Both in and Out of the Game

The hockey season is winding down, finally I want to say.  Ellinore and Nathaniel’s teams were not state champions this year, though both teams worked through their respective challenges and have fared well in their late season tournaments and playoffs.

Ellinore, as usual, perfectly positioned, drifting back on defense

Last weekend, Nan’s team won a game and then lost two one-goal games in the annual Twin Valley hockey tournament at Kimball Union Academy in Meridan, New Hampshire, and they will be in Springfield, Massachusetts the next few weekends for playoff games.

Nan once again off to the races. Rarely the biggest but always among the fastest on the ice

Ellinore’s team has been rising into the potential they have been seeking all season, coming back from an 0-2 deficit to win in the third and final period against a very tough team from North Adams, Massachusetts. This was their first playoff game in the Greater Springfield Hockey League and we look rather good going into the final few weeks of the season.

Ellinore and Laura reeling in yet another skater going fast and wide

While Nan is taking his mountain bike out in the mud and talking not baseball but lacrosse, Ellinore is once again playing on the Vermont Shamrock select girls team and we are looking at more ice time this May in Montreal, Canada, and then in June and August in Massachusetts. Before that, though, both kids will skate in spring tryouts as we evaluate the skill levels and determine players numbers for next year’s teams.

Ellinore using her body to protect the puck against a much larger player

Not incidentally, I’ve just completed my second year of hockey.  Serving as assistant coach for both Ellinore’s Pee Wee team and Nathaniel’s Bantam team, I’ve learned something about the game. And every Friday night at nine I head to the rink for nintey minutes of skating hard with a bunch of guys who have been playing hockey since I was in fifth grade. Hockey is a game that takes about a decade to learn. Still, I have made some progress and can now hold my own against most of the guys who come out to play on Friday evenings. I’ve been called the the most improved player for a couple of years as I settle into what promises to be a mediocre mid-life career as a hockey player.

Ellnore scoring on a solo breakaway

In fact, this past weekend the Brattleboro Hockey Association held its annual fundraiser game to support the BHA scholarship fund. the game matched the BHA coaches against the Vt. State Trooper team, the “Enforcers.” We beat the team last year; and, most likely as a consequence, they came out with their best skaters this year. A few minutes into the first period they put two goals in the net and the coaches realized we had a game on our hands. Both teams had former junior and semi-pro skaters and then a bunch of good players and then a few almost good players like me.The rink was full of all the kids we coach and their parents and other members of the greater Brattleboro community. (We raised close to 4000.00.)

Mark skating out of center ice, evading a defender and dumping the puck deep into the offensive zone

The remainder of the game went something like this. By the second period we had tied the game 2-2. But they came right back with two more for 2-4. We then scored again and then they scored right back. 3-5 going into the third period. In the third period we managed to keep the puck in our offensive zone long enough to put two shots on the net. I drifted high in the slot, turning to face the puck and keeping my feet moving and my stick on the ice (as I tell the kids) and sure enough, there was the puck bouncing off the goalie’s left pad. My feet were already moving, as was my body, and two quick strides and a almost-but-surely-not-quite instinctual quick wrist put the puck into the upper corner of the net. 4-5 coaches. From there we tied the game and then your truly with a give and go and an assist to the coach of the Brattelboro high school team for a 6-5 final score.

Nan in the crease, digging for the puck

Finally winding down—I  guess. This game is fun. To be perfectly honest, I would much rather be outside churning up a hill on skating skis or striding across a meadow. But now that I am finally able to skate and hold a puck on my stick and look up and see the ice, and the kids are still doing the youth hockey thing . . . . When does the ice come in again next fall I found myself wondering the other day?

Nan turning at the blue line

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