Chelsea Challenge 2009OrdinalsChelsea Challenge weekend has come and gone and I’m banged up and sore after the successful run at the gold medal with the Hartford Whalers  in the Recreational B Division (which was the middle division in this year’s challenge).

Besides five Challenge games I also subbed in with the Ordinals for their match up against the Kinghts.

If you count that up, it’s six games in about 40 hours. Unlike my past Challenge experiences, playing at a higher level definitely took its tool on me. Rather than five Tigers games, this was more like five Ordinals game and some of the games were like Ordinals games versus the Canucks.

Here’s how the Challenge went down…

Friday was miserable for me. The Whalers started the competition against the Bi-Costals, which featured a lot of my Wizards teammates. We were rocky out of the gate and lost 3-2. Unfortunately with the tournament scoring, we only got 2 of the available 8 points, which landed us third in our division. I played pretty awful in this game. I was out for all three goals against and on at least two of them (I think I blocked the third from my memory) I started the chain reaction that lead to the goal.

Saturday was a better day. Our first game was against Ottawa-Toronto. Yes, we had to battle a team full of Canadians…where hockey is the national sport. We did better here as we started gelling as a team and we had more people with us (three teammates couldn’t make the Friday game). It was a 2-2 game and we tied across the board in points too with four tournament points. I was in better form for this game. While I was out for both goals against, I didn’t feel as directly responsible this time and overall it was a much better run for me.

The second Saturday game we hit our stride taking down the Brewnets 6-1. We picked up seven tourney ponits (we tied one of the periods with them, but won everything else). These points let us finish the round-robin part of the tourney in second place. Captain Gregg moved me to center for this game (a position I kept for the rest of the tourney) and gave me Danny and Meredith for linemates. We were a solid, hard working line. We never scored despite several offensive runs and we did play some good defense. This was a turning point for me too, because I felt I contributed more than took away in this game. I did get my big injury for the tourney here. I was turning to do some defensive backchecking when I ran head long into the solid muscle mass that is Gregg. I bounced off  him, spun out and went head first into the boards. It hurt… I had the breath knocked out of me… and I sat out for a shift.

There was a break in the Challenge action with an Ordinals game. By 8:30, which was about three hours after my head butting with the boards, I was feeling rough and more ready for a hot shower and a massage instead of a game. But I played and had a pretty good turn. I had one nasty bad attempt at a defensive clear, but on the whole it was a good go. The Ordinals won 3-0 against the Knights, who had five of my Whalers teammates playing for them. Josh, despite our agreement not to hurt each other in this game, put a puck into my elbow causing a good deal of pain and bruising.

Sunday morning found me waking up to a body full of aches, pains and a massive headache. All that had to be put aside though for the early semi-final game against the Bi-Coastals, who we seeded in third place. After defeating us on Friday, we brought our A-game and shut them out 2-0 to move on to the finals. I found energy here that I have no idea where it came from.  I think this was my best game of the Challenge. It was an awesome feeling to win this game and advanced to the finals, getting our chance from the only team that defeated us in round robin.

After a 90 minute rest, we were back on the ice against the Canadians, who were seeded #1 after the round robin. The Whalers were the underdogs, but we triumphed. The Ottawa-Toronto team scored first, but we answered that on the very next shift and then we were able to get a second goal so we avoided overtime all together. This was one of the fastest games I’ve ever played. The speed of the Canadians was impressive and I feel like I kept up well and actually had some pretty good defensive and offensive things going on (despite the fact that I was on the ice for the only goal against). It was a dramatic end as the Canadians poured it on in an effort to tie the game, but we held strong and won our gold.

So despite the fact that I was very down on myself coming out of Friday, I’m glad I preserved and came into each of the additional games just ready to better than the previous. I’m glad Gregg had the confidence in me too, especially when I was faltering. I will play for him anytime he asks me too… and I’m particularly glad he asked me to play here and that I overcame my own fears of failure to say yes. I’ve never played this much upper level hockey in quick succession. Yes, I’m hurting now (and I’m sooo glad I’m off from work tomorrow to recover), but it was worth it to come out on the other side of the weekend with a medal.

I am thankful I had excellent, very supportive teammates too. It was great to be on a team with Gregg, Trevor, Jason, Danny, Josh (thanks, Josh, for the occasional coaching you gave me) and Peter who I play with often and to be back in Challenge with Rob, who won a silver with me in the developmental division last year. I met great new people too: Dan (Jason’s brother), Ryan (who had some amazing defensive moves…I was continually impressed), Meredith (Jason’s girlfriend), Gokhan, Jeremy, Craig and Kevin.

There are pictures to post, and I will as soon as I get them.

Next week it’s back to a regular hockey schedule.