Blades Come Back from Behind to Beat Quarry Cats
By L. Hayes
If the NHL lockout wipes out a whole season, never fear – Blades hockey is here! Our first game of the season started with Deb’s locker room chalk talk. With fourteen skaters on the bench – some new, and some returning after long absences – there was plenty of potential for chaos. Instead, we got chemistry.
First and foremost, our goalie Steph rocked the house! She missed a lot of games last season due to injuries, and to make things more interesting, she suited up after spending the day driving back from Rochester. But any doubts that she wasn’t rested or ready vanished faster than Lance Armstrong’s endorsement deals. Steph was on fire! She caught ‘em high, she stopped ‘em low. It’s hard to pick out the best moment but one pivotal stop may have been when a Quarry Cat found herself alone in front of the net, dead center, puck on her stick, easy shot to the back of the net, or so she thought. Steph used her blocker to stamp that application DENIED!
Meanwhile Kelly got the party started in the first period when she swooped in for her first goal of the season. Centering Karyn and Tanya, then Karyn and Jackie, the first line kept the pressure on and found themselves in front of the net time and again. Karyn was in great position throughout the game, and kept the puck moving, with such verve that she broke her stick. Someone’s been working out! Tanya was her usual relentless self, making crisp passes and sprinting to catch the puck in return. She always find the open ice, always knows where her center is headed!
Steph noted that she heard a lot of talking on the ice. (And she did a lot of it herself, always letting the D know where the attackers were.) Meredith was one of those chatting it up with her line, and they swooped and circled as if they’d worked out the choreography in advance. Meredith also centered the comeback line, with Laurie and Sarah. Laurie, returning after a broken toe, compensated for a weak foot with careful and precise puck handling, including one superb deke deep in the enemy zone. Sarah, playing her first game in several years, never stopped smiling (and neither did we, watching her play!) Early on she showed her fighting spirit when she tangled with a QC on the boards and refused to leave without the puck. By the end of the game she was carrying the puck up the ice with confidence.
The third line had Hutch centering Nina and Jackie, then Nina and Tanya. Hutch proved a master strategist, quickly analyzing the dynamics of the opposition and setting up plays. (She also brought fans along – her parents – who must have been proud to see their pride and joy dominating the ice with her speed and quick hands.) Nina sailed straight to the net, pulling attention from defense and the goalie, while her line mates got set up. Jackie had played street hockey earlier in the day, but still managed to eke out the energy for powerful shot. She also covered the point whenever the D carried the puck in.
And that happened pretty often, when Sophie got the puck! Her speed and energy were spectacular to watch, which is pretty much all the Quarry Cats could do while she wove around them until she could dump the puck deep into their zone. All the D worked the whole ice, not just clearing the net but carrying the puck out whenever a regular breakout wouldn’t work. Deb would disappear behind the net, spin a quick reverse then head up the boards. Laura showed her running career has worked as dry land training – she never let a cherry picker sneak behind her. Clare held the blue line in the offensive zone, and blocked shots in ours.
The first period ended with the Blades up 1-0. But the game was so evenly matched that you just knew the Quarry Cats were waiting for any chance to even up the score. They got it midway through the second period, when the QC got a power play with Kelly off for hooking. About a minute in to the penalty kill, the Quarry Cats caught a break, lifting the puck up just as Steph was going down. Even so, she almost got a piece of it.
Less than a minute later, they scored again. But before panic set in, Laurie, who’s a judge in real life, proved why she’s so valuable no matter what kind of bench she’s sitting on, when she suggested to Deb that this might be a good time for time out. Deb called it, settled everyone down, and instead of falling apart, the Blades hit the ice running. And Kelly scored again!
The game was tied at the end of the second. The Blades and the Cats were evenly matched, spending time in each zone. But many little things the Blades did right began to add up to something big. Everyone was communicating. Everyone was looking for the open player or finding open ice, sending and catching smart passes. Forwards were back checking, defenders were challenging and forcing turnovers. Everyone kept moving. The shifts were short, fast and hard – no one sat cooling their heels on the bench too long. The breakouts looked amazingly like what we’d been practicing – and they worked! Everyone had great opportunities, and just as important, great passion!
The Quarry Cats never gave up. Halfway through the third, they came down the ice like the Mongol hordes storming the Russia empire. They sent the puck in deep, but Deb outraced the forwards and sent it all the way around to Karyn, already moving up the boards. She skated several steps, looked up and found Kelly. Kelly sprinted up the ice and found the back of the net. 3-2 Blades!
Tension was high. Separated by a single goal, there was only one question – who wanted it more? The QC tried to flood the crease, sending all three forwards down low. But each time their blockade was broken. Sophie took matters into her own hands, when she moved the puck out herself when she couldn’t find an outlet pass, then recovered the puck three times in a row. The QC tried putting two players on her, but even that wasn’t enough! Hutch had several great runs down the ice, sometimes solo and sometimes with Tanya keeping pace. So many shots, so very close! Meredith, Laurie and Sarah kept the pressure on, shift after shift. The QC tried to send cherry pickers back, but the D caught them every time.
Two turning points came in the last few minutes. One came after the Quarry Cats finally broke out of their zone and came barreling into ours. A player wound up, took a shot – and had it blocked by Clare, completely deflating their momentum. The next came with three minutes to go. The Quarry Cats were watching the clock, waiting to pull their goalie, but they couldn’t get the puck. Shift after shift, it stayed in their end. When they finally broke it out, pulled their goalie and sent a sixth skater out, there was less than a minute left.
Those of us on the bench were yelling as we watched the QC swarm and the Blades repel. Steph was like an octopus – no matter how they tried to get around her, she was always there. Laura and Clare dug deep and seemed to keep circling the net, one in front, one behind, chasing and disrupting the attackers. The final twenty seconds felt like an hour. But when the buzzer rang, the game was ours! A fantastic first game to start the Blades season!