Sunday, April 29, 2012

Ironman Tournament - 2012

There are a few events of hockey that I really look forward to all year. I love playing 3-on-3 on studio ice, late night Saturday hockey, and most of all - the Ironman. A Saturday night tournament that lasts until the early hours of the morning is without my favorite. Six guys form a team, and play multiple 15 minute games running clock, with no subs.

This year most of the team returned from the last two years. We had one new guy who was outstanding, and had played in the past, but not on our team. Additionally this year, I knew a couple of players on another team.

The entire day, I took it easy, and didn't do a lot of difficult work around the house. I wanted to make sure I was prepared. I didn't feel like I was in as good of conditioning as I was for past tournaments, so I could easily see myself getting burned out.

For the first half of our first game, it was really close. I felt our team wasn't as good, but if we played smart we could beat them. We had a great chance about half way through. I had the puck on my forehand laying in the crease, but I couldn't jam it home. I wasn't happy that I didn't finish, but it happens.  By then, we learned quickly that our new guy would take advantage of his big shot and clear it, and since there was no icing, it wasn't a big deal to do so. The game went on, and the opponents turned on the gas. Their center just took over and scored probably 4 goals towards the end of the game. At one point, he was coming up the ice along the boards. I saw this happening, and went to stand in his way. I knew he was going to get past me. He had all the speed, and I thought he was going to go around, but quickly I realized I was going to get hit, and I did. I wasn't too happy about the entire game as it was a lot more gritty than it should be for this event, but it happens. We lost.

Next we played the team with people I knew on it. We definitely had a chance against this team, and by this game, I knew that it was the only team we'd have a good chance at winning. Unfortunately, things didn't go well. Our offense did not work well together. All of us at this point are tired, and because of that, it makes it difficult to move into the offensive zone and get positioning. From here on out, there was no true team work among our forwards, and it naturally hurt us. Part way though the game, I was trying to back check and catch the puck carrier as he was along the wall. Once he got to a certain point, and didn't have a good angle, I let up and let him go to conserve energy. He shot anyway, and it went in. I hated that goal because I could have prevented it. I made sure that nothing like that would happen again. Sure enough, going down the other wing, I'm behind the puck carrier. This time I caught up to him but he still could get a shot off. I knew I had to hook him to haul him down. I put my stick along his waste and pulled, but he was so good on his skates that I pulled myself closer. Eventually, he was wearing my stick like a belt. It was the most obvious hook I've ever seen in my life. No call. We lost that game 2-0.

From here, it kind of fell apart for the night. We had a +2 hour break, and our team really didn't stick together. One player went and stayed with his wife, another sat with other teams and drank. One player went and read a book.  Before the next game though, most of us would hit the studio ice to just get our legs back a little bit and warm up.

It didn't help. Our third game, I started waiting for those big slap shots from inside our own zone. I cherry picked trying to get the puck, but that stopped working fast. The opponents were smart and wouldn't let me get to the puck. I still skated hard but with little success. The fourth game was very similar. I decided to try and get the opponents to laugh, and some of them were talkative, but other players were just as serious as if the games meant anything.

In my book, this tournament is more about the social aspect. The skill range was so wide that you mostly know the outcome of the game before the game even starts. The fact that everyone was taking it serious, and not really being together ruined it a little bit for me. There was no prize, and we were 0-4 the entire night, so why run up the score against the worst team there? Treat it like rat hockey, and give them a chance to have some fun. I hate admitting it, but the best time of the night was when we warmed up on the studio ice. The players there were lose, having fun and not frustrated.

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