Monday, December 15, 2008

Friggin' Awesome

So, my first ever experience playing goal went by in an instant, was totally surreal, and was an extremely positive experience thanks to a defense that played their asses off in front of me and were very protective of me. I think maybe I saw 8 shots. I think I let in 4, maybe 3. Honestly, it was a blur.

I'm going to need someone to take notes for me to tell me how goals went in on me. I can't remember from one to the next. I know a couple were just back door passes that I couldn't get back over for. I need to learn to deal with those situations, but I know that's one of the more difficult situations, even for an experienced goalie, so I'm not too worried about it. What was nice was that I don't think any rebounds came back in on me. Either my team cleaned it up or I froze it or the rebound went to the corner. Though the last goal hit my stick and went in because I had it angled into the net. Oops!

Anyway, the other goalie was also a newbie to the position and is actually quite a good forward, so I'm not sure why he subjected himself to this, other than Scott TCG put him up to it for a dose of humility. :) The green team did NOT take it easy on him like the red team did on me. They didn't run him or wind up on him but they crowded the net pretty hard and showed little mercy. I think since I'm committed to the position... and I'm a girl... they were more cautious and considerate. That and my D just gave them no room to breathe. It was like having the Red Wings in front of me! Gonna start calling Coach Dan "Lidstrom"...

I'm just really glad to have that first game out of the way and for it to have been such an intensely positive experience. I heard the ref asking them what had gotten into them tonight, they were being so fierce. Just protecting the newbie goalie, ref. God love every one of them.

Going forward... Dan said I was doing a good job tracking the puck and staying square to it, but I need to play a little further out of the net, which I knew I'd have a problem with. I think most goalies do at first because you don't want to leave those sides open in a way that you can't cover quickly.

The hardest part was, honestly, just the standing around. My feet hurt like a mofo because these skates aren't broken in. It was a relief to get a shot that I got to drop down for, just so I could get off my feet for a few seconds.

The only gear weirdness is that my arm padding interferes with putting my gloves on. It's a bit of an ordeal. I've heard of women having to shorten the arm a smidge on chest protectors, so that may be what I need to do. I'll look into that tomorrow.

And I think the sorest thing is going to be my stick hand and forearm from handling the stick. That should get stronger pretty quickly, I hope. I also need to put some tape where I hold the stick so I've got a little more solid grip. My crusty old blocker glove turns sorta slimy with sweat. Blech.

Bottom line, what an incredible experience. To have spent the last year working toward this goal, and very often feeling like it just wasn't going to happen and there were too many odds against me, to have it finally happen and for it to be everything I hoped it would be, at least to start... I couldn't ask for much more. I'm so grateful, more than anything, for the little pushes and the bits of advice and encouragement along the way and the enthusiastic support of my team and Coach Stalin and Coach Lidstrom and Scott TCG, and of course, Mr. C, who has been so patient and supportive with this rather angst-ridden and expensive process.

My one super dumb moment: I was totally dressed and then one of the gals in the room mentioned something about a cup and I thought, "OH SHIT." I forgot to put my jill on. Had to strip everything down and start over. But it was fine. I've gotten pretty quick putting everything on. What I haven't sorted out is juggling a stick, glove, blocker, and water bottle to get out to the net.

And my one "ohh, this is what they were talking about the Goalie Store message board" moment: When the team was warming up and one of my teammates deked on me and got a goal in behind me. I always thought, geez, what whiners. A shot's a shot and it's just warm-up. Well, no, it messes with your head a bit. I was kinda in and out of net for warm-ups, just trying not to get too rattled by it.

Okay, that's all. I'm so tired and I think I've finally consumed enough water to not wake up at 3 a.m. thirsty as all hell.


Nick in New York  December 15, 2008 at 9:53 AM  

AWESOME! I'm very happy for you. I recall my first time playing goalie was just as exhilirating and positive - despite getting lit up - as yours sounds like it was.

Got any cool puck/scuff marks on your pads??

BTW: I go helmet on, both gloves on, stick in stick hand, and water bottle in trapper webbing as I walk out. I'm sure you're figure out your own system, but that works for me.

Also, I think a big reason goalies have trouble coming out at first is that you aren't comfortable with where you are relative to the actual net (read: posts). That will come with time. But cutting down the angle is a critical component of playing goal, so make sure you work towards a goal of playing farther and farther out towards the top of your crease whenever you can.

Third: I hate those hot shots in warm ups. I just let 'em do their thing. I really only take a few shots in warm ups at this point. I spend the rest of the time stretching or just getting focused.

Ms. Conduct  December 15, 2008 at 10:14 AM  

Honestly, I was so tired, I didn't even look at my gear when I got home. Just laid it out to dry and went upstairs to tell Mr. C all about it. Which reminds me, I have a pile of sweaty clothes that need to go in the wash. I think I must have lost 3 lbs of water in an hour.

Glad to know my warm-up approach is not that unusual. I've read a bunch on the goalie board about dealing with that stuff and felt okay about just doing what I needed to do. The teams are used to our goalies pretty much taking all their shots in warm-ups, and I did find taking a few shots helpful since I'd never taken any shots EVER... even had a really nice blocker save during warm-ups, so that boosted my confidence. But eventually I just needed to go finish stretching and gather myself.

Honestly, because I love good hockey, I delighted as much in watching my defense play around me as I did in playing myself. They were incredible, but still let me see the puck and do what I needed to do in the crease. They didn't overdo it. I'm totally overwhelmed by the magnitude of their efforts. I've always felt it's a privilege to play goal and I feel that way even more so now.

What's interesting to me is that it feels like I did something different than play hockey last night. The perspective and the experience is so completely different from skating out and my feelings about playing the position are so different as well. I would dread playing forward to varying degrees, every game, for 6 months! And then after, I'd be on a huge high, somewhat because it was over and somewhat because it was exhilarating.

With playing goal, there was just excitement and nerves before the game and then just a deep satisfaction and contentment after. Less of a rollercoaster. And I think that's a good thing. Tells me I'm doing something more in line with my genuine nature.

Nick in New York  December 15, 2008 at 10:26 AM  

another thing: think about talking to your defense. There's no set list of things you should or shouldn't help them out with, you'll have to figure out what works best for your defense as well as what you can make part of your repertoire without distracting yourself.

I talk out loud non-stop during play. It helps me stay involved in what's going on. But I have several cues that I give my defense each and every time they're pertinent. If someone doesn't like it, I try not to do it. If someone wants something else I try to incorporate it.

Start small though.

Like if they're going back to get the puck behind you - when their back could be turned towards your end boards and away from the rest of the rink - think about chirping out a "man on!" if a forechecker is bearing down on them, or a "time!" if they have time to settle it down and turn and look for an outlet pass.

Every player I've talked to says it's nice to get some feedback from the goalie. But again, it shouldn't happen at the expense of your own concentration.

Ms. Conduct  December 15, 2008 at 10:49 AM  

Yeah, that's one of those things that will likely come a little later on for me. I thought about it some but never felt like my d-men weren't aware of their situation. Like, I'd seen them glance back so I knew they knew they had time, or they were hustling hard so I knew they knew they had a man on. Once I'm more comfortable with what I'm doing, I'm sure that will come.

The thing I'm thinking about a lot is save selection and positioning. I feel like I did pretty well at timing my drop with the shot. I nailed every save where I went down, so I felt great about that. It's the lateral movement that's tough. I'm thinking on a couple of those, if I'd pushed off and dropped as I was sliding across the crease, I would have stopped them, but that's kind of an "out of control" move that I just didn't have my head around yet. I'll need to try it in practice a few times to get used to it.

The other thing that caught me off guard was the crossbar interfering with my stick when the puck was on the boards to the left or right of the crease. But that was just a matter of positioning myself out a little further, so I think I got that figured out. It just surprised me that it was an issue that I hadn't considered.

Nick in New York  December 15, 2008 at 11:54 AM  

I think focusing on positioning is key. Save selection is easy if you're positioned right (remember that they count the same if you sprawl out for a statue of liberty glove save or if it just hits you in the leg pads without you moving a muscle.

In fact, those "saves" where it's a shot through traffic or something and it just hits you - where you think it will - are awesome because it indicates that your positioning is bang on. I love when I get one of those because then I feel I can spend a bit more time focusing on reading the play as opposed to thinking about my positioning.

Also, on the topic of reading the play, always remember: you can't shoot a puck that's straight out in front of you. At least not with any kind of mustard on it.

Think about that for a second.

Life_As_A_Redhead  December 15, 2008 at 12:09 PM  

I'm REALLY happy for you.

and I'm SO glad it worked out well for you.

Ms. Conduct  December 15, 2008 at 1:24 PM  

I'm thinking, Nick. I'm thinking.

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