The Devil Dogs would have liked to be playing today but weren’t after last night’s 2-1 quarterfinal defeat to the Cougars.
In the semifinals, the #5 seed Cougars got smoked 6-1 by the #2 seed Detroit Mission Stars 92, while the #1 seed Adrenaline, another Michigan team, beat the #6 seed ISCA Grizzlies from New Jersey 10-4.
In the final, the Stars beat Adrenaline 5-2 to win the gold medal. As the highest-seeded semifinal loser, the Cougars earned the bronze medal.
Everyone who’s played a sport for a while has been on the wrong end of last-minute losses. If you can’t take the occasional tough loss, you always have the option of not playing the sport.
But I have to admit that the coaching decisions at the end of last night’s game are going to haunt me for a while. Putting the wrong team on the rink in the last minute cost the team a medal. In my opinion.
Notice that I’m saying the right players weren’t in the game — not the “best” players — because different players are best in different situations. Are you ahead? Are you behind? Are you tied? That determines who should be on the rink.
For example, if you’re protecting a one-goal lead, having your big, fast guys on the bench in favor of smaller guys and scorers does not give you the best chance to win the game. In fact, it gives you the best chance to lose the game. If you’d been next to me with a minute left in that game, you would have heard me say that exact thing: “They’ve got the wrong lineup out there.”
Casey was crushed by losing the game in the last minute and doubly crushed by having to watch it from the bench. You can’t know what would have happened had he been in the game, but in his heart, he knows what would have happened.
Team chemistry on the Devil Dogs was really good this season. Some of the boys are model young men and some aren’t, but as a group, they were a team in the best sense of the word. Most of the boys were in the hotel lobby last night till 2 a.m. talking amongst themselves and with a few kids from another team. They’ll bounce back. They’ve bounced back most of the way already . . .