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Ottoman says he's ready for the pressure of his first Stanley Stick Championship series, beginning next week.

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Rookie goalie faces finale test

by Jay Suburb

Ottoman says he's not feeling any added pressure as he prepares to start in his first Stanley Stick championship. Afterall, until Pig Farming Goalie officially announced last Wednesday that he wouldn't be available, he didn't even know if he'd get the chance to play.

The rookie shotstopper played a solid game Sunday, shutting the door late to allow his team to push the game to the brink of overtime, before succumbing 20-18. But, with most of the roadsters already thinking about next week's championship opener, the final score wasn't as important as proving to his mates he could meet the challenge.

"If the guys aren't confident in me, then they're going to be second-guessing and you can't play that way," says Ottoman. "If they're worried about their goalie, they're not going to be able to press in the offensive zone, and that's what it's all about."

But Ottoman's inaugural season has, at times, been dogged by doubt and inconsistency as he's struggled to adjust to the road game's quick pace and relentless offense. His struggles left him wondering if he'd even have a role in the climactic finale, given the bountiful ballstopping talent the league has enjoyed most of the season.

"You've just gotta get ready, no matter what," says Ottoman.

When he wasn't able to win a game, he was building character. Where Pig Farming Goalie smashed a couple of goalie sticks in frustration, and Lobsterboy actually turned his back on the game for a couple of months, Ottoman remained stoic and resolute, sure of his role in the grand scheme of the game.

"This game is all about scoring goals," says Ottoman. "It's not a game you can win one to nothing. You've just gotta get in there and make sure you're playing your angles, that you're set properly."

And while his teammates can take a break, by shifting off, or just loafing slowly back into the defensive zone, the pressure on the goalies to be alert, and on their game, never lets up.

"They can be your best or worst player out there," says Lak Attack, who's quick feet and shifty moves have made him a goalie's nightmare. "They can make or break a team's momentum. If you can get a big save, it gets you going the other way, creating opportunities to score. But if the goalie lets in a weak one, it can really wreck a team's morale."

"You've gotta hope for a big game out of your goalie," says Elvis, who will also be playing in his first championship. "There's more pressure on them than usual. It's trial by fire."

Ottoman says he's confident he'll be able to snuff that flame. "It's not really any different than any other game."

While Ottoman's place in the Stanley Stick Championship was assured Sunday, he was denied the opportunity to test himself against his rival, Lobsterboy, who was a surprise scratch from the regular season finale.
That extra game of preparation should help the newfound netminder, said some of the roadsters.
"If Ottoman is able to play the way he's been playing, I think I'd rather be on his team," said Billy Idol.
It could also come back to haunt the creaseminding crustacean.
"I think he may be rusty in the first period," said Lak Attack, of the two-time Conn Stick winner as the championship series' most valuable player.
"This was the final game of the regular season, and if he doesn't think it's a big enough game to make it out, how can we have confidence in him for the big games," said Billy Idol.

Lobsterboy was replaced by New Goalie, who was once again called in at the last minute from the afternoon game. It was his third game as an emergency substitute, and possibly his best.
After a shaky start that spotted his side an early 4-1 deficit, he threw himself across the crease with abandon, shooting his gloves and pads out to deny scoring chances and frustrate opposing snipers.
"I've gotta hand it to him, he can move from side to side quick, and he's got a great glove," said Billy Idol.
"New Goalie played a tremendous game," said Lak Attack. "We had plenty of good chances, but their goalie made plenty of good saves."
New Goalie's heroics allowed his team to forge ahead, led by some great playmaking by Bulldog, who played his first game in a month, and the always prolific Kid. And he came up big again when a late game swoon whittled the six-goal margin they'd managed to build to just one.
"We were just too far behind," said Billy Idol, of his team's inability to solve New Goalie when they needed to the most, to send the game into overtime.

Up to half the roadsters expected to play in next week's Stanley Stick opener could be rookies. And while some are already feeling the playoff pressure, others are taking it in stride.
"I'm feeling a lot of pressure," said Billy Idol. "You've got to step up your game a bit."
"I'm not usually a nervous guy, so I'll go into this okay," said Elvis.
But nobody should take the challenge lightly, said Bird. He should know. After a productive rookie season, he struggled to find the net in last year's championship.
"It's a lot different from the regular season," said the sophomore centerman. "Defense is important big time. I think they could be in for a bit of a shock."
"You can't give any room when a guy has the ball, you've got to be right on him," said Lak Attack.

The Stanley Stick tournament is the only time in the season when teams are carried over from one week to the next. The way those teams are determined is also different, as sides will be chosen by a random card pull instead of the usual stick pull at center court. That's to prevent the possibility of a wily roadster from stacking the sides by memorizing players' sticks. The uncertainty is making some of them nervous.
"You don't know who's going to show up, who's going to be able to play well with each other" said Ottoman.
"You never know who you're going to be playing with," said Billy Idol. "You've just got to take care of the job you have to do."
"Whatever team sticks to their gameplan the best will win," said Lak Attack.