If I look back at the last three decades, both as a player and coach, I’ve witnessed some unbelievable comebacks in games. Some of the games we won, and there were a number of them where we lost. Whichever happened, you knew you were going to be either super jacked or incredibly disappointed. I recently experienced a game that was like no other I had been a part of before.

For the last 3 Fall seasons, I’ve helped out coaching a U16 boys team here in MN. We were playing a team from Omaha at Ralston Arena where the Omaha Lancers play in the USHL. My squad was having a tough game where we couldn’t get any sustained momentum shifts, resulting in us being down 5–2 with around 2 minutes remaining in the game.

I had already started preparing the message I wanted to give to the team in the post-game meeting in my mind. I was trying to piece together what we didn’t do that got us down three goals in the game. We were inconsistent in our effort and execution. We made poor decisions at the blue lines and turned the puck over often. Too many players are missing assignments defensively, and then we scored. I looked at the clock, 1:10 remaining in the game.

The bench all of the sudden had a little life on it. Not much, but we had a heartbeat. I made a line change, not thinking much of the goal, as I started to gather my coaching board, dry erase markers, and then we score again. I looked at the clock, 32 seconds remaining. The bench was electric, and you could feel the team thought we could tie it up.

Now I’ve been in this situation before, down by a goal late in the game. I didn’t want to call a timeout because I didn’t want to disrupt the momentum, but the other team smartly called one. I made another line change, told the boys to get the puck in deep, two on the puck, so we could get possession in the offensive zone and pull our goalie.

The puck was dropped, we entered the offensive zone quickly and had a couple of quality chances as the clock clicked down. With 7 seconds left, one of my defensemen came across the blue-line; and everyone on the bench was shouting SHOOT!! The shot was released, the rink became silent for a second and then it was free hugs on the bench as my team went nuts. Tying goal with .5 seconds remaining on the clock.

A 5-minute overtime period ensued, that solved nothing, and we ended up winning the game in a shootout. Reflecting back, it was a complete blur. I still can’t tell you who scored any of the goals, but somehow they found a way to win.

Finishes like this don’t happen often, but when they do, it’s magical. This is the reason why you train so hard, dreaming of moments where you have to lay everything out on the ice. For years, practicing off-ice stick handling and shooting, just to prepare for that last minute of the game where you make the pass or score that big-time goal in that big-time game!!

Thanks for reading and remember to Work Hard and Dream Bigger than Everyone Else!!

Coach Pitlick

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November 08, 2017 — SEO Team

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