The boys of winters past were up for this one.

It showed in the way the skaters shifted into a higher gear on the two-on-one fast breaks, and when the goalkeeper dove from the other side of the net to kick out a third consecutive shot, and especially when the graybeards on the bench banged their sticks on the boards to applaud a teammate's goal.

Friday was special for the Potomac Senior Men's Hockey Club, so 20 of its most devout members gathered in Tysons Ice Arena for the club's last session on that ice.

For the last 5 1/2 years, at least 20 of the "senior"--the only pre-requisite for club membership is a chronological age of at least 35 years--met every Tuesday and Thursday night for 90 minutes of hockey.

But rink owner Arthur Patton has succumbed to the financial pressures that have been mounting since public, tax-funded arenas opened in Mount Vernon and Fairfax, so Tysons Ice Arena officially will be closed at the end of March.

"We're outliving the building," said Ed MacKinnon, 49, a retired policeman who plays defense. "The Coliseum (in Washington) closed, and we had to move, and now this place is closing."

Although shutting the doors was enough to draw the extra afternoon nostalgia session Friday, the closing will not end the club. According to its president, Don McCauley, 150 seniors will continue to play hockey in the three other rinks where the club has been buying precious ice time. They are Mount Vernon, Fort DuPont and Columbia.

Friday, the red team (every game is between the reds and the yellows) sported the self-proclaimed "oldest line in hockey."

"I'm 58, and I'm the youngest of the line," said Bill Wellington. The other two members are 60-year-old Martin Clancy and 62-year-old Joe Magurn.

Goalie Harry Schnibbe, 61, claims to be the most aged keeper south of Nova Scotia.

"But they still can't prove to me there's one as old in Nova Scotia," Schnibbe said, laughing.

These games may take the place of weekly poker sessions as a social outlet for most skaters yet they are obviously more. The club offers a chance for two factions--displaced Northerners and tired-of-bing-a-spectator fathers--to get out on the ice and play the game they love.

"It's a great way to get out those frustrations, out there on the ice," said Magurn, who was raised in Boston.

"Hockey players are so damn compulsive about getting ice time, because it's always been so scarce. We still want to get out on the ice every chance we get.

"It's king of a miracle to come down here and fall into this. I played more hockey since I was 40 then I did when I was 20."

Chuck Jennings, 49, got his introduction to the sport when his sons took it up nine years ago. Never having played as a young man, he represents the second of the two groups that comprise the club.

"I started when I was 40," he said. "I couldn't skate then, and I still can't skate now."

On the ice, Jennings belied that statement. Perhaps a bit wobbly on the sharp cuts, he, like the others, could skate quite well. The level of performance was high in the final game, which, fittingly, ended in an 8-8 tie.

Bob Person, the oldest skater at 64, is the prime example of why the skills are still there.

"Oh, I play tennis three time a week, hockey once a week and golf once a week," Person said. "When I was a little kid in New England, it was out to play hockey in the morning, out to play hockey in the afternoon and pleasure skating in the evening. Why should I slow down?"