Goalie steers aside Gump, who's side was unable to tame the soft
spongy plastic ball, turning their three-goal advantage into a 20-15
loss in the spring's first warm weather game.
CLICK ON THE
PHOTO TO SEE THIS WEEK'S ALBUM (REQUIRES FLASH PLUG-IN)
by Jay Suburb
The warmest weather of the Spring turned the evil orange
plastic ball into a mushy sticky sphere that hopped lazily over sticks
or careened crazily into corners. The speedy stickhandlers were stumped.
The team that tamed its game with sharp shots and crisp passes was rewarded
with a comeback 20-15 win in Sunday's game.
In alone on a helpless, flailing Pig Farming Goalie, Gump
could only watch incredulously as his glorious scoring opportunities
bounced harmlessly into the corner. Streaking in behind flatfooted defenders,
even Kid couldn't make his patented move from the forehand to his backhand.
At the other end, Unabomber just let the shots rip, finding
the back of the net five times. Cowboy cashed in a handful of sharp
rebounds. Living Legend and Hoops played the give-and-go as New Guy
streaked in from the point to pot the leftovers. It may not have been
pretty, but it worked.
"We stopped trying to stickhandle and just concentrated
on settling the ball down and making the pass or taking the shot,"
says New Guy, who made his first start as a forward in more than a month.
"There's weren't a lot of dekes today. It was tough to really grind
it out, because the ball wouldn't come with you."
After a cold, wet spring, the roadsters were unprepared
for the sudden turn in the weather. The ice packs that are usually employed
in the season's warm waning weeks to keep the evil orange plastic ball
cold hadn't been frozen. Instead of snapping crisply from forehand to
backhand, the ball would hop lazily over stick blades. Instead of rebounding
predictably off the end fence to create a scoring opportunity, it would
squish harmlessly into the chainlink, snuffing out momentum.
"A lot of times, the ball just stayed behind because
it was so sticky," says Beetle Boy, who was frustrated a number
of times when crosscourt passes would jump right past his windup. "With
the sticky ball you have to hit the ball harder, you can't rely on touch
And the team that figured that out first, won, says New
Guy. After trailing by as many as three goals, his side scored six straight
in the final period to storm to victory.
"We finally got our stuff together," says New
Guy. "We started moving the ball around, our passes were connecting
and we were getting some shots."
"I think today the key to our win was passing,"
says Pig Farming Goalie, who made his first start in net since returning
from a faraway city where he serviced the onerous demands of an exploitative
employer. "Guys were just getting open and ready for passes."
"A good chunk of their goals were on long shots from
the point," says Beetle Boy. "That was tough to defend against;
you're trying to defend man-to-man and they're just pounding them through."
The Stick Pull (Living
|Pig Farming Goalie (G)
Wink (hamstring), Lobsterboy (chest surgery), Rudy (cracked cheekbone),
Colonel (hangover), Paul One (familial pressures), Elvis (exploitative
employer), Billy Idol (transportation issues)
The sticky ball also vexed the goalies who had to deal with unpredictable
bounces off their equipment and surprising hops as they tried to clear
away loose shots.
"Even when you got a chance to clear it, sometimes it just sticks,"
said Ottoman of the softening sphere. "You go to hit it, your stick
rides over it, or it just won't move and then you get caught out of position
"You have to be sharp on the strange bounce," said Pig Farming
Goalie. "Ball coming off equipment a little odd; it was hitting my
glove and doing weird bounces."
But there were also advantages, as conditions neutralized the advantage
of the game's speedsters.
"They rely on being able to move (the ball) back and forth like it's
connected to their stick on a string, but the sticky ball prevents them
from making the moves they're capable of," said Beetle Boy.
"Ball doesn't bounce quite as fast because it's too soft,"
said Pig Farming Goalie.
"You're going to see fewer guys trying to stickhandle in," said
Ottoman. "They'll just shoot and try to pick up rebounds. You've
got to stay concentrated."
Sunday's game was the first start for Pig Farming Goalie in seven
weeks, and his first test for the ankle he injured while playing unsanctioned
floor hockey during his hiatus in a faraway city.
"I think today, I knew I was going to be a little bit slow, reflexes
not as sharp," said the agrarian goaltender. "I just play position
game as much as I can."
While players suffered in varying degrees in the heat, nobody was
using it as an excuse.
"My energy just sap out of me, it like sauna inside my equipment,"
said Pig Farming Goalie. "I just try to stay in position and use
as little energy as possible."
"Everyone has got to adjust," said Ottoman. "Everyone has
the same conditions out there, there's no excuses."
"It's equal for everybody," said Beetle Boy.
"Both offense and defense wilt a little bit, so it evened out,"
said Pig Farming Goalie.
The roadsters were surprised midway through the game by a special
guest appearance by Rudy, less than a week after surgery to repair the
cheekbone he cracked against Roach's elbow. Aside from a bloodshot eye,
the speedy sophomore was showing few lingering effects of the injury,
and he said he's hopeful he'll be fit to play in time for the Stanley
Stick Championship Series, in two weeks.