10 Players...1 Goal
By MCpl Wiscombe M.A
0500 hrs: wake up, quick breakfast and off to practice. 0600 hrs: pads on, sticks in hand and time to start running. We all knew that a few weeks of cold Edmonton mornings would be worth it in the end, but at first, it sure didn’t feel that way. Under the tutelage of MWO “the TQ” Clarke, we worked hard to hone a game that we all loved as kids, and heeded his advice as we worked our cardio trusting that we’d be able to push the pace when others wouldn’t – or better yet, couldn’t.
Much to everyone’s chagrin, due to availability of garrison real-estate, a new twist was introduced this year, 3-vs-3 in the Garrison Field House. We all knew that meant lots of running, and worse, no gliding or much needed help from your 4th or 5th players who simply weren’t there. It was up to the three of you to maintain control of your foe…..or three quick round-robin games and Wednesday’s quarter-final would spell the end of our tournament.
Our first opponent was 1 CMBG HQ & Sigs, and right off the ball drop; we were in for a fight finding our game speed. The TQ, Cpl “Cardio for Days” Francis and Cpl “Greener” Greene took control by forcing the play and broke through in the second half by racking up double-digit points and an 11-3 drubbing – a strong start indeed.
Game 2 featured 1 PPCLI; and we expected them to be the first real test of our mettle. With a game under our belts, we learned to work the boards and use the time we had to make plays even Gretzky (or at least a ball-hockey version) would be proud of. The line of Tpr “I swear I’m old enough to play” Vanbeek, Cpl “Crazy Legs” Hall and MCpl “The Minister of Defence” Wiscombe held the Patricia’s at bay, tallied regularly and anchored the team throughout. A few borderline penalty calls kept it close, but with Cpl “Rimp” Rimpilainen turning away the resulting penalty shots, we improved our record to 2-0 with a 6-1 beat-down.
Game 3 (our second in 90 mins) brought us face to face with 1 RCHA from Shilo; the other 2-0 team in our division, in a showdown for 1st place and an easy path to the semi-finals. A tight back and forth battle through the first 20 mins had us tied 1-1, but untimely penalties (and fatigue) resulted in a lackluster second period; ending with a disappointing 6-1 loss. We hung our heads and knew we had just used our only flop…but revenge is a dish best served cold. Finishing the round-robin as the #2 seed in our pool, we began the quarter-finals confident and positive that we didn’t want this to be our last game.
Paired with 1 CER due to the cross-over format, we knew our base neighbors had some skill and we couldn’t look past them. Right from the get-go we knew the game was firmly in our grasp; as the TQ-Francis-Green line lit the lamp so frequently, that had there been a goal light, we would have had to give the goalie sunscreen! Cpl “Socks” Harder, MCpl “I just want to point out that I have yet to make it on the scoresheet” Collins, and Tpr “Banana peels for shoes” Webster made defenders look foolish and gave the opposition’s strongest line fits on the way to a 9-3 thrashing.
Onto the semi-finals with a spring in our step, we found ourselves staring down the barrel of a 2 PPCLI 25mm…..BUT, we came packing a 120mm brute-force trauma inducing game plan. “Pedal to the medal” right off the start, here’s where the early morning practices would pay huge dividends – and as the TQ would continually say, “here’s where we drag them into deep waters and drown them.” After a blistering start, Cpl Harder showed hands even Picasso would have been fond of, making the 2 PPCLI goalie roll-around like a dog begging for treats on two penalty shots – whereas Tpr Webster went “top shelf cheddar” on two others. Anchored by yet another stellar performance by Cpl Rimpilainen, we rolled through the semis with a solid 7-3 victory – and onto the Friday Finals.
Friday morning came, and just like the early morning practices, we gathered loosely by our bench and began to strap on our gear. The gold medal game offered us the perfect opportunity to dole out some good ‘ol revenge against 1 RCHA – and judging by the increased attendance from the Regiment in support, we could also do it in front of our cheering fans.
Before the tournament began MWO Clarke made a conscious and strategic decision to roll 3 lines; vice 5 lines that the other teams would surely use. The reasoning was to keep our best players on the floor the entire time so the opposition couldn’t keep-up with the relentless and sustained firepower. This theory was tested and proven in the finals, when only 25 seconds into the first shift Cpl Francis opened the scoring; followed by the TQ moments later. Already behind and feeling the pressure, “The Guns” pushed hard, but Cpl Rimpilainen played like he harkened the ghost of Jacques Plante - turning away shot after shot; making the 1 RCHA shooters look like they were playing with a turnip.
A spirited clash from beginning to end, the Strathcona fans waved flags, drowned-out opposing fans with well-timed chirps and gave us the boost we needed to pour on the gas. As “The Guns” wrestled for momentum, Cpl Francis and the TQ potted insurance goals - sapping the life out of the surging foe, while Tpr Vanbeek and Cpl Hall slid the ball around players like they were standing in cement. Not to be outdone, MCpl Wiscombe and Cpl Greene worked the boards stymieing “The Guns” attempts at gaining positive control until MCpl Collins and Cpl Harder pounded the final two nails into the coffin.
In the end, with over a hundred chanting Strathcona fans in attendance, the clock ticked down and the final whistle blew. When the dust settled, we posted a comfortable 6-3 win, and what we had all thought of weeks earlier (as we crawled out of bed on those early mornings) was finally realized - we had won the gold….the 10 of us. We sacrificed our bodies for each other, left it all on the floor through each and every shift, and for the next 365 days we have the bragging rights……and will be anxiously waiting to repeat.