March 27, 2018

Two Sides to Every Break Away

One of the most read entries of this blog was my post from September of 2013 titled, "The Break Away". In it I tried to describe the action and what goes on in my head as the play happens.

In a game last week I somehow managed to stop a break away and I was curious what the shooter was thinking while I'm in a state of panic and reaction. I reached out to the opposing player and he was nice enough to indulge me. Thank you to Gary "Gino" Lassen of the Brew Crew.

AN: Midway through the second period and the game was still in the balance when a bad shift change left our blue line wide open in the middle. I spotted one of their fastest forwards pick up the puck and head towards my net. In a flash he was across the blue line and into our zone.

Gino: I don’t exactly remember how I picked up the break away, I think someone had sauced a pass up the middle as one of your defenseman pinched on the wall? Not too sure.

AN: This play, like many break aways didn't develop in a way that let's me analyze the threat and set up with options. When a break away happens like this I barely have time to get moving towards the shooter and start trying to pick up anything I can use to make a save.

Gino: My initial thought was to shoot. First instinct was top right, I already had the puck on my forehand (right handed) and I thought I could clear it.

AN: I saw him carrying the puck right-handed to my glove side which made me a little more confident. I saw that he was coming in head-on which cut down the options I had to cover. I was pretty sure he was going to shoot because of how fast he was heading to the net.

Gino: As I saw you square up, I decided at the last minute that I'd shoot down low, seeing as you had the top covered. It was too late for a deke and I had too much speed to try, I would have lost the puck.

AN: That left me guessing it was going to be a glove side shot and that's what I decided to play. Or else it was going to be a blocker side shot, or five-hole, or a deke. You see the problem.

He shot quickly and I dropped to the butterfly just as quickly but kept my gloves forward and high. I didn't really track the puck well at all but felt it hit some part of my glove and then I had no idea where it was. I looked down and saw the puck sitting between my pads like a chick in a nest and knew I'd made the save.

Gino: If I had that same opportunity, I don't think much would change. It would be up to chance again. That kind of opportunity with that speed and little amount of time, I’d more than likely always try to shoot it and a solid goalie will see that and be able to shut it down.

I think that this two-sided narrative in different scenarios including saves and goals is fascinating and I will try to get other players to contribute when I can coax them into the spotlight.

Thanks again to Gino for his help with the entry.

March 10, 2018

The Ceiling

The shot came from the right face-off circle. It was a low snap shot that I dropped down for as it clapped off my stick blade and straight up into the air. I spotted an enemy forward heading towards the spot the puck would be coming back down to earth so I decided to swing my stick into the air and knock it away. I made solid contact and propelled the puck back over my head and into the net. That was the 12th goal but it's not the story of the night.

The first goal was a rocket that beat me blocker side even after I moved above my crease to meet the shooter.

The second goal was...

Alright, I can't remember every goal of a 15-5 loss last night but something became even clearer in my mind. I have found the ceiling in my game.

By a series of comedic errors, the Puck Hawgs ended up playing in the top division in a recent state tournament and we played against ex-college and junior players and I got beaten early and often. I saw pucks go by me in tight spaces over my shoulder, slap shots that I had no chance of ever catching up to and moves in tight that left me lost and confused.

Last night in league play my team faced the top team in our division– again due to a comedy of errors we are playing against teams we weren't meant to. Again I watched as shots beat me with speed, accuracy and skill that I am just not good enough to stop.

Here is where I make a comment about how hockey is a team game and how the goalie is the last line of defense after the 5 players in front of him have done what they can but there's also another truth. I have found my ceiling.

Finding that limit stings my ego but this blog can't be just stories of all the good things that happen to me or it won't be an honest accounting of my return to hockey. For now I need to accept that my skills and abilities don't match up with some players who had college or junior careers. I don't have the tools or athleticism to hang with a few of the best players you can face in beer league.

I'll keep fighting against the ceiling and try to enjoy everything about my time in net for as long as this journey lasts. After all, 15 is a new high score. Time to celebrate.