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Paul 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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Stanley Stick Game One
Engrave again

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 of goals.

"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 it up.
"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 Ottoman.
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."