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Hockey - Decepticons - August-October 2000

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Aug 4 Fri 11:30 Practice    
Aug 11 Fri 12:00 Practice    
Aug 18 Fri 12:00 Polar Frogs White Win 4-0
Aug 25 Fri 11:30 Nordiques White Loss 5-3
Sep 1     Bye week    
Sep 9 Sat 11:30 Practice    
Sep 16 Sat 11:30 (Netters) Red Army White Win 3-0
Sep 22 Fri 11:30 Sixers Blue Win 3-2
Sep 30 Sat 11:30 Practice    
Oct 7 Sat 11:30 Nighthawks Blue  
Oct 13 Fri 12:00 Polar Frogs Blue  

August 4 - Practice

Well, this has been an interesting start to the season.  Several people waited until the last minute to tell me they wouldn't be in the team next season.  With all of the late changes we ended up three short for our first practice.  So we have nearly half of a new team.  And it definately looks like an I league team.   Here's the roster thus far:

  Name Position
  Josh Kemjo O
  Eric Smith O
  Shaun Howard O
  Carrie Atchison O
  Jacob Wild  
  Brad Lough  
  James Bonney D?
  Rob Diaz D?
  Jennifer McKeeman D?
  Scott Warren D
  Billy Raley D
  Bruce Goalie
  Andy Laska Sub
  Brian Spare Sub
  Brian Rickards Sub

Our practice was general skating and stick-handling exercises.

August 11 - Practice

Jennifer told me she had filled our last spot, but he was out of town.  Got to meet Bob and Mike.

On the phone Bob said a couple of things that made me jump to the conclusion that he was a rank newbie.  It turns out Bob has played some pickup roller hockey.  You can see that in his stops and his stick handling.  He's aggressive to the puck and once he gets there he handles the puck pretty well.  But he still uses roller stops and doesn't hold his position real well.

Mike has been playing a lot of pickup the last few months.  He's obviously one of the best skaters on the team.  During 3-on-2 drills, he was always in the passing lane.

After more switching around, here's how the lines ended up.

  Name Position
  Josh Kemp R
  Eric Smith C
  ??? ??? L
  Bob Manz R
  Rob Diaz C
  Shaun Howard L
  Mighty R
  Brad Lough C
  Carrie Atchison L
  James Bonney D1
  Jennifer McKeeman D1
  Scott Warren D2
  Jacob Wild D2
  Billy Raley D3
  Mike Noyes D3
  Bruce Goalie
  Andy Laska Sub
  Brian Spare Sub
  Brian Rickards Sub

August 19 - Polar Frogs - Win 4-0

Ed McComas is our final player.  He got put on the line with Josh and Eric.   Ed has been helping coach his son's Mite team, so he knows what he's supposed to do.  He just needs some practice executing.

Jennifer messed up her knee, so Brian Rickards filled in for her on defense.   Brian Priest was there and agreed to tape for us.  He did a great job with the camera.

And finally I get to concentrate on hockey instead of roster management.

He had a very strong game.  We spent most of the night down at their end.   And we were able to give Bruce a shut-out in his first game.  He only got to handle the puck a few times and he contends he only made one real save.  He did have one soccer goalie moment.  A puck dribbled into the zone and he started out after it.   The puck stopped near the top of the circle.  An opponent chased it in.    Bruce got stuck in no-man's land.  As the guy skated close, Bruce went down and managed to tap the puck away with his stick.

One big thing we need to work on, though, is our line changes.  We were very hesitant and slow.

The first two goals were by Josh and Eric in the first period.  From the bench it looked to me like Eric was in the crease both times.  It turns out he was clear for the first one, but one foot was in for the second.  I don't think he actually interfered with the goalie, though.  I don't know if it's no-harm, no-foul in amateur hockey.

From the bench, I kept thinking that Josh wasn't passing enough.  When I saw it on the tape, I realized that once he got in the zone he did a great job of passing when it was appropriate.  What gave me the impression that he wasn't passing is that he was a little too intent on carrying the puck into the zone himself.  There were a few offsides calls when he juked near the blue line and his line mates tried to go in.   If we can get him to either pass to the up man in the neutral zone or dump and chase then his line should dominate even more.

All through the game, Carrie kept asking Brad and I how she was doing, and we kept trying to assure her that she was doing great.  And the tape confirms that.  She has no fear of wading up to the net, right where she's supposed to be.  She was usually following the play, but that's just because she doesn't have much experience, yet.   By the end of the season she'll be able to recognize when a transition is happening and anticipate where the puck is going to go.  Then she'll be part of the attack.   Similarly, she misjudged the rush a couple of times and ended up offsides.   That also will come with practice.  She had a great first game.

It's clear that both Mike and Bob are pick-up players.  Neither were holding their position very well.  That's fine against a team like the Frogs.  But it sounds like the Nordiques and the Nighthawks are the teams to beat this season.  Ben Box watched them play before our game and he said they both look even better than last season.   If we give either of them open ice like we did this last game they're going to make us pay for it.  If I can get either of them to watch the tape and see how precarious the situation was a few times I think they'll tighten up immediately and improve a bunch.   That's one of those things that's hard to recognize when you're on the ice, but easy to keep in mind once you've seen yourself on tape.

In addition, Bob needs to keep both hands on the stick.

Similarly, Billy pinched up several times during the game.  In most instances he won the battle, but against a more experienced player he's only going to win half of them.   And those other half are going to bite us.

Shaun had a break-away.  That was really great to see.  Five games ago she wouldn't have been the first to that puck, and three games ago she would have been looking to pass it away.  She's gotten aggressive enough now that she carried it all the way down and took the shot.  She was thinking that she had taken the shot from too far out.  From the bench I thought she was about in the right place.  On tape, it's clear that her instincts were correct.  She was outside the face-off circle when she let loose.  Another stride would have cut the time that the goalie had to respond.   But it was still a good shot for her first league game break-away.  Now that she's more aggressive she'll be getting those more regularly and gaining experience with each one.

She has regressed in one area, though.  She's gone back to hugging the boards.   There were three or four times on the tape when the puck was on the other side of the net and she should have been charging the goal.  But that's one minor problem that easily addressed.  Overall, she had a good game.

Mo and Jacob did pretty well on defense.

Mo did pretty well for his first game on D.  He did get caught while trying to skate backwards or turn around a couple of times.  With a little more experience he'll learn to anticipate those situations better.

I don't really remember much of Jacob's play, which means that he was probably in the correct position most of the night.  Jacob said that he's more comfortable playing defense.

Jacob played D with my line a few times.  On a couple of face-offs I tried to pass the puck back to him and ended up making incredibly feeble poke passes that never made it to him.  One time there was a defender right behind me, which made things sticky for a moment.

I also had one break-away.  As I went for the puck I was nearly even with one of their players, and since I'm not the fastest skater I just assumed that he had kept up with me the entire time.  So I didn't look for a pass.  As I entered their zone I nearly tripped over the blue line.  I took the time to get the puck back for a decent wind-up on my wrist shot and got decent pace on it.  It rebounded almost straight out from the goal and Scott, who had started from the ice deep in our zone and passed everyone else, knocked it in.

All through the game the other team was letting me camp in the crease.  I think I only got pestered once on my first shift.  After that I was all alone.  I moved around some, trying to open a passing lane.  But I didn't get a real chance until late in the second period.  Scott took a shot from his point that he missed to the near side.  The puck caromed off the wall directly behind the goal and straight to me on the other side of the net.  I guess the goalie had forgotten I was there, because he moved very slowly to my side of the net.  So I had at least 1/3 of the net open.   I've missed shots like that before, but I made this one.  Finally, in my fourth season, I scored my first goal.

August 25 - Nortel Bombers - Loss 5-3

Bruce: The difference between Nortel and us is that all of our C league players had to move up.

This was a heartbreaker.  We should have been able to keep up with these guys.   It's too bad we didn't get a tape.  I think we would have learned a lot.   But Christy has decided that she's not going to tape anymore.

The ref did a poor job.  We were letting him know what we thought and he came over to Jeff and threatened to start throwing people out, including Bruce.  Jennifer told Bruce that this guy was the best in the league, and that's just sad.  He wasn't horrible, but he blew a lot of calls.  He called off a bunch of icings, and ignored some fairly serious checks.  One in particular a big guy blatently threw his elbow into Shaun's head as he boarded her.  The ref did call a couple, but mostly he was letting them do anything they wanted.

He also blew a call where a defenseman purposely covered the puck in the crease.   Even Jeff thought it should have been a penalty shot.

Our biggest problem, though, was defensive positioning.  We were leaving people open in the slot and they were cleaning up on rebounds.  Bruce says three of the goals came that way.

On the first goal, we were very bunched up.  Four people were standing on one side of the goal and there were two people open on the other side.  The guy in the high slot got the pass and took the shot and the guy near the crease flicked in the rebound.

Bruce said that he thought the defense was a little slow tonight, except for Jacob and Scott.  Mike was fast, of course.  But he was going in deep a lot and nobody was covering his point.  That meant that there was a cherry picker out there.  Mike was having to play catch up to get back with them, and nobody was holding that puck in.   He recognized what was happening and held back more late in the game.

Apparently both Jacob and Mo listened to Bruce when he saw them leaving people open in the slot.  He said that it made a difference in both cases.

Josh was late, so we went through most of the first period with only two centers.   That was confusing, and we never really got into a rhythm.

Like last game, we had poor line changes.  I screwed up on one.  I was thinking that we were going the other way, so I was waiting for the other line to go on.   For some reason, I lost track of who I followed.  Part of it was fatigue.   I had no endurance for this game.

On a brighter note, our offense is really strong.  We had many legitimate scoring chances.  I think Bob, Rob and Josh all had shots go off the pipe.  During the first period, Brad had a nearly open net that he missed, somehow.  I pointed out to him that the reason he had the shot at all was that he was in the correct position.   If he keeps that up he's going to get a lot of those.

We had a lot of very good passing through the neutral zone.  People were open across the ice and we were hitting them.  Rob, Shaun and Bob put together a bunch of combinations.

We kept a lot of pucks in their zone.  We constantly had people on the puck handler, doing a good job of backing each other up and then immediately attacking, again.

Billy told Shaun in the locker room that he thought she had a better game than last week, and I agree with him.  She didn't have any breakaways this week, but she was doing a great job of reacting quickly to the puck.  If the puck got more than a couple of feet from the person she was challenging she adjusted and took it.  She started out on the boards, but later she was drifting into the slot and heading toward the net.  She's still a little slow to move in, but that's a big step in the right direction.

I'm also incredibly impressed with Carrie's positioning.  Apparently she started the game already tired for some reason.  Despite that, she was up by the net, making passes and taking shots.

We were concentrating on putting shots on net quickly and it nearly paid off several times.  Rob had one pop way up into the air that we was sure was going to come down behind the goalie and into the goal, but it bounced free somehow.

They had a bunch of lucky breaks like that.  Goals that should have gone in, but didn't.  With the exception of defense, the game was a lot closer than the score indicates.

A few times when I had a little burst of energy I put good pressure on them in their zone.  One in particular I challenged a guy in their zone and he overskated the puck.   I got to the puck quickly and took a shot and it hit another guy a closer to the goal and the puck came right back to me.  I was moving forward the whole time, so I stick handled the puck past him and took another shot.  This one hit the goalie and came back out again.  By this time I was probably less than ten feet from the goal and I got another shot off, and I was sure I was going to get it past his pad.  I don't know where it hit, but it didn't go in.  I ended up in the net on that one.

Another challenge that I'm proud of, I chased the puck into the zone and the defender was slow getting to it.  By the time he got there I was right on him.  I was on his right, so he tried to turn away from me, but I anticipated and was right there, going for his stick.  He tried to turn the other way, and again, I reacted in time.   One more turn and by this time we were in the corner.  I went ahead and I league stopped into him and pinned him to the boards while I tried to get to the puck to make a pass.  I think maybe one of their other guys got to it, but couldn't clear it because the rest of the team had made it into the zone by then.

I was really pissing off a few of the defenders.  I was getting a few good shoves that didn't quite knock them down and draw the penalty.  I was messing with sticks, poking at them, and just generally being a pest.

I did break a stick tonight.  I was in a battle on the boards and kind of speared the corner of the ice and boards and put a little pressure on it.  It felt like it just folded.  I started to skate back to our bench and people were yelling at me to drop the stick.  Jeff saw what had happened and had a stick ready for me when I got there.  I came off just a few seconds later, because I was tired.

It was a good game, but frustrating all the same.  We just couldn't quite get enough of an advantage over them.

September 9 - Practice

September 15 - Red Army - Win 3-0

I remember this one being a lot closer than the score indicates.  The other team had a lot of good breakouts and good scoring chances.

September 22 - Sixers - Win 3-2

A few people weren't totally on their game.  But we're really starting to come together as a team.

One of their scores came after an offsides that wasn't called.  From our viewpoint on the bench it was clear the puck was at least six or eight inches out of the zone.   Later, on the tape it was clear that the ref was screeened by at least two players.   So it was just bad luck.  Overall, he did okay.  He was letting it get a little rough.  At least twice I had guys blatantly checking me off the puck before they even attempted to touch the puck.  I started getting in some retaliation by the end of the game.

September 30 - Practice

October 7

October 13

Useful info:
Update 25/SEP/06: All external links on this page are defunct
Unfortunately, there's no official pages for the seasons at either Ice Bound nor Ice-O-Plex (20/SEP/00)
Decepticon mailing list at eGroups
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Eric Smith's Decepticon page
Commentary for previous seasons:
Nov-Dec '00 3-2? Decepticons The season of the Big Fight
Aug-Oct '00 4-2 Decepticons
May-July '00 6-0 Absolute Zero It was great watching the team improve
Jan-Feb '00 4-2 Sea Bass I gained a lot of confidence
Nov-Dec '99 2-3-1 Sea Bass My first season

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