March 9 , 2012
COLCHESTER NIPS ESSEX IN FIFTH OVERTIME
In the Vermont high school boy's semifinal hockey playoffs Wednesday night, Colchester edged Essex, 5-4 with a goal after, what, almost four hours. Yeah, I was there, and my toes were little blocks of ice, but my spirit was high, as I watched these young men skate as hard in the fifth overtime as they did in the opening period.
This was one of the best exhibitions of the sport I have ever seen: masterful skating skills, punishing yet relatively clean body checking (especially taking the body, not watching the puck), gritty performances in the corners, intelligent passing, and a collective attitude which brought tears to my eyes. Well, almost.
As I watched this game, I remembered skating against Essex almost forty years ago, also at the jammed Essex rink, and thought how it doesn't get much better than this. I hope the players savor the experience, not just the outcome. This was a spectacle of pure ice hockey, without the hacking, grabbing and jawing seen at the professional level. Every one of the participants from Colchester and Essex should be extremely proud, wearing the memory of this night like a badge.
Some random thoughts on the game:
* Hats off to the refs. During an exciting multi-overtime game, one tends to get caught up in the action, not thinking too much about the officiating, unless it's a bad call.
Remember, the referees were out on the ice for five overtimes too, without having their own line change.
* What else can you say about Ryan Francis and his performance, his loss earlier in the week, and his wish to score for his aunt. It was truly befitting for him to win the game on a night like this.
* The packed Essex gym stayed packed until the end. There were some folks who left early, but a heckuva lot stayed until the final horn. Hordes of Essex fans sat in stunned silence, with others respectfully applauding Colchester, Essex, and the game itself.
* Think of the goalies. Not only did they make over 100 saves collectively, they also had to be on their feet for the larger part of four hours - good thing youth is on their side.
* Student cheering sections were fully loaded with kinetic energy, and were classy and funny in their comport.
* Essex senior captains Lucas Martin and J.T. Begnoche tried so hard to will, and play, their team to victory. Both had numerous rushes down the ice, almost scoring on a few, which made for an even more exciting time at a game which had it all, anyway.
Bravo, gents - to the crowd, you were all winners!