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Paul One celebrates his Stanley Stick winning goal, as Kid and Wink slump dejectedly.

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Stanley Stick Game Two
Paul won

Veteran forward overcomes head games to score winner

by Jay Suburb

After a week of subterfuge and head games, Paul One played the trump card.

The veteran forward scored the winning goal in Sunday's Stanley Stick finale, banging a rebound past a falling Ottoman to reclaim the championship he'd wanted so badly after losing it last year for the first time in his road hockey career.

"I know how long the summer can be when you're not getting your name engraved on that cup, and I know how sweet it is when you do get your name on the cup," says Paul One, who capped his team's 20-13 win and a two-game sweep of the championship. "It's a huge weight off my shoulders."

It was a burden that wouldn't go lightly. As the emotional leader of his side of speedsters, Paul One became the target of a psychological battle waged by the underdogs all week in the road hockey press. Secret strategies were intercepted by his opponents, disinformation and rumors floated, all designed to distract the veteran from his goal and throw him off his game.

"That's all just pre-game psyche," says Paul One, dismissing the gamesmanship as futile desperation. "We had everything to lose in that second game, so we made a commitment and said we do not want to go into a minigame; it would have been a disaster."

For the first half of the game, it almost was, as his side spotted the underdogs an 8-4 advantage. Lobsterboy seemed to be fighting the evil orange plastic ball, smashing his stick in frustration after the Living Legend lifted one of his patented floating backhands past him.

"They got a couple of quick goals from their veterans, and that really set the tone for their team early in the game," says Lobsterboy.

At the other end, the potent offense seemed unable to penetrate the formidable padding of Ottoman, who created a wall on his goalline.

"Ottoman was keeping them in there," says Elvis. "We had a lot of chances, but we just couldn't put them in."

That's when it was important to play a mind game of their own and not panic, says Lak Attack.

"We just looked at it as an 8-4 deficit and there was lots of time to come back," says the speedy centerman. "We just slowly chipped away. We knew we had to get the next goal and then the next and get back into it one by one."

In fact, they scored the next ten goals, storming ahead 14-8 before the carnage was finally interrupted. But it was only a little speedbump on their way to the champagne celebration.

"We got that ten goal streak and we didn't put it into cruise, but we had a lot more confidence," says Paul One. "All day long we were saying look, we have the first game under our belts, and if we get two or three up on these guys, they're going to fold."

In the end, says the Hired Gun, that's the only head game that mattered.

"The opposition tried to throw us off our game with rhetoric leading up to Game Two, but we would not let any of that affect us."

"I didn't want to get too caught up in what was going on between the games," says Paul One. "We had to look into ourselves for our motivation, and not get caught up in all that crap."

 

Paul One may have been his team's inspirational leader, but their most effective, disruptive and dangerous player on the concrete all series was Elvis, who was awarded the Conn Stick trophy as the championship's most valuable player.
"He gave 100 percent every shift," said his linemate, Paul One. "When we see someone going out there every shift 100 percent, you know you can't go out and dog it."
"Today, Elvis really stepped it up," said Lak Attack. "I think that was probably the difference."
"He was there on all different combinations of lines," said Lobsterboy. "He's intense, he checks hard, he works hard, he puts his money where his mouth is and scored all the good goals."

Indeed, Elvis was a scoring threat in both games, cruising stealthily into the slot to whack at any loose rebounds rolling around Ottoman's feet. But it was his rugged play along the boards and persistent plugging in the corners that created offensive opportunities for his teammates.
"I think we just realized that we had to dig with all we had," said Elvis. "Everybody chipped in, played hard, and we were able to get the bounces to go our way."

One big bounce that went their way was a centering pass that caromed off Slick's foot as he ran towards the net and past a stunned Ottoman. Some of the roadsters argued the goal was kicked in and should be disallowed. But it stood, and it couldn't have come at a more opportune time, as the champions began their comeback in earnest.
Only moments earlier, another apparent goal had been disallowed after Ottoman successfully pleaded play had paused and his team was in the midst of a line change when he was beaten by a blast from the far end of the court. Incensed that his side had been cheated after repeatedly respecting the opposition's player changes earlier in the game, he stormed off the court in a fury, smashing his stick into the sideline gazebo and throwing his facemask to the concrete.
It was a rare display of temper by the mild-mannered goalie, and while the call eventually went his way, he knew the real damage was about to come.
"Usually on plays like that, the other team will come back to take advantage of their anger to score a goal, and that's what happened," said Ottoman.
"I think it was a big factor," said Lobsterboy of the contentious calls. "Our team just said, well, we gotta win."

While Ottoman may not have won road hockey's big prize, he didn't leave the courts empty-handed, as the Sunday Morning veterans awarded him the league's first Calder Stick trophy as the rookie of the year.
But that was little consolation for the neophyte netminder, who saved some of his finest game's for the season's home stretch and still couldn't buy a win.
"Nothing beats winning, and it's tough to go out with three straight losses," said Ottoman.
But with his first chance at redemption more than three months away, he's already counting the days.
"It's really a good group of guys, everyone goes out there and works hard," said Ottoman, who joined the league full-time this season after a one-game walk-on late last season. "You never know what's going to happen with the stick pull, one week you can have guys who are swinging sticks at each other and the next week they're setting each other up."

Sunday's game may have been the last of a long season, but it was a first for Pig Farming Goalie, who made his premiere as a forward after missing last week's Stanley Stick opener.
"I not want to create goaltending controversy," said Pig Farming Goalie, who was placed on the underdogs in case his shotstopping services were needed. "I was out almost full month and Ottoman earned right to finish season, and I'm not going to argue against that."

This year's Stanley Stick champions are: Paul One, Elvis, Lobsterboy, Hired Gun, Beetle Boy, Slick, Lak Attack, Giebelhaus (Game Two), and Gump (Game One).

Like the roadsters, the road hockey media will also be taking the summer off. But stay tuned to the Sunday Morning Ticker for any news about the league as it breaks through the off-season.