Eyes from on the ice

By Annie Stodola

The hockey season for the Oakland Grizzlies led up to a disappointing final game on March 6 at nationals. We were ranked ninth among the teams competing. Our first game was Saturday at 5 p.m. in Chicago and the whole team was brimming with excitement.

The day before the big game, we were all just trying to stay loose and have some fun as a team. We were anticipating the next day but tried to keep our nerves calm. We shared very few words about the game at all. We were just relaxing in the hotel rooms together and having a good time. A few pranks were had but all in good humor. 

Game day started with a pasta lunch with the whole team — pasta is always best before a game like this. We took some down time at the hotel before going to the rink. A lot of nerves were flowing through the team. We’re a young team and only a few players on the team have ever played in a national tournament. It was just hours before the game, and I was feeling good; a little nervous, of course, but mostly excited. 

The team always stretches before games together. Even after all of our pre-game preparations, we were still feeling pumped and we couldn’t wait to hit the ice. We knew we just had to go out there, play our game and we would be fine. 

Our game was versus Minot State University, ranked eighth. We were the underdogs from the very start, but knew we had it in us to win. The game was very intense; we were down 2-0 after the first period. We had a great start but then started to fall apart near the end of the period, and that’s when they capitalized on our mistakes. Minot State took advantage of turnovers in our zone. We had seen faults like this in our team before this year but nothing we had to worry about. 

Knowing we had to pull it together if we wanted to win, we put everything we had on the ice and came back very strong in the second period; we scored a goal and tightened the race to 2-1. We didn’t have much of a pep talk in the locker room; we all knew what we had to do and it was only a matter of doing it. If we played our game, we would end up on top.

As the third period started we were very confident that we would end up on top if we played like we did in the second. Third period was do or die being down a goal. Continuing our momentum from the second period, we scored with 10 minutes to go in the game to tie it up at 2-2. We had a few solid scoring opportunities, but the puck couldn’t find the back of the net. 

Time slipped away and we headed into overtime. In the locker room after the third, we knew we were playing good and had them on their heels. Even then there were no worries on the bench that our year may be over. We were back to playing Oakland hockey.

We came out in overtime in control of the pace and puck. 

A few slipups put the puck in our zone where they got a scoring opportunity and whacked away at the net and eventually closed the game.

It was a very sad time in the locker room, as it was the last game the seniors would play. It was a very emotional moment for the whole team to see the season end before our eyes. There was not much we did wrong in the overtime period, but that’s what’s amazing about the game. It came down to one shot, and that’s all it takes. 

After the game we went right back to the hotel. All-in-all, it was a very good, hard fought game. We trained all season for this weekend and it was very disappointing to see us not make it further in the tournament. Overall, it was an excellent season; we all had a hell of a time becoming family and spending the time we did together. 

I plan to stay on the team next year. I will be gaining weight and strength during the off-season, developing quicker feet, and just trying to stay in hockey shape. You always want to beat your last year’s points, so that’s a goal of mine for next year. I see the future team staying high in the standings and going far in the national tournament. We are only losing three seniors and a few kids here and there for personal reasons. For the majority of the team staying, I see us being very strong. 

With the team being so young, this was the first time at the tournament for most of us. Now that we all have experience, we know what to expect and that knowledge will be beneficial to get us further into the tournament next year.