The "D" Pairing
by Jerome Baquilar
Part III

The puck dropped to start the game, and seemingly, in a few seconds, the scoreboard showed “3rd Period, 0:05”, and the puck was on her stick. She let the puck fly from centre court, and it found its way into the net. She scored the game-winner! Dallas skated towards her, smiling, laughing, and his eyes seemingly about to shoot out of their sockets! He just kissed her squarely on the mouth, and, strangely enough, she offered no resistance. Their mouths in a spur-of-the-moment union, she felt her heart pounding hard and fast. Then, she woke up…

While relaxing at home, watching some baseball on television, and mentally preparing herself for the night’s game, she couldn’t stop wondering about the dream she had the previous night. Was she unconsciously in love with her d-partner? Was the dream a clue as to how Dallas felt about her? Did the dream mean anything? Did it mean nothing? Those questions kept being asked in her mind for a few hours, at least. Then, she thought to how “professional” Dallas was with her, even if she is who she is and looks the way she does, and, she made a point to herself to think with the same professionalism with respect to the “dream”. That’s the least she could do in return, Daniella reasoned mentally. So, she kept to her relaxation and t.v. watching, and then, five PM rolled around out of nowhere. Time for the salad and soup pre-game meal and her ten minute walk to the rink.

After the pre-game skate and shooting, during which, her heart was pounding the whole time, Coach called for the opening unit. As expected, Daniella and Dallas would be on to start the game. As they skated out to start the game, Dallas told Daniella, “Just play like we do in scrimmages, and let’s play hard”. Daniella smiled back to him, and replied, “Thanks, and try not to kill the other team!” They both laughed out loud at that reply, and kept laughing until they got to the centre court faceoff circle, when some rough-looking guy on the other team told Daniella, “That pretty face of yours won’t look like that way after I’m finished with you”. Dallas said “Just shut your trap, punk, or I’ll shut it for you”. “I’d like to see you try, you probably act like the girl you’re playing with!”

The puck dropped to start the game, and two pairs of hockey gloves dropped almost simultaneously as well. When the tussle between Dallas and that sharp tongued opponent, his name being Harry Young, finished, both ended up in the box for five minutes. Daniella, without her regular left defenseman partner, played sparingly, and ineffectively, trying too hard to get to loose pucks, and was largely responsible for the other team’s lone goal, a goal mouth stuff-in when she left the crease area to chase the puck. At the first break, the score was 1-0.

During the break, Dallas and Daniella had a conversation about the game so far, which, both players thought was the others fault.

“Way to keep your head out there, getting into a fight like that. Next time, why don’t you wait until the other guy does something more than mouth off!?”

“Look who’s talking. It’s Ms. Chase-The-Puck-All-Over-The-Place-Like-A-Headless-Chicken-and-Give-Up-A-Goal!”

“Well, maybe I wouldn’t have done that if I had my partner out there with me, huh!?”

“Maybe I wouldn’t have been in the box if I didn’t have to stick up for a girl!”

And there was silence between the two.

Dallas said the wrong thing, for the first time, referring to her as a girl. He knew better than to say something like that, whether it was true or not. He had a pit in his stomach. Daniella, for her part, thought that maybe she didn’t belong out there, if someone always had to stick up for her, a girl. She felt sick, all of a sudden.

The manner and volume of their conversation made it hard for Coach not to hear his top defensive pairing arguing with each other. He thought, better to let them sit and cool off a bit instead of just throwing them into the play, and perhaps giving up a goal because they weren’t focused on the situation at hand. But, how to get them to play like their normal selves? It would be tough to keep the game close without his top defenders, much less have a chance to win.

Then, he looked far down the bench, to Jeanne. She was the odd person out at the moment, having played just one shift in the 1st period, but she might be the key to getting his top d-pair going. Coach threw Jeanne out with his best right winger, for the moment splitting his top forward line. Then, Coach held his breath as the 2nd period faceoff puck dropped.

The other team was caught off guard, to say the least, by Coach’s curious player shuffle to start the period. After a few seconds, the puck ended up on Jeanne’s stick at centre court, with both of their d-men dutifully tying up the OTHER winger. Jeanne scored easily on the resulting breakaway, going top-shelf on their goalie, knotting the game up at 1-1!

Dallas and Daniella couldn’t have gotten up faster off the bench if you put a rocket on both of them! All that tension between them, all the anger, disappeared when the puck vanished into the twine off Jeanne’s stick. They smiled and laughed at each other, and knocked gloves. They were ready to play like they meant to play.

Coach could just bask in the sunshine he’d just created on this game night, at least in the 2nd period.  He knew Dallas and Daniella were ready to try to hold the opposition scoreless the rest of the way.

continued and concluded in Part 4!
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