the resurfacing. What was interesting to me was how the seats made a huge difference. They were black, so when the puck would go above the boards, you couldn't find it. It is something I guess I take for granted. It was also interesting to see how much tension was in the net. You always see pros shoot the puck so hard that it hits the back of the net and bounces out before it hits the ice. Those nets were so tight that the puck flew out even on my shot!

The team we played was very good. They knew how to play hockey and play positional hockey. If a defensemen went in, the winger came out and covered for them. It really helped me realize how important it is to be able to play all positions. But their cycle was great. They had a variety of shots right in the slot, and our goalie stood on his head. We lost the game 6-3.

After that game, we had the night to ourselves, and the team went out drinking. Probably not the greatest idea, but that's the game. I got up late the next day, feeling dehydrated and just awful. No food, little water, tired, no shower. I wasn't very fresh. I hate playing that early in my day. It was clear that our entire team wasn't ready for the game. Most were hung over, and not skating. I tried my best to keep up, and cover for my team who weren't ready. The other team was just a pure hockey team. They were fast, talented, strong, had great team work, and ultimately just a good group of guys. Not one of our players had a complaint about them. I felt that I was better this game. My skating was solid, my endurance was there, no tightness, but my lack of speed and strength made me useless against the opponents. I couldn't clear the puck, I couldn't get a shot off only because they were on me so bad. We lost 8-0.

The team was relatively silent after that game. Perhaps they were tired, but after how we were handled the first two games, it was clear we were in the wrong division. I believe we were just bummed about the hockey in general. We had a team lunch, and I went back to the hotel, and took a nap. Most of the team went drinking.

I went into the third game in less than 24 hours ready. I had a clear mind, was well hydrated, well rested. The rest of the team was hammered. One player got ready for the game and was almost ready to hit the ice when he realized he forgot to put on his pants. In the game he would later go into a Gretzky pose and fall over. I myself felt I played very well. I was a little gassed towards the end, as I still feel I am not conditioned for this yet. I had one solid hit on a player to get the puck out of the zone, and broke up a couple of decent passes. In the second, I scored a goal from the high slot. I had used the defensemen as a screen and put it through his legs, and then it went right through the goalies legs. I was a little surprised it went in. I was hoping to just get it to the net, and have a crashing forward get the rebound, but I'll take the goal. It believe it was the start of a 3 goal run for us within a few minutes, so that was nice. The other team started making a comeback. I made a great defensive play to tie up a center man sitting in the slot about to get a shot off, with the goalie out of position that would have made it 5-4. But instead, we would go on to win 6-3.

Going 1-2 in the weekend isn't good, but considering the players we were playing against, and blood alcohol content level of the team, I think we did ok. It was an amazing experience, and really unique playing in an actual stadium. I'll have a variety of posts over the next few days about the trips, but this is just about the games.

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