Rest day! Bang in the middle of the comp. We weren't the only ones who got one, but we were pretty stoked about it knowing maybe not everyone did. Sure, the draw works out pros and cons for other teams, maybe no 2 game days, but still. The mental concept of having a day off is nice.... or is it?
Is it a disaster suddenly taking a day off when a bunch of your opposition are battling each other to a finely-honed apex while we are lying around? Well. It all depends I guess. Years ago I would have been champing at the bit wanting to keep playing and I used to think a 1 game day was a big break.... it still is, let's be honest. But this time around my first thought was awesome, a whole day of stretching, hooking up to my EMS machine, maybe a massage somewhere, eat well, sleep..... oh, extra sleep. Never sounds bad.
I did wonder if Jeremy's luxury hair salon would make an appearance on a day like this, but he was still traumatized from the Portuguese haircuts at the opening ceremony.
Another satisfied customer at a past tournament
A few of the guys went to SkySpa, a luxurious sounding massagy place with soaking pools etc, but somehow I decided I'd skip it... with a fair dose of FOMO and regret of course. But a bit of yoga with the guys in the morning to get us up nice and sharp on a regular routine and then some serious eating and movies seemed pretty awesome. Exciting huh. I've never been much of a tourist... it doesn't really seem to count if the family isn't there to share a nice touristy castle with, so why bother? Come back and do it with them properly later, and watch more prep vids in the meantime. And superhero movies. Maybe see Nick lose a bet and paint himself with nutella if you're lucky.
Honestly this youtube at tournaments thing is amazing. Great for people at home, but great for players too... beats waiting after the games for the footage to be burnt onto CDs, or god forbid onto VHS tapes. And to be honest, some of the comps the footage was absolutely worthless, dark, grainy, terrible water quality, camera operators artfully switching from empty camera to empty camera to surface and managing to avoid all sight of the puck for the most crucial parts of all the games. Well.... actually I'm being way too harsh. There have only been a couple of comps where it's really sucked, but the experience has coloured my memory a bit I guess.
Still image of game video from Durban 2008
Anyway. After our break, the next day we were up against Portugal. The boys! These guys I coached in 2011, had a great time with them and there were a big bunch of those guys still in the team, so it was especially cool to see the young fellas and how they had been developing... and some older fellas too. They were still doing some of the stuff we developed back then around basic formation, a 2-3-1 variant, but not everything... we had some mad-cap set-plays and advantage pucks which were a bit loose to be honest.
Did I mention the Portuguese guys are a bit crazy? In the best way possible. Like 30 hours driving non-stop to an uwh comp crazy. Very fun to be around... well, maybe you saw some pictures of their haircuts. There you go. I still have flashbacks to bundling into one of these...
...to head to a training camp 3 hours drive away and storming along with Ricardo at 160km/hr wondering when we were going to blow off the road like a leaf. I guess the weight of the gear bags which somehow we stuffed into the back kept us down... or were they on my knees? Can't remember. But good times!
Training camps in Portugal are some of the best. Amazing pool, amazing weather, warm, pool is all ours all weekend, there's a shallow warm pool to walk-through in, tiles are nice, team is keen.... and then you walk outside and you're in a town with 1000's of years of history and there's a wee castle over there. Like the village has a pet castle, no big deal.
Sample pet castle
Ok back to the hockey. Turned out, our gamestyle this comp really played well against a couple of teams in a couple of games and this was one of them. Our forwards were positioning in really damaging spots behind their backline and Jesse and Rob were hitting some very good angles and feeding the puck up, and we got a lot of very fast goals, some planned and some not... everything seemed to go right basically. There was one other game in the comp where this happened which we will get to later too.
This clip is a good example, PRT on attack, Ed does a great job clearing the puck and gets a great pass to Brendan, it's then 3 on 1 with our other Fwd Andrew and Jesse in support at center on Torto their goalie who is alone because they had only one held back from the adv puck (who Ed passed past). Things don't normally happen by the book like this in an international.
Once we fed our forwards and they got rolling PRT was generally able to break things down before we could score, they are very very good at last-ditch defense and especially knockdowns around the bin, Torto the lefty goalie is a master at this kind of desperate defense. But, the breaks generally got us to the bin and we did a good job that game identifying that finishing would be hard and our second phase guys coming in from the backline finished a lot of the goals off.
The score did blowout to 11-0, Brendan high scoring with 3.
I'd like to say more about what our team was doing in all these posts, but it's tricky because some concepts the guys in the team are still building and want to use again... Spoilers, right? So, I'll trip back in time and talk about what we used to do once upon a time instead.
In 2002 we had endwall subbing still, it was the last time. So, what with the depth and decent size corners, we came up with a bit of a trick to try. This was based on this concept.
I never saw it but the theory was the Aussies had done this back when they were wrecking everyone so hard they could actually plan to throw the puck in front of their own goal to fresh forwards and score goals with it. Dominant right? If they actually did this... put it in comments if someone knows.
Now, we weren't quite confident enough to try that. What we did was we got a back to go in the corner and hold, and then the next guy in was a center or goalie who was ready with big lungs. He held it in the corner while our 2 forwards and wall wing all subbed, getting 3 fresh guys in. Then the fresh wing took the puck, bombed it up the channel to 2 fresh forwards and trundled along behind them as they went kamikaze. This actually worked very well, and also was a bit similar to the Dutch corner attack in 2000, except we did it with 3 guys every time it was in our corner, while they did it with 6 guys twice a game and the rest of the time stayed rotating in their own corner.
Corners have been a bit funny comp to comp.... as they vary in length, the corner becomes more safe or more dangerous. Many teams have the approach of, if the puck ends up in the opposition corner, have a crack and see if you can catch them subbing or off-balance.... if it doesn't work, then bring it out and attack the angle or wide. Or, you can sit back and let the defenders bring it out for you. In a long corner pool you kinda have to do this because it's such a tough job to get all the way up the backwall, especially with 3 refs now spotting more random gloves and chops.
But, if the corner is short, like a 12m width court? You can attack the corner because it's only really one clear pass and you're under most of the defence. In a deep pool too, that makes corners super dangerous. Ponds Forge for instance is a pool you can press corners really hard and get decent value for it if the opposition are still thinking the corner is safer than it really is.
What was the topic here? Must have veered off. Will pick it back up next time I'm sure! So, after the PRT game I think we were top seed in our group, which meant we got another rest day following while the other teams played across groups. GB was the other top seed who was resting from the other group.
Next post, a look at the seedings games that would determine who we would end up playing in our Quarter.