Eli 13.1 and the Leveling TournamentI know, I haven't finished Detroit yet, but the leveling tournament was last weekend and it's fresh in my mind.
Before we left for Detroit, Eli found out that he was going to be on the second team this year, not the first. The two kids chosen ahead of him are both 50+ pounds bigger than he is, and they're both very good.
Are they better? I don't think they are, but like I said, they're very good. Eli is immediately at a disadvantage against them in a tryout situation, though, because they look very imposing, and he doesn't. He's a technician, and he's unbelievably quick, but he's not big.
This happens quite a bit down here, with team composition constantly changing, because we don't have birth year teams. So one of the goalies is a year older than Eli, but since Eli moved up to Bantam, they're in the same age group for a year.
In good news, though, the other goalie on Eli's team moved here from Indiana, and he's both an excellent goalie and a terrific kid, so they're quite a funny pair together. Plus, Eli likes the kids on his team. Some of his best friends are on the team with him, and that's great.
The tough part is that about half the team is made up of the better House kids, which means--for now--they're quite a bit behind the existing travel kids in terms of skating ability and general skills. The coaching staff is phenomenal, really first-rate, and I think kids will improve very quickly, but for now, our defense is very leaky.
At the leveling tournament, they throw every Bantam team, regardless of whether they want to play in "A" or "B" league, into the same group. We're a low to mid-B team right now (we'll get better, like I said), and Eli's two games last weekend were against a high "A" team (that finished second out of nineteen teams), and another team that is a mid-A team.
This represents an enormous difference in team levels. And our defense, for now, isn't good.
Eli faced 113 shots in two games. We had 15 shots.
If you're wondering, 70 shots in two games would be "a lot". Plus, these were quality shots from very, very strong teams, because we don't have good defensive coverage yet, so guys were often left wide open.
We lost 6-0 and 5-1. I don't think I've ever been more proud of him.
He made far superior teams scratch and claw for every goal. The second game, in particular, was the best technical game he's ever had, because every shot was either trapped for a faceoff or directed safely into a corner. Zero rebounds in scoring position on 52 shots.
He gave up 11 goals, and every one was the result of a major defensive lapse on our part that gave the other team a shot from point-blank range.
Never got upset with his defense. Kept encouraging guys, directing them, working with them. And even though our skill level is limited right now, they played hard in front of him. Very hard. And we're going to be good, eventually.
Both games felt like wins, staying so close to far superior teams.
All summer, Eli has been doing an extremely difficult off-ice workout two days a week (in addition to all the other activity he gets). And it paid off big-time, because in both games, he was as strong at the end as he was at the start. Never got worn down, even with all that frozen rubber flying.
We didn't talk much about it, because his level is so high now that he wasn't surprised. He just played like he expected himself to play. While we were in a convenience store getting drinks after the last game, though, I put my arm around him and said, "That was very, very tall. Strong and tall."
I didn't need to say anything else.