Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Eli 11.6: And Again

Eli 11.6 had another tournament in Dallas two weekends ago.

First game, a shutout with 20 saves.

In the second game, he was playing wing, and his team was getting killed. It was 5-1 early in the second period when the coach motioned Eli over, then he skated off the ice.

"I cannot BELIEVE IT!" he said. "He wants me to go in!"

"I know," I said. "I can't believe it, either. But that doesn't matter now. Let the anger go and start centering in on what you need to do."

What followed was the madness of a full gear change in 10 minutes real-time. It only took 5 minutes of game time, so he skated back on in the middle of the second period.

No warm-up.

This was a situation that was sure to lead to disaster. The other team had scored again, it was 6-1, and our kids were totally discouraged. They were giving up shot after shot from right in front of the net.

And they kept giving them up for the rest of the game.

Didn't matter. Eli had 14 saves in 15 shots. He was completely in charge, and while they still lost 7-3, it was one of his best efforts ever. I was very proud of how he'd skated on and shut down a team that was very hungry to pad their stats, even with a big lead.

For the tournament, he had 34 saves on 35 shots. He'd also had a 12 shot shutout the previous week in an "official" scrimmage against Houston, so he'd saved 46 of his last 47 shots.

I've never seen him so confident. His technique and athleticism were so dominant that you could see kids on the other team start to sag as the games progressed, because they just weren't going to score.

So, of course, three days later there was this:

It didn't happen playing hockey, of course. He was playing soccer at school recess, caught a ball while he was playing goalie, and a kid kicked him in the hand. The kick was directly on his pinkie.

There's a fair amount of good news, believe it or not. One, it's a hairline fracture, so the cast only has to be on for 3 weeks, and he'll be able to play hockey again in 4.

Okay, that's one bit of good news, at least.

We've set up a daily routine, which consists of him stretching first,  followed by squeezing a ball to strengthen his other hand, and ending with a rapid-fire ball toss to keep his reflexes as sharp as we can. I think just having some kind of workout makes him feel better about being out, and it will help him come back more quickly.

I also told him that we'll get him a sizable Lego set that he can build when the cast comes off. If it takes 6-8 hours to build over a few days, that's a lot of happy rehab for his hand, to help get the flexibility back in all his fingers.

So his development team season is over. He played in 5 tournaments, had 13 games in goal, and finished with a .916 save percentage and 2.33 goals against average. He was getting stronger, too--in his last 5 games, his save percentage was .929.

It was a tough season. His coach was a cactus, his team played erratically (due, I think to the coach), and he was in too many games where his team just couldn't score. Through all that, though, he consistently rose above the situation and dominated. Plus, he was, by far, the most athletic goalie in his age group, which should serve him very well as he gets older.

It's still a longshot for him to reach his goals, but I think it's fair to say that after this season, he's still in the game.

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