16 Nov 2009. Quinnipiac! Small New England college par excellence!
Hiding behind Mt. Carmel and the Sleeping Giant, one student center, one quad from which you can see the whole campus in a Maria von Trapp twirl*, and one security guard checking his watch and eying my overstuffed German-designed, Mexican-built car with suspicion as I blatantly disregarded the 10 Minute Visitor Parking sign.
Ken Becker skated into the penalty box. The one-person wooden bench creaked under the weight of Ken in his full pads. The referee had accused him of hooking, a lame offense even when committed on purpose. Both Ken and his tripping victim looked surprised that it was even called at all.
Club ice hockey was populated with strong, talented players who lacked the time or discipline to play full varsity at their school. Fouls and violations were off the charts, but if the refs stopped play to call them all, a game would take twice as long. At regional tournaments like this one at Thornton Wilder Arena in Hamden, Connecticut, moving the games along was especially important.
Many players took advantage of this leniency.
Like Nick Cassavetes.
Nick, a young man whose body was immune to deodorant, greased his way from goal line to goal line. He trailed a delightful mixture of sweat, Gatorade, and protein gel.
"This scash is for you, K-Becker!"
Ken watched his University of Dayton teammate grin his way down the rink. Nick didn't follow the puck; he homed in an unlucky Quinnipiac defenseman. When he was a few feet from the boards, Nick turned his head to the side, lining up the side of his helmet with the back of his slower opponent's head.
The Plexiglas panels on hockey sideboards are built to be flexible and show some give. Under normal circumstances, that is. If a force is continually pushing on you, your body will absorb the full impact. If the force is a Nick Cassavetes, the impact is most definitely full-bodied.
The two players slammed into the boards. The bolts held, but the few spectators in the first rows still jumped back. Nick and his new buddy lost their balance, ending up on the ice. Nick got up quickly, ready for his timeout. The ref whistled him and gave him the expected full five minute duty in the sin bin. And, well, the other guy was woozy. He had to be helped off the ice by his fuming goalie.
Ken and Nick shared a glove bump.
"Welcome to the box, Nick."
"Sup, K-Becker." Nick gasped as he pulled his mouthguard through his black goatee.
"What were you yelling to me?"
"The scash is for you. Brothers in arms, man."
"Ah, right, scash. Scalp crash. You scashed him good."
"He'll live. Scash only dazes 'em. Haknotch takes 'em down."
Ken thought, For someone so open about committing penalties, Nick sure loves to use his secret code words. Ken couldn't recall hearing haknotch before.
"Haknotch, what's that one again...half kill on my watch?"
"Hard knee to the crotch, K-Becker! Hard knee to the crotch. Gotta be careful with that one though. Might get you tossed from the game for good if they see it."
"Then when would you even use it?"
"I'm always prepared to use it. But now..."
Nick and Ken looked up at the scoreboard: UD 0, QU 3.
"...I think I just might have to sacrifice myself to give us a chance."
Nick peered unblinkingly at the opposing goaltender, #50.
Ken said, "Nick, the goalie?? Why don't you stay away from the goalie, it's not even their first stringer."
"Exactly! We can't score against some replacement? I need to make them bring in the third stringer."
Ken's penalty time ticked down to zero. "You do what you do, Nick. Watch yourself." He popped out of the box and back on the ice.
For the last few minutes of Nick's time on the pine, he studied the home team's goalie. #50 wasn't on the roster; he came in when the starter was still vomiting from a Tabasco chugging contest the night before. The new guy was smaller but alert. He and Nick exchanged malicious looks several times. When Nick mouthed 'Go **** yourself', #50 blinked casually and turned his attention back to the rink.
When Nick was let loose, he called to Ken.
"K-Becker! I need a mess in the crease!"
Ken nodded, lazily skating toward their opponent's goal, drawing in QU's defensemen and UD's other wings. He flung a wrister which #50 easily handled. Nick let his momentum carry him into the back of two players, who then piled into the goal crease. Two UD players and another QU player joined the mix, jabbing at each other. The refs whistled a stoppage in play and moved to separate the two sides. Underneath the hubbub, Nick found #50.
"You're unstoppable for a new guy. Have a haknotch."
Nick set his left skate and pushed his right knee up into #50's groin. There was a little more space than usual. #50 didn't groan and collapse like all the others. Instead, he dropped his stick and gloves, pulled out the front of Nick's jersey, and ran his tiny hands inside and up to Nick's chest.
"What in hell you doin', you queer napsa-"
Nick felt a pinch, a severe twist, a fist to the gut. He tried to gulp air, but he could not breathe. He didn't even know he was on his back until #50 looked down on him, pulling up his massive goalie mask.
Make that her mask.
"Haknotch. Cute. How do you like my quinipac?"
"Guhhhhh." Nick's chest was on fire. #50 went back to minding her net. Without her mask, Nick could now see her long sandy hair.
Ken took Nick's arm and pulled him up and off the ice.
"What happened to the haknotch, Nick?"
"She...quinipacked me, K-Becker."
"Quick nipple attack...Can't believe it...a quinipac from Quinnipiac...just beautiful."
"Wow. So you're all right then."
"Ha. All right? I'm in love."
*To counter this Broadway musical reference, I submit for your approval: Megan Fox in a wet t-shirt contest holding six mugs of Miller Lite and a Husqvarna.