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Two minutes. A tripping penalty has been called against our senior defensemen. A tripping penalty results in two minutes in the penalty box and only four players are allowed on the ice. The game continues with 6:36 remaining in the first period. Baldwin, a top contender in the conference sends their first line to attack our man-down-defense.
I sit tired, as I return to the bench from my fifth shift. The opposing power play goes to work. Pass, pass, and pass. Shot. Whistle. I stand up to see the second penalty-kill unit coming off the ice.
Coach says, “Gold line, kill this.”
Gold Line; Grady Martin, Ryan Van Blaricom, Me. Brett Forrest leads the three of us to the face-off circle.
I line up across Brandon Connett. The biggest threat in the middle border conference looks me in the eyes, and smiles. The senior is intimidating. I ignorantly smile back. The puck drops. He wins the face-off.
I race to the player I am assigned to guard. The Blackhawks move the puck around fluently. Shot after shot pelts our goalie. Ten seconds remain in the penalty when the Baldwin defensemen I am covering, rips a shot so hard it breaks his stick. The puck falls into the corner as the defensemen skates to his bench. The Baldwin forwards win the corner battle as the secondary defensemen takes his place.
The announcer comes over the loud-speaker and announces, “Warriors full-strength.” I am exhilarated to hear that this penalty is finally over.
The replacement defensemen catches a pass from his teammate, and is skating right at me. He panics as I make a quick move toward the puck. He shoots it. The small round rubber disc hits my shin pad and bounces toward the open ice behind the defender.
My heart pumps as my legs pump faster. I am racing toward the opposing goalie with a defender not far behind me. I feel a stick hit my leg as I rifle a shot into the goalie. The goalie made the save. I was disappointed but confused. The whistle hadn’t blown. I am about to skate around the net when I realize why the whistle hasn’t blown. The puck is spinning behind the goalie. I backhand the puck directly into the middle of the net for my first ever varsity goal.
I skate to the corner with my arms up, shortly greeted by my teammates. I jump into the pile of teammates to find the defensemen that took the tripping penalty not long ago. I yell, “I finally scored!” The small huddle then breaks and I skate to the bench to find everyone on the bench almost as excited as I was. My teammates on the bench, stick their hands out as I skate through the line to give them high-fives. I find Ethan Mork, our star goalie, waiting at the end of the line, out of his net, to give me an extra-large knuckle bump with his hard blocker. I am filled with joy. I climb into the bench to find my dad/coach waiting to pat me on the back.
“Many more of those will come.” Coach Humpal, our offense coach, says.
I can feel the stress jumping off my teammate’s shoulders as we have finally taken the lead on the second best team in the conference.
Shortly after I catch my breath, the Blackhawks starting line scores to tie the game. We are disappointed but not surprised. The Baldwin team full of seniors was not intimidated by my goal. The Baldwin team scored four unanswered goals to win the game 4-1.
After the game we sit in our lockers, questioning our play. The coaches enter the silent room to assure us that the team we just played is a very strong, experienced team.
“We should not be disappointed.” The coaches say.
We start to understand our loss a little more as the coaches continue to talk. I blank out as I sit in my locker. The next thing I remember is a puck twirling toward me, followed by claps. The puck is not a normal puck. My sweaty fingers feel the tape around the puck. The tape has messy, red writing that reads “First goal puck. 12/6/16 vs. Baldwin.” The room is silent waiting for me to say something.
“Thanks guys.” I mumble out.
Coach Humpal then says, “Who has the hard hat.” The hard hat is a construction hat that is given to the best player that game. This trophy is given by last games, best player. I do not have any memory of what hand the hard hat came out of but it landed in mine. I look to the coaches. “See you tomorrow” they say as they move to the coach’s room.
I find myself smiling as I remove my skates. I take off my clothes and walk to the showers. I shower fast when I remember my grandparents were at the game. I throw on my clothes and sprint to the lobby to find my grandparents, my mom, and my brother waiting. My grandma ready with her camera, gives me a big hug. I can feel the excitement covered up with a fake sad because of the loss. Other parents congratulate me as they get ready to leave.
In my youth I averaged three points a game. I have scored many times before. I have scored in the state tournament. I had a hat trick and a playmaker in the same state game. None of these accomplishments come close to scoring my first varsity goal. The feeling is so much different it is unexplainable. I will never forget scoring that goal and one statement. “First goal puck. 12/6/16 vs. Baldwin.”