Heading into the Floor Hockey Finals in Worcester, the Special Olympics team that we’re lucky to welcome to Deerfield for their practices, was scheduled in the toughest division and knew they had their work cut out for them. On top of that, according to Coaches Terry, Rey, Kelly, Alina, and Joey, this was a tough year for our athletes. In their own words, here’s how the Finals went…
Due to a few injuries, we headed to Worcester with a first time goalie and 7 players. This meant that Kyle, Wole and Killian would play 7 of the 9 three minute shifts and the others would play 6 of 9. To top that, we were scheduled in the toughest division.
Special Olympics motto is “Let me win, but if I can’t, let me be brave in the attempt”. So we had a heartfelt meeting with the team to express appreciation for all the hard work, but we were there to have fun! So with that dour message, Kyle won the faceoff, Will picked it up and headed for the goal and scored! We finally found the wide open top of the net and had the game tied into the last shift. We then scored and played great defense to secure the win 5-4. Joanna was great in the goal.
We next faced the Groton, Connecticut team. They have been tough in the past and we wondered if playing back to back would wear us down. This one was never in doubt so we shifted to trying to preserve the shutout for Joanna. They scored late, but we secured a spot in the championship game with a 6-1 win. The two hour break was welcomed.
In the Gold Medal game we faced Belmont. They won their first two games by huge margins. The last time we beat them, their star player (#11) was injured – not so this time! He scored three goals in the first few minutes and we began to think Silver. We scored a few, and they roared back to a 6-3 lead. We then started to double cover #11 and pick off some passes. We finally tied it at 8-8 and then pulled ahead 9-8 with two shifts remaining. #11 was not playing the first of these and we knew it would be necessary to score a few before he came back – we did not! So into the last shift with Wole, Kyle and Killian were facing #11 and their best players. We completely took over the play and limited #11 to a few harmless shots while scoring twice to secure a 11-8 victory and the Goal Medal.
We coaches could not be more proud of the way the team responded. Wole, Kyle and Killian scored most of the goals, but that opening faceoff goal by Will was a real spark. Bentley had a couple of close shots and was a real force on defense. Gandy made a couple of his patented end to end rushes for goals. One of the best plays was in the Belmont game when Jessica captured the puck behind the goal and avoided pressure until she made a beautiful pass to a wide open forward in the offensive zone to score. We practice in the wide open gym, but the competition is in a 40’ x 80’ area with bumpers. Compared to our practices, it is like playing in a phone booth! We took a few penalties and drew a few, but it was a good spirited competition.
This was a challenging year for many reasons, but the way the team responded was outstanding. Maybe we have an unfair advantage because of our relationship with DA. Every year we practice with an outstanding group. This year was special and inspirational. It is not the x and o strategy that we try to teach, but the association, fellowship and respect that the students share with our athletes that separates us from the other teams. Thank you for your leadership and especially for fostering this very special relationship.
Congrats to the Floor Hockey team and everyone involved in such a wonderful program! We hope to see you back on campus soon!