One chases down the evil orange plastic ball. The veteran centerman
played inspired hockey on Sunday, leading his team to 20-14 win
in the Stanley Stick opener.
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Stick Game One
Paul One wants his name back on trophy
by Jay Suburb
Paul One hopes the trophy engraver hasn't forgotten how
to spell his name.
After not getting it carved onto the Stanley Stick trophy
for the first time in his career last year, the veteran centerman charged
up and down the courts in Sunday's championship opener, battled in the
corners and drove hard to the net, determined to fill the empty spot
on his mantle. Leading his team to a 20-14, he's halfway there.
"He definitely had fire in his eyes," says Lobsterboy
of his teammate. "He went out there playing hard, from his first
shift he was playing angry."
"Paul One burned us today," says New Guy. "He
made it happen for them."
"He played great," says notorious gameshow host
gone bad, Wink. "He has the potential to be the most dominating
guy out there."
And from his first shift, he was. Starting on a line with
Lak Attack and Beetle Boy, Paul One won the battles for the evil orange
plastic ball along the boards, flew fearlessly to the crease and hustled
back to pick up his man in the defensive zone. He also scored a haft
"It's good for the confidence," says Paul One,
who's made no secret all year of his ambition to make amends for last
season's bitter loss, in a championship minigame.
Sunday, the conditions were right for a mucker like Paul
One. A light drizzle through the pre-game festivities intensified to
steady rain by the opening face-off, making the concrete courts as slick
as ice, and neutralizing the advantage of his speedier teammates.
"Lak Attack was a non factor, but Paul One picked
up the slack," says New Guy.
"Once the ball is dropped, you've gotta forget about
the conditions and just go out there and play," says Paul One.
"You've got to adapt."
After opening the scoring in the game's fourth shift,
Paul One and his mates never trailed. Three times they opened three
goal advantages, only to squander them, before running away with a 5-1
run in the final period.
"It was important that we didn't let off at all and
we kept that lead all the way through," says Paul One. "We
played a total team game out there."
Sunday's winners know they've still got some work ahead of them if
their leader is to get his name back on the coveted cup.
"The second game is always the most intense," said Lobsterboy.
"That's when tempers flare, and players really want to win, especially
the team that's down one game; they usually come out flying."
"We don't want a mini-game," said Paul One.
To complete the sweep, and avoid a tie-breaking mini-game, they'll
also have to get the same kind of passionate performance from their inspirational
leader. But at least one veteran roadster doubts he'll be able to keep
"I don't think he'll be able to play another week like that,"
said Wink. "The only thing that keeps Paul One down is Paul One himself,
and all the voices that play through his head. He's gonna be all messed
up thinking about what he's gotta do."
And it will be hard for his teammates to replicate the kind of breaks
they enjoyed Sunday, said the underdogs.
Wink scored a key goal on his own net when a desperate cross crease clearing
attempt instead banked in off the far post, and Gump was credited with
the game winning goal after the Hired Gun's high floating shot toward
the net instead bounced off his chest and past Ottoman.
"They got some crazy hops off feet and some good bounces," said
New Guy. "It's definitely disheartening."
"It was just a matter of a couple of bad bounces," said Wink.
"We got some bad breaks."
Despite the loss, the underdogs were encouraged by their resilience.
Three times they clawed their way back from three-goal deficits before
running out of steam in the game's final period.
"It's always tough playing from behind, but we showed we could do
it today," said Wink. "We were right with them."
"The guys worked all game, they never really gave up," said
But constantly playing from behind took its toll.
"We work really hard to tie it up, and then the other team scores
on a long shot and we're playing from behind again; it didn't make it
easy on the guys," said Ottoman.
"The game was closer than the score," said Wink. "We've
got nothing to hang our heads about today."
Sunday's Stanley Stick opener was relatively free of the violence
and bad tempers that marred last season's championship finale. But that
didn't mean the game was any less intense, or physical.
"The intensity was huge," said Wink. "There was a little
grappling, but that's our game."
"They were playing the trap and clutching and grabbing the stick,"
said New Guy, who endured a couple of loud run-ins with a close-checking
Hired Gun. "They're tough."
"The pressure is intense," said Lobsterboy. "When the score
is close, you really know you've got to pick it up."
Of the 16 roadsters who started Sunday's game, seven of them were
getting their first taste of the Stanley Stick pressure cooker.
"I was excited, I was looking forward to it," said Ottoman,
a championship rookie. "It's fun to play in games that have meaning."