Sunday, 8 February 2009

The Run Is Done

The image to the left? Not us. Our run in the playoffs as a Cinderella story is officially over after our loss today. I'm disappointed with the loss, but I'm pretty proud of our team for the game played today. As you may have read yesterday, we played some intense defence in shutting down two teams that should legitimately have beaten us based upon their records. Today, we played a juggernaut in terms of a team with a spectacular record. The Sunnyville Trailer Park team - a reference to one of Canada's greatest comedy television shows of all-time in the Trailer Park Boys - came into our game with a 13-0 regular season record, and had won their respective playoff games by scores of 8-2 and 9-0. Yeah, we looked to have our hands full with this team.

And it pretty much went as you would expect as we found ourselves down 3-0 early. We were playing fairly well, but a few bounces and some sketchy officiating led to our deficit. We got one back midway through the first half to make the score 3-1, but that was answered quickly by STP and we entered the break down 4-1.

Now, 4-1 in a playoff game is like a death sentence. You have to open up the game to get back into it, but you also leave yourself extremely vulnerable to having the opposition fill your net due to the style of play. We came out strong in the second half, and cut the deficit to 4-2 early on. The momentum was shifting, but a tap-in goal on a scramble after a rebound put us back down by three goals. Five minutes into the second half, and we still hadn't made a dent in the score. And what made it worse was that STP scored again with approximately 10 minutes left to make it 6-2.

At that point, it would be understandable if a team folded its tents and played out the time. But in a one-and-done tournament, no lead should be considered safe, and no team should ever - EVER - give up. With eight minutes left, we potted a breakaway goal to make it 6-3 game, and we felt the rally starting.

I want to preface this next paragraph with a little information. I am not a goal-scorer by any means. I play defence, and I rarely rush the puck. I do make a decent break-out pass, but I do my best work in my own zone in keeping the puck out of the net. If you want an example of a stay-at-home defenceman, I would be him. I get powerplay time due to having a pretty solid slapshot, but I rarely crack the five-goal barrier on the season. So this next series of events is something to mark in the history books.

With just under seven minutes to play, we forced a turnover at the blueline on the right wing, and I found myself wide-open on the left wing. Instead of hanging back and letting the forwards hustle up the ice, I decided to jump into the play. Our centerman hung back, and I was off to the races up the left side of the ice. We turned the play into a 3-on-2 as the two wingers took the puck into the zone. No one really paid any attention to me, and I had two steps on the backchecking STP player. Shane made a nice pass to Tim to turn the play into a 2-on-1, and Tim saw me streaking down the center of the ice.

His pass? About four feet in front of me, causing me to drop to one knee and corral the puck with my stick flat on the ice. As I slid towards the top of the crease, I was able to get the puck on the blade of my stick just as the goalie was dropping into his butterfly. From one knee, I shelfed the puck over the goalie's glove hand on the right side of the net, and the bench went nuts.

Me - a guy who had two goals all season - had suddenly changed the game dramatically with a huge goal. You could feel the momentum swing in our favour, and we had life at 6-4 with approximately six minutes to play. Moments later, another forced turnover at their blueline, and it was 6-5. STP seemed dazed by the turn of events, and another goal was scored after some hard work and mucking in the corner to get the puck to the slot. Jeff tied the contest with a laser to the glove-hand top corner, and it was a brand-new game with just under a minute to play.

However, we didn't make it to overtime.

Kids, if you're reading this, write this down and take this to your hockey coach. Faceoffs can win or lose you hockey games. We were never a good faceoff team at all this season, and there was a faceoff in the right faceoff circle in our zone with 11 seconds remaining in the game. A defensive zone faceoff win in this situation can send the game to overtime where either team has a chance to win. A defensive zone faceoff loss in this situation will allow the opposition a chance to score before the final whistle. If there is one skill that everyone should work on, faceoffs would be it. Write that down, kids. Faceoffs can win or lose you hockey games.

Sure enough, we lost the faceoff, and they got the puck to the point. A slapshot came through, and our goaltender made the save. I had my man on the left side of the crease covered until I was crosschecked from behind by him, and pushed to the top of the crease. The puck was poked through the crease to the guy who laid the lumber to me, and he slid the puck into the open net. The whistle blew, and the referee skated over. Good news for us, right?

Wrong. Ref fished the puck out the net, and skated to center ice. No call. Goal stands. Six seconds remaining. I was livid.

We nearly scored off the faceoff as we dumped the puck to the corner, and it was fired across the crease where it bounced off Jeff's stick, but the final whistle blew and we were on the wrong side of a 7-6 score.

Disappointing? Yes.

Proud? Absolutely.

We played a team that was 15-0 that hadn't been challenged all season, and they came off the ice saying that the game we had just played "was the best game all season". Nothing is a bigger compliment. The handshakes at the end of the game were filled with "good lucks" and "great games", and there were lots of smiles on both sides as each team realized that either could have won the game.

Am I disappointed in the no-call at the end? Yeah, a little. My man scored after he crosschecked me, and that hurts. But the referee is as human as the next guy, so maybe he didn't see as he said. But I am not angry or disappointed by my team at all. We were down, we battled back, and we got beat on a bad break.

But we never gave up, and we never backed down. And as a team, that's the kind of mettle that you want to see in the playoffs. The game is never over until the final horn sounds, and no lead is safe. That's why I love this game.

Just as a sidenote, I was scanning the standings last night on, and found out that the NHL is holding Dallas to a higher standard than Anaheim. Since when is 57 points more than 59 points? Oops!

I'm off next week from work, so there will be lots of updates and stuff going on around here. I haven't quite decided on the final banner I want to mock up, but I'll post the images here of the different ones I have decided on. Personally, I still like my banner at the top, but it feels too plain. Maybe even a bit boring. Either way, I'll have that up next week. Also, make sure you enter the blog contest on the right, and Bring Home The Cup!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!


Tony said...

Aw, man! Great story though, you had me hooked on that goal. Great job.

I'm not a guy for fighting, but I'd have chased the cross checker down and knocked his face in for doing that to you!

Looking forward for more updates!! Apparently I'm the only one who likes to comment!!

Teebz said...

I appreciate the comments, Tony! Don't let the lack of comments faze you. They bring a smile to my face.

Thanks for the comment and the props. Much appreciated!