There was no joy in Ashburn. The Red Team had not won a game since the beginning of their season. They were inexperienced in the push and shove of teams in one or two classes above them. They struggled furiously to score goals in any of these games. Their appearance in the Pittsburgh rinks was further evidence of their lack of cohesiveness and aggressiveness.
Towards the end of their travail, they began to push back and play with a sort of reckless abandon that allowed them to hit the net a few times. Although the games were not close, they began to get closer. Maybe there could be a light at the end of the tunnel that would not be a train coming towards them.
The snow had blanketed Frederick, Maryland in the morning of the game. The temperature had retreated to a winter level with dark clouds hovering above the entire area. By the time the 6:30 appointed time came and the buzzer sounded, the Red Team was on the ice waiting for an apparently experienced Rockville, Maryland team to appear.
It was said that the Maryland team came equipped with some older players and a decent record. None of this could ever be confirmed. As the puck was dropped by the referee, the small coterie of Red Team parents shouted encouragement to their young charges.
The Red Goalie stood in mute attention as the skaters came towards him in waves of spitting ice and eye popping speed. Initially, the Red Team managed some quality time down at the Maryland team’s goal. Within a few minutes, they had mesmerized the small crowd of Ashburnites with a clever goal that the defenders had no chance to stop.
This was the second time that they had been ahead in a game. However, that game did not turn out well. There was kind of a hesitancy to root too loudly, maybe to jinx the Red Team. The Maryland team continued their assault on the Red Goalie. He caught, blocked, kicked, pushed and dove numerous times to stop the puck from entering his domain. In one case, he pushed the opposing player, who stood directly in front of him to the ground, so that his vision was not impaired.
Ashburn’s team seemed to take heart from the Red Goalie’s ferocious tending of the goal. They raced down the ice innumerable times, either going towards the goal, or poke checking the puck away from the opposition. There did not seem to be any hesitation among the players, even the smaller and younger ones, to engage the opposition in combat.
All at once, the Red Team scored a second goal. This made the Maryland team even more aggressive on the ice. There were some penalties, some more pushing and shoving and a number of players were escorted to the sin bin. The pressure on the Red Team to play good defense grew. As it grew, the Red Goalie found himself splayed on the ground even more than before. He reached for blistering shots with his glove hand and seemed to anticipate where the next shot would come from.
As the last few moments of the contest approached, there was an undercurrent of joy in the Ashburn crowd. Many just held their hands together, as if to pray for the end to come quickly, and it did. The buzzer sounded and the entire Red Team rushed out onto the ice and piled on the Red Goalie, like lion cubs playing with each other. They had achieved their aim, to win against a superior team and reach the next level of accomplishment.
After the locker room emptied out, each with a huge bag of equipment, the Red Goalie exited with an even larger goalie bag. He had on a black pull down hat and a grand smile for everyone. He was standing there with much congratulatory handshakes and high fives from members of the crowd and from the opposing team. He looked over at me and said, “Hi Grandpa, and we hugged.”


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