2021-22 Games 6 and 7 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs EHV Sabres Vienna
(Approximately 4 minute read)
After the long road-trip last weekend, we had two practices. As is often the case with players traveling from far away and work conflicts, we were short on players. I felt apprehensive going into the weekend, particularly because our opponent from Vienna was undefeated after six games, not even having allowed a goal against thus far.
For the first game of the weekend I started on the third line with Elena (Perry) Perathoner and Manuela (Heidi) Heidenberger. Perry felt more comfortable playing center so I agreed to take left wing. The game started with good pace, but we struggled with breakouts, myself included. With two Vienna forecheckers pressing hard and their defensemen pinching down the wall, we had limited success. On my off side, I couldn’t quite find the right depth in the d-zone to be an option for our defenseman.
At about halfway through the first, after a broken breakout with a turn over to Vienna, the visitors took advantage. As the puck was skated behind our net, and cycled back to a second player, there was a miscommunication between our two defensemen and they both squared up to a single player. This left another player alone in the slot and the pass from below the goal line reached her with plenty of time, alone, to pick a corner for the first goal against (Video: 0:41).
The second period saw Vienna add to the score early, just three minutes in. A pass up the wall on the breakout was picked off and Vienna’s player cut across the seam at the top of the circle. The shooter once again had lots of time alone to pick a corner (Video: 1:15). The third goal was a great individual effort (Video: 1:24), but the forth came shortly after and was again a d-zone break down (Video: 1:26). As other players were rotated in for Heidi on our line, I switched from right to left wing, shift by shift, requiring a lot of focus on my part, especially in the d-zone. On several shifts I found myself unsure which side I was supposed to be on.
We went into intermission 4-0, hoping only to win the third and build some momentum for the rematch the next day. Late in the period, on the power play, I was able to get a shin on a rebound from Sammy Guis’ shot, and Eleonora Bonafini was able to bat down my bouncing redirection and bury it far side (Video: 2:17). The first goal-against for Vienna of the season felt like a consolation, despite the lopsided score.
We went into the second game, missing two players. Perry was back with her Italian club team (she only joins us for EWHL games when they don’t conflict) and our second line center was out with a foot injury. I filled in, centering 18 year olds Sara Kaneppele and Anna (Callo) Callovini, both of whom are already on the Italian national team. At center I felt more at ease, and as a team, our d-zone seemed to be functioning much better.
Shots were even in the first period, and we traded equal power-play and penalty kill time. The power-play is another area where I’ve needed to be flexible. While I started at the peak of the umbrella, I’ve shuffled to the left and right flanks as well. At this game, I played the left flank and we were able to generate a few chances with cross slot passes through Vienna’s aggressive killing system.
Shortly into the second period, a d-zone face off loss, bounced out to the Vienna defenseman. A point shot through a screen put them on the board 1-0 (Video: 1:20). Later in the period, Franziska (Kika) Stocker sniped on the power play, retying the game at 1-1 (Video: 1:41). Unfortunately we couldn’t hold on through the full sixty minutes. Mid-way through the third, we went down 5 on 3 after successive interference and tripping calls. Vienna ran a give and go play, opening the shooter for a precise shot, high far side. We went down 2-1 (Video: 2:25). We had some chances in the last five minutes, including some 6 on 5 play after we pulled our goalie but were unable to reclaim the tie.
The theme of the weekend was definitely “Know your role.” I see my role this season as being a player adaptable enough to fill in what ever gaps the team has. Whether that is adjusting to a fluctuating roster, calming the bench energy through panic moments, or guiding younger players, I’m doing my best to be mindful of what is needed.
When I’m on the third line, I see my job as bringing out the best performance of young teammates who don’t get as many opportunities to play. If they prefer left, I will play right, or vice versa, to make sure they are in the best position to succeed. That includes psychological things, like pointing out something they’ve done well on the previous shift and trying to keep them uplifted through the difficult confidence roller coaster of being put in and out of the line up. When I’m on the second line, I feel my role is to bring defensive-zone stability; To make sure I’m communicating and connecting our d-men with our wingers. And on power-play, and opportunities I get on the first line, the team needs me to create offense. This is the role I’m finding most difficult to step-into and the one I’m focusing most on during practices.
Hockey is such a mental sport and building the intangible skills is an ever-green pursuit. You can be an all-star stand-out, but if you can’t lift up those around you, your team still wont find success. When there is depth of talent, like you find in North America, you’ll get left off a line-up (if your coach is smart), and over here, where we can barely scrap together a full team, it’s the difference between winning and losing. Hopefully we can start doing some winning soon.
This upcoming weekend, we have our first match in the Italian Hockey League (IWHL) and then a week-long-break as more than half my teammates will be travelling to Füssen, Germany for Olympic Qualifiers. The IWHL has a “one-import rule,” therefore I wont get the opportunity to suit up this weekend, but I will be following closely from Scotland where I’ll be traveling to represent EcoAthletes at Sport@COP26.
I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.