2021-22 Games 8 and 9 – EV Bolzano Eagles vs HC SKP Bratislava and KEHV Lakers
(Approximately 4 minute read)
[This posted was drafted in December and forgotten about. Better late than never.]
After a break for Team Italy’s qualification bid to the Beijing Olympics (which I wrote about for the Ice Garden, here), we returned for a home game against a top team in the league. Due to a Men’s game, we had one ice time before heading into competition. The practice was marked with imprecise passing and some well-deserved yelling from our coach; which was unfortunately predictive of the game’s results.
Return from Break: Bratislava
Although we had little time to prepare specifically for Bratislava, we went into the game with a lot of respect for how high our opponent stood in the standings. Nevertheless, an awareness of their skill didn’t translate into the play we needed for an upset. We started strong in terms of effort but struggled with turnovers and confusion about our d-zone coverage. The chaos and mistakes quickly devolved into blame and negativity.
Ultimately, Bratislava capitalized on a power play opportunity in the 2nd period. Mia Campo Bagatin was able to tie the game in the third: a strange (and fortunate) bounce off a backhand from the slot bounced off their defender. Mia didn’t even realize it went in (see the video for her adorable goal celly). Only a few shifts later, Bratislava regained the lead and coasted to victory. All things considered, the game was a reminder that we are capable of playing with some of the best teams in the league but we certainly need to clean up some aspects of our play if we want to be successful.
The game had me thinking about a study I recently heard about: one of the best predictors of NBA playoff success is the number of early season high-fives and celebratory touches between players. I know; it sounds like feel-good wishy-washy, maybe-this-doesn’t-matter-once-you-hit-a-certain-level type advice. But this study found that when you support your teammates, encouragement is actually predictive of your success as a team (Link: NBA study).
I definitely could feel the deflation of my teammates from the way our bench’s energy swayed during this game. There are very important differences between accountability and negativity, which primarily comes down to expectations we have of one another. Accountability is holding your teammates to a standard that you know and believe they are capable of; negativity is believing everyone is incapable and disappointing. Both are contagious – quickly rippling across a locker room.
At this point in the season (and every season has it’s ups and downs), we seem to have swung too far towards the “criticize and put-down” mentality. We will need to find a way to battle through our frustrations and back to supporting one another if we hope to find success going forward. After goals-against we need to come together, not to cast blame, but rather to figure out what to fix as a group to move forward. We are a young team and I am confident we will get there.
On the Road Again: Lakers
The following game, we hit the road for Villach, Austria, right next to the Ossiaicher See Lake, where we would face an opponent much closer to us in the rankings.
While it is often the case that on the road we find ourselves with a truncated roster, this road-trip was notable for how many players we were missing. Sara Kaneppele, Emily Decristofaro, Anna Bertoluzzo, were all out with injuries. Our roving players Marta Mazzocchi and Elena Perry, whom only join for EWHL games, were with their home Italian League clubs. And three leaders, Chelsea Furlani, Valentina Bettarini and Sammy Gius were all not able to join on the road.
After hours on the bus, I was shocked to step into a rink with no glass. This game, the puck would be live off of the netting, a sure-indicator of strange bounces and unpredictability. I worried that battles along the wall would be dangerous, but surprisingly, I didn’t actually notice a difference once play began.
I started the game on center and being that we were short on players, my endurance was tested from early on. The first period moved at a fast pace with good passing, but very few scoring chances for either team. After a scoreless first, we lost some of the wind in our sails and found ourselves sinking to a less skilled opponent. Just as we rose to the challenge of Bratislava, despite coming up short, we were letting our opponents dictate the play.
The Lakers got on the board first off a short-handed goal, but it wasn’t until the end of the third that Mia Campo Bagatin was able to tie up the game (again). We went into 5 minutes of overtime, knowing we should have secured the win in regulation and, on the shoulders of an amazing job by our goalie Danni Klotz, we just barely squeaked by in the shootout
After the game, I returned to find my mom in the family group chat, hilariously trying to troubleshoot watching the game-feed. It turns out the feed was broadcasting sideways, making watching/studying game tape really interesting.
(Goals: 1-0 Payne H. (3) 1:37:50; 1-1 Campo Bagatin M. (60) Part 2 20:18; Shootout Pierri J. 39:11; Stocker K. 40:02)
The Last of 2021
We have one more game before we head into the New Year. We will face our toughest opponent yet, at home, against MAC Budapest. Let’s hope we can rally together for this final fight of the calendar year.
I’m Jacquie and I’m an American hockey player living in Bolzano, Italy. I write about hockey, sustainability, and food.