We make our way over to the ice and wait for the referees to come out. The student section is bigger than I’ve ever seen it and they are going crazy.
Why are they all wearing pajamas and helmets? They look so funny. I can’t wait to see what Jonnie is wearing. I love that guy.
Warm-ups go by in a jiffy, and it’s now game time. We gather by the bench for the captains to give us a pep talk. The first line goes out there, the rest of us get on the bench and the puck drops. Forty-five minutes of commercial free hockey begins now.
The game is off to a good start. Neither team seems to be significantly better than the other. The first line is noticeably getting tired, which isn’t good.
“Jake, do you need to sit a shift to catch your breath?” Coach Neof asks Jake Smith.
“Yeah, I need to catch my breath,” Jake responds.
The whistle blows, and it is time for Jake’s line to go out.
“Danny, go out there with Rob and Scotty while Jake rests for a shift,” Neof says.
Did he just say me? Holy shoot. I’m not ready for this. Just kidding I am. How’s this shift going to go? If I just go out there, play smart and hard it will all be alright.
I hop the boards and skate over to the face off dot. The puck is dropped and the play begins. I skate to my position and am ready for anything. I see Robbie Neil get the puck and start skating up the ice into the neutral zone and then into the offensive zone. He gets a shot off, but it’s saved and frozen by the goalie. Another face off. I make my way over to my position, right next to the boards.
Someone’s about to start banging on the boards and yelling my name.
Please don’t do the “Danny Rothenberg” chant.
“Danny!” Some random person yells.
This was followed by about 20 more of them. I ignore them. Like Coach Parker says, only what’s happening on the ice matters. He’s a wise guy so I listen to him and get back to the game. The puck is dropped and the play continues. I skate into the offensive zone and see a Churchill player pick up the puck.
I can hit this kid. I have the angle.
I nail him up against the boards and everyone starts to yell.
OK nice hit Danny, except for the fact that you fell after. The crowd better not start the Da-.
“Danny Rothenberg! clap clap, clap clap clap Danny Rothenberg,” They all scream.
I skate until the next whistle, and then hop off the ice. We are in gridlock. 0-0, and there is no sign of either team giving up that first goal. There is about five minutes left in the first period, and we are in our defensive zone. A Churchill defenseman gets the puck and shoots it from the point.
C’mon, Colin you got this. Save this shot. You’re a terrific goalie.
He shoots, it deflects off of someone and finds its way into the net. The Churchill crowd is going berserk. Just an unlucky bounce for us.
No one is worried though, we are playing great. The period goes on and there are no more goals.
The second period goes by really fast. No goals. No penalties. However, Jonnie Voyta has arrived at the game. I heard the Jonnie Voyta chant start, so I knows he must have just come.
If I just look up I’m positive I’ll see him. Oh, there he is. He is so much taller than everyone else. Why does he not have his helmet on. C’mon Jonnie.
It is the third period now. The score is 1-0 Churchill. We have momentum and know we could still easily win this game.
“We’re only down one, and everyone here knows that goal was lucky. Go hard and we will win this game,” Hunter Band says.
Two minutes go by from Hunter’s speech, and Churchill gets a breakaway opportunity.
You got this, Colin.
They score. Now it is 2-0 them. If this was any other game, we would have felt defeated. It was Churchill though, so we have to play hard until the end of the game no matter the score. The bench is silent. The crowd is silent. Everyone thinks we were done except the team itself. Things quickly change though. With four minutes left, Brett Strauss tips in goal for us, and we are back in the game. The crowd is going crazy. They start a chant that is too inappropriate to repeat, but it sure was clever. Two more minutes go by.
“Rob, go get me one,” I demand Rob Neil as he hops over the boards onto the ice.
He looks at me and nods. I watch Rob get the puck and go around the back of the net
This is it. It has to be.
He turns around shoots the puck and…Goal! Everyone goes insane. It is all tied up. As time ticks down, both teams are scared it is going to end in a tie.
We know we could score though. We get some shots off, but none go in.
The clock hits zero, the horn goes off, and the whole arena is left in silence.
The biggest game of the year ends in a tie.