With a week to go to the Stanley Stick Championship Series, neither Bulldog nor Lak Attack are willing to give an inch as they battle for possession of the evil orange plastic ball early in Sunday's game. The speedy centerman prevailed, as did his team, 20-9.


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Final deal

Card pull could be key to championship

by Jay Suburb

This season's Stanley Stick Championship could be decided even before it starts.

With so many talented players battling for court time, it's how those players are divvied up that could be the key to determining who wins the two-game finale, which begins next week.

"Everybody's talking about the Stanley Stick, how things are going to turn out in the card pull," says Paul One, who's hoping to engrave his name on the championship trophy again, after losing his first finale last season. The Stanley Stick teams are chosen by a random card pull instead of the traditional stick pull at center court, to prevent a wily roadster from memorizing players' sticks. It's also the only time in the season when teams are carried over to the following week. "There's just so many things that play into the final result."

"We have lots of good players, and we'll see what card pull is like," says Pig Farming Goalie, who will be making his goaltending debut in this season's finale, after starting one game last year as a forward. "It will be interesting to see makeup of teams."

"You've got to get the right kind of people playing together," says New Guy. "You've really got to make sure you get some players who connect well together."

Most importantly, says Bulldog, players want to be teamed with mates who are totally committed to winning. "That makes a huge difference when it comes to the Stanley Stick, who's willing to put it all on the line and leave everything they have on the court."

It's that kind of intensity that will elevate a team to the championship.

"Emotion can drive team right through to end, all the way," says Pig Farming Goalie. "You get mad, you get angry, you get a lead and it's good, you can ride on that adrenaline."

"The intensity level goes up, you've got to go out there and give 100 percent every shift," says Paul One. "With the number of guys who come out, you've got plenty of gaps between shifts, so there's no excuse."

"If a team meshes well together, you can get some underdogs to come through," says New Guy. "You just have to bear down and realize that you have to play well at all times, you can't let up."

And with the series opening on the cusp of summer, the temperature could be as hot as the play, testing the roadsters' conditioning and preparation.

"I think weather is certainly going to be a factor," says Bulldog. "The ball gets a little too sticky and it affects the play. You've gotta stay in there and stay strong."

"We'll see how weather factor affects conditioning," says Pig Farming Goalie. "It's going to come down to intangibles."

The Stick Pull (Living Legend)
Pig Farming Goalie (G) New Guy (G)
Lak Attack Kid
Hoops Elvis
Lobsterboy Bulldog
Living Legend Billy Idol
Nibs Unabomber
Hollywood Paul One
  Cowboy Bill
Scratches: Wink (unsanctioned injury), Ottoman (unsanctioned sex), Rudy (cracked cheekbone), Colonel (healthy scratch), Gump (familial pressures), Bird (familial pressures), Beetle Boy (exploitative employer)


Despite a lopsided 20-9 score, Sunday's game provided a taste of what's in store for the Stanley Stick Championship, as both teams battled hard to the last goal.
"The score wasn't really indicative," said New Guy, who overcame a rocky start between the pipes to make a number of key saves late and give his team a chance
to get back in the game. "Our guys didn't give up. Bulldog kept trying, Kid was trying to get open but the ball just wasn't getting to him."
"We were down early and we were down big, but nobody wanted to give up," said Paul One, who was a surprise starter after complaining of a back injury earlier in the week. "We had our chances, but we didn't capitalize."
"We just kept plugging away, we had a ton of chances," said Bulldog.
But for every scoring chance, Pig Farming Goalie seemed to have an answer, as the sophomore shotstopper played one of his strongest games of the season, smothering rebounds and diving across the crease despite a flaccid ankle still sore from an injury he suffered playing unsanctioned floor hockey.
"I feel confidence come back," said the agrarian goaltender. "I see ball pretty well, I feel pretty solid on shots and I wasn't letting out a lot of rebounds."
"PFG's positioning was awesome today," said Paul One, who was thwarted by his netminding nemesis on at least two breakaways. "He didn't show anything. I was looking for anything to shoot at, and I couldn't see a thing."
"Any momentum we were trying to get, PFG snuffed out really quickly," said New Guy.
"He just stood on his head today," said Bulldog of the barnyard ballstopper. "That was the key difference today, having a great goalie behind you, you team will play very differently."
Indeed, buoyed by Pig Farmer's acrobatics, his side stormed the offensive zone, cycling the ball back to the point, driving hard to the crease. Lobsterboy, making a rare start as a forward, ripped a half dozen goals, including a crafty wraparound that left a bewildered New Guy wallowing against the opposite post. Nibs kept his shots hard and low, and was rewarded with six scores of his own. And Hoops was a tireless dervish, swooping relentlessly towards the net, sweeping at the ball even when the diminutive dynamo was knocked to the ground.
"He really doesn't give up," said New Guy of the young rookie. "He can be playing from his knees, and he's still going after the ball, trying to make a play in front."

The winners of Sunday's game may have been inspired by the surprise return of Hollywood, who finally made good on his many previous pledges to come back. It was his first game since a single guest appearance two years ago, and while it didn't come soon enough in the season to earn his eligibility for the Stanley Stick Championship, he said it was important to reassert his stamp on the game he once dominated.
"I thought I'd come out, show the folks I'm still around," said Hollywood, who started the game on an all-veteran line with Lobsterboy and the Living Legend. "I'm not washed up yet."
"I don't think he missed a beat," said Paul One of his co-commuter's comeback. "He was solid and I think it was good for the young guys who've never seen him play before to find out what Hollywood is all about."
Especially after the flamboyant star was named one of the game's all-time greats only two weeks ago, in a poll of fellow veterans. That honor may have influenced his decision, admitted Hollywood.
"I read the press, and I know I've been getting a bad rap," said the aging star, who's accolades came with an asterix, as some roadsters criticized him for slinking away from the game he once dominated to slide around playing unsanctioned ice hockey. "You hate to see people talk about a black mark on your record. I don't wanna leave the game with a black mark."
Not that he's going anywhere. Hollywood indicated Sunday's game could be the first of more to come next season.
"We'll see," said the filmstar forward. "I felt pretty good."