Nuthin' but Games
Ive stalled enough. Ive been in this country for a week, and I havent written a word about an actual hockey game. Did you expect anything less? But its time. Right here, right now, from the birthplace of Michael Palin, Joe Cocker, and Def Leppard, were gonna talk HOCKEY. Nuthin but games!
The Mens and Womens divisions are sorting out. In the Womens division, our friends the Canadians are dominating. They havent lost a game, and have rarely been threatened, having only had 4 goals scored against them the entire tournament. All those tournaments where theyve played in the A divisions against some of the best teams inNorth America (Mens and Womens) seem to be paying off.
Another favorite of ours, the Colombian women, have shown remarkable progress since we last saw them at Worlds. Theyre currently ranked in the standings ahead of the defending champion Dutch team. At the other end of the spectrum are the Spanish women, who have had a total of 106 goals scored against them.
In the Mens division, the Kiwi men are dominating as much as the Canadian women (though in this case no credit can be given to them playing in North America ). Theyve only had 9 goals scored against them, and I believe that the last time they lost a game at Worlds was in 2002.
Our beloved US Men have been having their difficulties. They are currently in 8th place, after a heartbreaking defeat against the host Brits Saturday afternoon. This seeding position will cause them to have to face Colombia in the playoffs, as our southern neighbors strive to break out of the B pool. I could explain how this A-B thing works, if only I understood it. The best analogy I can think of is the Premier leagues in English football, but I dont understand that either, so suffice to say, if the US doesnt beatColombia in the first playoff game, the Yanks will be in the B pool for the next Worlds.
Saturdays loss against the Brits was hotly contested. Fans of both sides filled the stands cheering loudly for their team. The US contingent, not being very creative, generally stuck to cheers of USA ,USA , etc. The Brit contingent had more range, if not more taste. They pulled up chants to the tunes of former Monkees songs, Beatles groupie songs, and other tasteless, though annoying, variations. It was sort of amusing to hear GB inserted as the name of the object the fans loved or admired. When did this term, GB, become the operative name for our host country? Ive never been able to sort out whether were supposed to use Britain , or Great Britain , or the UK , or Pomland. But I can say with confidence that GB is an absolutely unpoetic name for this blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England ! Im sure someone will enlighten me.
The US-UK/GB/whatever game featured some of the worst reffing this tournament has seen. A prominent aspect of this incompetence was the management of the penalty box. A mediocre writer strives for the proper metaphor, but Im going skip the Hotel California cliche (you can check out, but you can never leave) in favor of the Roach Motel oneplayers check in, but they dont check out. It seems that when a player goes to the Penalty Box Motel for a two minute penalty, they may get out in two minutes, or 2 ½, or three, or whatever. Unless, of course, the chief ref decides that a two minute penalty is only a one minute penalty. Just for fun.
In the case of our boys, Nick Partington was stuck in the penalty box on a two minute penalty for about three minutes, while coach Doug Roth tried to get the officials attention, eventually having to call a refs timeout for them (nice move, Duck). Then, just minutes later, one of the Brit boys was sent in for a two minute penalty, and let back into the water after only a minute. Whether these events may or may not have contributed to the 3-2 loss suffered by the Americans, they certainly didnt help, and its frustrating to have to take focus away from having your team play hockey to try to get the referees to allow your players to play.
As a result of the loss to England , on Monday the Yanks must play Colombia in what their coach has described as the most important game for the US Mens team in this century. Good luck. Well all be cheering.
In the Open Masters division, the lead is shared by four teams, including the US . Not surprising, since most teams have only played one game. And the defending champion US Womens Masters team rolled into town Saturday, to prepare to defend their title in a few days.
Thats the word from poolside for now. Im off to a game.