Our last game of the SSWHL season was on Sunday. We were standing at a respectable 8-10-2 on the season (much better than last year’s 4-15-4 record!) We’d lost the game the weekend before, which was tough since it meant we couldn’t finish at .500, but still, it was so much improvement from the year before!
So this last game of the season was against the NH Panthers. A few of us sometimes sub for their non-SSWHL team, and some of their SSWHL players are on that team too, so we know a few of them. This particular NH Panthers team was also the only undefeated team in our division this season, coming into the game at 17-0-1. If I were a betting woman, I’m not sure I’d have bet against them this week.
As we’re getting ready for the game, WES and LisaO, our two injured players, showed up, pumped and ready to cheer us on from the bench. Coaches Steph and LisaA were there as well. We had a full bench, but one skater was late, so as Steph was making lines, she turned to me and asked if I’d like to play forward for a while. Would I? I would! So I paired with Jonesy and went out there trying to figure out what the heck a forward DOES all the time she’s on the ice. When I watch hockey on tv I never watch what the forwards are doing with any precision; my focus – when I’m looking for systems – is always on the defenders and what they’re doing. So I was a little shell-shocked at first.
But the first shift we’re out there, Marcia at center ended up getting the puck behind the net. She drove wide to the left, came up about 3 feet above the goal line, and drilled a shot at the net. The goalie totally missed being on her post and the puck hit nothing but net! Black Ice 1, NH Panthers 0. Nice start to the game!
A few shifts later, Amy, Lib, and Mich ended up on a 3-on-1 breakaway. There were a bunch of pretty passes as they drove into the zone and Amy ended up taking a sweet shot that went right past the goalie. Black Ice 2, NH Panthers 0. Hmmm… I’m liking this! We all were.
Partway through the period, our one late player showed up, so Steph asked me to move back to defense at the end of the period so they wouldn’t all die of exhaustion (seriously – it was a hard, fast game for us, and we were all sucking wind in the first period.) I was sad that I didn’t get too many chances to try to put the puck in the net that first period, but hey! We were up 2-0!
In the second period the Panthers came hard and fast at us. Lynn stood on her head blocking shots left and right. The defenders and centers all must have put happy hexes on our sticks that night, because we managed to clear every single puck out of the front of the net that Lynn couldn’t cover. There were at least 2 that I managed to pick out of the crease and send up the boards – in short, things were Going Our Way. And for this game even! What could be better?
Both teams got a couple of penalties – we couldn’t capitalize on our power plays, and in fact gave up our only goal on our power play… Ah well, we couldn’t be perfect. We did a great job of killing our penalties, though. At one point, Lynn had stopped a puck (it was under her leg, but no one could see it so kept on playing) but had also come a bit out of the crease in the effort. Marcia took one look at the partially unprotected net and threw herself at the front of the net at the exact same time that LisaT did the same thing from the other side. So as the whistle blew, there were these three Black Icers laying in a heap in front of the net. But there was no puck in the net and that’s really all that mattered!
One of the best things about the game, in my opinion, was how we all focused in on their top scorer and Shut Her Down. As the game progressed, she got more and more frustrated, taking it out on us in front of the net, tripping Amy (she did get sent to the box for that), and at one point throwing her stick into the bench as she was getting off the ice. I shouldn’t laugh at someone else’s frustration, but she’s had so much success this season already (scoring around 35% of their goals) that I was thrilled we effectively disabled her.
As it began to sink in that we might actually win the game, we all got more focused, quicker and faster on the ice, and played better. Some of the comments from emails we’ve been sending around the past few days are telling:
- Well for the fans who missed, it was the game of the season! Black Ice, with a spectacular effort stymied the UNDEFEATED New Hampshire team and handed them their first defeat of the year. Please everyone feel free to email your highlights of the game. I’ll start with Tracey Lee putting forth a Herculean effort against #13’s breakaway, twisting her into spaghetti and NOT getting a penalty! (LisaO)
- The best part was to watch Black Ice play as a team! I mean a real team – where everyone contributed – gave it their all and SHOWED UP to PLAY!! You dont always see that – all you guys had to do was shut down their star player. You make it nearly impossible for the other team – you can begin to dominate as a force; that coupled with how everyone played not just their position but jumped in “literally” when help was needed whether back checking or even in the goal….that was true team play. (WES)
- You know that image we often see on Nova or other wild animal shows where a seal or penguin comes shooting out of the water onto a rock or icy surface- skidding along happily on its belly, arms/wings out and with a smile on its face. Well …. there we were in a scramble for our hockey lives and the puck is precariously teetering between Lynn and the goal line. I am clawing to get around the net (no, I wasn’t entirely tangled in it – but almost), muttering all sorts of expletives because the puck is certain to get flicked over the line. Then, out of no where – it must have been from under the ice — come my two seal teammates, gliding along, belly first, feet in the air, arms stretched out – first one and then the other. It was great entertainment and a shame it wasn’t video taped. Go Flipper. (Blue-Line Nancy)
- It was like slow motion with Bruiser yelling… N-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O! (Holly)
- Then, after we stymied their repeated attempts at scoring for the first two periods – all of a sudden I think we all realized WE MIGHT ACTUALLY WIN THIS! Brought out all sorts of heroics from everyone. One of my favorite parts? When Amy got #13 so mad that she threw her stick into the bench as she was getting off the ice. Big baby! My other favorite part? Seeing Coach so happy! (Libby)
So not only was it good to end our season by winning, but we beat a really tough team AND we played up to our potential – all of us, all at the same time. Truly fabulous! A much better end to our season than we’d expected; 9-10-2 is almost .500, right?
In two weeks we’ve got our annual scrimmage against the Rage (the team we practice against and so HATE to lose to during the season), and then tournament season begins – April Showers and the Champlain Shootout. Should be fun. Go Black Ice!