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Rudy takes a break after scoring four goals in his first shift, to lead his team to a hard-fought 20-18 win in Sunday's game. He also scored the winner, chopping a rebound over a sprawling Ottoman. It was the speedy sophomore's strongest game since returning to the courts three weeks ago from off-season ankle surgery.

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Week 19
Rudy rebounds

Speedy forward roars back from surgery

by Jay Suburb

Three games since returning from off-season ankle surgery, Rudy is finally back.

The fleet-footed forward scored half his team's goals Sunday, including four on his first shift, to lead his team to a 20-18 win. It was a resounding rebound for a roadster who seemed to be struggling after missing the first half of the season while his weakened joint healed.

"It was very satisfying," says Rudy of his extraordinary effort. "I felt in the last couple of weeks that I hadn't hit my stride yet."

It's been a frustrating journey for the sophomore centerman, who's rookie season was cut short when a chronic ankle injury flared up just before last Spring's Stanley Stick championship tournament. In his first game back, he spent more time on his backside than making his patented charges to the net as he tested his rebuilt joint and found it wanting on the slippery concrete court. Last week, playing with Elvis, the dynamic duo generated a lot of speed but they couldn't convert their advantage into goals.

It was "a long battle," says Rudy.

But Sunday, his knack for knocking home rebounds heralded his own. Teamed on a line with Wink and the Living Legend, the trio mixed it up in the offensive zone from the game's opening moments. With Wink rifling blasts from the point, and the Living Legend feeding shots across the crease, Rudy was on the spot whenever the evil orange plastic ball bounded off Ottoman's colorful leg pads. Four times on that first shift he chopped and lifted it past the beleaguered backstop.

The game-winner was also a three-way play, as the Legend fed it back to the point to a waiting Wink, who screamed a shot to the side of Ottoman's pads, where Rudy awaited his opportunity. He roofed it.

"It was an honor to play with these two guys," says Rudy of his veteran linemates. "They helped me find my timing. They just seem to play classic positioning and I didn't have to think too hard about where they're going to be."

"I think he really set a tone for our line," says Wink. "I knew if I was gonna throw the ball at the net that he was gonna get it and do something with it."

"He was a one-man scoring machine, bang, bang, bong," says Pig Farming Goalie, of his feisty forward's renewed nose for the net.

And a resurgent Rudy is bad news for the opposition.

"Rudy's got a really good shot," says Ottoman. "None of those shots were fluky goals. He can score."

The Stick Pull (Living Legend)
Pig Farming Goalie(G) Ottoman(G)
Wink Lak Attack
Living Legend Kid
Paul One Nibs
Rudy Beetle Boy
Elvis Gump
Billy Idol Rudy Twooty
  Cowboy Bill
Scratches: Slick (legal problems), Lobsterboy (healthy scratch), Colonel (unsanctioned injury), Giebelhaus (exploitative employer), Unabomber (ankle injury)

 

If Rudy's four goals on his opening shift set the tone, his gamewinner came just in the nick of time, said his linemate, notorious gameshow host gone bad, Wink. With a veteran lineup, that also included an aging Paul One, fatigue was setting in late in the game as they tried to contain the seemingly tireless opposition, led by Lak Attack, the Kid and Nibs, who had battled back to tie the game at 15.
"They had one very good group of guys," said Wink. "If it went too long, I think we would have been into overtime, or worse."
"I think it just came down to who wanted it more, who was going to dig a little deeper and get it," said Rudy.
"You know it's gonna be tight in the end,and you've gotta have something in the gas tank," said Paul One, who combined with Elvis and Billy Idol for a pair of late goals that set the table for Rudy's rebounding heroics. "We were still hustling at the end... and that turned the tide."
"We knew we had to get our chances before their big line came out," said Elvis.

Rudy's opening outburst was an all-too-familiar scenario for Ottoman and his teammates, as the sophomore shotstopper has struggled early in all of his starts this season. But this time, the beleaguered backstop didn't let it get him down, or his teammates too far behind, as they battled back to escape the first period down by only a pair of goals, 5-3.
"You can't get down too far," said Ottoman. "We definitely got it going, we kept it close all game. As it was, it was an uphill battle all the way."
Indeed, his side wasn't able to tie the game until early in the final period, and they never held a lead.
"Both teams were battling hard," said Ottoman. "Neither team ever really pulled away."
"The teams were very very close," said Rudy. "Every game every week, it seems like it's a pretty even battle."
And with so little to choose between them, the difference may have been attention to defense, said Paul One.
"I think the backcheck was the key," said the veteran forward. "It always comes down to the simple things like the backcheck. You come back to help out the goalie and that's how you win games."
"Guys have to know where their player is," said the benefactor of that backchecking, Pig Farming Goalie, who won his first game since returning to the crease. "Toward end of game, I was seeing shots a lot better."
"You just play smart," said Wink of his side's recipe for success. "You try to move the ball along the boards, you try to stay with your guy."

Sunday's winners may also have had an edge by being able to play with two set lines, while their overmanned opponents had to juggle combinations to give their seven players equal playing time.
"We just couldn't keep our guys together," said Ottoman. "Everyone was always playing with new guys. You just don't get that familiarity going."
But that kind of juggling also presented defensive challenges, said Paul One, as his side was forced to constantly adjust its checking coverage to various offensive combinations being unleashed every shift.
"You've really got to be aware of the line you're playing against. You've gotta keep your head and adjust your game accordingly."
Offensively, though, there's little doubt familiarity breeds goals.
"When guys keep playing together, it definitely adds to their confidence," said Ottoman.
"Once you get into game, players start to be able to know what each can do, they click," said Pig Farming Goalie.
"I thought our line combos worked really well today," said Paul One. "I think everyone was clicking."
"I think we probably had more of a balanced team than they did," said Wink. "I think both of our lines worked well."