“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.