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Colonel battles hard against Gump, early in Sunday's Stanley Stick opener. But that kind of defensive effort was in short supply late in the game as the fiery forward and his mates made a number of errors in their defensive zone that cost them a 20-12 loss.

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Stanley Stick Game One
Love match

Team play powers opening win

by Jay Suburb

To win the Stanley Stick, Elvis and Paul One knew they'd have to share the love.

All week long, the frequent foes had been expressing their mutual respect for each other's feisty play. Sunday, their teammates joined the love-in, playing a total team game to win the championship series' opener, 20-12

"I think we were just playing well as a team," says Elvis, who's admiration for his future teammate occasionally bordered on the x-rated. "Everybody was keeping positive, everybody was supporting each other, and every line out there had a strong defensive game."

"It was good to see the whole team gel," says Paul One. "All three lines were working well together."

And that was just the way they planned it.

During a pre-game meeting, the newfound mates emphasized the importance of complete commitment from every member of the team, both offensively and defensively.

"We knew the other team had a lot of snipers, a lot of fast players," says Elvis of an opposition stacked with renowned snipers, Lak Attack, Colonel, Nibs, and young speedster, Hoops. "We had to do everything we could to get our bodies between the ball and the net, tie up their sticks, just do whatever we had to do to slow them down."

"We wanted to be aware of the lines we were going up against, take advantage of opportunities," says Paul One.

Unified to their task, single-minded in their zeal, the cohesive colleagues took command from the opening face-off, charging hard to an embattled Ottoman, forechecking fiercely, and backchecking with abandon. They opened up a 4-1 lead, an advantage they'd never relinquish.

"We wanted to come out of the gate pretty quick on all three lines," says Paul One. "We wanted them to know all three of our lines would be going 100 percent and set the tone."

"It's always important to move ahead like that," says Elvis. "We were just rushing to the net, getting shots, getting the rebounds. It worked for us today."

"We had to keep pressure on them and not let them play their own game," says Pig Farming Goalie, who earned the victory in his first Stanley Stick start between the pipes. He played one game as a forward in last year's finale.

In fact, but for a brief lull midway through the game when their opponents were finally able to generate some offensive momentum and close the score to 15-11, Sunday's winners set the tempo.

"When you go down in the beginning, it's real tough,," says Ottoman, who overcame a shaky start to make some huge saves through the middle of the game, giving his team the chance to get back into it. "We were playing from behind the whole time, and that's a tough way to play a game."

"We didn't seem to be able to get consistent scoring through the lineup and keep that momentum going all the time," says Rudy, who returned to the courts for the first time since breaking his cheekbone four weeks ago in a collision with Roach's elbow.

The Card Draw
Pig Farming Goalie (G) Ottoman (G)
Kid Colonel
Bird Cowboy Bill
Elvis Bulldog
Paul One Living Legend
Billy Idol Rudy
New Guy Lak Attack
Beetle Boy Hoops
Unabomber Nibs
Gump  
Scratches: Wink (unsanctioned injury) Lobsterboy (exploitative employer), Roach (hangover)

 

The commitment to team play by Sunday's winners was so total, at the end of the game, Kid didn't know how many goals he'd scored. In fact, it was hard to single out any one player for accolades.
"It was a solid effort all around," said Elvis. "All our lines played well, they all chipped in and they were all responsible."
"We didn't want to stack one line," said Paul One. "We wanted to spread out a bit of the wealth so that we were going to get scoring from all three lines, and certainly we wanted to have a defensive presence on each line."
"We picked good line combinations and we just stayed patient the whole game," said Pig Farming Goalie.
"They couldn't have set their lines any better, they had everything going for them on each of their lines," said Rudy
. "I think we were battling against three pretty hard fighting lines, while we were all in our own little battles."
That may have been because his side had one less player, necessitating a constant rollover of players instead of setting consistent combinations.
"Guys couldn't get comfortable with each other," said Ottoman.
"It's tough to get a roll going," said Elvis.

But Sunday's winners will be hard-pressed to match their line-making success in next week's game, as New Guy won't be in the lineup.
"We're gonna be one guy short next week, we won't have the same three lines," said Elvis. "We're gonna have to make a bit of an adjustment. Team chemistry is gonna be a big part of it. We're all staying positive and it's gonna count for us later."
"I think we've got to stay with the same plan," said Paul One. "We've got to take care of defense first and we'll get our chances and our goals when we can."
"It will be a little different," said Pig Farming Goalie. "We just have to take care of our own end first and the goals will come."
Meanwhile, the underdogs heading into next week's finale are hoping they can build on their experience with rolling lines.
"We've got to look at it as a chance for the guys to get to know each other," said Ottoman. "We'll just have to come out and regroup and we'll have two games next week."
"We're gonna need a complete team effort right through the lineup," said Rudy.

If the underdogs are able to turn their resolve into a win, the Stanley Stick championship will be decided in a five-goal minigame.

Bird scored the first penalty shot goal in Stanley Stick history after being awarded the opportunity when Hoops broke up a two-on-one breakaway with a broken stick.