Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Hockey Night in New England: Zeros to Heroes

Saturday, February 3

The NHL Bruins are losing 0–2 at end of the first period. Okay, given the B’s five-game losing streak heading into tonight’s late-starting (8:30 p.m. Eastern Time) game against the Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes, the score may not be a shocker. But, the rest of this story may be difficult to swallow. It’s all true, though.

You see, every year, the AMHL photographer organizes a birthday skate for me. My birthday is in December, so we’re a couple months behind on this year’s sacred event, to which we’ve invited past and present AMHL players as well as the non-AMHL media. Kevin Paul Dupont of the Boston Globe and New England Hockey Radio Show respectfully declined because his physical therapist says the scribe is too fragile.

Plus, Dupes is probably covering the Bruins as my wife and I drive to Concord Valley Sports at 9:10 p.m. Fresh after an hour-long nap and then intense analysis of NHL play, I’m ready to bring my AMHL game to new heights—even if tonight’s unofficial AMHL affair is nothing more than a glorified pick-up game.

On Rink Two, about a half dozen fans—all have friends or family playing tonight—are spread out in the painted wooden seats up and behind the goals that Brian Monahan or Kenny “KISS Fan” Tarr will defend. Five fans, do you believe it? We haven’t had that many people at one our 6:30 a.m. games since…maybe never.

Left to right across your imaginary AMHL streaming audio, from your seat on the Team DCS (dark colored sweaters) bench, we’re defending the goal on your left—the aforementioned fans watching from the stands behind the opposite end of the ice. Our opposition, of course, is Team LCS (light-colored sweaters), which includes Mark Elder.

Elder, a veteran forward who averages 2.3 goals/season, trolls for trash—a loose puck left behind by a careless goalie or defenseman. I’m not there to persuade Elder to kindly exit the crease. I’m taking my turn on the bench and have left the crease police duties to DCS rookie defenseman Peter Kokas.

AMHL fans know Kokas as a sharp-shooting power forward. He ranks second in the AMHL in career points (1, 091) but with a shortage of real men to clear the crease, Kokas is pressed into defensive service.

Elder, left all alone, roofs a rebound over Tarr’s shoulder. This elicits oohs and aahs from his opponents and teammates. Too bad Mark’s wife isn’t in the stands to witness his feat, because the AMHL photographer didn’t bring her camera.

Elder’s fan club isn’t present, but Derek Wiles’s number one fan is. His wife, AMHL Glory editor extraordinaire Shelly, is in the stands; Shell watches Derek notch a rare goal.

Rob Blizard’s entourage is here, too. In his first three AMHL seasons, “Bliz” didn’t score a single goal. This season, Rob has tallied two goals—and he scores toward the end of this evening’s “game.”

We’re not keeping score, but I pretend the game ends in a tie (It’s my party, and I’ll lie if I want to), which forces a shootout (again, my party, my rules). Throwing NHL protocol aside—no four-on-four, five-minute, sudden-death drama—I take the puck near center ice, skate right at Kenny Tarr—who, earlier in the game thwarted me with two sparkling saves—drop my right shoulder to feign a shot, steer to his left, and then snap the puck past his outstretched glove.


I relish the oohs and aahs and perform a Ray Bourque-like fist pump as I pass the LCS bench.

Meanwhile, the real Bruins—as we’ll learn at the post-skate celebration at the local Ninety Nine Restaurant—Brad Boyes has ended his scoring drought (zero goals in his last sixteen games), and the Bs--thanks to defenseman Zdeno Chara's OT goal—have beaten the ‘Canes.

Updated with comments

From Peter Kokas, who was happy with his categorization as a power forward but took offense at my reporting of Mark Elder's goal,"...I notice you conveniently omitted any mention of the wide open net you missed!!!" I

Unlike other blog entries where I humble or go as far as to humiliate myself, I did leave out embarrasing moments--because if I make these pieces much longer, you won't read them--like when I missed an open net or fell down with nobody near me. But let's not focus on that; I got the game-winner, after all.
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