Saturday, January 20, 2007

AMHL Thursday: Ups and Downs

Dwyer Family Crest
(courtesy of allfamilycrests.com)
Thursday, January 18, 2007

The NHL Bruins are down 0–2 to the Penguins after the first period when I make my weekly call to Fort Collins, CO to report the results of my Thursday morning game to my dad.

He’s happy to hear that my team—the AMHL Capitals—won our first game of the young season.

Dad isn’t disappointed when I tell him I didn’t get any points because I didn’t get any penalties either. Overall, I didn’t play my strongest game, though. I felt like I had sufficient energy during my brief warm-up session on Concord Valley Sports’ Rink Two, but on my first shift, I was out of position, not paying attention to the Panther forward standing all alone to the right of my goalie.

“Sorry,” I said to Anthony Bonfiglio.

“That’s okay,” he replied after sweeping the puck from the area he guards.

The rest of the first period had its ups—I blocked a centering pass with my stick and later, a shot from the blue line with my shoulder—and more downs—I seemed to be a step behind the play and couldn’t get my feet going as fast as I would have liked. With ten seconds left in the first period, I had the puck behind my own blue line. With not a single opponent near me, it took what felt like an eternity to reach the red line, where I wristed a weak shot at Dan Barros. The Panther netminder made an easy stick save as the buzzer sounded the end of the first period.

The second period had its highs and lows, too. The highlight was gathering the puck behind my goal and planning to make a backhand pass along the boards to a teammate. I picked my head up just before—bam!—Eric “Danke” Schoen and I collided. I had spotted the prowling Panther power forward, who was so focused on the puck that he didn’t pay attention to me, barreling right at me. Because I had braced myself for impact, I remained upright as Schoen went sprawling.

But later in the second period, I was caught standing still inside my own blue line, guessing where Panther speedster Jeff Vorderer would go. I waved my stick at the puck as he blew by me and then beat Bonfiglio.

Despite my inconsistent play, we were up 6–4 going into the third period. Like we had done the previous week, we lost the lead and were headed for another tough loss. Down 6–7, we bounced back to tie the game, though. Then, in OT, I watched from the bench as teammate Steve Cook roofed a shot up and over Barros, who had gone down to make the save.

I tell my dad that winning is great, but say that the best part about my Thursday mornings are the funny things guys say and do. Take Rich Yamartino, for example. After the game, I asked my teammate and fellow defenseman about his ancestry, because Yamartino sounds like it has some Japanese in it. Rich surprised me with his answer, “Half Irish, half Italian. That means I’m half Gaelic and half garlic.”

My dad loves that one. We end the conversation a few minutes later as we—my dad watching the game on the dish and I at home with my wife—as the Bruins mount their first comeback. They squander that lead, but like the AMHL Capitals, they refuse to quit. Marc Savard ties the score.

After a scoreless Overtime, the Bruins turn their helmets around to wear them in backward fashion, baseball's equivalent to the rally cap.

Down 0–1 in the shootout, Marco Sturm scores to even the count.

B’s backstop Hannu Toivonen thwarts Evgeni Malkin and then Sidney Crosby, setting the stage for Phil "the Thrill" Kessel, his teammates still hoping their backward fashion statements will muster massive amounts of mojo.

Kessel speeds in toward Penguins’ goalie Andre Marc-Fleury and does what he intended to do: put his team up for good. I don't know where Kessel's father was, but I wouldn't doubt if his son called him after the game to tell him his father how much fun he had.
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