Stars fans, over the next month or so, I will be keeping a diary of my experiences at the 2012 IIHF Men’s World Championships. This is my first time playing for Team USA at any level, and believe it or not, it’s also my first trip overseas. During this time, I will be writing about hockey, travel, interesting experiences, and really anything that comes to mind. Hope everyone enjoys reading it!
Day 9 & 10 – Sunday & Monday, May 6-7
My Sunday started how I think every Sunday should: with a little sleeping in! It was nice and easy getting rest coming off a huge overtime win against Canada, and once I was up and ready to go for the day, I went to breakfast. The breakfasts here are starting to get challenging… working different combinations until I find something that I really enjoy, but only time will tell if I actually find one! Everyone was relaxed at breakfast because all that was scheduled that day was a light skate in the afternoon to keep us fresh for the game against Slovakia.
After breakfast, I had to couple hours to kill and decided it was probably a good idea to see what clothes I had clean still, and which I needed to get washed. After sorting through, I found that I didn't have much left, so I’m going to have to find a laundry service!
Our practice that afternoon was similar to the ones we’ve had the past few days, up-tempo and quick. We ran through some ‘system’ ideas that we thought would help in the Slovakia game. Overall, it was nice to get a sweat and stretch out my body.
We wanted to get away from the hotel that night for dinner and find a good Italian joint, and to our surprise, there were a few different options. We decided to check out a place called La Famiglia, located right in the downtown of Helsinki. This was the first time I was really in the heart of it all, and I was surprised at how neat the city really was. Dinner with the guys tasted great, though the tomato sauce in my lasagna was a little different then what you’d get in the States. After dinner, it was back to the room to relax and rest before another game.
Monday morning was all about hockey again. Coming off a big win over Canada, we needed to keep moving forward against a really good team in Slovakia. They were heading into this game with two losses, but they were both one-goal defeats to very good opponents.
The game started at 8:15 p.m., which is probably one of the latest games I have ever played in. Now that I think about it, there was a game in Las Vegas with the Idaho Steelheads that started at midnight. Anyhow, with such a late start time, we were able to get a little more sleep and then have our basic game-day routine (if you are wondering about that, it is the same as what I wrote about in the Canada game blog).
Once 8:15 rolled around, it was game time again, but for a late game, there were actually not that many fans there. And it was defiantly one-sided, about 4,000 Slovakian fans and about 40 USA fans! It was interesting to see the difference in how their fans cheered, as Slovakians cheer at hockey games very similarly to that of soccer games… with chants and songs, which was kinda cool.
Very quickly after the puck was dropped, we found out how badly Slovakia wanted to win that game. They scored just 13 seconds into the game by breaking through our defense and putting a rebound in… not exactly the start everyone was looking for! To make matters worse, they again scored five minutes later on a 2-on-1 rush. With the score at 2-0, we needed to respond and find the solid team game that we had been playing till that point. And respond we did, scoring 35 seconds later to make it 2-1. We still were not playing out best hockey and we were looking to get into the intermission to find our game, but with just six seconds left in the period, Slovakia scored again to make it 3-1. That was not how we needed to start and it was going to be a tough battle if we were going to get out of that hole.
As the second period moved forward we began to play better, but their goalie was making great saves and we really needed one to go in. We finally got a break and scored on a 5-on-3 power play very late in the period. It was now 3-2 heading into the third, and from there, there was stingy defense all around the ice. There was very little flow, as we had trouble breaking down their 4-man-back approach. Still working hard to get a game-tying goal, we were forced to pull Howard for the extra man, but it was not to be our day as they quickly scored into the empty net. The game was over, 4-2 Slovakia. This was the first time we had lost as a group here in Helsinki, and after the game, the captains spoke and we all agreed we could not make the same mistakes again in this short tournament. We have to have better early in games, as that is what ultimately killed us. There is a lot more hockey to be played, so we cannot dwell on one loss, we just need to learn from it. Tougher to sleep on nights like that...
Day 11 – Tuesday, May 8
It is definitely tougher to sleep on nights when you lose, it was nice that we had a complete day off (Tuesday). This was much needed, as we had been playing every day since we arrived about 10 days ago. I started my day at 10:30 a.m., which has to be the latest I have slept in a long time. It felt kinda weird, but it refreshing to have no rush. I hopped onto my computer, surfed the net for a while, and around 11:30, I pealed my way out of bed and got ready for a nice day off.
It was pretty calm around town, not much going on, so I was able to get some food near the hotel. I’ve started to find all kinds of interesting places and the food here is actually very good, though portions are small. And I must say, the people here are very friendly.
I then changed into some shorts and sandals, which were very necessary, as we had a team activity at a wellness spa and sauna. It took about 20 minutes on the bus to get there, but when we walked in, everyone noticed that there were water slides there. The group of guys split up into two or three groups right away, and my group started the fun with cliff jumping into a huge deep pool. There were two levels to jump from, and of course, everyone went to the highest one which was probably 15 to 20 feet high. Heading up the stairs, everyone was all confident and making it seem like it was no big deal. But when you got to the edge, you could tell that about half the group did not like heights, including me! To not look nervous, I stepped to the end, looked once and just went for it… once I did it once, it was easy from there and a lot fun. From there, we went on a couple of the slides and found a water polo set-up. Splitting into two teams, we played for a good amount of time, and it was a lot of fun for me, because instead of stopping goals, I was able to play offense and score a couple myself.
About an hour before we were going to leave, I found my way into the spa center, where there were six different saunas and a huge relaxing pool. It was very calm, and soothing music was being played… I seriously could have stayed there for hours, so it was probably a good thing that we had to leave. I guess these sauna/spa places are very common in Finland and I can see why. I wouldn't mind finding another one because it was actually really neat and very different then in the States.
After we left the spa, we headed straight to dinner at a place called Amarillo’s, which was a very American-style restaurant. We ate wings and cheeseburgers, and it was really nice to have something that tasted like home after being gone for a while. A group of guys then walked around town for a bit, and found a place where we could watch a little of the Finland game on TV before calling it a night.
Read tomorrow about another non-game day and our preparations for three games in four days this weekend...
Need to catch up on previous entries? Day 1&2 , Day 3 , Day 4 , Day 5 , Day 6 , Day 7&8