Camp started winding down and the players who were left grew more nervous with each passing day. The Devils fell to the Guins again as Miriya coached her team to their second win. The third and fourth games were to be played against someone Miriya knew and loved. They would be playing her second favorite NHL team lead by Captain Eric Staal, the Carolina Hurricanes.
Before the first game against the Canes Miriya stood in the locker room for her pre-game speech. “I have to say that you boys are doing amazing. I want you to go out there and have fun, but play smart. Don’t take any stupid penalties and most of all, watch out for Staal. I’ve watched him play many times and know his style. Someone stay tight on him at all times. Let’s get out there and kick some Canes ass!”
The boys hit the ice and when they returned to the locker room after the final buzzer they held their heads high. Miriya had coached her boys to another win; four to one, against her brother-in-law’s team. The lone Canes’ goal was in fact scored by Miriya’s brother-in-law & Canes’ captain Eric Staal. The Guins goals were slapped, tipped and deflected in by Hallsy, Crush, Geno, and Georges.
“Good work out there boys, you’re making it really hard to make cuts. But the roster stands at twenty-nine and for league standards it has to be down to twenty-three. But we’re not gonna worry about that until after the game Friday and maybe even next week.”
Practice the next day went well and Friday they practiced at South Pointe. Miriya stuck with her normal practice plan, but switched up the order a bit. There weren’t many fans in the stand which was good, the boys weren’t as distracted as during previous practices.
Since the practice wasn’t at the arena Miriya walked out with the rest of the staff and players. “Coach Staal can I have an autograph? Can I get a picture.” She signed and posed for pictures along the way to her car, making the fans happy. When she did make it to her car she rolled the window down and signed until all of the fans had cleared the area.
Heading home and changing into her game clothes she thought more about the cuts that still had to be made. Not much later the team boarded the plane to go to North Carolina to take on the Canes in their arena.
“Okay boys you played hard Wednesday night and we need to do it again. You did good covering Staal, but stick to him even tighter tonight. He got on the score sheet last time and let’s try to keep him off it tonight. Alright boys, let’s do it.”
They hit the ice and with power, dominated in the first period. Two goals were shown on the visitor’s side of the Jumbotron, scored by Brooks on the power play and Beech.
The second period held both teams scoreless, but there was an intense fight. Brooks had laid a huge hit on a Canes’ rookie behind the net. It was a clean hit but Mike, the Canes’ rookie didn’t seem to think so. He skated up beside Brooks and asked, “You wanna go?” Brooks who never shied away from a challenge smiled. The two men dropped their gloves simultaneously and circled as the whistle blew.
“Oh boy, that kid has no idea what he’s getting himself into,” Miriya said from the bench.
The home crowd booed as the big Pens’ defenseman won the fight, bringing the Carolina rookie down to the ice. Since the fight took place with only three minutes left in the period it ran over into the third.
The third held nothing spectacular, just a goal with just over a minute left. Since they were only two by two the Canes pulled their goalie in hopes of scoring with the extra attacker. The Guins destroyed their plan when TK intercepted a cross ice pass and went the other way. The arena erupted with boos as they knew that there was no chance of a comeback.
What was left of the fans quickly left following the final buzzer, only the most loyal fans stayed for the announcement of the three stars. The Penguins however were practically jumping up and down having won their fourth straight game.
“Congrats coach,” Mario said passing her in the locker room.
“Thanks Mario.” She made her way to the middle of the room. “Boys I have to say that I’m proud of you. You’ve won four straight games, who cares that they were pre-season, it proves that you guys are ready. In a week you will be playing in the home opener, the sold-out home crowd will be crazy. Now tonight; Brooks, Beechy, TK, great goals. All of you, way to hold off Staal. Get showered and get ready to go home. Great game boys!”
As the boys passed to go to the showers they congratulated Miriya, not only for coaching them to this win, but all four that they had posted during the pre-season.
On the plane Miriya sat next to Jordan as always, “Baby is it okay if I go talk to Brooks?”
“You’re the coach,” he said with a laugh.
“I was referring to something else, you know the whole playoffs.”
“Baby you know we cleared that up and I trust you.”
She smiled and kissed his cheek. “Good, I was going to talk to him about the game anyway.” She went up a few rows where she found Brooks sitting with the other two Boston boys. “My Boston boys,” she said with a smile. There was an empty seat next to Brooks so she sat down. “So double B.”
“What’s up?” he asked.
“Just wanted to say that you played an amazing game and Congrats on the Gordie Howe.”
“Thanks coach, I mean Miriya.”
“So what did I interrupt?”
“We were talking about the fight,” Scuds said.
“I was on the bench in front of Staalsy and she was like ‘that kid doesn’t know what he’s getting into’. Good fight Brooks,” Whit said.
“Good fight Brooks,” she said kissing his cheek. “I’ll see you guys later.”
She made her way back to her seat next to Jordan and rested her head on his shoulder, looking over the boys who she could see from her seat. “So baby you gonna pick Scotty up in the morning?” Jordan asked.
“Sure, I haven’t spent much time with him and I feel bad.”
The next morning Miriya rolled out of bed and made her way to her parent’s house. The fifteen minute drive from her house in Fox Chapel to her parent’s house was filled with thoughts of the pervious night’s game. ‘It’s going to kill me to make these cuts.’ She pulled into the huge drive-way and quickly stepped out of her car and up the stairs.
“Hey Mir,” Sharon said after opening the door.
“Hey Share, thanks for helping mom with Scotty.”
“Anytime, he’s with mom.”
With Scott in hand she made her way back to her car and back home. Jordan had breakfast ready when they got home and was at the table with Nik. The food, as always was delicious and was quickly eaten. After the table was cleaned and the dishes were done Nik left to hang out with Erin and Jordan went to play video games with some of the guys.
“Hey Scotty,” Miriya said picking him up. “I know I haven’t spent much time with you lately and I’m sorry. Do you still love me?” He giggled. “I take that as a yes. I love you my little baby. You’re getting so big soon you’ll be walking, and talking, and daddy and I can teach you how to skate. And when you’re bigger you can be a big bad hockey player like daddy. Well, that is if you want to play hockey. We’re not going to force you to do anything you don’t want to.” She paused for a moment. “How great would it be for my son to make it to the NHL.” She said more to herself than to her son.
At around lunch time after feeding Scott, Miriya decided to change so that she could go out without being noticed. In a pair of jeans, a Robert Morris t-shirt and an RBK hat she made her way out to the car. Contemplating between Pittsburgh Mills and Ross Park Mall she put the car in reverse and after about twenty minutes arrived at Ross Park Mall.
With Scott in his stroller Miriya made her way into the mall and to the food court. Just as every other time she was at the mall she got Chinese food and upon finishing it she walked around trying to avoid the sports stores, the places where there was the most chance that she would get recognized. She went to mostly children’s clothing stores and picked out a few things for Scott, one for Nathan and Christiano as well.
On the way home from the mall she stopped and picked up a few things for dinner. Scott was asleep when she pulled into the drive-way and Miriya couldn’t help but smile. She laid him in his crib, sleeping soundly, Miriya stood there watching him breathe. While she stood there a pair of strong arms wrapped around her waist and a kiss was placed on her head.
“It’s amazing isn’t it?” Jordan said softly as not to wake Scotty.
“Can you believe it, he’s almost seven months old,” she paused. “He’ll be seven months tomorrow.”
“I know baby and it still overwhelms me that we created this, our child.”
“I knew I loved you for a reason; you’re a great husband and a great dad. But baby I want another one, I want Scott to have a little brother or sister.”
“I want another one too, tonight?” he asked, a sly grin spreading across his lips. Miriya could hear it in his voice and turned to face him.
Monday morning it was back to practice and the team was looking good. Miriya tried to hide the fact that she was nervous, that way the guys wouldn’t be nervous and would play to their full potential. She had the last passing drill end early and made they finish out with suicides.
“Okay boys, get some water and stand at center.” With water bottles still in hand the boys stood at center, waiting for what she was about to say. “You know that I love you all and would love to keep you all on my roster, but the league says that I can’t. So it’s time for final cuts.”
The boys froze and nervous looks now appeared on all twenty-nine faces.
“I’ve decided that instead of keeping twenty-three people my roster will have twenty-two. It’s more even, there’s less healthy scratches and you guys who don’t stay will get playing time in WBS. I’m sorry that I can’t keep you all, but there’s always the chance of being called up.”
The guys stood frozen, waiting to see who would be staying on the big squad in the Steel City and who would be taking the long trip to Wilkes-Barre.
“I know that you’ll probably want to kill me, but I’m going to start with the veterans and say the rookies last.” All of the rookies looked even more nervous at this point, if that was possible. Miriya picked up her clipboard from the boards and flipped through the papers until she got to her final roster.
Eats high fived everyone and made his way to the bench where he gave Miriya a hug. “Thanks Staalsy.”
“Rob Scuderi, Jordan Staal, Ryan Malone, James McGuire, Nik Vandershmut, Erik Christensen, Adam Hall, Ryan Whitney, Colby Armstrong, Kris Beech, Max Talbot, Georges Laraque, Marc-Andre Fleury, Ty Conklin, Brooks Orpik, Tyler Kennedy, Kris Letang, Evgeni Malkin, and Sidney Crosby.”
Each player high-fived everyone else and hugged Miriya, thanking her for keeping them on the team.
“Two spots left, which means that two rookies have spots on this year’s team.” The nine people remaining now held their breath. “Eric Michaels and Ben Clarke.”
The two rookies started breathing again, high-fived their teammates and hugged their new coach.
“Congratulations to those of you who made the team, to those of you who didn’t I’m sorry. There’s a chance to be called up throughout the year and really you’ve gotten off easy. Practice nine am for those of you on the team. See you all in the morning.”
Everyone said good-bye to those who didn’t make the team and went their own ways.
SKATE YOUR LANE;; THE END
8 years ago