Wednesday, June 19, 2013

HNA Finals - Piranhas - 2013

I drove into Toronto Thursday. I never left the US, so driving across the border myself was exciting for me, but it turned out to be really uneventful. I was the first Piranha in Toronto Thursday evening because of delayed flights. I stretched my legs, got a bite to eat and relaxed in bed until some others got in. A few of them wanted to go out right as they got in because they were hungry. I joined them, and got to bed at about 2:00. I had breakfast in the hotel, and a lunch at a Greek place. The first game was early Friday evening.

It was decided earlier in the day because of a lack of bodies, that someone would have to jump back to play defense. I was that guy. I was more nervous than anything because I had only a couple of games at this level playing defense, and these were the best teams of this level.  I was going to play with Jimmy, a good friend, and a player I've watched play defense regularly for a while now.

Game 1 - Toronto

I had started out very nervous but acted just as if I was playing on the Coyotes. I made sure to keep my shifts very short, and would do so all weekend. I think it worked out better because my forwards were more talented than the Coyote forwards. I could trust them a little bit more, and not have to worry about a turnover. At about the middle of the second period, I was playing very well, and said to myself that I was playing well, and I should capitalize on it. I tried carrying the puck more, pinched a few times, and it seemed to work out for the best. I was able to get the puck deep, get a scoring chance, and join the rush. I had to be aware because this team had their two best players hanging out at the red line for an easy break away. They got no one on one chances. There was one where I was caught flat footed, and he skated right past me at my blue line. I hooked him to the ice as hard as I could, hauled him to the ice, and got called for a penalty. I'll take it.

I was reading the play well as it is much more predictable than a Coyote game. It lead to multiple keep ins, and shots/passes from the point. One actually tipped off my center's stick, so I had an assist. We would win 6-5.

That night we went out for a team dinner, then I went right to bed. It sounded as if my roommate was amused with how fast I fall asleep once my head hits the pillow. I was up the next morning getting my normal walks in, went out and grabbed some things for the team and breakfast from some coffee place.

The second game was Saturday at 1:00. An hour before the game, I grabbed my stick to retape it. I inspected it and noticed a small crack in it. I put a little stress on it, and it snapped at the crack... And just a few days after the warranty was void! I played with my backup stick, and played defense again as the team really liked me back there. It was more of the same, but less chippy and cherry picking. I continued to keep the puck in their zone, and put pucks on net. I had two goals this game - all because of traffic in front of the net. I don't have a hard wrist shot, nor were they good shots. They just were quick, quiet, and in an area of traffic. I was reminded to watch the score as I was trying to get too aggressive with a multi-goal lead. We would win again, but I can't remember the score off the top of my head.

I bought a new stick that was very close to my old one (I hated my back up). I cut it down, got it ready and tried to get ready for game 3 at 7:00 Saturday night. I couldn't do it. There wasn't enough time to eat, sleep, get a new stick, and travel.

The third game I was just exhausted. Our opponents seemed fresher, they wanted it more, and knowing we were in for Sunday, I don't think we wanted the victory as much as they did. I tried to battle my hardest, and played mediocre. Jimmy and I had had multiple miscommunications, were conflicting with each other, and so forth. Mostly because I didn't have the energy to think. We would lose this game.

I got back to the hotel, ate something and went right to bed because game 4 was at 9:00 am Sunday. I didn't sleep well. I woke up angry, unrested, and just sluggish.  I felt better once the game got going. I felt this team was just as good as the Piranhas, minus one player. I tried to focus on him, but he was deceivingly good. I'd try to knock him off the puck, tie him up, or take away his pass and didn't do so successfully. We were saved by goal posts a lot, and we had a couple of ugly goals, to be up 2-0 after the first. Then we were up 3-0. Then I made a huge mistake. Their top player came down the middle of the ice. I went to take the puck from him, and tripped him. Our opponents would score on their resulting power play. They didn't let up after that, and I became more stupid with my aggression, and didn't have the success I needed to make a difference. I felt I still played above average for me, but the other team was just more skilled. We would lose, and be eliminated from the tournament, in the semi-finals.

The team went back to the hotel, cleaned up, and some of us went to lunch before I started my drive home. What was funny was I drove home, while others were going to fly. I still made it home before them - but they got to spend more time in Toronto than me.

The tournament was a blast, and I obviously left out a lot. I can't wait until next year. Pictures to be posted later.

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