Pig Farming 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.


Week 32
Sticking it out

Warm weather stumps stickhandlers

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 passes."

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 Legend)
Pig Farming Goalie (G) Ottoman (G)
Lak Attack Kid
Hoops Bird
New Guy Bulldog
Living Legend Beetle Boy
Unabomber Gump
Cowboy Bill Nibs
Scratches: 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 a bit.
"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.