It’s hockey season

I haven’t told much about Child Three’s baseball team, for which I was an assistant coach. The team hobbled to a last-place finish in the regular season but incredible pitching got us to the penultimate game, which we lost for a third-place finish. Child Three had a marvelous season at the plate. The power isn’t there, but the batting eye is, as is the swing. The little on-base machine takes after his dad.

But now is hockey season. Child Three and I were ready to make and coach NDG’s Atom CC team this year until the city BB team cut an NDG goalie, bumping both of us down to Atom A, on a team with two goalies.

Our team was shut out in our first two games and have scored two goals in each of the next two, good for a 1-2-1 record. I love this team, though. Nearly every kid applies himself and, in one case, herself, and we may be the best skating team in the league. It’s beautiful to watch. We’ve been working on offense lately in recent practices….

I feel bad about today’s 2-2 tie, however. The kids worked hard, outshooting the opposition 18-6. I can’t fault our goalie for the two goals given up, both were great shots. My job as a coach is to put my team in a position to succeed, but today I put them in a position to fail.

One of our defensemen is new to the position. The basics of the position are just not sinking in, though. I teach and I teach, and he just doesn’t get it. Today, the entire team played poorly in the first five minutes, but the goal we gave up was on a rebound that went to a player that our out-of-position defenseman should have been covering. He had not been playing well or skating hard, and you can’t have a kid like that on defense. I decided to give him another chance before I would switch him with a wing who I know can play D.

By the time the first period ended, we had taken a 2-1 lead, and my troublesome defender played OK. I decided to leave him alone. The second period saw few shots from either team, but at the start of the third, that same defenseman had reverted. I figured I would let him finish the game at defense since we were dominating play.

That was my mistake. I put him in a position to fail. I should have switched him out and put a better defender back there to protect the lead. His poor positioning allowed two breakaways in the last minute of play, one of which turned into a goal in the last minute of play. Those breakaways led to the only two shots we gave up in the third period.

I really blame myself. Kids play like kids play, and it’s my job to maximize their potential. I failed at that today, but it’s a lesson for the future.

Year-old hockey video

I finally bought a Firewire 400 to 800 adapter so I can start to move my videotape to digital media. I started with my oldest unconverted tape because were I to begin with the most recent, I probably would neglect the older footage forever.

The following clips show the last period of last year’s Hockey Montreal Western Division final. Every player you see in that game is a lot better now. It’s amazing to watch these kids improve by leaps and bounds year after year.

Bonus video:

OK, I couldn’t let that last comment go by without evidence. Here’s a video almost exactly a year later of mostly the same kids, now in Atom, playing an informal scrimmage after the season ended this past March.

Tournament time

Our NDG Novice B team is playing in the tournament we host over the holidays. (We’re the Cougars in the results page I linked to.)

Having won our division in a tough game yesterday that pitted the two unbeaten teams against one another, we played a Boisbriand team today that had lost one game all year. That one loss, by the score of 4-3, was to our fellow NDG team, the Panthers, in this tournament last weekend.

Going into the third period, we were down 3-1. Boisbriand scored all their goals on rebounds or goalmouth scrambles. We had our rebounds, but often didn’t have players in place to cash in. They did, and our defence wasn’t used to playing against a team this solid in its hockey sense and capability.

The third period was fantastic hockey. Child Three’s pads flashed out left and right to stop good opportunities, and we scored a goal on a breakaway. We tied it with only a few minutes to go.

We played a five-minute overtime that settled nothing.

Both goalies played marvelous games, although they had a huge gulf in styles. The Boisbriand goalie was a big kid who always tried a butterfly style, the kind that slides backward and ends up with the goalie sprawled belly down on the ice. Child Three is more upright and mobile, relying on angles and speed to get in the way of the puck.

Still tied, off to a shootout we went. The head coach sent me to counsel Child Three. He skated toward me at the bench, and I could see that his eyes were as big as saucers. “I can really feel the adrenaline,” he said. I asked him if he felt shaky, and he told me he did. So did I.

As home team, we decided to shoot first.

Our first shooter, who’d scored our second goal, deked the goalie and had half a net to shoot at: 1-0.

Their first shooter came straight and let go a good glove-side shot. Child Three didn’t catch it, but did get his elbow in the way: 1-0.

Our second shooter also tried a deke, but was stopped with a beautiful butterfly slide across the crease: 1-0.

Their second shooter swung wide and came across the slot. Child Three, on the ice to make a save, lunged for it but there was little doubt: 1-1.

Our third shooter – hmmm. I don’t remember what our third shooter did, but it didn’t go in: 1-1.

I had explained to Child Three after the goal that if a skater swings wide like the shootout scorer had, it’s going to be a deke. If the shooter comes straight in, it’s usually going to be a shot. Their third shooter came straight in and launched a hard shot about knee high. Child Three sprawled on his side and took it in the head to keep the shootout going.

Our fourth shooter challenged the butterfly with a shot at the five hole, which squeaked in: 2-1.

Boisbriand’s fourth shooter came in and took another good shot about hip-high to the glove side. Child Three again leapt to get in the way and the puck disappeared. The referee skated over and signaled no goal. Child Three got up and the puck was underneath him. He’d made another head save, he explained later, although he didn’t know where the puck had gone to.

Victory was ours today. We play our fellow NDGers tomorrow in the championship game. If this keeps up, I’m not going to live to 50.