Blades Start Season With Win Over Quarry Cats
By L. Hayes
I love all the signs of fall –crispness in the air, stacks of pumpkins at the Greenmarket, waking up Monday morning with aching muscles and a sore throat from shouting so much the day before… It’s hockey time again!
The Blades kicked off the new season Sunday with a home game against the Quarry Cats. Everyone was eager to get started – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the locker room fill up so early. Clare and Laura A were the last to arrive, but they had a great excuse – they drove to the rink straight from a race in Massachusetts, and still managed to get on the ice in time!
Our roster is full this season, and we’re looking good. We have some promising new players to add to our returning skaters, and we welcomed back Liz, whose tenure last season was shortened by an off-ice back injury. (Remember, folks – hockey is safe. Shoveling snow is dangerous!) Factor in net minder Stephanie, who set Chelsea Piers players buzzing about how she shut down big, fast players in scrimmages this summer, and you know we have a lot of potential. But with only two practices under our skates, facing the wily Quarry Cats, would the team gel or fall apart in its first outing?
It proved to be an exciting game, full of intensity, with the outcome up in the air right down to the final buzzer.
With neither coach nor Deb to guide us, Meredith and I were scribbling out line combinations up to the last minute. The first ones out were Meredith centering Tanya and Liz, followed by Sue in between Laurie and Lisa, and Cassidy winged by Clare and Nina. Carol Anne and Sarah started on D, followed by me and Laura A.
Wasting no time, Meredith won the first draw handily, and the trio sped down to the far end of the ice. The QC looked flatfooted by comparison as the three wove through the crowd, darting, passing and attacking without pause. Less than a minute in, Liz took a shot and Tanya swooped in to put the rebound away for our first goal of the season!
The next two lines kept up the pressure, while the Qcats tried to recover from the early goal. Our lines rolled quickly and efficiently, and less than three minutes later the first line did it again! Passing the puck around the zone like they were playing by themselves rather than fighting through traffic, all three had a stick on the stone before Meredith buried it for the Blades second goal.
The Quarry Cats woke up, and by the end of the first period, it felt like we’d already played a whole game. Stephanie was nothing short of sensational the whole game, stopping everything that came her way, confident enough to clear the puck rather than hang on to it, keeping the game flowing rather than stopping the action in our end. In one particularly spectacular move, a puck came flying through the air and she simply tipped it to the side with her glove, using a “Now you see it – now you don’t” move worthy of a master magician.
Between the first and second periods, the coach must have given the QC a talking-to because they came out determined to even the score. Last season the Blades often suffered a letdown after a strong period. This time, no one caved. On defense, Carol Anne dogged any players foolish enough to try to get in front of our net, while Sarah demonstrated an optical illusion: how to look as though you’re skating backward, when you’re really an immovable object, as QC after QC learned when they tried to get past her and went down instead.
Sue, Laurie and Lisa were a tough trio who kept an eye out for each other on the ice. Sue worked both ends of the rink. She fired shot after shot, then got back to the defensive and helped dig the puck out to start the run up ice. Laurie used the boards wisely, in the neutral zone as well as on breakouts. Lisa really turned on her jets, seizing every opportunity to run with the puck. On one beautiful shift, Sue swung back to rescue a pass in our zone that sputtered and could have ended up in enemy hands in front of our net if she hadn’t intervened; she sent it to Lisa, who sped up the ice and found Laurie near the blue line.
Our first penalty of the season goes to Sarah, who may not have really earned it. She went down and was called for hooking when a Qcat fell, possibly by tripping over Sarah’s stick. It gave us a chance to practice our penalty kill against what felt like an onslaught. Laura A was really strong on the kill, showing both speed and good judgment in the corner and in front of the net. We got through it with our net’s virtue still intact.
It didn’t last. A few minutes later, the energized Cats managed to get their first goal. It made us more determined to keep the lead. Cassidy and Clare were relentless on the ice. Cassidy kept getting back so fast, for a while I thought we had three D. Clare showed no signs of post-race fatigue as she and Cassidy raced back up the ice. Nina had several good defensive moves, forcing her opponents to cough up the puck and then clearing the zone. Oh, and she also knocked down two people, without ever getting a whistle!
When the third period started, we could go one of two ways – try to hang on to the lead, or try to win. We played to win. In the very first shift, Meredith won the draw, and Tanya took it into the zone. As the QC converged on her she saw Meredith in the middle. She sent it across the ice and Meredith faked out the D by suddenly lifting her stick – the puck slid past her right to Liz, who was in the perfect spot to one-time it! 3-1, Blades.
But the Qcats dug in as well. The game was still too close to call. The defense really worked the blue lines. Carol Anne stepped up to the line in the offensive zone just in time to keep the puck in, for an extended volley that wore the opposition down. Cassidy and Clare traded passes, and Nina got a shot on net, before the QC finally broke it out. In our zone, in one memorable shift, Laurie went for a block and wound up throwing herself at the puck, only to be followed down on the ice moments later by Sarah, equally intense as she sought to shut down the forwards in black. The clock wound down, and with just under two minutes to go, the Quarry Cats struck – and wouldn’t you know it, it was former Blade & current speedster Kat Unger who got the goal!
With the score 3-2, the QC pulled their goalie with less than a minute left, and put six skaters on the ice. It felt as if that minute lasted about an hour, but cool as the ice below her, Stephanie stopped shot after shot. Laura A again did tremendous work under pressure, lifting a stick at a key moment to prevent a tying goal. With ten seconds to go, Tanya got the puck, and took off down the ice. The buzzer sounded, and the Blades got their first won of the season!
It was a great start to the season. I can’t wait to see what we do next.