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I guess I am an Oldtimer

For most of my life, I have played ice hockey. Growing up in the Copper Country, having Michigan Tech right next door, it was inevitable that I would discover that ice hockey not only looked fun, but would also turn out to be quite fun to play.

I have played up to a fairly high level, competing in the national tournament for 18U AAA, before injuries caught up with me.

This year, after 13 years of wondering how to get into it, I am finally playing Copper Country Oldtimers, not the tournament, but rather the league. So many of my friends and former teammates have been involved in the Oldtimers league over the years, and I admit, I did feel jealous that I was not involved.

We are two weeks into the season and my team is already 2-0 on the season, although this past weekend’s game was not quite as clean a win as we would have liked.

The Oldtimers process is actually quite involved. There are six teams. Each team has 11 skaters and one goaltender. Just prior to the season, there is a draft to build the teams. Each team plays 20 games during the regular season and playoffs. Those games are followed by Championship Sunday on March 12.

I actually like that the league holds a draft each year. It gives everyone a chance to play with new teammates each year, and that is part of the fun.

I was drafted in the late rounds to CSI. Once I received in the introductory text from Mario Paoli that I was going to be on the team, I eagerly looked at the draft results to see who my teammates were going to be.

I knew nine of my teammates from various hockey rentals, growing up with them, or playing with their younger siblings. Of the other two players I did not know by name, one, Craig Isola, I had skated with before in a rental, and the other, Billy Tourtillout, I met for the first time before our first game.

I was really excited about playing with the guys I knew well, like Micah Stipech, Tim Viola, Mario, Mike Beutler, and Josh Browning. I actually quietly hoped that with as many forwards as I knew we had that are good puck handlers, I would end up playing defense. As I have gotten older, I have enjoyed the challenge of playing a position that I did not play exclusively growing up. I also hoped that I would end up playing with Micah, because I grew up with his younger brother and have always looked up to him.

We played Calumet Electronics in our first game of the season. They have a very talented roster with players like Craig Biekola, Charlie Turner, Jarrod Moilanen, and more.

Their goaltender, Carl Asiala, can be very frustrating to play against. I spent several rentals over the summer trying to solve him. Most of the time, I was the one who left the ice frustrated that I could not find a way to score.

Getting back to the game, as we were sorting out our lineup, when the opportunity came up to sort out who our fourth defender would be alongside Micah, Tim and Randy Wettalinen, I spoke up and volunteered.

We jumped out to a multiple-goal lead in the first half. We figured we better keep the pressure on, however, as we know how talented Charlie and Craig and some of their other forwards are. We knew if we gave up a goal, it could turn into several goals very quickly.

We tightened things up in the second half very effectively, and kept Calumet Electronics from being able to get many pucks to our goaltender, Dustin Jaehnig, who made the saves when he needed to. We ended the game with a 6-0 victory.

This past Sunday, we played Monte Carlo Bar. Monte featured another batch of talented players like Brad Lystila, Jeff Moilanen, Joe Weingarten, Lee DeForge, Mike Ruohoniemi, Ryan Greenlee and Sam Forester. Fortunately for us, Brad and Ryan were both out of town, but that did not mean the game would be easy.

We were missing just one player, Micah.

We jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first half. Things almost came too easily for us. We started having our defense jump up into the play deep in the offensive zone, and we were swarming their goaltender, Jason Carne, very effectively.

Then came the second half.

Still leading 5-0, we got ourselves into some penalty trouble. Down two men, we gave up a goal while I was on the ice (not ideal for me). Monte got another goal at even strength and suddenly we started to tighten up, but not in the way we should have in front of Dustin.

Instead, we took more penalties, and suddenly our lead was cut again to 5-3. After a timeout with just under two minutes left, they pulled Jason for an extra attacker.

We did a good job of not allowing them to get easy shots from the slot, but still, with 28 seconds remaining, they managed to get another goal, and suddenly our five-goal advantage had become a one-goal one at 5-4.

We did manage to keep the puck out of our net for the final 28 seconds in order to win our second game of the season, but it became a near thing.

After the game, as we were getting our gear off and relaxing, multiple people asked me if I was enjoying the experience of playing in the Oldtimers league for the first time. I am enjoying every minute.

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