Our first road weekend brought us to Pensacola, Florida for a two-game series against the Ice Flyers on Oct 21/22. We left Fayetteville on Wednesday night just before midnight and drove through the night. The total drive time was about 11.5 hours. Our bus is an old sleeper bus with 22 beds, some of which can be converted to couches with tables. I was a fan of this schedule. Sleeping through the long bus ride would be welcome. However, about a half hour into our trip, it became apparent that our air conditioning/circulation systems were down. When we left Fayetteville, it was 84 degrees and humid. After an hour on the road, we were all stuck to our vinyl “mattresses” and dripping with sweat. I didn’t really sleep, but rather teetered on the verge on consciousness for hours on end. The bus incessantly rattled and swerved. At one point, I woke up and felt as though I couldn’t breath. The stale, hot air, layered with the odor of 20 guys sweating their asses off, was overwhelming and I felt an intense wave of claustrophobia. I checked my phone. 4:30 AM. Seven more hours to go! I’m fairly certain I lost part of my mind that night that I may never get back.
We arrived a little early in Pensacola, and getting off of that bus was one of the most liberating experiences I’ve ever had. We had some time to kill, so we went to the local mall before our practice at Pensacola’s arena.
We then headed to the rink and had a quick, hard practice. Afterwards we checked into our hotel, a nice Hampton Inn about 100 yards from the ocean. Next door was a restaurant that had a dining area right on the beach. The entire team elected to spend a good chunk of their per diem (money we get for meals on the road) there. It was about 70 degrees with a cool, salty breeze drifting in from the ocean. I’d say it was chilly, but after that bus trip I vowed to never complain about being cold again.
Friday night, our first game, was a wild one. Lots of scoring, a fight, and a Fireantz victory. The score was 6-3 with an empty netter. Pensacola had a good crowd, coming off of an SPHL championship last year. It was their banner-raising night, and we were able to spoil their party.
Saturday night’s contest was much tighter, and neither team could come up with much offense during regulation, which ended with the score tied at 1-1. Similar to the NHL, in overtime we play 5 minutes of 3-on-3, and then go to a shootout if no one scores during those 5 minutes. The 3-on-3 period was all Pensacola, but Sean Bonar, my goalie partner and fellow Ivy League graduate, made a few huge saves to keep the score tied. In the five-man shootout that followed, our first three players scored, and Bonar stopped their first three shooters, mathematically eliminating any chance for Pensacola to win despite having two more rounds to go. The road sweep was complete!
I didn’t see any action over the weekend, as Bonar started both games. I knew that as a third year veteran he would start the first game, and after a good showing/win on Friday night he got the nod again for Saturday. Hopefully I’ll see some action soon, but it’s always great to win!
The bus ride home was happy and comfortable (we were able to fix the air conditioning while in Pensacola). We played cards and consumed a couple of celebratory beverages, before sleeping the rest of the trip away and waking up back in Fayetteville.