Sunday, April 10, 2011

Over? Did you say over?

Well, after losing a tough one in Game 1 in Augusta, the boys bounced back hard in Game 2.

Game 1 may have been doomed from the start. I walked out of the Civic Center to board the bus and was greeted by a plume of smoke coming out of the side of it (never a good sign). Tex pulled out the generator and began trying to fix it, but it wasn't looking good. He managed to get it running, which meant we would be able to enjoy AC (Air conditioning, not alternating current) on our trip to Augusta...or so we thought. The generator conked out again shortly after we left and we were left with nothing but 2-80 Air Conditioning (2 windows down, 80 miles an hour). This wasn't bad for a while, but just this side of Augusta the I-20 became a parking lot, rendering our 2-80 AC ineffective. We spent the next hour in our own little sweat lodge. Good times.

At last, we got past the obstruction and continued on our way to the James Brown Arena, bypassing most of the Masters' traffic. We unloaded and began our preparations for the game, as usual. About midway through warmups I noticed that there was a huge puddle of water behind our net. This is not normal. If there's a little water left on the ice at the start of warmups, it usually freezes up within a couple of minutes. But the longer warmups went on, the worse the ice got; to the point that there was a huge wet spot in the center of the ice by the end.

The ice got progressively worse as the game wore on; so much so that before the 3rd period they didn't even put water down on it...just dry-shaved it. I'm not making excuses for our poor showing...they were skating on the same ice. But it does make it hard to generate any kind of consistent offense when you can't make 2 passes in a row and the puck is bouncing all over the place and you're skating in sand. Then our power play deserted us, and theirs lit up our penalty kill. You could say that special teams won this game, and theirs were better than ours that night. All in all, we played a pretty good first period, a mediocre second, and a completely lackluster third.

Then, after the game, we spent another hour or so waiting for the AC on the bus to get fixed. We finally got back on the road and headed for home. I was asleep when the AC gave out again, so I didn't really notice it. But I woke up swimming in my own sweat, which is never a pleasant experience.

We finally made it home and unpacked the bus and the guys headed home to rest up for Game 2, while I spun laundry and got set up for the morning skate.

Game 2 could not have been more different. It would have been easy for the guys to hang their heads and give up after the way we played in Game 1, but we didn't. The attitude was surprisingly upbeat. Nobody thought that this was going to be our last game...but the Riverhawks did. I think they came in expecting to pitch a no-hitter and slide out with an easy victory. Not in the Snakepit.

The boys came out fired up, confident...and a little pissed off after some Riverhawks' shenanigans in the first game. We had a score to settle, and not just in the series. We were hitting from the drop of the puck and we continued it all the way to the final buzzer. This is the way I like to see us play. I've always said we play our best when we hit, and tonight was a perfect example of that. We got our snarl on and dominated the game from beginning to end. There were some contentious moments, most of them revolving around #5 for Augusta, Kevin Fukala. He's Augusta's tough guy. He's the guy you don't want your guys to fight...not because he may beat your guy, but because you want to leave him on the ice. No matter which of our guys he takes off the ice with him for 5 minutes, they win that exchange. He gets 5 shifts a game if he's lucky, and there's a reason for that. He's not a good hockey player. He's the epitome of the term "goon". He's only out there for one reason, and he showed that tonight.

Vigier had another stellar effort and thwarted nearly all of their scoring chances (not that there were many). Our defense played well in front of him to limit those chances, and our offense went to town (led by defenseman Kyle Lundale and his hat-trick). The boys were skating, they were in sync, they were passing on the tape and their shots were hitting the mark. Everything clicked and it was fun to watch.

There was one ugly incident at the end of the game. Fukala was on the ice as the game ended and he charged at Jeff MacPhee after the buzzer sounded. He cross-checked MacPhee in the back of the head, then took a baseball swing at Lundale's head. This was the sickest display of on-ice thuggery I've ever seen in my 21 years in pro hockey. I hope the league does the right thing and hits Fukala and the Riverhawks with a harsh penalty to send a clear message that this type of behavior won't be tolerated. But, we'll see.

For now, we're boarding the bus again (fingers crossed on the AC) and headed to Augusta to finish off this series. And I'm bringing a secret weapon...a DVD copy of "Smokey and the Bandit". We're Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin'. We gonna do what they say can't be done.

And I'll leave you with this all-time favorite scene from Shakespeare's "Henry V":

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