Monday, April 04, 2011


Let's have a catch-up post for all the pictures of the last few weeks, including a nice batch from Eli's hockey tournament.

First, though, that's Eli 9.8 with his science project.

The hockey tournament was two weekends ago, and it was here, which was great--no driving 4+ hours to play somewhere.

The biggest game of the tournament was the first, with Eli in goal. His house program had been split into three teams for the tournament, and the first game in pool play was against what was generally considered the best house team. There were bragging rights at stake (even though he doesn't brag), and his best friend was playing in goal for the other team.

Adding to that, the fellow who runs the goalie training sessions in summer came to watch him, and so did his granny, as well as his aunt and uncle. And there were at least 75 other people in the stands.

For a 9.8 year old, it was the game of the season.

I always give him three keys to think about before he goes out on the ice, and since he's played so well in goal the last two months, they haven't changed. "Be aggressive. Stay on your angle. Stay focused. You're going to face adversity at some point, and you have to stay focused."

He nodded.

"Do you know what NHL goalies think when they give up a goal?" I asked.

"To concentrate even harder?" he asked.

"No," I said. "They think that the next save they make will be the greatest save of their career."

He smiled.

"Go have fun," I said, tapping him on the helmet.

And he did.

It was a tight, tight game. In the second period, the game was 1-1, and Eli stopped a hard shot, with the rebound going to a wide-open player just outside the left post. There was no way Eli could get there, absolutely no way, and people were starting to stand up as the puck went toward the net, but somehow Eli dove and slammed his stick down on the goal line. Save.

The crowd exploded. It was an unbelievable save, and the people who weren't yelling his name were shouting "GOALIE!" It was a huge moment, and his team scored to take the lead a few minutes later.

With only three minutes left in the game, they were ahead 3-1, and a kid took a hard shot from the left side. Eli was standing up, and it hit him in the chest and bounced up, seeming to just hang in the air. He very calmly used the knob of his stickk to whack it into the corner.

3-1. Game over.

If it wasn't the best game he's ever played, it was close. He never let the other team feel like they could win the game, and as a goalie, that's the best thing you can do for your team.

He walked off the ice with his helmet lifted up on his head, smiling. All the parents were congratulating him, and he kept mentioning how well his defense had played (and they had--they played as well as he did).

We walked off to the side, away from the crowd. "Did you see that save with the stick?" he said, laughing. "I got so lucky."

"Dude, that wasn't luck," I said. "Most kids don't even have that move. Sometimes being a goalie is just giving yourself the best chance to stop a shot, and you did. That move started this whole streak."

"It did?" he asked.

It did. I wrote a few weeks ago about how he was behind 5-0 in the first period of a league game, then made that same move and shut the door on a kid, which ignited a huge comeback, although they wound up losing 6-5. In his next game in goal, he won 3-2, then 5-3. So since that save, he'd given up six goals in eight periods. With this game, it was seven goals in eleven periods, and none of the opponents had been easy.

There was this photography company that took a ton of pictures of the game, and we all went in and bought a DVD, so here are some excellent pictures:

If you click on that picture and get the larger version, you'll see his eyes. It reminds me of the famous picture of Mike Singletary (Hall Of Fame linebacker) taken right before the ball was snapped.

That position is known as "the Hybrid."

If you click for the larger version, you'll see the puck, which is just hitting his blocker.

In the second game, he didn't play in goal, they played a great team (from the Rio Grande area, which has a very strong hockey program) and got their asses beat 11-0. It was brutal. There were a couple of nice pictures, though, with this one in particular:

The third game was just as bad as the second, an 11-2 beatdown against another travel-level team that was playing as a house team. More pictures:

He caught that kid, by the way.

Okay, on to game four, which was against Laredo, and if you remember, his first tournament game in goal was against Laredo back in October, and they delivered the band-aid ripping of all time, beating him 8-2. It was pretty devastating, not to mention humiliating, and now, in the last game of the tournament season, he had a chance for revenge.

"Dad, I normally wouldn't say this, but I really want this game." I was putting on his leg pads.

"I know," I said. "Those guys did some damage last time, but you're a different goalie now. You're not the guy they beat."

"Even though they don't have Pummba this time, I don't care. I just want to beat them." Laredo has one kid that plays on their house team who's a stone-cold star. In a house tournament, he'll score 3-5 goals every single game. He really gave Eli the business, and he wasn't shy about celebrating it, either.

"It doesn't matter who they didn't bring," I said. "The name on the front of the jersey still says 'Laredo.' And it's going to feel just as good when you shut them down. Three keys?"

"Don't lose your cool, stay on your angle, be aggressive."

"Have a great game," I said, tapping him on the helmet.

This was a game where, without Laredo's superstar, the teams were incredibly evenly-matched. Actually, Laredo was just a little overmatched, because play was in their end for much of the game. Eli didn't have nearly as much work, but he played well again, and Laredo was never able to get ahead.

It was tight, but they won 3-2, and I was so happy for Eli. He took an ass-whipping in October, but he got over it, became stronger, and evened the score in March.

It's hard to imagine him as the goofy 9.8 year old that he is when you see a picture like this.

That's at the end of the game, and there's a sidenote: if you look behind the glass, the guy in blue clothing, looking down, is the father of the Laredo goalie. He was a very nice guy, and we chatted before the game (it's funny--as a parent, you have more in common with the goalie parent from another team than you do the parents on your own team, really). I felt badly for him, because his son had a terrific game, but just had to face too many shots.

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