Monday, 29 November 2010

Win, Loss, Win

Since the last posting, we have played 3 more games.  We started off in Grenoble a little over a week ago in a game that we were all pretty excited to play in. Mainly because of their great rink and fans ( as I posted in the previous blog).  So we arrived in Grenoble ready to rock and played a decent 1st period coming out tied 0-0.  Our second period was our best as we started capitalizing on our chances and getting a few bounces to go our way.

Goals by Kuuluvainen, Petrak and Hagelberg gave us a solid 3-0 advantage as we headed into the dressing room after the 2nd period.  As we began the 3rd period, something did not feel right, our team is still learning how to win and at times we lack confidence when leading against better teams.  Playing a bit tentative, we allowed Grenoble back into the game. After they inched closer with their 2nd goal, we knew we had to relax and conserve our 1 goal lead.

Finally Kuuluvainen scored into the empty net and the victory was sealed 4-2!  Not sure how long it has been, but something like 30 years since Epinal has won in Grenoble.

Our next game however, was not so great.  We traveled 2 days later to Morzine to battle the Penguins in Coupe de France action.  Not sure if it was fatigue or lack of mental preparation, but we struggled defensively in this game, giving up an early lead and eventually trailing 5-1 at one point in the 2nd period.  Personally, this was a tough game for me (my knee) having played a tough game in Grenoble only a few days before and another long road trip....ya, it was not feeling too strong. Though I did manage to get up back on the board with a 2nd period goal to narrow the gap to 5-2, the closest we came was 5-3 and 6-4, eventually losing 8-4 as we were eliminated from La Coupe de France.

It was upsetting to be eliminated, considering what I was a part of in Briancon last season being the Coupe de France Champions.  Had we beaten Morzine, we would have had a great chance at making an appearance in Paris Bercy.

On Saturday we squared off at home against 1st place Angers.  This was my first home game of the season and I was very eager to play in front of the Epinal fans!  Though I have played a few games now, I am still trying to get back to 100%.  It may take a little while but I am starting to feel a bit better every single game.

On Friday morning I did a quick interview in Epinal for Images Plus (Vosges Television) and talked about the importance of playing again at home and how we enjoy battling against the top teams when they come to town.

So preparing for the game, after practice on Friday Marion and I went to her parents house for a pasta dinner.  It is nice to change the scenery sometimes and hanging out with her Family is fun too. We stayed and watched television there and around 11pm we were pretty tired so we decided to just sleep there and head back home tomorrow after a good night sleep.  Before going to bed I said to Marion "you realize that if we win tomorrow, we are going to have to sleep over at your parents house before every game right?"

Our game against Angers started off ok, we had a few power play chances with no success.  I am working hard to try and earn my spot on the top pp unit, but for now I am on the 2nd unit.  A few bad bounces put us down 2-0 but late in the 1st period, after Guillaume Chassard broke his stick on the power play, I jumped over the boards and soon after, received a pass for a one-timer slap shot that found its way to the back of the net.  I was very happy to get us on the board with roughly 20seconds left in the 1st period.  What a great feeling it was to be able to score in front of our great fans too!

The second period for us was pretty rough, we took way too many penalties and at one point trailed 5-2.  Some great work by our top players like Jan Plch and Michal Petrak got us back within a goal and we started the 3rd period down 5-4 and shorthanded. We killed off Angers' man advantage and another goal by Petrak tied it at 5-5.  Loic Lacasse shut the door for the rest of the evening and made some key saves to keep the score tied.

Once we made it to Overtime, our fans and team felt as though we had already won. They were all standing and applauding our courageous comeback. We were set to play a 10 minute OT 4 on 4 and memories from our last OT win vs. Rouen at home were in everybody's minds.

Since we only have a head coach and no assistant coaches on the bench with us, we usually just roll the defense pairs along, but to start the period, we never know who is up after the starters.  This time on the bench, I sat there with my partner Jan Hagelberg and there was also Peter Slovak and Guillaume Papelier.  Who was up next???

Nobody wanted to ask the coach either, then Papelier said " Coach Peter wants to know who is up next?"  hahaha but he did not hear us.  So I proposed paper-rock-scissors, but did Slovak said ok, but he did not want to do it, so he told me to play with Papelier.  Finally I just said, ok forget it, we are going next :)  Mainly because our two best players were up on forward (Plch and Petrak) and I had a good feeling we were going to score.

I jumped over the boards just as Jan Plch picked up the puck around our blue line, he stormed down the ice with 3 Angers players focused on him.  When I saw this, I jumped up into the play to support Jan, as Petrak was just stepping onto the ice.  He drove hard to the net and put a shot on the Angers goalie (and fellow Windsorite) Peter Aubry.  The puck fell into the feet of his defenseman near the crease, seeing the loose puck, I poked at it with a backhand and saw it slowly cross the line.

Epinal Wins!!!

Here is a temporary link with some highlights from the game:

What a great comeback by our team in this game and a great way to respond after being eliminated from La Coupe de France.  We still have lots of work to do, especially being disciplined, as we are currently the league leaders in penalty minutes.

Next game in Mont Blanc on Friday night as we head back to the Alpes and must be ready to play right from the start. It is great to beat the top teams but it is the victories against the teams lower in the standings that separates us from the pack.

Since the game is on Friday, we will all be here for the St. Nicolas in Epinal :)


Thursday, 18 November 2010

Preparing for Grenoble

After the team was given a week off during a break in the schedule, we resumed practice Monday night. With our coach still in Canada spending some much needed time with his family and set to return tonight, we had our assistant coach Féfé running practices.

There has not been much talk about our upcoming game this Saturday in Grenoble, but we all know it will be a great night for hockey. Having to play in our makeshift arena here in Epinal all year, we are excited when we get the chance to travel to Grenoble where they have a real pro hockey rink and loud fans. The end result in the past has not been in our favour but I am hoping that will change this season, as we have a strong team and are also coming off our first road win of the season in Caen.

We are all looking forward to getting back to game action after having some time off and if we are to play on the road, Grenoble is a great place to get started. To put things into perspective, they even have a media room, and send a man wearing a suit down to our dressing room as they request to speak with a certain player. He then takes you up the stairs into their media room where various radio and television stations, along with internet sites interview while you stand in front of a big sign covered with Grenoble's hockey team sponsors.

During the week leading up to a game, I try not to think too much about specifics in the game but in the back of my mind I know that everything I am doing that week is to get my mind and my body primed and ready for Saturday night. This means, getting a good night sleep every night, getting to the gym everyday for a workout, bike session or even just a stretch and also nutritionally trying to eat the right foods and fuel up properly everyday. The food part can be challenging here in France because a nice Raclette or Tartiflette may not be the most nutritional meal to have when preparing for a game, but man it sure is good. If I am going to have that for dinner, I try to get that in early in the week :) Though my all-time favourite Tartiflette experience was after winning a big road game in Villard de Lans. The Tartiflette with a glass of wine and a big road victory was such a great reward for a hard week of practice, long bus trip and being somewhat strict nutritionally.

The keyword was "somewhat" because with a love for Cheese and food in general, I would be doing myself a disfavour if I did not enjoy these great French dishes a little bit.

Some of my top 5 favourite meals to eat during the week leading up to a game include:

Salmon Salad
Homeade Beef Burgers
Mushroom/Feta Omelette
Spaghetti and Meat sauce
Oatmeal "Protein" Pancakes

Honorable Mention**** (Mom's Egg Muffin)

The reason "Mom's Egg Muffin" did not make it into the top 5 is strictly due to a Geographical Disadvantage. Though last winter she found a way to overcome this by making a whole bunch of egg muffins during her visit to Briancon, then freezing them prior to her departure, ensuring that I had Egg Muffin reserves for about a month.

Mom's Egg Muffin
- This is pretty much the same system using by McDonalds with their Egg McMuffin. For as long as I can remember, this has been my mom's go-to breakfast meal for her 4 kids over the last 40 years. If you are reading this mom, and I do not properly explain this, please feel free to write it in the comment box after. Ok, so she cracks the eggs in the pan and has a few going at the same time, while it is cooking she gets the cheese and meat ready, along with the English muffins. A key manoeuvre and one that must not be ignored is the puncturing of the egg yolk. I have seen this many times from imitation Egg Muffins, where the yolk is not punctured prior and the results are disastrous, as the first bite sends egg yolk flying into the air, on to your high school uniform clothes or simply all over your hands.
Note: when you only have one pair of uniform pants for High School, getting egg yolk on them only a few minutes before leaving for school could prove to be a drawback.

Ok, back to the procedure. So she punctures the egg....during this time the meat-which could be ham, Canadian Bacon etc-is heated in a different pan, while the English Muffin cooks briefly in the toaster. Once these three elements are completed, she sits the egg on the muffing, followed by the meat, then the cheese, and closes it off with the other muffin on top. Not finished yet..... After the Egg Muffin is in its entirety, she puts it in the pan to grill the muffin a bit more but more importantly, to melt the cheese!

Do not confuse this with "Mom's grilled cheese" where she somehow finds a way to burn the toast time after time, as I hear her scrapping away the charcoal toast, trying to mask the its defeated appearance before serving it to me. With Mom's Egg Muffins, I believe she has a success rate of 100%, with a runny tally of.......... ok, well say she makes on average, 4 egg muffins/week x 52weeks= 208 Now with my sister turning 41 in January, lets say she started making them when my sister was three years old... so 208 x 38= 7,904

Mom has a current success rate of 100% and 7,904 consecutive perfect Egg Muffins. Great job!

Ok, I guess I will talk about "Andre's Oatmeal Protein Pancakes" next time, though they do not have the Wayne Gretzky-like experience/success of the Egg Muffins, they certainly to have the potential to be the "Next One" in the new BHL (Breakfast Hot List)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

I'm Back!

The long wait is over! I made my return to game action last Saturday, in our first road victory of the season 5-4 over Caen. It was a pretty long road trip as we departed Epinal at 7am, and still managed to arrive late in Caen, which cut the off ice warm up a bit short before taking the ice.

I don't think I have been this nervous for a game since.... well I am not sure exactly, but I was pretty nervous. It was more of just not knowing what to expect and not wanted to get embarrassed out there. After all, I had not played a game since last March.

Things went pretty well, I played a regular shift out there for the entire game, paired up with Jan Hagelberg, while also eating up lots of PK time. Since it was my first game back, the coach did not want to give me too much responsibility and chose not to put me on the power play. So hopefully next game (Nov. 20th @ Grenoble) he will feel confident enough to have me out there.

I almost did not play this game, and it was not because of health reasons. I had be having problems with my skates for the last few weeks as my rivets keep falling out in my right skate. As France is not a hockey hotbed, their are a little bit behind the times in skate repairs and will several failed attempts to hold my skates together, we finally took our chances on the local "cordonnier" (shoemaker). The timing was not perfect as I was already at the rink preparing for practice when I found out the rink guy's final attempt failed, so our trainer said he would call his "cordonnier" to see if he would open up his shop for us to take a stab at fixing my skates. He agreed and off I went, 20minutes before our practice started. We spent about half an hour there and after drilling 5 huge.....( rivets of some sort) into my skates, we returned back to the rink. I had the last 15 minutes of practice to test out the skates and decide if I was going to play or not the next day.

The skates held up fine and I boarded the bus the next morning. Now with a break in the schedule, I am trying to break in my new skates so I don't have to deal with these problems again. I should mention, I have been walking around the apartment all day with the skates laced up on my feet. True story.