Normally, getting the Youngest out of bed is like prying a clam out of its shell, but not on this day, the day of the tournament.
I won’t say he leapt out of bed, cuz, you know, that would be a total lie, but he did roll over, fall out of bed and crawl to the bathroom in a reasonable amount of time.
I call that a win, dammit!
Of the two of us, though, I looked more tired. Outside, it was cold. Frost covered the car windows. I wanted to crawl back under the warm covers and hide.
But we had to get dressed, eat, and find the other parent (and his kids) I was supposed to give a ride to… then get us all to the first game.
Had I been a lot smarter, I would have arranged to meet the other parent and his kids in the morning somewhere. But no, I didn’t think of that until the morning. So we had to track them down after eating. It wasn’t that hard in the end, the motel isn’t that big, so we all loaded up the gear and drove off.
The boys were excited. Despite a night of running around and playing, they were keen to get on the ice and play. I was keen to get more coffee. The previous night I’d marked all the nearby Timmies in my phone. Not the hospitals. Not the arenas. No, the vital coffee shops that would keep me alive.
So, we had 3 games ahead of us. 3. I didn’t know how the boys would be by the 3rd game, but for the first one, they came out skating hard. Hey, I thought, maybe we’d actually win a game. Wouldn’t that be cool?
But then the puck was dropped. The opposing team’s center took it and skated left, skated right, dodged here, dodged there then pretty much zipped through our entire team, ending his run with a goal on the Youngest who looked like his skates were mired in molasses.
It wasn’t a good start. 8 seconds into the game, and we had a goal scored on us.
I began to envision a very depressing ride home. Plus, within a few more minutes, it became apparent that the Youngest had caught a case of the goalie derps. It’s a horrible disease of fate where every bounce goes against the goalie. If a shot hits the crossbar, it bounces off the goalie’s back and into the net. Or a puck decides to randomly hop up in the air and over the goalie’s stick. Or, worse, one of your own players deflects the puck into the net.
All these things happened in the 1st period. It was looking grim.
But the team rallied. We scored one, they scored two, we got two back, then one more, then they scored, again, then us again. After 3 periods of hard fought hockey, somehow, we won! Won!!!
The boys were ecstatic. Talk of future NHL careers filled the change room.
I thought, wow, how cool is this? They won one. Now they can go home with their heads held high. They’d won one.
But wait, the 2nd game proved to be a slaughter. For us. We won 9-7. We outplayed the other team, out hustled them, certainly out shot them, and won.
Now, you have to understand that our team has won maybe 2 games this year. Ok 3. But 2 in a row was unheard of.
The boys began to actually believe they could do this. They could win the whole thing.
The 3rd game began with us annihilating the other team in the first period 7-1. Good God, we were on fire. Passing the puck. Sniping the top corners of the net. Back-checking. It was amazing to see.
Then for the 2nd period, the other team changed their goalie. I felt so bad for the little guy who had to go to the bench. Being a goalie parent, I know the pain he would have felt. But the new kid they brought in, oh, boy, was he good.
He saved breakaways. He gloved shots fired to the upper corners. He poke-checked the puck in scrambles. He smothered rebounds.
You could sense the game change. That kid was a wall. Nothing was getting by him, and by the end of the 2nd period, we were at 7-7. Not that our team played poorly, but it is said that every dog has its day and boy did that goalie have his doggie day on this day.
We skated out for the 3rd period looking weary, but determined. Our best player fought his way to get into an open shooting lane and fired the puck in the top corner. 8-7. Then the other team scored on the Youngest, a mad scramble around the front of the net where someone poked the puck in. 8-8. Then, with minutes left in the game, we punched in another goal. 9-8.
All we had to do was hold on. All the parents were sitting forward in their seats or standing up with hands over their mouths. The other team knew time was running out and attacked with fury. But, where as in the first game, the Youngest couldn’t catch a break, on this night, on this ice, in the last minute of the game, he became a wall. He saved shot after shot, and even when they pulled the goalie, he was able to stop them time and time, again.
And time ran out.
We’d won. 3 games straight. We were going to the playoffs!
They had believed in themselves and they had won. No matter what the result was on Sunday, they had done Langley proud.
For his efforts, the Youngest even got the MVP award for the 3rd game.
It was, to quote the Youngest, “the best day of my life.”
But they all knew the really hard games would come tomorrow.