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never too high, never too low

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It comes down to the last two minutes in Winnipeg. There’s a power play, and they need one more goal. It comes down to the last minute, with the goalie pulled, when they get set up again. It comes down to the last fifteen seconds, where the Jets get a clear, and Ryan has to retrieve the puck from where it had just missed the empty net. He gets it to Van, but it comes right out again. It comes down to seven seconds left, where he passes up to Zach, who gets knocked off the puck, and then it’s the buzzer. Then it’s over.

They made it closer than it could have been. That’s something. 5-4 is better than 4-1. Maybe. It doesn’t hurt any less, but it’s probably better.

There was nothing they could have done in those last two minutes to make it any better. No one thing. No obvious almost — nothing rang off the crossbar, nothing that slid through the crease. No singular moments to haunt them.

Someday Ryan will score another goal. He scored three once. That had been an interesting night. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while. It’ll happen. Nothing to do but be patient.

Zach’s goal was just — it was so Zach. Just a garbage goal, turning getting shoved in front of the net into something positive. Not pretty, not like Zach’s pretty, just a hardworking grinder’s goal. Zach scores a lot of goals like that, which is great. He gets checked in front of the net a lot, which isn’t so good. Ryan could live without that. It’s not going to stop though, cause Zach scores goals like that, and other people know that and try to get in his way. Nothing could make Zach stop trying.

It wasn’t enough tonight. Almost, but not quite. They got so close. It came down to the last two minutes. To the last fifteen seconds. It came down to the very end. They were so close.

But then it was over, and they’ve lost. The building’s loud, but Ryan’s gotten good at ignoring all that. It’s just him, and Zach, and the empty net on this end of the ice.

There is no one Ryan would rather lose a hockey game with. That simple fact means nothing right now. They needed to win. He needed to be better. He knows he had a bad night, and maybe if he hadn’t then maybe Zach wouldn’t look so sad now. Nothing is actually that simple, but.

Zach looks small out there. Bent down. He looks tired.

Ryan is so tired. Tonight was the end of a back-to-back, and he’s played a lot of minutes. And they lost. Losing is always tiring. There’s no relief.

 

 

The hardest part of being on the same team has been not bringing the games home. Ryan didn’t expect this, but maybe should have. They don’t process things the same way.

It’s easy when they win, but everything’s easy when you’re winning.

Losing is harder. Losing sucks. Ryan doesn’t like losing, but Zach’s flat-out bad at it. He doesn’t have the patience to lose. Sometimes it’s hard for Ryan to find the patience to deal with how Zach loses. Zach probably has just as much trouble with him.

Ryan likes forgetting things. He likes putting a bad game behind him so he can focus on the next game. He likes putting a bad shift behind him so he can focus on the next shift. He likes putting a bad play behind him so he can focus on the next play. Look at the big picture, or break it down as small as you want, Ryan doesn’t like dwelling on the past.

Zach likes fixing things. He gets stubborn about stuff, which is an admirable trait, except for when it’s driving Ryan batty. Zach doesn’t stew after a loss, doesn’t pine, but he likes to take things apart and figure out where it went wrong so it doesn’t happen again. He doesn’t believe in making the same mistake twice. Ryan respects that, admires it even, but that’s not how he works. He has to move on. Keep going. Never let it show they’re getting to you.

 

 

Tonight they won’t sit next to each other on the plane. Sometimes they’re good for each other after a loss, drawing on each other’s strength to get through it. Tonight they’d just wind up bothering each other. Ryan’s will try to nap. Zach will sit next to someone who will talk about the game with him.

It should be better by the time they get home and into bed, or at least it’ll be better by the time they wake up. They’ve learned how to live with each other after nights like this.

 

 

Monday’s fine. They have the day off to rest up and take care of stuff around the house. Ryan likes quiet days like this where they can hang out and enjoy the fall weather.

Losing one close game isn't the end of the world. They're off to a good start this season, they can't get down because of one loss. Even Zach can see that after a good night's sleep.

Never too high, never too low; it's a long season and there are going to be ups and downs, you just have to handle them.

 

 

Tuesday night they pull it off. It would have been better if they didn’t need to make a comeback, but a win is still a win. He has two goals, which is a pretty alright night. That’s as many as he had all last year.

That’s a fun night. It’s a rush, to score his first goal of the season, and get another later in the night to tie it up. He’s in a good mood after the game, the whole locker room happy with how they managed to battle through and get it done.

They go home afterwards — they’ve gotten old, would rather have an early night than celebrate. They don’t need to go out to have a good time. It’s nice enough to go home and go to bed, to have Zach’s body next to his.

It’s a long season, and it’s important to hold onto the good things. Not just the big exciting good things, but the mundane ones. A two goal night is nice, but it doesn’t come along very often. Time together is something they’re lucky enough to get everyday. To keep going it’s important to take the good along with the bad, and never let either become overwhelming. To find all the small joys, and use that to dull the pain that’s bound to come, eventually.

Never too high, never too low. Just keep going. Keep moving. It’s a long season. There’s no one else Ryan would rather have with him through it, day after day.