Monday, February 01, 2016

The Big Hockey Update Post

Man, Eli 14.6 has had quite a season so far.

He's 15-2-1, with a .925 save percentage and 1.61 GAA (goals against average). In 2016 so far, he's 5-0 with a 1.00 GAA.

His team has won 11 games in a row and is in second place in a very, very tough league. They're going to make the playoffs and have a chance to win the league, which doesn't happen to Austin teams very often.

He still has another six weeks or so before he tries out in Michigan. Now he needs to give'r, but he's been doing that all season.

A few months ago, he told me that there are levels in goaltending:
1. Block the puck
2. Control the puck
3. Control the game

He has worked very, very hard the last two years on #2, where shots are either caught, covered, or sent safely into the corner.

This season, for the first time, he's had level three games. When a goalie gives up no rebounds and makes good decisions, it sucks all the air out of the rink. There's no drama, no loose pucks. It's demoralizing for an opposing team, because all teams try to create chaos in front of the net, and when they can't do it, it's deflating.

Eli's goal is to make every game boring.

Last year, one of the supervising coaches involved with the hockey program was mad at Eli because he didn't get angry when he was pulled during a tournament game. Eli had been sick the entire holiday break, wound up with pneumonia, and that was only his second game back.

His team had been getting pounded all season (his average shots against last year was 40), but they had made a tournament final.

And he got blown up.

I think it was 4-0 halfway through the first period when he got pulled. He sat on the bench and cried for about ten minutes, then pulled it together and tried to help out on the bench.

This coach (not Eli's team coach, who made him a captain and had nothing but good things to say about him) told me, in so many words, that Eli was soft, that he should be angry when he gets pulled.

"He's the least angry kid you've ever met," I said. "I"m not going to try to change his personality just because you don't understand him. Anger has nothing to do with how much he cares."

We kind of left it there, but the implication was that Eli wasn't tough enough, even though this was the same kid who had played through a cracked rib in practice when he was 11.

A few weeks ago, Eli was at the rink watching travel league games with our other teams, because he coaches the Squirt goalies. Everywhere he went, there were kids around him, both younger kids and some of his own teammates.

That same coach walked up to me a few minutes later. A short distance away, half a dozen younger kids were all talking to Eli at the same time. He just stood there with a big grin on his face, trying to answer all of them at once.

"He's everyone's big brother, isn't he?" he said.

"Yeah," I said. "Everyone has value to him."

"He really is a gentle giant," he said, smiling.

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