I was uncertain how much "instruction" and how much play would be involved but our coach announced in the locker room that tonight would be a full game. He would be using tonight to see where each of us needed improvement and next week would be "practice".
I took to my crease, ready for my first full game in 25 years. It took just 25 minutes to learn the following;
1. My beginner butterfly stance looks more like a caterpillar.
2. It takes approximately 5 shots in a 5 minute span to leave me gasping for air.
3. I-League defenseman don't really worry about opponents coming out from behind the net.
4. A team with only 7 skaters does a lot standing around in the 3rd period.
My net had the bulk of the action during the first two periods and I was really having trouble catching my breath. I am going to have to drop some weight and work on my cardio if I'm going to be able to give 100% through an entire game.
I let in 2 goals in the first and a 3rd in the second period before my team got on the board. Two of them were slap/scramble plays that found their way in probably because I haven't got my pads spread out across the net when down in the butterfly- something I'll be working on.
Suddenly with only a few minutes left in the second period, the referee raises his hand and indicates an interference penalty against my team. I mentally steel myself for the onslaught of shots. Only after a moment of confusion do I realize that in this league, all penalties result in a penalty shot- not a two minute man advantage.
The next few minutes are a blur. A white-jersey starts from center ice. My coach is screaming, "challenge him!". I move forward and then start my slow retreat, mirroring the skaters advance. He makes a weak move to my right but I see hes a right-handed shot and guess he will move back to his forehand. He does! As he takes his shot I go the ice with my pads stacked and block his shot. No Goal!
This was the highlight of my night's play that otherwise was just a loss and an 0-1 start for my team.
I have got to hit the gym. I had forgotten just how much work it is to mind the pipes.
This video taken by my friend Paul documents the last two saves of the night.