Sampler: Offsides by Stacy Drumtra-Juba
January 5, 2021
Turmoil threatens to drive the twins apart just when they need to work together the most with a championship title and their futures at stake
Face-Off’s McKendrick brothers return in the explosive sequel, Offsides.
Twin hockey stars T.J. and Brad have finally resolved their differences and forged a friendship on and off the ice. Now high school seniors, they focus on landing a commitment to a D1 school.
What should have been the best year ever takes a nasty hit when the boys’ parents announce their divorce, and Brad makes a mistake that could impact his game eligibility. Meanwhile, T.J. faces off against their father, who opposes his decision to delay college and pursue junior hockey.
Adding to the tension are a rebellious kid brother, girlfriend trouble, and recruiting pressure. The turmoil threatens to drive the twins apart just when they need to work together the most. With a championship title and their futures at stake, T.J. and Brad must fight to keep from going offsides.
“Over!” T.J. McKendrick shouted, telling his brother he was open across from him.
Brad sent the puck to him and they tore down the ice on a breakaway. T.J. rocketed a shot to the low corner on the goalie’s stick side. The goaltender blocked it with his pads and directed the puck toward a defenseman. Brad swooped in first, catching it on his stick. He flipped it to T.J., yelling, “Around!”
Pulse thundering, T.J. wrapped the puck around the boards. Brad raced there in time to retrieve it. T.J. zoomed in front of the goaltender, ready for the return pass. When his brother snapped the disk back to him, T.J. thrust it into the right side of the cord. Score!
With fifty seconds left in the third period, they now had a four-goal lead. The brothers exchanged fist bumps, each wearing the captain “C” on the left front shoulder of their jerseys.
After an uneventful final minute of play, their teammates mobbed them, spraying up ice chips as they celebrated the season opener shutout.
T.J. and Brad’s fourteen-year-old brother Chris skated off the bench. He resembled a slighter version of the team’s starters in his helmet with chin straps fastened to his head, dark blue travel jersey with large white numbers on the back and smaller numbers on the sleeves, gloves, padded hockey pants, and blue hockey socks. Unlike the others, no sweat glistened behind his face mask. “Good game. Wish I could’ve played.”
“You’re only a freshman,” Brad reminded him. “And it’s just the first game.”
“Give it time,” T.J. agreed, turning to congratulate their goalie, Trey Arenson.
Coach Reynolds stood before them in the locker room, short and stocky with a bald head and drooping walrus mustache. No matter how much he skated with the team, he never lost his pouch of a stomach. “You deserved that win tonight. You boys gave a great effort. We can make it all the way this year, and this team just took the first step. I want to see that same intensity and focus at practice next week.”
After the boys had showered and were leaving the building, T.J.’s cell signaled an incoming text. His heart rate picked up when he saw the sender’s name. The assistant hockey coach at Boston College. He’d Cc’d a note to Brad and T.J.
I was in the area and came by for the first two periods. Good job. I couldn’t stay for the whole game, but wanted to wish you both luck this season. Stay in touch.
T.J. exchanged a grin with his brother, who was walking a few feet ahead of him. BC was a perennial hockey juggernaut and T.J.’s first choice college. The hockey staff had seemed interested in them junior year, and this showed they were still on the watch list.
On the bus ride home, Brad and T.J. shared a seat in back. Snow flurries dusted the air outside, flakes wetting the dark window. He and Brad were fraternal twins. While no one would mistake them for identical, they looked related with their athletic builds and longish blond hair that spilled out the back of their helmets. T.J. spent more time on his, combing fingers through it when the locks were semi-dry, guiding it to the side, and coaxing a tendril across his forehead. Brad just swept his hair off his face and let it flow in tousled waves. They both worked hard on their physiques, following an ambitious weightlifting regimen.
Since strength and conditioning was part of the NCAA Division I hockey training program, college players often gained at least twenty pounds of lean muscle mass. Most high-level players spent a couple years in a junior league before college, some through age twenty, which meant that many D1 hockey players were twenty-five in their last season. To compete with older, bigger guys, the twins had expanded their training routine.
T.J. glanced at his brother, who was scrolling through text messages. During a rocky period where they’d drifted apart, T.J. was forced to leave his private school last year and join Brad at Bayview High. Once they adjusted to the unwelcome change, they’d pursued their goals—both on the ice and off—together.
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