Friday, February 10, 2006

AMHL Week Six: Zamboni Dream

I was going to detail a dream I had Wednesday night about a Zamboni, the one where I woke up thankful the Zamboni mishap I was involved in wasn’t real. I awoke at 5:00 a.m., time to prepare for my hockey game against Tuesday’s Penguins. As riveting as that Zamboni read would have been, another oddity deserves center stage today.

In the first period, I was inside the Penguins’ blue line, wide open. The puck came back to me, and I calmly assessed the situation. My teammate Mike Gardner, playing forward today because we were missing Rob Blizard and Jimmy Glode, stood to the right of goalie Claude “the Labrador Retriever” Corbeil. I had a clear shooting lane, so I wristed (please, no wisecracks about my slap shot) a shot low, toward the Penguin’s net. The puck squirted either between Corbeil’s pads or—as I want to believe—just inside the post to his left. I tapped my stick in surprise and mild celebration.

Not five minutes later, I was stewing in the penalty box. I had steered a Penguin forward of course without knocking him down—a subtle reminder that I was there. Damn this two-referee system. The AMHL could cut costs with one ref, right. You with me? Anyway, I was in the box (for the record, I made no objection to either of the referees). And, well, I’ve been trying to process the last stages of a three-week bout with bronchitis. My doctor,, informed me that the proper treatment is to expectorate the phlegm. So that’s what I did. The greenish mass was hanging from my cage when my mouthpiece dropped to the matted floor. I immediately retrieved the red rubber tooth protector and concussion prevention device.

“Oh my god. I’m going to vomit,” said the AMHL photographer. “Have you done that before?”

“I’d rather not say,” I mumbled through my corroded mouthpiece.

The Penguins got a couple goals to pull close by the end of the first, but then in the second period, we distanced ourselves from Tuesday’s team. I think my second goal deflated the poor Penguins. The second goal was much like the first: Plenty of time and a clear shooting lane. I think Corbeil was expecting a rocket, but he got a knuckler. When the fluttering disc slinked through the ol’ five hole, my teammates and I celebrated by knocking knuckles.

But then I was back in the box for knocking down Mike Chase. In a former life—last year—Chase was a goalie. Now he skates out. He had the puck at his own blue line ready to bust out of his zone. He made a little deke and tried to cut between me and the boards. I moved to cut him off, to get in his way without making it obvious. I didn’t think a lanky lad like he would have gone down so easily. The referee’s whistle blew, and I skated to the penalty box. Damn this two-referee system!

Still in the second period, I was about to change the goal/penalty/goal/penalty pattern. Penguin forward Jerry Evans stood to Figgie’s left, poised to poke in a rebound, just as Evans' teammate James Antonangeli had done on my watch back in the first period. I lifted his stick and knocked him down, launching him toward the back boards. The little guy slid into them, jamming his wrist.

After my two-minute stint in the sin bin, I told Jerry I was sorry (not that I wouldn’t try to move him out of the way again, but I was sorry I had done it with such recklessness).

In the third period, I had to keep my aggression level in check. Notching four penalties in the same game prompts an automatic ejection. We had the game clearly in hand, so I could go easy. And I wanted to get that third goal—but not if I had to sacrifice defense.

In my defensive zone, Dana Salvo skated, his back to me, to corral a loose puck at the top of the slot. He turned and fired toward Figgie, but my shin pads parallel to the ice, had sensed Salvo’s move. The shin pads did their job.

A blocked shot for me is as good as a goal—until I get a goal. I hit the goal post on one of my last shifts, so like I said, I’ll savor the blocked shot—and the two goals, the 11–4 win, and a teammate’s post-game comments about my exploits: “Big bad Bruins!”

I felt like Cam Neely, who, as a Bruin, scored 344 goals and amassed 921 penalty minutes. Okay, so I’m no Neely, but I have a sense of what Scott Lauder (199 goals, 236 penalty minutes, and quote on his AMHL profile: “That’s no *$#!& penalty, I barely touched him!”) feels like.

Maybe next week I’ll have a Zamboni dream to write about.