Monday, June 4, 2012

The Hockey Life: The width of a puck

There are moments in life, no matter your lot, when the outcome of an event hangs in the balance. Some pack more pressure than others, mind you, but there still is the thrill within each instance. Colin, playing in the second of his two games Sunday, got to experience one of those moments.

The score was knotted, 2-2, thanks to a third-period goal by one of his Pinellas P.A.L. Stars teammates. A timeout was called, with each team at their benches drawing up a plan to score the winning goal in the game's waning seconds. Yes, in rec hockey, there's a bit of drama.

The Stars sent out a lineup, cobbled from the top two lines and defensive pairings. Rather than playing center, Colin lined up at left wing for the faceoff. The clock showed 45.6 seconds.

A quick scrum at center ice off the faceoff led to the puck squirting free, heading toward the Stars zone. One of the defenseman pinched up, gathering the puck at the Stars' blue line. Just as a Scorpions player got closer, the defenseman, with a flick of his wrists, dumped the puck ahead.

For the next 20 seconds, the puck went back and forth, from team to team, between the blue lines. From along the glass, the game looked like it was end in a tie. For the Stars, it would mean the first game in five they hadn't lost.

With about 20 seconds left, a Stars defenseman gained control about 15 feet deep into his zone. This time, there wasn't as much pressure. He looked up and saw Colin, slicing in from center ice to the right wing. The pass landed on the skull-and-crossbones tape of Colin's Warrior Widow.

Colin cut hard to the left, crossing over, and looked up ice. Two Scorpions, about 10 feet apart, awaited as he entered their zone. He faked right and cut left, getting past the first player. The same move worked again on the second player. With 18 seconds left, he was in the clear.

For weeks now, Colin has been working on his wrist shot out back on the patio. Ten sets, at the least, of 17 pucks, placed about 15 feet from a regulation-size goal, make up the drill. When he concentrates, he places them 16 to 18 inches off the surface, about 3 to 4 inches inside each post.

As he neared the net, I knew exactly what he was thinking. Save for the sheet of ice, this wasn't that much different than being back home. With 15 seconds left to play, and about 20 feet from the net, Colin took his shot. I wasn't the only parent watching.

Sure enough, the wrist shot sailed toward the net, rising from the ice, on a line to the goalie's blocker side. It wasn't the hardest shot he'd ever taken, but it was with purpose. From where I stood, that second seemed a lot longer.

The goalie's right arm moved down and to the right. The puck caught about 2 inches of the outside edge of his blocker, tumbling to the ice below. With 12 seconds to play, the goalie dropped to his knees and covered the rebound. The moment, at least for Colin, ended with the referee's whistle.

At game's end, with the Stars earning their first point of the season, Colin wasn't all that disappointed. Yes, it would have been nice to score another game-winner. But he knew there would be other opportunities. After all, this was just one game.

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