Aries 1, 2078, m249
Sands Lack Hands
Their 4 – 0 loss to the Cosmonauts at Noviymir was the second time the Sands have been blanked this season. Overall, they’ve lost all three of their exhibition games games, and have been outscored 19 – 2; which includes their season debut bloodbath, a 9 - 0 loss to the Wildcards.
They’ve mustered up a paltry 37 shots in total for all three games – the lowest of all the teams.
“Their players look like they have hands of stone out there”, said one fan after the game.
Sands’ Captain Mitchell Cruz was unable to dispute the fan’s assessment of their play. “Things just aren't clicking for it yet,” said Cruz, “But we won't give up. Even though this is an exhibition, we really want to give the new fans a good show.”
Some are wondering if the team’s poor play can actually be attributed to bad planning on the part of ISMO. With all the teams assembled by the organization over the last 8 months, the exhibition teams represented the 'best' from the 15 teams in the program. The Sands may be better than the teams that didn't make it, but simply be uncompetitive in this pool.
Blood Thicker Than Water
Meanwhile, Cosmonauts Captain Anna Fedin and her sister Kate may represent the future for the sport.
“We have photos of us skating when we were little back on Earth,” said Anna Fedin, the older of the two sisters. “According to our parents, we loved it.”
Even though they haven't done it for years prior to signing up to the ISMO training camp, both women have a strong affinity for skating. According to Dr. Elisna Katrine, a member of the ISMO training program, "Both Fedins are highly receptive to induction techniques, so are expected to continue to improve at an accelerated rate."
Their skating ability has, no doubt contributed to their early success. Anna debuted the season with a hat trick that led the way to a 4-1 win over the Phantoms. She leads the team in points with 4 goals where Katy has 1 goal and 4 assists.
“We are just having fun out there,” said Anna. “Happy that ISMO has given us a stage to play on.”
More Space, More Skills, More Speed.
The prototype rinks of ISMO are giving the players a spacious canvas to push their athletic artistry.
“All that open ice makes a difference”, said Katy Fedin. “It seems like night and day when compared to the footage of Earth hockey we've studied . I'm not sure that game would even work under our conditions here. If you have the speed and stick handling skills to control the puck, there are lots of scoring opportunities as odd-person situations happen more frequently.”
This was clearly demonstrated in the Cosmonauts 4-0 win as they frequently ran well-timed and well-executed line changes which are paramount in 3-on-3 play. On the flip side, poor execution plagued the Sands throughout the match leading to many an odd-person rush for the Cosmonauts who converted for a few goals.
Speed plays an important role in all aspects of the 3-on-3 game. The Cosmonauts have the edge in this aspect, chasing down the Sands and steal control on multiple occasions.
Less obvious, but just as important is the mental speed of the players and the team. Having this speed allows individuals to make snap decisions on an almost instinctual level, and allows the entire team to alter their point of attack or defense on the drop of a pin.
Defenders as Goalies, Goalies as Playmakers
“Smaller teams means more flexible roles.” This fact is quickly becoming the maxim, especially in the interplay between goalies and defenders.
Teams have already begun to incorporate their goalies into hybrid roles. And those with superior puck handling skills will help their offence either through a breakout pass or as the receiver of a pass when the team needs to regroup or make a line change.
In today’s match, both goalies lead their respective teams in passing: Priya Christense with 7 passes (Sands) and Marius Hansen (Cosmonauts) with 8. Overall, 60% of the exhibition games played so far have seen a defender block more shots than the goalie, while goalies have led their respective teams in passing in 50% of games so far.
This is definitely something to keep an eye out for as the team strategies evolve and mature throughout the season.
“I don’t want to just lead my team in passing, I want to lead in scoring,” joked Hansen. “Before this season is over, I’m going to score a goal”. With the breakout play of ISMO so far, Hansen’s playful proclamation could easily become a reality.