Well, it's taken me a few weeks, but I think I'm finally ready to blog about the end of our season.
(For more immediate thoughts on this past season read the blog I posted on "Venom Views" at cottonmouths.com last week.)
This season's end is especially bitter because I feel like we deserved a better fate. I really thought we deserved to beat Augusta and advance to the finals, and losing the way we did does not sit well with me. Now, before you start reciting stats to me about how Augusta had the 2nd best record in the league, and that we couldn't manage a single victory in the James Brown Arena, I'd like to point out that we outplayed them in the last 3 regular-season meetings in Augusta. That we were snake-bitten each time (pun intended) is irrelevant. We played well enough to win. I'd even go so far as to say that we dominated those games. We deserved to win. But one game we lost on a couple of lucky bounces, and another we just ran into a hot goalie. The third game, we just couldn't finish our scoring chances. We outplayed them and out-chanced them, but we just couldn't score. The same could be said of our post-season games in Augusta. In Game 1, our special teams lost the game. We outplayed them 5-on-5, but they scored 3 power play goals in four chances, while we went scoreless in six opportunities. In game 3 we outplayed them again, but their goalie saved their bacon. Sometimes a goalie has one of those games where nothing gets by him. This was one of those games for Olthuis. He's a good goalie, but he was especially good on this night. Again, we played well enough to win on most nights...but not on this night.
Maybe it just wasn't meant to be. Maybe it wasn't our time. It doesn't lessen the sting of the loss, especially knowing in my heart that we should have won. After the game, it seemed to take forever to pack and load the gear. The guys sat in stunned silence for a long time after the game, punctuated by talks from Jerome and Wanda thanking them for their efforts. We finally boarded the bus and headed for home, with a few adult beverages to drown our sorrows. We got back to Columbus and unpacked and I set about the task of washing the uniforms and laundry one last time. It's funny how every little thing seems to hit me...the last time I'll wash the jerseys, the last time I'll straighten the stalls, the last time I'll put away the skate sharpener.
Now a month has passed. I've been working on moving stuff over to the new rink and setting up our locker room over there. In addition, Barney and Mike Slayton, Tyler McCrea and myself sharpened all of the rental skates for the new rink, which had its grand opening last week. Most of the players have gone home, but a few are staying here for most of the summer. That's encouraging. It means they plan on returning next season, and I think we have the core of a really good team. While we could obviously use a little more firepower, we had a really good mix of guys in the room this year. I could see as many as 14 or 15 of these guys returning this season. That should help bring us some much-needed stability after a season in which we had a very high turnover rate from the season before.
I should clarify. Now that "last season" has ended, I'm already into "next season" mode...which means that when I say this season I'm referring to the upcoming season, not the one we just finished. Even though the NHL, ECHL and CHL are still playing the 2010-11 playoffs, I'm already ordering for the 2011-12 season and that's where my focus is.
On that subject, I finished and sent my order to SBK Hockey for our pants and gloves for this season. The SPHL will once again use SBK pants, gloves and sticks exclusively. We had some minor issues with their stuff last season, but overall it was pretty good quality for the money. Now that it's ordered, I'll start working on ordering the rest of our equipment for this season. We stagger our orders over the summer, so we're not having to pay for everything all at once (especially since we don't need it until October). That also gives us time to move some of the old gear to make room for the new stuff. After finishing up my end-of-season inventory, I'll be putting together a bunch of gear that we can try to sell. I'm planning to have another locker room sale like we had last summer. I'm hoping to have another good turnout like last summer, so if you need any new(er) gear (or have friends who do) keep your eyes peeled for that event in the next few weeks.
After that, I'm planning on heading home to Phoenix for a working vacation. That's where the Trainers' convention is being held this season, which makes it nice and convenient for me. I'm hoping to score tickets for the MLB All-Star game there (or at least some of the festivities). Wish me luck!