Saturday, May 19, 2007

AMHL Thursday: Un-Bill-Lievable

(Title courtesy of Chad Mikkelson; photo courtesy of aewolf at flickr.com)

Thursday, May 17, 2007



Bill “Biscotti” Chioffi, the forward-thinking Avalanche defenseman, gazes into the Fontana di Trevi. He tosses a one cent euro into the water pooled in Italy’s famous fountain, wishing he was at the rink this Thursday morning instead of in Rome.

Meanwhile, Bill McGrath, the Av forward who missed the entire AMHL Spring 2007 campaign, wakes up in Worcester. Not yet conditioned for prime time hockey (if 6:30 a.m. is your idea of optimal ice time), the winded winger puts his head back on the pillow as his teammates prepare to take on the Capitals.

Bill Barrett, a durable and dogged defenseman for us in the first two games, has ditched this game for reasons that are, in the words of legal eagle and Avalanche Captain Dave “Mr. Hockey” Losier, “off the record.”

In the Avs’ lavish locker room fronting Concord Valley Sports’ Rink Two, I deliver some good news: The skate blade that my skate doctor replaced after it had cracked during last week’s loss to the Bruins, has been replaced. The bad news: the other blade, which is four years old, remains secured in its placeholder on the right boot of my Bauer Vapors.

Chris Howell is aghast. He doesn’t know how anyone can skate on disproportionate blades. I don’t know either, but I trust that my bladeologist at Legends Sporting Goods knew what he was doing when he gave me the go-ahead to skate on these mismatched blades.

Fellow Av Tim Mathews, sitting across the expansive locker room, says his skates are in rough shape, too. The molded plastic housing one blade is cracked and could break apart for good at any time. Like me, though, he’s going to take his chances.

During warm-ups, I don’t notice much difference. I’m still slow.

While I’m serving my first penalty of the year—for hooking, no way!—I watch Matthews steal the puck from a Capital defenseman at our blue line and then speed away on his sub-par skates. Timmy breaks away from his pursuer and then puts the puck past last season’s Koffey Cup-winning goalie, John Torney.

Torney’s teammate, Aaron Sherman, doesn’t like losing. And I don’t think he likes playing against me. Not today, anyway. Throughout the game, I set my sites on the sensational Sherman, preparing to contain him. The former Division III college player, who has lost a little weight, usually skates past me at least twice a game. Not today. On successive occasions I strip him of the puck at the blue line, block a shot with my stick, and force him to the outside and into bad shooting angles.

Nonetheless, the speedy Sherm and his sharp-shooting associates—Eric “Danke” Schoen, Peter Standish, and Paul Nelson—rally the Caps to enjoy a one-goal lead in the third period.

But Matthews and Mr. Hockey mount a comeback to put us back on top, 7–5. I haven’t contributed to the offense, but I’ve played a pretty good game (except for two ill-advised passes I tried to sneak up the middle of our own zone) thus far.

I’m ready for a nap—some of my shifts have been as long as six minutes—but our defensive corps is depleted (our star defenseman, Mike DeLeo, has left the game early to honor his commitment as a consultant for the federal government), so I’m on the ice with less than a minute in regulation. The Capitals have one last chance to score.

I go to my knees to block a shot from the top of the face-off circles. The puck glances off my chest and on to the stick of someone behind me. A teammate flings the puck down the ice as the open net waits to receive the vulcanized object, now rolling home.

As the puck swerves across the goal line—just inside the post—Bill McGrath wakes up again and Bill Chioffi bites into his afternoon biscotti.
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