Wednesday, March 14, 2007

It Ain?t Pretty, but We?ll Take It

Notes from the Suns locker room by Jon Duval

Friday, Feb. 23, Suns 12-11

7:00—The newly-formed Chugga-Jimmy-C-Note line (Stevens
-Duval-Friedman) gets the nod to start us off against the Missoula Cutthroats. To round out the atypical starting act we have Tony 'T-Bone' Benson between the pipes. The '83 Oilers got nothing on us.

7:00:39—Um, I wonder if Gretzky, Kurri and Anderson ever gave up a goal in the first 21 seconds of a game?

8:03—Alright, let's see if we can start this period off a bit better than the last one.

8:03:04—Not only is that impossible, but I think they set a speed-record proving it. Including the only other game our line started, we have now let in a goal on the last four out-of-five starting face-offs. There's a stat to boast about.

8:17—Less than 10 minutes into the second period and Missoula has already scored six goals, now leading the game 7-3. I wonder if we continue to do this from week to week in order to give ourselves a challenge? Regardless of our subconscious motivations, T-Bone decides to let Ryan "Rhino" Thomson take a turn between the pipes. Thomson looks like a WWI soldier whose officer just ordered him out of the trench into oncoming machine gun fire.

8:22—With a chance for partial redemption, I collect a breakaway pass at center ice. This gives me altogether too much time to think about what I want to do, kind of like having too much green in front of you on a seemingly simple pool shot. Sticking with my bread and butter, I snap one towards the top right corner, only their goalie hasn't backed in far enough and the puck clips him high in the shoulder, sailing harmlessly over the net. I hope no future opposing teams read this lest I ever get another breakaway.

8:30—After a brief Winston Churchill-esque speech by Shorty, we're starting to chip away at what would usually be an insurmountable lead. By this point in the season, our faith in our own team is reaching that of the Red Sox, circa 2004. Forget Lourdes, there should be pilgrimages to touch the walls of our locker room.

8:34—Curling through the neutral zone with less than a minute to play in the period, I spot Ryan "Doogle" McDonald streaking up the far boards past their defense. In the midst of my attempt at a cross-ice pass, I catch an edge and inadvertently make a fantastic fake and then go on to do the exact same thing before actually getting the pass away. To the crowd that might have appeared to be a deft maneuver, but I know the guys on the bench will be chuckling at momentary spasm. Fortunately, Doogle has better breakaway skills than I, and we end the period back in the lead, the Suns snowball careening downhill once again.

8:53—Jamie "Shorty" Ellison's line starts the third with a surprising lack of protest from Chugga and myself.

8:53:31—Ryan "Rico" Enrico buries one to give us a two-goal lead. I guess that's how you're supposed to do it.

9:37—Doogle puts us ahead with little time left on the clock. I think he's scored about 47 goals tonight on 48 shots. Perhaps I'm exaggerating slightly, but that's how it feels.

9:40—A 12-11 victory. Once again, the fans have been provided with an entertaining spectacle, but our team skates off the ice feeling slightly soiled after what just transpired.

Friday, Feb. 24, Suns 8-3

7:00—Weird, I wonder why my line isn't starting tonight?

7:06—Oh, right. Didn't take Montana long to remind me, scoring within 30 seconds of my skates hitting the ice.

7:20—Demonstrating my natural instinct for not scoring, I have yet to shoot on a two-on-one this season. However, as I head towards their goalie with Scott Winkler on my right I remember the lesson I learned last weekend after Winkie's missed empty net. Hey, now my plus-minus on the weekend is around --7. Sweet.

8:11—Jami "JJ" James (say that five times fast) gets taken down from behind, resulting in a rare penalty shot call. If I could offer my advice, I would recommend him taking one of his signature monster slap shots from the hash marks—even if the keeper manages to get in the way of the puck, there's a decent chance it will go through him. He opts for a different strategy and we end up with neither a goal nor a disemboweled goalie.

8:11:30—I don't know where he stuffed the horseshoe, but JJ hurriedly redeems himself, netting one in the ensuing play.

8:15—Nomination for the Todd Bertuzzi Poor Decision Award: a Missoula forward with severely impaired judgment chooses to throw down with Jeremy "Jerry" Schreiber. For those taking notes, never drop your gloves with someone who hails from a place called Medicine Hat, Alberta. At first, it looks as if our stouthearted combatant has been bested, his Suns jersey pulled over his head, but once free of the cumbersome garment he lets loose a sublime right hook that knocks his opponent to the ice, dazed and leaking. As his teammates collect various bits of discarded equipment, I can no longer resist, calling out from the bench, "Don't forget to pick up his blood." We don't call him Little Jerry for nothing.

8:23—Trevor's encouraging words, heard with less than two minutes remaining in the second: "Man, I can't wait to get in the locker room and finish my orange Gatorade." This pretty much sums up the current state of apathy pervading the rink.

8:50—Sitting in the locker room, it takes me a moment to realize that we still have one period to play. Forty minutes have passed and I feel as though I just sat through a four-hour Japanese Noh play.

9:06—Adam "Dwayne" Swain absolutely levels a Montana defenseman. He can't weigh in at more than 155 pounds, but his knack for impeccably timed hits is unparalleled as far as I'm concerned. Unfortunately, his victim doesn't appreciate his skill quite as I do, and exacts his revenge by crosschecking Dwayne while he's still on his knees. Dwayne skates to the bench, his omnipresent grin sagging in conjunction with his left shoulder. "I think I've got a problem," he says. He does. A painful separated shoulder.

9:13—This game has degraded to the point where it now resembles two punch-drunk boxers, exhausted and leaning on one another in the desperate hope of making it through the 15th round.

9:44—Shaking hands with Missoula after our 20th win, I can't believe how nice these guys are. Despite all the scuffles and cheap shots, our visitors are acting as if we just treated them to a Swedish massage.

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