BLOG - HOCKEY & HEAVY METAL

February 23, 2015 • 6:38 PM

8-BITS, GAME 4: A LONG WALK ON A SHORT PIER

8-BITS, GAME 4: A LONG WALK ON A SHORT PIER

I have to be honest. I did not have a good feeling about today’s game. We were down 4 players and going up against our division’s best team, Pier Pressure. (The name comes from the team’s sponsor, which is a bar on a pier, but I forget which bar and which pier.) Pier Pressure was formerly known as The Force, who have become a really good after two very rough seasons where not much went right. However, The Force always seemed to have fun no matter what and I really came to respect them for that, and good on them that the hockey gods chose to reward that effort with some players who moved down from the next division up.

I was definitely not alone in my concern - since our previous loss a few of us watched some Kings games together and engaged in some some collective hand-wringing about the collapses in the previous games. It was an unusually quiet dressing room as everyone filed in and put their gear on, and with a few minutes to go we figured out who was playing what: 2 pairs of defense, 2 pairs of wings, 3 centers, and everyone under orders to take shorter shifts. Once we got out there, we also had something else working in our favor - Pier Pressure were also missing players, and we had also managed to locate a sub, Daniel, to play wing for us.

Lo and behold, the short-shift game plan worked. The first two periods were probably the best 40 minutes of hockey we played as a team this year, and we had a 3-0 lead to show for it. We spent a lot of time in our own end during the first 10 minutes, but fortunately we got a few breaks as the Pier Pressure folks had a lot of shots but missed the net as often as not. We went up 1-0 towards the end of the 1st and things felt alright at the first break. I felt good and was as calm as one can be during a hockey game.

At some point early in the second period I cleared the puck out of our zone and caught some forward momentum to catch up with it. I regained the puck and took a look up the ice. At that moment time slowed down and I saw an open lane to the outside on the right and went for it. I looked to my left and saw my right wing Konstantin a bit behind me, but heading straight up the middle with no one on him. I now had a Pier Pressure defenseman chasing me and I hit the jets full blast, and he did the same. No thinking, just doing. I crossed the blue line and he stayed with me, so I stayed to the outside, along the boards, toward the corner. No thinking, just doing. Around the time we crossed the faceoff dot he made his move and dove forward to try and block the pass. Time slowed down further and a gap under his arm opened right up for me. There was no conscious thought, only a backhand pass that traveled right through the gap under his arm, right into the slot,
 and right onto Konstantin’s stick, who still had no one
within 10 feet of him. He took half a second to weigh his options and put it right where the goalie wasn’t. 2-0. Here’s to fulfilled expectations. I think I may actually enjoy setting up goals more than I enjoy scoring them.

Soon enough we were up 4-1 and it was halfway through the 3rd period. I switched onto the ice during play when the puck was in our end and Pier Pressure scored to make it 4-2. For me the personal statistic that concerns me the most is plus-minus, so this took me from a +1 to even. Boo. Then a few minutes later we just couldn’t get the puck out of our end and it was 4-3 and Pier Pressure were swarming. This time it wasn’t fatigue; it was just momentum working against us. Then a couple minutes later I sort of won a faceoff in our own end, and then I swiped at it and missed, and it took a weird bounce and ends up on the opposing center’s stick and he roofs it. 4-4, and that one is on me. Should have had that. At this point I’m so frustrated I’m about to break my stick in two as we’ve now blown a lead in the 3rd period for the second straight game. But this time salvation comes with 56 seconds left when Adam got a great chance in front, took his
 time, and scored the
tiebreaker. I looked towards the ceiling and yelled a celebratory but unprintable phrase with considerable vim and vigor, and then went out and played the last minute and helped keep the puck (almost completely) out of our end to help seal the 5-4 victory. Whew.

It was a quiet but relieved locker room afterwards. Our goalie (and birthday boy) Nick awarded the three stars, and he gave me the second star for the assist and the generally good two-way play. Ok. I’ll take it. I ended up talking with Jeff, one of the guys from Pier Pressure after the game, and he said they were down a whole bunch of guys today and that they had been rolling as many as 4 lines of forwards in previous games, which must be nice as the game goes on. But as before, they had a good time out there and were just a good group of folks to play against - neither team took a penalty the entire 60 minutes and there was no rough stuff to speak of after the fact.

Okay. We’ve played every team once and we’re 2-2. It could be better, but it could be worse. But at our best we are starting to click.

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